Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars — Classic cheesecake bars get an autumnal makeover in this recipe! A spiced pumpkin mixture is swirled into creamy cheesecake batter before being baked. Sweet, pumpkin spiced, CREAMY bars with a graham cracker crust for fabulous texture! PERFECT for fall gatherings or Thanksgiving!
Table of Contents
- Easy Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars
- Ingredients for Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- Swirling Tips
- Serving Suggestions
- Tips for Making the Best Cheesecake Pumpkin Bars
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Recipe FAQs
- Storing Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- More Easy Pumpkin Dessert Recipes:
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Recipe
Easy Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars
From a technical standpoint, homemade cheesecakes aren’t that difficult to make – and I adore the baked cheesecake recipes I have on my site!
But the time that goes into making one is fairly high and the workload a bit intensive, and I simply don’t have many occasions to prepare one. Add in the water bath, plus the cooling time in the oven, on the counter, and in the fridge? Just, no.
Instead, this fall I plan on making these easy pumpkin cheesecake bars on repeat. No water bath, no elaborate chilling process, just a whisk-together creamy cheesecake filling swirled with pumpkin and baked!
The buttery graham cracker crust is even packed with fall flavor! Instead of regular graham crackers, I used cinnamon graham crackers to really amp up the spice level in these pumpkin cheesecake bars.
The beautiful marbled filling looks fancy, but really it’s just cheesecake filling swirled with a pumpkin mixture. I used a toothpick to do this, and it couldn’t be simpler!
Make this pumpkin cheesecake bar recipe all fall long. The recipe can be prepared in advance and lasts for days in the fridge! It’s perfect for parties, fall entertaining, and would be a unique Thanksgiving dessert!
Ingredients for Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
These pumpkin swirl cheesecake bars have three components: the graham cracker crust, the cheesecake mixture, and the pumpkin swirl mixture.
The recipe comes together with minimal ingredients though, which is ideal for holiday baking!
Gather the following ingredients:
- Cinnamon graham crackers (regular graham crackers are okay if you can’t find cinnamon because you can doctor them up! See how in the FAQ box below)
- Unsalted butter
- Pumpkin puree (Not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling which has sugars and other things added! I use canned Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin but you can use your favorite brand. See my thoughts in the FAQs on using homemade)
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Ground cinnamon
- All-purpose flour
- Cream cheese
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Sour cream
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.
What’s the Best Type of Cream Cheese to Use in Cheesecake Bars?
For best results, you’ll want to use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese to make the pumpkin cream cheese bars.
Do NOT substitute ‘cream cheese spread’, whipped cream cheese, lite or reduced fat cream cheese in this recipe. If the cream cheese is sold in a plastic tub, it’s NOT what you want.
That’s because it contains too much water, rather than fat (what you need). And watery ingredients do not fare well in the oven, your cream cheese layer will be watery, and won’t set up. So please use full fat cream cheese.
This also goes for the sour cream. Full fat only, please. Wondering if you can use Greek yogurt instead? I cover this in the FAQs section below.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
This is such an easy pumpkin cheesecake bar recipe! There’s no water bath involved, but you do need to allow time for the bars to cool completely before serving.
Here’s an overview of the recipe steps:
Step 1: Prep the crust. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press firmly into the bottom of a foil-lined or parchment paper lined 9×13-inch baking pan.
Step 2: Make the pumpkin mixture. In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, spices, and flour. Set aside.
Step 3: Make the cheesecake filling. Use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then, add the vanilla, sour cream, and salt. Add the eggs, beating on medium speed just until combined.
Cream Cheese Tips!
To prevent the pumpkin cheesecake bars from cracking on top, you need to add the eggs and mix just until combined.
Make sure not to overmix the eggs because you’ll incorporate too much air into the filling, which will cause it to crack in the oven.
Step 4: Combine. Now add 1 ½ cups of the cream cheese mixture into the pumpkin mixture.
Step 5: Assemble the bars. Alternate adding scoops of the plain cheesecake mixture and the pumpkin cheesecake mixture to the pan with a measuring cup or ice cream or cookie scoop. Once all of the cheesecake filling is in the pan, swirl it around with a toothpick to create a marbling effect.
I use a toothpick to create the swirls or marbled effect. The tip of a paring knife also works.
Once you get it the way you want it, or close to it (this is a dessert, we are not painting the Sistine chapel and it doesn’t have to be perfect), stop swirling.
Because if you don’t resist that urge to just do “a little more”, you run the very real risk of blurring it all together. And that doesn’t look very good. The taste will be fine but the appearance will leave a bit to be desired. Quit while you’re ahead!
Step 6: Bake. The cheesecake bars need about 40 min in the oven. The center should be ever so slightly soft when you take them out of the oven.
Step 6: Cool completely. Let the bars cool to room temperature, then pop into the fridge to chill before serving.
These pumpkin swirl cheesecake bars really can’t get any better, but for those of you who like to dress up your desserts I suggest serving the bars with a dollop of whipped cream and / or a drizzle of salted caramel sauce.
Neither is necessary, but both are welcome additions!
Tips for Making the Best Cheesecake Pumpkin Bars
The pumpkin cream cheese bars are very easy to prepare, but there are a few key things to remember when making the recipe.
- Use pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin puree is just unsweetened, cooked pumpkin. If you use pumpkin pie filling, your bars will be far to sweet and overspiced.
- Bring everything to room temperature. That includes the eggs, cream cheese, and sour cream. Room temperature ingredients mix together more easily and make the filling less likely to crack.
- Use full-fat cream cheese and sour cream. You’ll get the creamiest, richest, best pumpkin cheesecake bars this way.
- Spice It Up. If you’re a fan of extra warming spices such as ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, or extra cinnamon, feel free to add a bit of one or all of them. This is essentially what pumpkin pie spice is, but if you love cloves for example like I do, you can add a pinch, in addition to the pumpkin pie spice.
- Let cool completely before serving. I like to bake the bars the night before serving them so that I can let them cool for about an hour on a wire rack on the counter, before placing them in the fridge to chill overnight so they have plenty of time to set up in the fridge. You can NOT slice any type of cheesecake-style dessert right when it come out of the oven — they’ll be far too hot and won’t hold their shape.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Recipe FAQs
Of course! If you can’t find cinnamon graham crackers or don’t want to make a special grocery run just to buy a box, you may use regular graham crackers.
Simply add 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the crumbs before you add the butter to create the crust mixture. Easy-peasy and now you have cinnamon graham cracker crumbs.
If you are using whole sheets of graham crackers, you’ll need about 15 sheets. Pulse to grind them in your food processor until you have 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.
If you want to purchase graham cracker crumbs, that’s fine too. It’s unlikely you’ll find cinnamon graham cracker crumbs in the boxed variety, so I recommend adding 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon to your store bought crumbs, and then add the butter.
Sour cream is a must when making cheesecake bars! It makes for a smoother, richer filling and helps lighten up the otherwise very dense cream cheese mixture.
You may if it’s a thick, full-fat style of Greek yogurt like Stonyfield or Chobani. Do not use their 0% fat or fat-free styles of Greek yogurt.
And above all, do NOT use regular yogurt. It’s too thin and runny and your filling layer will not set up properly.
Possibly, but in my experience the eggs are essential to binding the filling together. You would need to do your own recipe research and testing to see if you can potentially use an egg-substitute product.
If you overmix the cheesecake filling or overbeat the eggs, it’s more likely that your pumpkin cheesecake bars will crack in the oven.
If that happens, it’s okay! It’s not super pretty, I know, but the bars will still taste delicious.
One thing you can do is try to creatively slice the bars in the cracked areas or down any cracks to try to camouflage it. Salted caramel sauce or a dollop of Cool Whip are also great at covering up imperfections.
Absolutely! In fact, I almost always make these cream cheese pumpkin bars the day before since they have to chill in the fridge for at least a few hours anyways before serving.
I wrote an entire cookbook with 50+ pumpkin recipes called Cooking With Pumpkin in 2014.
And for that cookbook, and in every other pumpkin recipe on my website that calls for pumpkin puree, I always and only use Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin (puree). That’s because it’s always the same, there’s a standard, and therefore yours will be just like mine, which in baking helps control the results and outcome.
Therefore, possibly you can use your own homemade pumpkin puree but for me, it’s just not worth the work especially as the holidays approach. Plus, many people actually prefer the taste of canned to homemade.
That being said, your homemade puree will likely work, but homemade puree often contains more moisture than canned puree so I have heard of some people thoroughly blotting it with paper towels before using to remove a bit of liquid. But more likely, adding a bit more flour to the batter may be necessary.
Storing Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Like with other cream cheese-based desserts, you need to store your extra cheesecake bars airtight in the fridge where they’ll keep for up to 5 days.
Note that the crust will soften over time and won’t be as crispy as when freshly baked, but there’s no way around it.
Technically you can also freeze the bars for up to 3 months. However, they could get a bit messy and so reserve this option for you and your immediate family. Don’t plan on making these three months ahead of time and taking them out to serve to company at Thanksgiving!
I don’t recommend stacking the bars — you’ll want to freeze them in a single layer for best results. Frozen pumpkin cheesecake bars can be defrosted overnight in the fridge before serving.
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- 2 1/2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (from about 15 sheets cinnamon graham crackers)*
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, full fat, at room temperature (do NOT use whipped, lite, or spreadable cream cheese)
- 1 ⅔ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup sour cream, full fat (full fat Greek yogurt may be substituted, do NOT use regular yogurt)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9x13-inch baking pan with either parchment paper or foil for easier cleanup, and spray it with nonstick spray; set aside.
- Crust - To a food processor fitted with the S-blade attachment, add the cinnamon graham crackers and pulse to grind into fine crumbs. See Tips in the Notes below for using regular (non-cinnamon) graham crackers and/or store bought graham cracker crumbs.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Tip - Cover the bowl with plastic wrap so the butter doesn't splatter.
- Add the crumbs to the melted butter, and stir to combine. Mixture will be crumbly in texture, this is normal.
- Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking pan and hard pack it with clean fingertips or a rubber spatula to form an even, smooth crust layer; set aside.
- Pumpkin Mixture - To a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, flour, salt, and whisk well to combine; set aside.
- Cream Cheese Mixture - To a separate large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and use a handheld electric mixer (or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment if desired), and beat until smooth and creamy; about 3-4 minutes. Tips - Make sure you use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese only. The job of beating cream cheese smooth is unnecessarily difficult if your cream cheese has not been sitting out at room temp to soften for at least 30 minutes before you plan to use it so plan ahead for best results and ease of the job. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Add the full-fat sour cream (you may substitute with full fat Greek yogurt such as Stonyfield or Chobani; do not use their fat free yogurts nor 'regular' yogurt because it's way too thin and runny), vanilla, and beat momentarily to incorporate.
- Add the eggs and beat to just incorporate, but do not overmix. Tip - Do not overbeat the eggs because it causes excess air to enter the batter, which will can cause the cheesecake bars to crack during baking.
- Transfer - Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture (I use a 1/2-cup measure) and add it to the pumpkin mixture, and whisk well to combine.
- Place Both Batters In Baking Pan - To create the marbled effect, alternate by scooping some of the cream cheese mixture, and then some of the pumpkin mixture, and placing them both in the baking pan; and repeating until there is no more of either batter remaining. Tips - I do this by using a 1/4-cup measure or large cookie/ice cream scoop. A heaping scoop of cream cheese, a heaping scoop of pumpkin next to it, another scoop of cream cheese, and so on. It's not an exact science, and doesn't have to be perfect, just take your time and do your best.
- Swirling - To create the swirled effect, drag a toothpick or just the tip of a paring knife through the batter. Tips - For those new to swirling, I suggest making about 6 long vertical lines equally spaced apart from the top of the pan to the bottom with your toothpick. Then horizontally, go back and forth in and up-and-back S-shaped pattern. If you want to watch internet videos on swirling, go for it! Otherwise, just make your own pattern; do your best, but again, this doesn't need to be perfect. However, after you've swirled a bit, just stop and resist the urge to keep going! Because if you do you can tend to muddy things and it all blends together, which is not the goal. Quit while you're ahead is always my advice with swirling.
- Bake - Bake for about 40 minutes, or until bars are set on top and a toothpick should come out clean. Rotate pan once midway through baking for optimal results.
- Cool - Allow the bars to cool in the pan, at room temp, on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Then, place them in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Tip - After about 2 hours in the fridge, I cover them with a lid or foil, but not before, because I don't want condensation to form in a sealed pan situation or environment, as the heat from baking fully escapes.
- Serve - Slice and serve bars chilled. While it's not necessary, whipped cream or whipped topping (like Cool Whip) and/or caramel sauce or salted caramel sauce are great with the bars. Tips - If your cheesecake bars cracked, either whipped topping or caramel sauce can help cover up the cracks. Also, slicing the bars down any 'fault lines' (cracks) is another way to disguise them.
- Storage - Bars will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Note that as the bars sit in the fridge, the crust will soften as time passes, and is unavoidable. If you do plan to freeze the bars, freeze them in a single flat layer, and thaw in the fridge overnight before serving chilled.
*Graham Crackers - If you can’t find cinnamon graham crackers, you may use regular graham crackers. Simply add 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the crumbs before you add the butter to create the crust mixture.
If you want to use store bought or pre-ground graham cracker crumbs, that's fine too. Simply add 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the crumbs before you add the butter to create the crust mixture.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 346Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 247mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 24gProtein: 5g
More Easy Pumpkin Dessert Recipes:
My FAVORITE PUMPKIN RECIPES on my blog!
My cookbook, Cooking With Pumpkin: Recipes That Go Beyond the Pie is my second cookbook and there are over 50 pumpkin recipes including sweets, savory, drinks, and a photo for nearly every recipe. I’d be super grateful if you headed over to Amazon to check it out!
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