Pumpkin Bars

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These tasty Pumpkin Bars are rich and moist with a cake-like texture and just the right amount of pumpkin spice. They’re piled high with a luscious and smooth pumpkin-spiced cream cheese frosting.

On a pumpkin kick? Try our frosted and pecan-topped Pumpkin Cake or this spiced Pumpkin Bread next!

Two Pumpkin Bars on a plate

Pumpkin Bars

We can’t get enough of these Pumpkin Bars — they’ve been our go-to treat this fall. They’re ridiculously delicious, completely quell the pumpkin-spice cravings, and yield quite a few bars — perfect to share with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers!

If you haven’t had Pumpkin Bars before, you may be wondering what the texture is like. The texture is similar to a pumpkin cake, but ever so slightly denser (for reference, this recipe is similar to my pumpkin cake, but with fewer eggs to create a slightly more dense crumb). The batter is baked on a sheet pan which essentially creates a big pumpkin sheet cake that we then cut into bars — hence, the name — Pumpkin Bars.

These bars are incredible and when paired with the creamy spiced frosting, they’re a match made in heaven! Now, to decide if we’re serving these or these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars for Thanksgiving…

Combining the dry ingredients for Pumpkin Bars

Let’s Chat Pumpkin

For Pumpkin Bars, we recommend using good-quality canned pumpkin. Canned, solid-pack pumpkin puree contains cooked pumpkin and nothing else.

Pumpkin pie filling, on the other hand, contains spices, water, sweetener, and other ingredients so that it’s ready to be made into a pie. 

I highly recommend Libby’s® canned pumpkin (not sponsored). Through testing, we’ve found it to have the most consistent and best results as far as moisture content, color, and overall flavor.

Process shots: combine wet ingredients; add in sugars; whisk until smooth; add to the dry ingredients

The Pan to use for Pumpkin Bars

The pan is what sets these bars apart from being an ordinary pumpkin cake. Instead of using a 9×13-inch pan, we use a 10x-15-inch jelly-roll pan

Unfortunately, these bars won’t work in any other sized pan. If you only have a 9×13-inch pan, we’d recommend making this Pumpkin Coffee Cake instead.

Process shots: mix the batter; spread in pan and bake; let it cool

Pumpkin Bar Tips

  • Check the baking agents. Before spending time, energy, and money on baking, be sure that the baking soda and baking powder you’ll be using are fresh. Here’s how to determine that.
  • Measure the flour accurately. If you press a measuring cup into a bag of flour, you will pack in way too much flour (which will result in Pumpkin Bars with the wrong texture). To accurately measure the flour, spoon the flour into the measuring cup until it’s overfilled. Then use the back of a table knife to level the measuring cup at the top. You’ll have a perfect flour measurement now!
  • Use a whisk. The wet ingredients combine best when briskly whisked together instead of stirred with a spoon.
  • Line the baking pan. These Pumpkin Bars are moist and hard to remove without a greased and lined pan. We like to spritz the pan with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper. Spraying the pan first helps the parchment paper to stick nicely to the pan.
  • Use dark brown sugar. Both light and dark brown sugar contain molasses, but dark brown sugar has more. Because of the increased amount of molasses, dark brown sugar has a darker, deeper color with a stronger flavor. Dark brown sugar is typically sold right next to or nearby light brown sugar and powdered sugar in the grocery store. The two look similar, yet dark brown sugar is darker overall in color. 

QUICK TIP

Pumpkin pie spice is a delicious combination of warming spices (including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice). It can be found among other spices in the grocery store, or you can make your own pumpkin pie spice!

Process shots: make the frosting by combining the cream cheese and butter; beat until smooth; add in powdered sugar; add vanilla and spices

Cream Cheese Frosting Tips

  • Set out the butter and cream cheese about an hour before baking to get them to room temperature. If these ingredients are cold, they won’t combine smoothly, and there will be unpleasant cream cheese chunks in the frosting. Here are some tips for how to bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature quickly.
  • Don’t forget the flavor enhancers. Salt, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract add nuance and flavor to the frosting — even though these are small amounts, they make a big difference!
  • Slowly add in the powdered sugar. Add more or less powdered sugar, according to personal taste preferences. More sugar will make the frosting sweeter and firmer, and less sugar will leave the frosting tangier and softer.
  • Frosting the Pumpkin Bars. Wait for the bars to fully cool before frosting them. The bars are so soft that when frosting, the knife may pull up the top layer of the cake. We like to dollop blobs of frosting evenly on top of the cake and then gently coax the frosting into an even layer with a butter knife. The less pushing of the knife, the better.

Process shots: mix frosting until smooth; dollops go on the cake; smooth in an even layer; cut out and serve

STORAGE

Pumpkin Bar Storage

  • Frosted Pumpkin Bars need to be stored in the fridge and will stay good for about 1 week in the fridge (individually wrapped or in airtight containers). We like these even better on day 2 — the spices have intensified and they’re even more flavorful!
  • Freeze leftover unfrosted bars by wrapping each piece tightly with plastic freezer wrap and then placing individual pieces in a freezer bag. Freeze up to three months. Individual pieces defrost in about an hour at room temperature and take slightly longer to defrost in the refrigerator. When thawed, they’re a bit moister than freshly baked.  We don’t recommend freezing and thawing cream cheese frosting; it has a tendency to get watery.

Pumpkin Bars on a plate

More Pumpkin Treats

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Pumpkin Bars

5 from 2 votes
These tasty Pumpkin Bars are rich and moist with a cake-like texture and just the right amount of pumpkin spice. They're piled high with a luscious, smooth pumpkin-spiced cream cheese frosting.
Print Recipe

Pumpkin Bars

5 from 2 votes
These tasty Pumpkin Bars are rich and moist with a cake-like texture and just the right amount of pumpkin spice. They're piled high with a luscious, smooth pumpkin-spiced cream cheese frosting.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword pumpkin bars
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 25 bars
Calories 212kcal
Cost $7.12

Equipment

  • 10x-15-inch jelly-roll pan (other pans not recommended)
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients

Pumpkin Bars

  • 1 can (15 oz.; 425g) canned pumpkin (Libby's recommended)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (225g) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups (227g) dark brown sugar, tightly packed (or light -- See Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup (95g) white sugar
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose white flour Note 2
  • 1 teaspoon each: baking soda, fine sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons each: ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice Note 3
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (226g) full-fat cream cheese (brick-style, not tub)
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (311g) powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 10x-15-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for easy removal. (Fold down the overhang making a crease so it doesn't fall into the bars as they bake.) Set aside. Pull out the butter and cream cheese for the frosting so both ingredients can get to room temperature.
  • WET INGREDIENTS: In a large bowl, briskly whisk together the entire can of pumpkin, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, dark brown sugar, and white sugar until ingredients are fully incorporated.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: In another large bowl, whisk together the flour (measured correctly -- Note 2), baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
  • COMBINE: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using a spatula to scrape every bit of wet into the dry. Mix with a wooden spoon or hand mixer until completely combined and integrated. Don't over-mix.
  • BAKE: Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth into one even layer and bake for 27-33 minutes or until cake barely pulls away from the edges and/or a toothpick when inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Watch carefully and don't over-bake. Remove and cool the pan on a wire cooling rack until completely cooled, about 1 hour.
  • FROSTING: Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large bowl and a hand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until combined and smooth. Finally add in the salt, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice and beat until the frosting is soft and creamy. Avoid over-beating the mixture or you'll get whipped frosting. (If the frosting does happen to be too wet, add a bit more powdered sugar; if it is too dry, add a touch of milk or cream.)
  • FROST BARS: Dollop big spoonfuls of frosting on top of the completely cooled bars. Use a table knife to gently and slowly coax the frosting into an even layer and then smooth the top.
  • SERVE: Use the overhang to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve or refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve. To get clean slices, run a knife under hot water for a few seconds, wipe to dry, make 1 slice, and repeat.
  • STORAGE: Frosted Pumpkin Bars will stay good for about 1 week in the fridge (individually wrapped or as a whole in an airtight container). Freeze leftover unfrosted bars by wrapping each piece tightly with plastic freezer wrap and then placing individual pieces in a freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months. Individual pieces defrost in about an hour at room temperature and take slightly longer to defrost in the refrigerator. We don't recommend freezing and thawing cream cheese frosting; it has a tendency to get watery.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Dark brown sugar: Both light and dark brown sugar contain molasses, but dark brown sugar has more. Because of the increased amount of molasses, dark brown sugar has a darker and deeper color with a stronger flavor. Dark brown sugar is typically sold right next to or nearby light brown sugar and powdered sugar in the grocery store. The two look similar, yet dark brown sugar is darker overall in color. Light brown sugar can be used in a pinch!
Note 2: Measuring flour: If you press a measuring cup into a bag of flour, you will pack in way too much flour (which will result in pumpkin bars with the wrong texture). To accurately measure the flour, spoon the flour into the measuring cup until it's overfilled. Then use the back of a table knife to level the measuring cup at the top. You’ll have a perfect flour measurement now!
Note 3: Pumpkin pie spice: This is a delicious combination of warming spices (including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice). It can be found among other spices in the grocery store, or you can make your own!

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 212kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 95mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 2803IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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