I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I have never been team pumpkin pie. Until these pumpkin pie bars! I honestly made this recipe on a lark; I had a can of pumpkin puree that I wanted to use up and a jar of Trader Joe’s salted caramel. Somehow the idea popped into my head to swirl the caramel on top before baking and thus this recipe was born. I didn’t have high hopes for it; in fact, I really expected it to be average. But, when I tried them I was blown away and I had to actively stop myself from eating them. The pumpkin has such a silky texture topped with whipped cream that is just barely sweet and the crust in itself is worth snacking on!
I love this recipe for thanksgiving because a) it’s so much easier than making a pie; b) it takes so much less time than baking a pie, and c) it’s a sophisticated take on pumpkin pie that your guests will love. I think cutting bars is far easier for a crowd than cutting pie, but that’s just me! I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do. Happy baking!
what are salted caramel pumpkin pie bars?
Salted caramel pumpkin pie bars have an almost shortbread-like base for the crust, topped with a rich and subtly spiced pumpkin pie filling, and then there’s salted caramel swirled on top before baking. They’re then topped with the most luscious and delicious whipped cream EVER. Pumpkin pie bars are like if shortbread cookies and pumpkin pie had a baby.
what ingredients make up the crust?
The crust for these pumpkin pie bars is made up of: all-purpose flour, granulated white sugar, browned butter, vanilla, egg, and salt. It’s similar in texture to cookie dough, just a little bit sandier. It’s then pressed into an 8×8 baking pan and topped with the filling before being baked. This recipe does not require that the crust be baked before adding the filling.
what is browned butter?
Great question! Browned butter is butter that has been cooked over low heat until the milk solids in the butter have caramelized. It has the most deliciously nutty and rich flavor and adds so much to baked goods! It’s very easy to make! Just keep an eye on it as it tends to burn quickly. For more info on browned butter, check out this article by The Kitchn! If you’re looking for more recipes that have browned butter in them, check these out: salted chocolate pecan pie, gingerbread cookie sandwiches, old fashioned sour cream donuts, and Nutella Linzer cookies.
Do I need a stand mixer to make pumpkin pie bars?
No! You can actually make the crust in the food processor by pulsing until the ingredients come together and then pressing into the baking pan. Alternately, you can mix everything in a large mixing bowl with a rubber spatula and then use your hands to finish mixing so that everything has a homogenous texture. The filling is whisked by hand and I always whisk my whipped cream by hand. No stand mixer required for this recipe!
what ingredients go into the filling for pumpkin pie bars?
The ingredients for pumpkin pie filling are pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!), brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, vanilla bean paste, dry milk powder, heavy cream, and a pinch of salt. All these ingredients are whisked together until smooth and then poured over the prepared crust before baking.
which pumpkin puree is best?
I am personally partial to Libby’s canned pumpkin puree and Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin puree. Make sure you are buying pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, which has all of the sugar and spices already included. I am also a fan of homemade pumpkin puree and if you’d like to make your own, you can find my recipe here.
Why use dry milk powder?
I know this seems like a weird ingredient, but I actually add it to lots of baked goods! Not only does it add a rich and creamy flavor, but it actually helps emulsify fillings and absorbs some of the liquid from the pumpkin puree so that you don’t end up with a soupy mess. It’s a staple in my kitchen and I highly recommend it! If you don’t have it, you can omit it but it’s inexpensive to buy and lasts forever so I highly recommend adding it to your baking stock.
Where can I find salted caramel sauce?
Just about every grocery store carries some version of it! I’m extremely partial to the Trader Joe’s salted caramel sauce but other great brands are Stonewall kitchen, Williams Sonoma, and even Smucker’s makes a salted caramel sauce now! I like making my own when I have the time, but storebought works just fine here.
Do I have to use salted caramel?
No, but it adds a lot to the recipe. These, of course, can just be baked with the filling and crust and no salted caramel if it’s not your favorite flavor. You can use regular caramel that isn’t salted if you prefer but I love a little salty/sweet in my desserts.
Can this recipe be doubled?
Absolutely! If you double the recipe, bake in a 9×13 baking dish. You may need to adjust the time slightly, but it will work!
How do I know when the pumpkin pie bars are done baking?
Great question! The center should jiggle slightly when you jostle the pan. The edges will be mostly set but the center will jiggle just a tiny bit. That’s when you should remove the pan from the oven and it’ll set nice and firm as it cools to room temperature.
Can I make the pumpkin pie bars ahead of time?
Absolutely! They can be made up to 3 days in advance. Bake them off as normal, allow them to cool completely to room temperature, and then wrap them tightly with plastic wrap before transferring to the fridge. I would wait to cut them until you’re ready to serve.
Can pumpkin pie bars be frozen?
Yes! They can be frozen for up to 1 month. Just make sure to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap so that they don’t get icy. Allow them to defrost overnight in the fridge.
Other recipes you may like:
cranberry white chocolate cookie bars
jack-o-lantern hand pies
easy skillet apple pecan crisp
Guinness texas sheet cake
homemade boozy eggnog
1 stick (113 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (125 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (265 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cups brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, plus more for drizzling before serving
Maple Whipped Cream:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- To make the crust: Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a small skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan every 30 seconds, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes or so. Pay attention as it can burn very easily! Transfer to a heat-proof container (like a metal mixing bowl) to cool for 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cooled brown butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix on low until well combined. Add the egg, flour, and salt and mix until combined and the dough starts to come together, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer, getting into all the corners. Use a measuring cup, or something with a flat bottom, to smooth the top as you press the crust into the pan. Set aside.
- To make the filling: Combine all the ingredients except the caramel sauce in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until the filling is very smooth and all the ingredients are combined. Pour the filling into the baking dish over the prepared crust. Drizzle the caramel sauce on top, and using a knife or toothpick, swirl the sauce into a pretty design over the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center just barely jiggles. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight if desired. Slice before serving.
- To make the whipped cream: Combine all whipped cream ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until medium-stiff peaks form. Top bars with whipped cream, extra caramel sauce, and freshly grated nutmeg (if desired).