Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
These Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars will be the hero of every gathering and are easier to make than you think (just watch the video)! They begin with an easy cinnamon graham cracker crust, topped with plain cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake then cinnamon pecan streusel to create dynamic decadent bites of rich and creamy AND satisfyingly crunchy. These intoxicatingly delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars are also a winner because they are make ahead friendly which eliminates all of that last minute stress/hassle, don’t require any special baking pans or a water bath. I’ve included detailed instructions on how to make these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars so even if you’ve never made cheesecake before, they will be the runaway hit of the season!
Servings Prep Time
24bars 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
80minutes 12hours for chilling
Servings Prep Time
24bars 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
80minutes 12hours for chilling
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1/2cup (8 TBS) unsalted butter
  • 14 full sheets cinnamon graham crackerscrushed into fine crumbs
  • 1/4cup packed light brown sugar
Cheesecake
  • 48 oz. pkgs Cream Cheesesoftened
  • 1 1/3cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggsat room temperature
  • 1 egg yolkat room temperature
  • 1tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1cup sour creamat room temperature
  • 115 oz. can pure pumpkin(not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2tsps EACH ground cloves, ground nutmeg
  • 1/2teaspoon ground ginger
Pecan Streusel
  • 1cup raw pecans
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3cup flour
  • 3/4cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp EACH ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger
  • 1/8teaspoon salt
  • 1/2cup chilled unsalted buttercubed (1 stick)
Serve with:
  • whipped cream
  • and/or vanilla ice cream
Instructions
  1. PREP: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. CRUST: melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Add finely ground Graham crackers and sugar and stir until well combined. Transfer crust to prepared pan and firmly press the crumbs down on the bottom of the pan until you have an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool COMPLETELY.
  3. CHEESECAKE FILLING: add cream cheese and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (may use hand mixer) and beat on medium speed 5 minutes until light and fluffy. With mixer still running, add the eggs one at a time, then the egg yolk, mixing just until the yellow disappears after each egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Pour only 4 1/2 cups of this plain cheesecake on top of the COOLED crust and evenly spread to the edges. Place in the freezer while you prepare the pumpkin layer (to create more defined layers).
  4. PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE LAYER: add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger to the remaining plain cheesecake batter and mix until well blended. Pour this pumpkin cheesecake onto the plain cheesecake and carefully spread over the plain cheesecake layer.
  5. BAKE CHEESECAKE WITHOUT STREUSEL: bake cheesecake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  6. STREUSEL: meanwhile, add pecans and vanilla extract to food processor. Pulse 3 times to slightly chop up pecans. Add all remaining topping ingredients and pulse until it resembles coarse pebbles. (See notes if you don’t have a food processor.)
  7. BAKE WITH STREUSEL: after cheesecake has baked 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and evenly spread streusel over cheesecake. Return to oven and bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for an additional 40-50 minutes or until the cheesecake is firm around the edges but the the center jiggles when shaken (it will finish cooking as sit cools).
  8. COOL: crack oven door open and allow cheesecake to cool in the oven for one hour. Remove cheesecake and allow to completely cool on the counter (2-3 hours). Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving (best if 24).
  9. SLICE: fill a large glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife in the hot water, wipe dry, then make a clean cut, repeat for reach cut.
  10. SERVE: serve Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with plenty of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Recipe Notes

TIPS FOR PUMPKIN BARS

  • Line pan.  Lining the 9×13 pan in parchment then spraying with nonstick cooking spray ensures the cheesecake bars won’t stick – works like a charm every time.   
  • Use food processor.  The easiest way to make graham cracker crumbs is in your food processor – it literally takes seconds!  If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or side of a can.
  • Use fine crumbs.  The finer the crumbs, the more cohesive the crust and less crumbly it will be when baked.
  • Press crumbs firmly into pan.  Use the back of a measuring cup to get the layer nice and compact so it doesn’t crumble later.
  • Use soft cream cheese.  The cream cheese should be soft enough that it can easily beat into a creamy consistency.  If it is not soft enough, then it will yield lumpy cheesecake and will leave white specks in the pumpkin puree (see three methods to soften cream cheese below).
  • Beat cream cheese until fluffy.  The most important part of making your Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars is to beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fully with your paddle attachment – about 5 minutes. Five minutes can seem like a long time, so set your timer and don’t stop early!  Beating the cream cheese creates lusciously smooth and creamy cheesecake.
  • Don’t overbeat eggs. Once you add the eggs, beat as LITTLE as possible, beating just until combined after each egg addition.  Overbeating eggs can lead to the cheesecake cracking and not as creamy cheesecake.
  • Use room temperature ingredients.  Use room temperature eggs, egg yolks, and sour cream.  This allows you to beat as little as possible when adding the eggs.
  • To quickly bring eggs to room temperature: Fill a bowl with warm water (not hot) and add eggs and let sit 10-20 minutes.
  • Don’t skip the lemon or sour cream! The both add just the right tanginess to offset the sweetness and cut through the richness.  
  • Refrigerate streusel.  The butter should be very cold before going into the oven, so if you finish making the streusel before your cheesecake comes out of the oven, refrigerate it until ready to use. 
  • Use all the streusel.  It will seem like a lot of streusel, but use all of it as it helps balance all the creamy cheesecake and will bake down.
  • Don’t peak!  It is paramount that you don’t open the oven while your cheesecake is cooking.  Opening the door dramatically lowers the temperature and causes your cheesecake to sink and crack.
  • Don’t overbake cheesecake. Over baking the cheesecake causes the filling to shrink and crack.  You want the edges to be firm but the center to wobble slightly when shaken.
  • Cool cheesecake gradually. cool the Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars gradually, first with the oven door propped open and then on the counter to allow it to adjust to each temperature gradually. If you remove the cheesecake from the oven immediately, the sudden change in temperature will cause the cheesecake to crack and not bake evenly.
  • Chill cheesecake. Don’t rush the chilling process as it allows the flavors to build, and marry. You may serve the pumpkin bars 6 hours after chilling, but I suggest allowing them to chill the full 24 hours for the best flavor.

STORAGE 

These Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars should be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator.  They are good for about 3-5 days, but the best texture after 24 hours as the streusel will continue to soften.  Let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD

You can completely assemble, bake and chill the Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars 24 hours in advance, or prep different elements of the recipe ahead of time, here’s how:

  • Crust: bake, cool then cover with foil 24 hours ahead of filling. No need to refrigerate.
  • Cheesecake:  beat the cheesecake ingredients together (just the plain or the plain and pumpkin). Cover and chill for up to 48 hours. Give them a whisk before layering on the cooled crust.
  • Streusel: can be completely prepared 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Cheesecake: can be made 24 hours ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

CAN I FREEZE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARS?

Yes and no.  I do not recommend freezing Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with the streusel as the streusel will become soft and mushy when defrosted.  You may, however, bake the cheesecake bars WITHOUT the streusel and freeze them.  Don’t attempt to add the streusel later – your frozen Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars will have to be served without the crunchy topping.  

To freeze whole pan of Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars:

  • Bake cheesecake bars without streusel.
  • Cool cheesecake bars completely and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
  • Wrap pan twice tightly in plastic wrap followed by heavy duty aluminum foil.
  • Freeze for 2-3 months.
  • To thaw, remove Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars from freezer to the refrigerator.  Let thaw overnight.

To freeze individual Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars:

  • Bake cheesecake bars without streusel.
  • Line cut bars on a parchment/nonstick mat lined baking sheet without touching.
  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid (about 1 hour); this prevents the bars from freezing together later when stored.  Alternatively, you can skip this step and freeze bars individually in their own plastic bags.
  • Transfer bars to a freezer safe airtight container, and place parchment paper in between each row.
  • Freeze for 2-3 months.
  • When ready to eat, defrost individual cheesecake bars in the microwave at 20 second intervals or place in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.