The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

These are the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. They have incredible spiced pumpkin flavor and aren’t quite as light and cakey as most other recipes I’ve tried. Instead, they’re soft and sturdy which pairs perfectly with the spiced cream cheese frosting on top!

pumpkin bars

I’m following up the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had with the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. My pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake have their differences, which I discuss below, and I’m so proud to share both of these recipes on my blog with you. If you enjoy my pumpkin cake, you will FLIP for these pumpkin bars too.

These are the Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

And here’s why:

  • Big pumpkin flavor
  • Generously spiced with pumpkin pie spices
  • Sweetened with brown sugar
  • Soft, yet sturdy
  • Super moist
  • Cakey, but not as cakey as others– no fork required!
  • Finished with spiced cream cheese frosting
  • …and sprinkles!

pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting

Are Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Cake The Same?

Let’s clear this up right away! Some pumpkin bar recipes basically produce pumpkin cake. Sure, the bars are totally delicious, but they’re more like a thin and fragile piece of cake than an easy bar dessert. I set out to create something slightly different, but still maintain a favorably soft and moist texture.

I actually started with my pumpkin cake recipe because, again, it’s my favorite. Here we’ll reduce the baking powder so the bars have a little less lift. We’ll also remove 1 egg because less egg = less cakey. And, finally, reduce the granulated sugar and add a touch of maple syrup. The pure liquid sweetener adds flavor, moisture, and really gives these particular bars that little something extra. (These definitely stand out from other recipes.)

So, yes, pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake can taste the same. Follow my recipe for a little variation. By the way, if you’re craving pumpkin pie as a bar, here are my pumpkin pie bars. 🙂

pumpkin bars batter

How to Make Pumpkin Bars

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. You need flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together. You need vegetable oil or melted coconut oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pure maple syrup, 1 can pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. By the way, I love when recipes use the entire can of pumpkin. So convenient!
  3. Combine all the ingredients and spread into a 10×15 inch baking pan. The size of the pan is key to their texture. Anything smaller creates thick pumpkin bars, which taste almost identical to pumpkin cake. A larger pan will promise thin and flimsy bars.
  4. Bake for around 30 minutes. Baking times can vary, so keep an eye on yours. The bars are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool, then frost.

Good news is that you’ll get a lot of use out of this particular size pan. (I recently purchased this one and love it.) Use it again for pumpkin roll, champagne cake roll, and apple slab pie.

pumpkin bars batter in baking pan

Baker’s Tip: A few lumps in the batter is OK.

spreading cream cheese frosting on a sheet pan of pumpkin bars

Topping for Pumpkin Bars

You can keep these pumpkin bars totally plain or even dust with a little confectioners’ sugar. They’re still fabulous without a special garnish on top! But, alas, I never pass up an opportunity for cream cheese frosting. To give them a little extra flair, add pumpkin pie spice to the frosting. You’ll be surprised how a *little* spice can totally transform frosting, as evidenced with my cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Tangy, creamy, spiced, and sweet, this cream cheese frosting is the perfect partner for our pumpkin bars. I cut back on the butter in the frosting to (1) produce less and (2) create a thicker, sturdier frosting. Perfect for these portable bars.

Let’s Garnish!

To finish them off, garnish with festive sprinkles or even pumpkin icing decorations. Aren’t they fun?! I used Ah Maize-ing Twinkle Sprinkle Medley. Use code SALLYSBAKING15 for 15% off your Sweetapolita sprinkles purchase. 🙂

pumpkin bars

Pumpkin bars are a total classic and I hope you turn to this recipe the next time you crave a batch! How many votes for year-long pumpkin season?

PS: You need to try my pumpkin donuts this fall season too!

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pumpkin bars

The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: about 24 bars
  • Category: Bars
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These are the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. They have incredible spiced pumpkin flavor and aren’t quite as light and cakey as most other recipes I’ve tried. Instead, they’re soft and sturdy which pairs perfectly with the spiced cream cheese frosting on top!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360gconfectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • optional: sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 10×15 inch baking pan. Or line the pan with parchment paper with enough overhang on the sides to easily lift the bars (as a whole) out.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
  3. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 28-35 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The bars are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top or edges of the bars browning too quickly, loosely tent with aluminum foil.
  4. Remove the bars from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack. Cool bars completely. (After about 45 minutes of cooling, you can place the bars in the refrigerator to speed things up!)
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add an extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar. Spread the frosting on the cooled bars. To help “set” the frosting, refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing and serving. This makes cutting easier and less messy.
  6. Enjoy with or without a fork, but definitely grab a napkin!
  7. Cover leftover bars tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you skipped the frosting, cover and store plain pumpkin bars at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare recipe through step 4. Cover cooled bars tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. You can cut the bars and freeze in a large freezer container, too. Bring to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve. Frosted bars also freeze well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | 10×15 Inch Baking Pan | Icing Spatula | Pumpkin Icing Decorations
  3. Lining Pan: You can line the baking pan with parchment paper to easily lift out the bars as a whole. Or you can simply grease the pan. Once completely cool, you can (very carefully!!) slide a couple thin spatulas under the bars and lift out to put on a cutting board to slice. Or just slice them in the pan.
  4. Spices: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each in the bars: ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, and ground ginger. In the frosting, use a pinch of each, plus a pinch of cinnamon too.
  5. Oil: Instead of 1 cup of oil, try 1/2 cup (90g) unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 (120ml) cup oil. The bars are just as moist. Vegetable oil is best, but melted coconut oil works too.
  6. Pumpkin: I strongly recommend using canned pumpkin puree over homemade in this recipe, though 2 cups of homemade would be fine in a pinch. I found the flavor better with canned. I prefer Libby’s brand.

Keywords: pumpkin bars

116 Comments

  1. Would a 9×13 work making slightly thicker? Baking time would be longer I know. Thinking of using maple icing that was on your maple cookies.

    1. Hi Cheryl! Yes, the bars will be more like a thick pumpkin cake if baked in a smaller pan.

  2. Hi Sally
    These look great! Is there a sub in for the maple syrup?? Not a fan of maple
    Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Michele, You can leave it out completely. No need to replace with anything, though you could replace with brown sugar if desired.

      1. Sue Snodgrass says:

        Just made these today for the first time, no maple syrup in house so I used Mrs. Butterworth, batter tastes great, bars are in the oven now.

  3. HI Sally
    Those look AMZING. If you make them will they taste the same without the frosting?
    I love PUMKIN I love everything about PUMKIN with all the spice and all of the flavor.
    DELICIOUS.
    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH SALLY

    1. Hi Zoe, You can keep these pumpkin bars totally plain or even dust with a little confectioners’ sugar. They’re still great!

  4. These are the best pumpkin bars ever! So yummy! I love them so much and I will totally be making them more this fall!

  5. THANK YOU SALLY

    1. How can I cut them cleanly for a dessert tray? Thank you.

      1. Hi Sue, for nice even cuts, I recommend chilling the in the refrigerator bars for 30 minutes after frosting, then cutting with a very sharp knife. Wipe the knife clean between cuts.

  6. Tirzah Schwab says:

    That looks so yummy

  7. I honestly love your recipes! Since I am living overseas, could you give me the weight of a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree in grams please? I can only sub with homemade squash puree over here in Italy. At least the squash I use is grown in my own garden. Thank you!

    1. Hi Daniela, 15 ounces is equal to about 425 grams. I hope this helps!

  8. Sally, these truly are the best pumpkin bars ever!!!
    Our small group enjoyed it so much!
    I will be making these again and again!
    Thank you so much for sharing your delicious recipes with us all

  9. We totally loved these …. thanks for the recipe. My kitchen smelled soooo delicious – just like fall!

  10. Wow! These are fantastic and so easy. Thank you for the great, instructions. This is a hit!

    As always, thank you!
    Cheryl

    1. These bars are delicious!! My only suggestion is to cut the frosting to 1/3 of the recipe in order for the bars to shine. I put the full batch of frosting on and had to take most off, otherwise the frosting overpowered the bars. (The good news is, frosting is ready for the next batch! 😉

      I did swap the veggie oil for 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 cup coconut oil, which worked wonderfully!

  11. Berrie Miller says:

    I want to make these as mini bundt cakes – anyone try that yet?

    1. That would be so cute! I haven’t tried it with this recipe but please let me know if you do!

  12. Just made these for my family (and myself!) in honor of my fall break. My adult daughter thought the kitchen smelled amazing, and my 18-month old grandson was obsessed with the frosting. They were easy to make, and VERY delicious with a cup of coffee. Exactly the treat I needed as I enjoyed my day-off. I will definitely be making these again, and love the fact that they contain a whole can of pure pumpkin. Thank you so much for a recipe that celebrates all of the smells and tastes of Fall!

  13. I made these for a Friendsgiving this weekend and they were an absolute hit. Easy to make and delightful. They are a bit crumbly! So your advice to use a plate is spot on. I followed the recipe exactly for the bars and icing. These are a staple of my fall baking. I baked mine for about 27/28 mins because I’m realizing my oven runs hot.

  14. I made these yesterday and oh my, they are delicious! I did not have a 10×15 pan and had to improvise with some math but the results were still fantastic. I used a 9×13 and baked off the rest of the batter in a tiny Pyrex. My entire family loved them. Thank you for the delicious recipe!! Added to my Fall baking must haves

  15. These are in the oven right now! Bringing them to a family get together. They smell divine!

  16. Laura Migliore says:

    These were fantastic. I really prefer these to the more dry cakey recipes. I didn’t realize I was out of maple syrup until the last minute, so I substituted with molasses. Because my husband loves raisins, I added one cup to the batter. These are delicious, and a definite keeper recipe. I plan to take these to the next church pot luck.

  17. Hi Sally!

    Your recipes continue to amaze me. Thank you for sharing them with all of us.

    For someone trying to make these bars a little lighter, how would you recommend cutting out the oil entirely? I saw the suggestion for 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil, but would you increase to 1 full cup of applesauce? Or, would you add more pumpkin? I understand that these bars will truly shine with the oil, but I appreciate any advice on how I can make them a little more diet friendly for my intended baking audience.

    1. Hi Deanna! I have a lightened-up pumpkin bars recipe if you’re interested in trying that instead. I don’t recommend completely leaving out the oil in either recipe.

  18. Made them yesterday. Love them! The only changes I made were I cut down the sugar in the frosting by one cup and i didn’t spice the frosting. Really good texture and the pumpkin pie flavor is great. Also, super easy. Will definitely make them again.

  19. These are sooo delish!! I love your recipes and I don’t like to make any changes but I did on this one and I hope you don’t mind me saying so. My guy is a diabetic so I used Splenda inplace of sugars and I didn’t have any oil on hand so I used 2 sticks of unsalted butter. I couldn’t resist a few chocolate chips on top of batter and gently pressing them in.
    For diabetic cream cheese frosting I use 1 cream cheese, one cont. coolwhip, 1 cup Splenda, your vanilla, salt and pumpkin pie spice, whip all together. I guess I made a lot of changes but your recipe was the base and you are the best!! Thank you!

    1. Also above on my coment I also used Carb Quick flour that has only couple of carbs per serving. Purchase from Amazon. Use it just like flour and spoon in to measuring cup. I also love your carrot cake recipe and use the same frosting on it.

  20. No lie….These ARE the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. I added a cup of raisins cuz I love them in pumpkin bars but no other alterations needed. I will definitely use this recipe again.

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed them so much, Robin!

  21. Came out amazing! So moist and the frosting is the icing on the cake! 😉

  22. EXCELLENT flavor! Thank you for another delicious recipe that you look forward to share with family and friends!

  23. Susan Haisley says:

    This recipe is a keeper! I used a 12×12 pan – that was the closest I had to the correct size. They are delicious! The bar is so soft and the flavor is big. Can’t stop eating them. Thanks for this great recipe Sally!

  24. Made these before work and brought them in to share with coworkers. Nice and moist but not heavy.

  25. Great recipe as usual. I used super dark brown sugar – definitely give it a try if you can get your hands on it. The texture and flavor were perfect, even served bare. Total hit. The cut bars freeze beautifully too… I find myself standing in front of the freezer eating them straight from the bag.

  26. Betty Thompson says:

    My grandson is in the Army stationed in Georgia. I make him cookies or bar cookies every couple of weeks. I usually mail his cookies on Monday and he receives them on Thursday or Friday. Will these bars ship well. Should I omit the frosting? Last week I made pecan bars which I frozen before mailing. Any suggestions would be helpful. Your pumpkin bars, look delicious by the way!

    1. Hi Betty! If shipping these bars, I recommend leaving off the frosting as it needs to be refrigerated after some time. It would also get a little messed up in transit.

      1. Betty Thompson says:

        Thank a you Sally! I will follow your advice and send the bars without frosting. Cannot wait to make them!

  27. I made three batches of this in one night! I meant to make only two but had to restart when I messed up the first batch. I read the recipe through so many times and I was reading it as I went along but I must’ve spaced because I accidentally added double the amount of pumpkin puree so I ended up with pumpkin pie bars with no crust basically. Lol. I was very careful with the next two and they came out perfectly! Thank you so much! I paired them with your brown butter cream cheese frosting with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice added. Sooooo good!

    1. Also: These taste even better the next day! I baked in a 9×13 pan and they did turn out a bit more cakey but definitely still sturdy enough to pick up in individual bars and eat with or without a fork. I actually love the texture the most. It’s soft but not fluffy; they have a good toothiness.

  28. I used a cookie cutter to cut them into pumpkin shapes and decorate them like jack’o’lanterns for Halloween. (I just dyed the cream cheese frosting, it’s usually fairly simple to decorate with.)

    Turned out pretty darn cute, and tasty. Plus the leftover bits were eaten up quickly. Recipe was perfect for what I wanted to do for Halloween!

    As a note: The pan I have at home is 11×15, so I just baked for about 20 mins instead of the full time.

    1. That sounds perfect for Halloween! I’m thrilled they were a hit!

  29. I have made these several times this season. I made them pot luck last week and everyone ( from 80 to 3) really enjoyed them. My family requests them a lot. Thank you for the great recipe.

  30. I don’t have the baking pan required; could these be made in either cupcake pans or a 9×13 glass baking dish? I can’t wait to make these! They sound amazing!

    1. Hi Katie, you can make these in a 9×13 inch pan, but they will be thicker and, as a result, taste cakier.

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