When you are looking for a dessert that is less fussy and more flexible than a traditional 9-inch pumpkin pie — but with all the same familiar flavors — pumpkin pie bars are your answer. The bars can be cut into pieces of any size, so you can have as much or as little as you like, and the recipe comes together in just a few minutes. Next time you’re in the mood for a pumpkin dessert, give these bars a try before you reach for that pie plate!
Like a traditional pie, the bars have a crust and a filling. I use a shortbread crust that is simply pressed into the pan — no need to roll out dough or try to get the perfect fluted edge. The crust is made by cutting butter into a mixture of flour, sugar and cinnamon. The pinch of cinnamon helps to tie the crust in with the filling.
The crust is baked after it is pressed into the pan, and that is where my recipe for pumpkin pie bars becomes a little bit unusual: The filling is added to the crust while it is hot, then returned to the oven. This cut down the baking time that it needs to set and it eliminates prebaking and cooling periods that can make traditional pies so time-consuming.
The filling is a mixture of pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and spices. It is a traditional filling that is used regularly in pumpkin pies, both because it is delicious and simple.
In these bars, it makes a thick layer of custard that is creamy enough to be satisfying and thick enough to cut easily. Though the filling has plenty of spice, you can still taste the buttery, cinnamony flavors of the crust in each bite. The crust will remain crisp after baking, adding a contrasting texture to the rich filling, too.
I’ve made these bars as dessert for dinner parties, when I needed many small plates for a large number of guests, and just for myself to enjoy on a lazy weekend afternoon. The bars can be prepared in advance and will keep well in the refrigerator for 2–3 days after baking when wrapped with plastic or in an airtight container.
Easy pumpkin pie bars
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground salt
- ⅓ cup butter, chilled
- One 15-oz can pumpkin puree (approx 1¾ cups)
- One 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut butter into 8–10 chunks. Add butter in to the flour mixture and toss until it is well-coated.
Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub the butter in to the flour until the mixture resembles coarse, wet sand.
Pour crust mixture into a 9-inch baking dish and press firmly into an even layer. Bake crust for 16–18 minutes, until it is very lightly browned at the edges.
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Whisk together pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices, vanilla and salt.
When the crust is ready, remove it from the oven and pour the filling mixture into the hot crust.
Place the pan back into the oven and bake for an additional 20–25 minutes, or until the crust is set and does not jiggle when the pan is lightly tapped.
Allow bars to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least two hours or until well-chilled before slicing and devouring them.
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