Get the best of both worlds - fragrant pumpkin pie and rich, creamy cheesecake - in these decadent Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars. Perfect make-ahead dessert recipe for Thanksgiving or any fall occasion!
Cooler fall weather has us craving all the comfort foods, but especially desserts. These Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars have all of our favorite fall flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) layered with creamy cheesecake and a chocolate cookie crust.
Why you should make these pumpkin cheesecake bars
✘ This recipe is almost like having two desserts in one recipe: classic creamy cheesecake and fragrant pumpkin pie. Perfect for the indecisive!
✘ Chocolate wafer cookies are used instead of graham crackers in the crust for extra decadence.
✘ You can make this dessert days ahead of time, which is ideal for the holidays or busy weeks.
✘ Even the inexperienced cook can master these impressive-looking cheesecake bars. An easy press-in crust and a non-fussy batter come together quickly plus a simple water bath prevents cracking on top.
You'll find everything you need for these bars in one trip to the grocery store.
A few ingredient notes:
Cookies: The chocolate cookies add even more visual contrast to these bars. Can't find the wafers? You can also use chocolate sandwich cookies.
Cream cheese: The full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese gives this recipe the best texture and flavor.
Pumpkin: Use 100% pure pumpkin puree for this recipe, NOT the pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices added to it already. The cans are right next to each other in the baking aisle so read the labels carefully.
Don't be intimidated by the number of steps here. The instructions are very simple and easy to follow.
Start by placing your cookies, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until it resembles fine sand. Press into prepared pan.
Tip: Don't have a food processor? Place the cookies in a large resealable bag and whack with a mallet or something equally as hard to pulverize the cookies into crumbs. Stir in sugar and melted butter.
Place cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Place part of cheesecake batter into pan. Add pumpkin and spices to remaining batter and mix until combined. Spoon pumpkin cheesecake batter on top of plain cheesecake batter. Bake as directed.
Use a water bath! Sounds fancy, I know, but don't worry; it's not nearly as complicated is it sounds.
A water bath helps to keep the baking temperature as consistent as possible during the baking process. Even, moist heat ensures the cheesecake is bakes at the same pace (no hard edges and underdone middle pieces).
Using a water bath when baking cheesecake also minimizes the chance that your cheesecake will crack along the top and/or sink in the middle, both common issues with cheesecake recipes.
All you need to do is place your pie pan inside a larger pan and fill the larger pan with water until it is about halfway up the exterior of your pie pan. I like to place my larger pan in the oven first before nestling the baking pan inside it and adding the water. This is MUCH easier than trying to slide a pan nestled in another pan of water into the oven without getting water everywhere (including in your cheesecake batter). Trust me on this one.
This recipe is nearly foolproof because you bake the bars in a water bath to ensure even heating. The center of the pie should jiggle ever so slightly after the baking time. You also allow it to cool and rest in the oven for an hour afterwards to gradually bring the temperature down and ensure every last bite of these bars is perfectly creamy and baked through.
Yes! Since there is no flour in this recipe (some cheesecake recipes use flour), the only gluten-containing ingredient you need to switch up is the cookie base. Use gluten-free sandwich cookies or gluten-free graham crackers in place of the chocolate cookie wafers and follow the recipe as written.
These cheesecake bars will last about 5 days in the refrigerator. I often make them a few days in advance as they store nicely covered in the fridge. You can also freeze the entire pan or individual bars wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Expert tips for making cheesecake bars
✘ Always start with room temperature ingredients. Cream cheese blends much more smoothly when it's not chilled.
✘ A straight edge cake pan is necessary to get sharp, square corners on your cheesecake bars. USA Pans are my favorite. Durable, non-stick and easy to clean.
✘ Chocolate wafer cookies give these bars an eye-catching crust but they can be hard to find sometimes. You can easily substitute chocolate sandwich cookies for a similar look or use graham crackers or gingersnaps instead.
✘ Use the bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup to press the cookie mixture into the pan to keep the crust even.
✘ A simple water bath is the best way to prevent your cheesecake from cracking and ensure even baking.
✘ Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least 8 hours before slicing.
✘ This recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve.
✘ To make the cleanest slices, run a sharp knife under hot water. Dry the knife with a towel and make one cut in the bars. Rinse knife and repeat process until all cuts have been made.
More pumpkin recipes
Did you stock up on pumpkin at the grocery store? We've got more ways to put that pumpkin to good use!
You'll find more flavors of cheesecake bars in our dessert recipes section!
Did you make this recipe? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Your feedback helps us and your fellow readers!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- 8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 24 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a water bath for your 8" x 8" baking pan (if using. See note below). Line baking pan with parchment or foil leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
For the crust:
- Place cookies into bowl of food processor and finely process. Add sugar and melted butter and process until mixture resembles fine sand. Dump into baking pan and evenly press crumb mixture into pan to form crust. Place in refrigerator to set while preparing cheesecake.8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies, 2 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons butter,
For the cheesecake:
- Place cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl. Beat on medium high speed until smooth. Add vanilla, eggs and sour cream and beat until combined. Remove 1 ¾ cups batter from bowl and evenly spread over crust.24 ounces cream cheese,, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 eggs, ¼ cup sour cream
- Add pumpkin puree and spices to the remaining batter and stir until thoroughly combined. Carefully spread pumpkin layer over cheesecake layer in baking pan.1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon allspice
- Place baking pan in water bath in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon and allow to cool for another hour.
- Remove bar pan from water bath and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, lift bars from pan using overlapping parchment or foil. Cut cleanly using a clean, warm knife (run under hot water and dried). Sprinkle bars with chopped chocolate, if desired.2 ounces dark chocolate,
- Always start with room temperature ingredients. Cream cheese blends much more smoothly when it's not chilled.
- Line the pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil to use as handles to lift the cheesecake bars out of the pan when you’re ready to cut and serve them.
- Chocolate wafer cookies give these bars an eye-catching crust but they can be hard to find sometimes. You can easily substitute chocolate sandwich cookies for a similar look or use graham crackers or gingersnaps instead.
- Use the bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup to press the cookie mixture into the pan to keep the crust even.
- A simple water bath is the best way to prevent your cheesecake from cracking and ensure even baking (see instructions below).
- Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least 8 hours before slicing.
- This recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- To make the cleanest slices, run a sharp knife under hot water. Dry the knife with a towel and make one cut in the bars. Rinse knife and repeat process until all cuts have been made.
How to make a water bath:Place a 9x13" pan in the preheated oven. Put your 8x8" pan of unbaked bars inside the 9x13" pan and fill the 9x13" with hot water until the bottom half of the 8x8" pan is covered with water. Bake as directed.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.