When the calendar says it's time for cool fall weather, but it's still hot outside, we have to get creative with our desserts. These pumpkin cheesecake bars are a sweet blend of cool, creamy cheesecake and warm, spicy pumpkin. It's the perfect duo!
I can't think of a better combination than creamy pumpkin pie with cheesecake, can you? If you're someone who likes their pumpkin pie cold, like my husband, you will definitely love this dessert mash-up.
My next kitchen project is swirling a little cheesecake batter into my mini pumpkin pies for a similar effect, but a smaller serving size!
This recipe for pumpkin cheesecake bars is made in an 8" square pan to get 12 medium or 16 small bars. Typical cookie bar recipes are made in a giant 9x13-inch pan with far too many leftovers! However, you may double this recipe exactly and make it in a 9x13-inch pan.
The bottom layer of this dessert is a crisp graham cracker crust that contains a small amount of pumpkin spice. I like to infuse every bite of this dessert with pumpkin spice flavor! Speaking of, I make my own pumpkin spice blend from my homemade pumpkin spice lattes recipe.
- Graham Crackers. We need 8 whole graham cracker sheets for this recipe. If you buy graham cracker crumbs that have already been crushed, we need 1 ¼ cups, or 128 grams.
- Granulated Sugar. This pumpkin cheesecake bars recipe only uses granulated white sugar. I know that brown sugar is a typical ingredient in crustless pumpkin pie, but I have found the extra molasses to make these bars overly wet. Stick to white sugar for the crust, cheesecake layer and the pumpkin layer.
- Pumpin Pie Spice. This is just a blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. I like a pinch of black pepper in my pumpkin pie spice so that it reminds me of a chai latte.
- Butter. A small amount of melted unsalted butter is for the graham cracker crust.
- Cream Cheese. Two 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese that have been softened at room temperature for about 30 minutes. It's best to remove the cream cheese from the package and let it rest on a plate or cutting board at room temperature.
- Eggs. Two large eggs, beaten in a separate bowl before stirring into the cheesecake batter.
- Vanilla. Always bake with real, pure vanilla extract.
- Canned Pumpkin Puree. Read the label before buying canned pumpkin puree to ensure you're buying pure pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie puree. The latter has sugar already added and will cause the recipe to fail. Since this recipe uses only ¾ cup of pumpkin, use the rest of the can for my easy pumpkin bread or my mini pumpkin sheet cake with brown butter glaze on top.
- Ground Cinnamon. A small amount of extra ground cinnamon for the batter, because I find that pumpkin pie spice on its own can be a little too ginger-y.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Even though this dessert is a combination of two different desserts, it only uses one bowl for preparation! We will make the graham cracker crumbs in the food processor (if you're using whole crackers), and then make the cheesecake batter in a bowl. When the cheesecake batter is done, remove 1 cup of it and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to transform it into pumpkin cheesecake. The batters will be swirled together before baking in the pan.
If you're starting with whole graham crackers, you'll need to crush them in a food processor. After crushing, add the sugar, pumpkin pie spice and melted butter. If you're starting with graham cracker crumbs, simply stir them together with the sugar, pumpkin pie spice and melted butter.
Scrape the graham cracker crumb mixture into an 8-inch square pan that has been lined in both directions with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Use a measuring cup or shot glass to press the crumbs flat. It's okay if the crumbs go up the sides of the pan a bit. Bake at 350-degrees F for 10 minutes.
Next, make the cheesecake layer: beat together the softened cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until very smooth. Add the vanilla and eggs, and beat on LOW just until combined. Do not over-beat the batter once the eggs are added.
Remove one cup of the plain cheesecake batter and set aside.
To the remaining cheesecake batter in the bowl, add the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and extra cinnamon. Beat just until combined.
Spread the pumpkin cheesecake batter over the par-baked crust in the pan.
Dollop the reserved cup of plain cheesecake batter over the surface of the pumpkin cheesecake batter. Then, use a toothpick or knife to swirl it in for a beautiful surface.
Bake the pumpkin cheesecake bars again at 350-degrees F for 38-41 minutes until the center is just slightly jiggly. If you insert a knife or toothpick into the center, it will not come out overly wet. Let the bars cool at room temperature on a wire rack for 1 hour, and then refrigerate the bars for at least 8 hours before slicing and serving.
If you would like to freeze these bars, cut them into squares, individually wrap them in plastic wrap, and then place them in a freezer air-tight bag. Freeze them in the bag laying flat, and then once they're frozen individually, you can move the bag upright to fit your freezer better. To enjoy the bars, move a bar to the fridge to defrost overnight. If it's still not thawed, leave it on the counter at room temperature for a few hours. Do not microwave the bars.
Yes, because these pumpkin cheesecake bars contain egg and dairy products, they need to be constantly refrigerated. After baking, the bars are cooled and then placed in the fridge for 8 hours to firm up. Continue to store them in the fridge where they will keep for up to 4 days.
If you're looking for a standard cheesecake to slice, don't miss my instant pot pumpkin cheesecake.
For the crust:
- 8 whole graham cracker sheets (about 1 ¼ cups crumbs, or 128 grams)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 5 tablespoons (71 grams) butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
- 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup canned pumpkin puree (Libby’s brand has the darkest orange color)
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper in both directions to help remove the bars after baking.
- First, make the curst: in a food processor, add the 8 whole graham crackers, breaking them up as you add them. Place the lid on the food processor and pulse the graham crackers to start to break them down a bit.
Add the sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and blend again to mix.
- Finally, add the melted butter and pulse until moist crumbs form and the crust ingredients are homogenous. Scrape the crumbs into a 8 or 9” square pan lined with parchment paper in both directions. Press them flat with the back of a measuring cup (it’s okay if the crust goes up the sides a bit).
- Bake the crust at 350 for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.
- To make the filling: in a large bowl, add the softened cream cheese and granulated sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until very smooth and well-combined.
Add the eggs and vanilla.
- Mix in the eggs and vanilla, but use a low speed and try not to over-mix and whip too much air into the batter, or else the cheesecake can puff up in the oven and crack as it cools.
- Remove 1 cup of cheesecake batter and set it aside.
- To the rest of the cheesecake batter in the bowl, add the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Beat just to combined.
- Pour the pumpkin cheesecake batter into the awaiting crust, and then use a spoon to dollop the reserved white cheesecake filing all over the surface. Use a knife or toothpick to swirl the two together.
- Bake at 350 for 38-41 minutes. The center can still be very slightly jiggly, but not overly wet. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour, and then remove from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving for nice, firm bars and even slices.
Graham Crackers: We need 8 whole graham cracker sheets for this recipe. If you buy graham cracker crumbs that have already been crushed, we need 1 ¼ cups, or 128 grams.
Pumpin Pie Spice: This is a jarred spice blend made of ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.
Cream Cheese: The fastest way to soften cream cheese is to remove it from the package and let it rest on a plate or cutting board at room temperature for up to an hour.
Canned Pumpkin Puree: Read the label before buying canned pumpkin puree to ensure you're buying pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie puree. The latter has sugar already added and will cause the recipe to fail.
Storage: These pumpkin cheesecake bars need to remain in the fridge indefinitely. You can freeze them individually in layers of plastic wrap and store them in freezer safe bags. To defrost, move them to the fridge overnight or let rest at room temperature for a few hours. Do not microwave these bars. Store all leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 206Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 133mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 3g