Pumpkin bars are a fall staple recipe, with rich pumpkin spice flavor and the best ever cream cheese frosting. These bars are incredibly moist yet sturdy enough to hold (no fork needed).
Although pumpkin bars look arduous, they are easy and straightforward to make for company, with your significant other, or with the kiddos! While these bars don’t need any decorations to make them delicious, the kids will definitely love layering on some holiday decorations to make these extra pretty!
And if you’re still in the pumpkin mood after making these bars, try my Pumpkin Butter.
Why These Are the Best Pumpkin Bars Ever
This is one of the best recipes I’ve ever created. No matter if I share these pumpkin bars with people who are pumpkin fanatics or pumpkin skeptics, they are ALWAYS a hit! Here’s 5 reasons why you’ll love these pumpkin bars:
- Super easy to make!
- Just the right pumpkin spice flavor.
- Extra moist yet sturdy enough to pick up. No fork needed.
- The cream cheese frosting is HEAVENLY.
- Keeps well in the fridge for a whole week!
What Are Pumpkin Bars?
You might wonder, what in the world is the difference between pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake? Pumpkin bars are made in a sheet pan, cut into squares, and are sturdy enough to pick up instead of using a fork.
They can or cannot be iced with frosting…but of course, these are! The cream cheese frosting takes these from A+ to A+++!
- All-purpose flour – flour is the base for the bars.
- Light brown sugar – light brown sugar, instead of regular white sugar, adds a more complex taste and denser texture that’s important to make bars instead of super fluffy cake.
- Vegetable oil – oil adds moisture.
- Pure pumpkin puree – it’s important to find unsweetened and unflavored 100% pure pumpkin puree. I like Libby’s brand the best! This is not an ad.
- Pumpkin pie spice – you can typically find pumpkin pie spice pre-blended in the spice section of the grocery store. If not, order it from Amazon, or make it yourself by blending 1 tbs cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ½ tsp ground cloves, and ½ tsp ground nutmeg together. Then measure out 1 tablespoon of your mixed pumpkin pie spice for the bars!
- Vanilla extract – vanilla adds flavor.
- Baking soda – baking soda helps achieve a sturdy but moist texture.
- Baking powder – baking powder also helps achieve a sturdy but moist texture.
- Salt – salt adds flavor.
- Eggs – eggs bind everything together.
- Finely chopped walnuts – finely chopped (not regular chopped) walnuts are optional but recommended! They add delicious texture!
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese – full-fat cream cheese works the best.
- Butter – butter and cream cheese should be softened to room temperature before making frosting!
- Powdered sugar – AKA confectioners’ sugar, is used to make light, fluffy frosting.
- Vanilla extract – vanilla adds flavor.
- Orange zest – a small amount of fresh orange zest adds a light citrus flavor to your frosting that complements the pumpkin so perfectly. Trust me!
How to Make Pumpkin Bars
Full instructions in the recipe card; this is just an outline!
- Prepare pan.
Grease or line a 10×15” baking sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Dry ingredients except sugar.
Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
- Wet ingredients with sugar.
In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla and eggs.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in walnuts.
Spoon batter into lined or greased pan, spreading into an even layer. Bake for 22-27 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove from oven and let cool completely right in the pan.
- Make frosting.
For the frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter in a mixer on medium-high speed until creamy. Add vanilla, orange zest, and powdered sugar. Start mixer on low so the sugar doesn’t fly, and then increase the speed to medium-high until frosting is creamy.
Frost pumpkin bars.
- Decorate and serve.
Serve as-is cut into squares, or topped with more finely chopped walnuts, holiday sprinkles, orange zest, or pumpkin pie spice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, if they are frosted, pumpkin bars need to be refrigerated.
Pumpkin bars keep well, in an airtight container for up to a week.
Decorate them with finely chopped walnuts, holiday sprinkles, icing or a dusting of pumpkin pie spice or orange zest.
Yes! About 2/3 cup of golden raisins would be delicious.
I don’t recommend using a different size sheet pan because the bake time will be different.
You can freeze unfrosted pumpkin bars.
More Fall Desserts You’ll Love!
- Mom’s Cinnamon Sugar Pie Crust Cookies
- Honey Butter Roasted Pears
- Grandma’s Butterscotch Pudding Icebox Cake
- Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
- 20-Minute Pumpkin Butter
- Whipped Shortbread & Pumpkin Spice Buttercream Cookie Sandwiches
- 3-Ingredient Apple Pie Bites
- 10×15" baking sheet pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree unsweetened and unflavored
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts optional but recommended
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese room temperature
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar also called confectioners’ sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest packed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a 10×15” baking sheet pan with parchment paper (if you’d like to lift bars out of pan).
- Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla and eggs.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in finely chopped walnuts.
- Spoon batter into lined or greased pan, spreading into an even layer. Bake for 22-27 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely right in the pan. Once the bars have been cooling at room temperature for 15 minutes, you can finish cooling them in the fridge to speed up the process.
- For the frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter in a mixer on medium-high speed until creamy and whipped (1-2 minutes). Add vanilla, orange zest, and powdered sugar. Start mixer on low so the sugar doesn’t fly, and then increase the speed to medium-high until frosting is creamy and whipped (1-2 minutes).
- Use a spatula or cake knife to frost pumpkin bars. I use all of the frosting.
- Serve as-is cut into squares, or decorate with more finely chopped walnuts, holiday sprinkles, orange zest, or pumpkin pie spice.
- These bars are delicious served room temperature or chilled.
- Store them in the fridge, covered, for about a week.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice blend can typically be found right in the grocery store, or on Amazon! To make your own pumpkin pie spice if you can’t buy it pre-made: 1 tbs cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ½ tsp ground cloves, ½ tsp ground nutmeg mixed together. Then measure out 1 tablespoon for this recipe and save the rest for my Homemade Creamy Pumpkin Spice Latte!