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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars take all the things you love about fall and fold them into a pumpkin-swirled, dreamy cheesecake filling on a crisp gluten-free cookie crust. The perfect handheld dessert for a Halloween party or a sweet after-school treat!
Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
As soon as the calendar ticks over into fall, I am ready to start baking all the pumpkin things! These pumpkin cream cheese bars capture everything I love about fall baking: lots of warming spices, loads of luscious pumpkin, a sweet cookie crust, and of course, a creamy and decadent cheesecake filling.
In this recipe for pumpkin cheesecake bars, you’ll add sour cream to the cream cheese for extra richness. The pumpkin brings beautiful color and flavor to the tangy filling (see the photos below for how to create that swirl). And the crisp and buttery gluten-free graham cracker crust brings it all together!
These pumpkin cheesecake bars are equally at home on a fall dessert table as they are at a kids’ Halloween party. I love to serve these bars throughout the cooler months – they feel celebratory and are the perfect bridge between summer and winter. You’ll definitely want to add this one to your “pumpkin recipes” list.
Why You’ll Love These Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars
Pumpkin-infused cheesecake filled with the flavors of fall – there’s so much going for these bars! Here’s why you’ll love them too:
- Creamy and decadent. What is it about cheesecake? It’s so rich yet so challenging to stop eating! In this recipe, the slight tanginess of the cream cheese and sour cream in the filling is balanced by the mellow pumpkin, making this one for the books.
- A perfect fall dessert. Make these pumpkin cream cheese bars for school Halloween parties, dinner gatherings, or consider serving them on your Thanksgiving dessert table.
- Easy. Though there is a bit of prep time involved this is a very easy recipe to make.
- Simple ingredients. A look at the ingredient list will show you that these bars don’t call for any specialized or complicated ingredients. And you only need to use gluten-free graham crackers to make this a gluten-free recipe.
What You’ll Need
I’ve outlined what ingredients go into these pumpkin cream cheese bars below. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card at the end of this post for the full ingredient amounts.
For the Crust
- Gluten-Free Graham Crackers: Use your favorite brand or make your own gluten-free graham crackers or substitute gluten-free vanilla wafers.
- Sugar: To add extra sweetness to the crust.
- Salt: Fine sea salt or table salt is ideal.
- Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon lightly flavors the crust.
- Unsalted Butter: You can use salted butter if needed but if you do so, omit the salt.
For the Filling
- Pumpkin Puree: Use pure pumpkin puree rather than pumpkin pie puree.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: You can use store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice.
- Cornstarch: To help bind the filling.
- Cream Cheese: Essential for that familiar cheesecake filling!
- Sugar: You can do a mix of white and brown sugar if you like.
- Vanilla Extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Sour Cream: Whole-fat or low-fat sour cream will work in this recipe.
- Eggs: Eggs also help hold the filling together.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Follow along with the photos and details below to guide you through making these pumpkin bars:
- Prep. Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil.
- Make the crust. Place the graham crackers into a food processor and pulse until it is reduced to fine crumbs. Add the sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse 1-2 times to mix together. Add the melted butter and pulse again.
- Bake the crust. Dump the graham cracker mixture into your prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to pack down the cracker crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Make the pumpkin mixture. Combine the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and cornstarch. Set aside
- Make the cheesecake mixture. Beat the sugar and cream cheese until creamy. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and salt and beat again on medium speed until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the eggs. Mix only until just combined.
- Add to the pumpkin mixture. Add 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Fold together until light orange in color.
- Assemble the pumpkin cheesecake bars. Dollop alternating blobs of cheesecake and pumpkin batter on top of the graham cracker crust. Tap the pan a few times to level the filling. Use a knife to swirl a design into the top, taking care not to cut into the crust at the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the cheesecake until set. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until the edges are set and the center is just barely jiggly.
- Remove from the oven, let cool, and place in the fridge overnight before slicing and serving. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight before slicing.
Tips for Success
Below, find some tips to help you make these bars.
- Bring cream cheese to room temperature. It’s so helpful to use room-temperature cream cheese in baking. The cream cheese will incorporate better into the batter, which means you won’t have any clumps. This is especially important in a cheesecake filling!
- Swap in Greek yogurt. For a lighter filling or for your preference, you can substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream.
- Make it dairy-free. You can make these bars dairy-free with a few substitutions: Use dairy-free cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt, and use your favorite non-dairy butter for the butter.
- Use other gluten-free cookies. For a flavor change, you can substitute the gluten-free graham crackers with other cookies, such as gluten-free vanilla wafers, shortbread, chocolate cookies, or even gluten-free pumpkin cookies.
- Don’t overmix the cheesecake batter. The danger of overbeating cheesecake batter is that too much air can be incorporated into the filling mix, causing it to crack during baking. Note that a crack in the filling will not affect the taste of the cheesecake but it might not look as pretty.
- Be careful not to overbake the cheesecake. You’ll know when the cheesecake is done baking when the edges are firm and the center wobbles just slightly when shaken. Pull it from the oven at this point so it doesn’t overbake and shrink.
- Fully cool and refrigerate these pumpkin cheesecake bars. Allowing the bars to chill in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours before serving, will help the filling fully set and allow the flavors to develop.
Cover the pumpkin cheesecake bars in the pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil, and store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also place bars in a single layer in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Can I Freeze Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars?
Yes, you can freeze pumpkin cheesecake bars. To freeze, wrap the cooled pan or individual bars tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, and place in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge before serving. The texture of the cheesecake filling may change slightly after being frozen but it will still taste good.
Shop for Ingredients
Here are a few brands of gluten free cookies that I’ve used with success.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
For the Crust
- 8 ounces/200 grams gluten-free graham crackers
- ¼ cup/50 grams sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons/85 grams (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling
- 1 cup/244 grams pure pumpkin puree, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 3 tablespoons/24 grams cornstarch
- 24 ounces/678 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cup/250 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup/120 grams sour cream, at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil.
- Place the graham crackers into a food processor and pulse until it is reduced to fine crumbs.
- Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon and pulse 1-2 times to mix together.
- Add the melted butter and pulse again until combined into a mixture resembling wet sand.
- Dump the graham cracker mixture into your prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to pack down the cracker crumbs.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325℉.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and cornstarch. Whisk together until well mixed and set aside.
- Add the cream cheese and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until creamy. Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla and salt and beat again on medium speed until incorporated.
- Turn the mixer to low speed and add the eggs. Mix only until just combined.
- Divide the cheesecake batter, adding 1⁄3 of the cream cheese mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Fold them together with a spatula until they are combined into a light orange filling.
- Dollop alternating blobs of cheesecake and pumpkin batter on top of the graham cracker crust. Tap the pan a few times to level the filling. Use a knife to swirl a design into the top, taking care not to cut into the crust at the bottom of the pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until the edges are set and the center is just barely jiggly.
- Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight before slicing.