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!

stack of pumpkin bars on blue cake stand

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 (just like my soft pumpkin cookies)
  • 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 in a bowl

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.

spreading pumpkin bars batter into 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!

Print
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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

172 Comments

  1. Christina Kurtz says:

    This is my new favorite recipe! It’s so easy and comes out delicious every time. I did Sally’s suggestion of using oil and applesauce to reduce the fat a little. I also only did half of the frosting recipe and, for my family, it was the perfect amount, just enough to cover the bars but not so much as to overpower them. Thank you Sally for such a great recipe!

  2. Christine Buchanan says:

    Could you make these in regular muffin tins? How many would you get from one recipe?
    I am thinking this might be easier to serve.

    1. Hi Christine- For something a little easier to serve, I recommend my pumpkin cupcakes!

  3. Light, moist, and delicious. Made them for Thanksgiving along with a peanut butter pie and I couldn’t believe that everyone (myself included) loved these pumpkin bars more than the pie! I’m saving the recipe and will be making it every year.

  4. About how thick is the batter in the 10×15 pan after pouring? I ask because I dont’ have 10×15, but have several smaller, was hoping I could use a 9×13 and another smaller one, but wanted to get the height right. Thanks!

    1. Hi Soni! I haven’t measured the depth of the batter. You can try the 9×13 inch cake pan– it will be almost the same baking time as my pumpkin cake. Or divide the batter between 2 9×13 inch pans for thinner bars.

  5. So delicious. Very simple to make, bakes perfectly. We have a non-cream cheese icing family member so I whipped up a brown sugar icing instead. Next time I’ll mix it up and make mini cupcakes. Thanks so much for the accurately titled recipe!

  6. Hey Sally! Love these! Do you think it would be okay if I used 1 whole cup of coconut oil instead of the 1/2 cup oil 1/2 cup applesauce?

    1. Yes. Make sure the coconut oil is melted and all other ingredients are room temperature. Enjoy!

  7. Michelle Hembd says:

    I loved your pumpkin bar recipe. The only major alternation I made was omitting the maple syrup (I’m not a fan of it at all). I also did the 1\2 and 1\2 in regards to oil and applesauce. I got rave reviews from my brother and husband, thank you.

  8. Exactly what I was looking for. I used 1/2 cup greek yogurt for half of the oil. Great texture. This one’s a keeper!

    1. I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin.

  9. Annette Mccabe says:

    Best ever spot on

  10. Could chocolate chips be added to this? Or would that mess up the texture?

    1. You can definitely add chocolate chips to this batter. I recommend folding in about 1 cup after you mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

  11. Hello,
    These look amazing
    Can you use 1/2 whole wheat white and 1/2 white flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shey, I don’t recommend it. You can try but expect the bars to be quite heavy and dense with the whole wheat flour.

  12. Thank you for your response. I subscribe to many blogs and you are one of the most talented bakers. Your recipes never fail me and many of those I bake for!

  13. Best pumpkin bar recipe ever! My husband loves these, and they are so easy to make. They were perfectly baked at 28 minutes. I love the pumpkin pie spice specs in the frosting also. This will be my new favorite fall recipe for sure.

  14. Can you make this without the maple syrup it is so expensive and this is not something i have sitting in my cupboard or can i use pancake syrup?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can leave it out, or even replace with an extra 2 TBS of sugar.

  15. This recipe just made my whole kitchen smell HEAVENLY. It is such a memory smell too of baking pumpkin bars during the holidays. Thank you, Sally!

  16. Followed exact recipe – Absolutely delicious! Thank you so much. Will be making these every fall!!

  17. These pumpkin bars live up to their name as the best. I’ve been lurking around this website for a a couple months now and have tried a few recipes already. Each one of them came out AMAZING! You have a true gift. Can’t wait to try the rest of your Halloween collection!

  18. My 10×15 pan is only 1/2 inch deep. Will that work.

  19. I baked this recipe last week and it’s delicious. Very moist and flavorful. My question is, would Pecans be ok to add to the cake? Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lynn, You can add chopped pecans! We recommend anywhere between 3/4 – 1.5 cups total add-ins.

  20. I am debating on whether to make the Easy Pumpkin Bars or The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had. I noticed that the latter recipe has Pure Maple Syrup, which I don’t have, but it looks like a recipe I’d love to try. Which of these recipes is your favorite? Is the maple syrup pretty important or is there something that could be substituted without changing it too much? Thank you so much.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diane, Both recipes are great! The Easy Pumpkin Pie Bars are more like a pumpkin pie, with the soft pie filling. These are more like a cake bar. If you would like to try these you can leave the maple syrup out, or even replace with an extra 2 TBS of sugar.

  21. Can I make these in the mini cupcake tin?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shirley, For cupcakes you can use the recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes and see the recipe notes for directions for mini cupcakes.

  22. Hi Sally,

    As usual, I have a butter question. What will happen to the texture if I use melted butter instead of the oil options you listed?

    Thank you for sharing your expertise and amazing recipes.

    1. Hi Shannon, the same amount of melted butter would work but the bars may not taste as moist.

  23. This was AMAZING! I made it just as described, and might go with less frosting but the taste was dynamite! Such a great dessert after a pork loin with apples and scalloped potatoes dinner! Sally, you ROCK!

  24. Hi Sally! I know you have your pumpkin cake recipe but do you think this recipe would work well as cake layers if I wanted layers that are a bit less “cakey”? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Veronica, You can make this recipe twice and stack them for a layer cake/bars. Enjoy!

  25. Kathy Grunwald says:

    During this pandemic, I am having a hard time finding pumpkin puree. Can I substitute?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathy, If you can’t find the cans, other readers have reported making fresh pumpkin puree this way: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pumpkin-puree-recipe-1922629

  26. WOW! These were so tasty. I always struggle with baking, but these came out perfect. I didn’t change anything about the recipe except that I added 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. The frosting might be my new favorite! Best part about this recipe is that it is so easy. These pumpkin bars will definitely be made every fall from now on.

  27. I have an early October birthday, and I am typically super ready for a nice pumpkin-y dessert to celebrate. This year was no exception. I searched for the exact recipe to satisfy my craving and landed on these bars. They did not disappoint. My husband declared them the best pumpkin spice dessert I’ve ever made – and I’ve made a LOT. I did substitute 1/2 cup apple sauce for 1/2 cup of the oil. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe (used dark brown sugar v. light). The one change I would make is the title – everyone agreed they were much less of a bar and more of a cake – so I would call it a sheet cake. SO fluffy and moist and utterly delicious! Sally, you are a blogger/recipe developer I have learned I can trust to create no-fail recipes. Thank you for putting great content out there for us fellow bakers to enjoy!

  28. I followed the recipe exactly and they are like too pumpkin cake like. Great flavor though.

  29. So yummy! Made today exactly as written EXCEPT I decided to use a 9×13 pan instead of trying to figure out amounts of batter to split into different odd sized pans because I don’t have the pan that’s called for. 9×13 of course made a thicker “bar”, it was more like dense cake but I knew that going in. Everyone loved it, keeper recipe 🙂 There was exactly enough room in the pan to spread the frosting and have it still be below the rim so I could cover without making a mess of the frosting – that is a bonus! Thank you for the recipe 🙂 I used avocado oil and it worked great.

  30. Do you think the bars would freeze? Without the frosting I assume. I want to make them When I have time today for a party on Sunday. I can make and refrigerate the frosting separately.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, definitely! See the recipe notes for make ahead and freezing instructions. Happy baking!

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