From August – November, pumpkin spice takes over store shelves. I kid you not, I spotted pumpkin spice shampoo the other week. I know I’m crazy and even crazier from postpartum hormones but pumpkin spice… SHAMPOO?! Am I the only one who thinks that’s weird? I guess I just don’t want my hair smelling like pumpkin pie.
Specifically with a toasted pecan/graham cracker crust and a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. And by dollop I mean… an actual mountain. I restrained from my usual (and obnoxious) amount of whipped cream in these photos. Didn’t want you to think I’m crazy or anything.
Pumpkin Bars Vs Pumpkin Pie
Let’s hop right into these easy pumpkin pie bars. They taste like pumpkin pie, but let me try to convince you that they’re *even better* than pumpkin pie.
- Pumpkin pie bars are handheld so they’re perfect for gatherings, parties, etc. When forks and plates aren’t always convenient!
- None of the fuss of traditional pie crust.
- Wait time is cut in half. They cool down a lot quicker than pie!
- 1 pan makes 18-24 bars, so you’ll feed more hungry tummies.
- 4 ingredient toasty pecan graham cracker crust. Enough said.
There’s two parts: the crust and the filling. Both come together in minutes. Let’s start with that crust…
This crust is made with pecans, graham crackers, a little sugar, and melted butter. You’ll process the nuts + grahams together to break down the nuts, then add the sugar + butter to combine. A food processor makes all this a breeze. Press tightly into a 9×13 pan, then pre-bake for about 8 minutes. Under direct heat, the pecans take on an incredible toasty flavor. I guarantee you’ll only want pumpkin pie with this crust from now on. That’s a bold statement!!
You can pour the filling right into the pre-baked crust. No need to wait for it to cool down. The filling comes together in minutes and is similar to the filling in my great pumpkin pie recipe. It’s sweetened with brown sugar for superior flavor and thickened with heavy cream and a touch of cornstarch. Eggs help the filling set and the rest of the filling ingredients are for flavor… spices, vanilla, pumpkin!
My Pumpkin Pie Secret Ingredient
If you’ve tried my pumpkin pie, you’re familiar with my 1 secret ingredient: black pepper. It’s bizarre, but totally works. I got this tip from the genius kitchen crew over at King Arthur Flour. And I’m forever grateful!! A pinch of black pepper turns your pumpkin pie (or, in this case, pumpkin pie bars) into the BEST pumpkin pie… bars. And no one will know it’s there! They’ll all go nuts for the deeply spiced flavor. And that spiced flavor, my friends, comes from black pepper.
When it comes to pumpkin, keep it simple. And maybe keep it out of the shower?!
Easy Pumpkin Pie Bars
- 9 (135g) full-sheet graham crackers (or 1 and 1/4 cups crumbs)
- 1/2 cup (62g) chopped pecans
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 Tablespoons (72g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin (about 2 cups total; 450g)*
- 1 cup (200g) light or dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- optional for topping: whipped cream and chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper with enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the bars from the pan. Set aside.
- Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and pecans together into crumbs. A few larger pieces of nuts is OK! Add the sugar and melted butter and pulse until combined. Press tightly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9x13 baking pan. Pre-bake crust for 8 minutes. Leave oven on.
- Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or simply using a whisk) beat/whisk all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth. Pour into warm crust.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the center is no longer jiggly. Remove from the oven, set on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Once cool, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. Remove chilled bars from the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares. Bars are best served chilled.
- Top with whipped cream and chopped pecans, if desired. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make ahead tip: Cooled pumpkin pie bars can be frozen up to 3 months. The filling can be made, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before pouring into crust and baking. Bars pie freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
*I prefer canned pumpkin, not fresh pumpkin puree in this recipe. I like to use Libby's brand. Fresh will work in a pinch, but they're tastier and more firm with canned. Do not use pumpkin pie filling.
*Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice and ground ginger AND 1/4 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg and ground cloves.
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