No Thanksgiving feast is complete without pumpkin pie. Sure, a tender, flaky crust filled with silky pumpkin custard is a thing of beauty, but it can also be fussy. The holidays are already stressful enough—dessert doesn’t have to be.
That’s why I love these pumpkin pie bars. It’s the kind of dessert that’s as easy and flexible as it is delicious.
How to Make Pumpkin Pie Bars
Instead of hassling with rolling out a traditional pie crust, graham crackers are blitzed in a food processor until fine, along with light brown sugar and melted butter, then pressed into a glass baking dish, lined with parchment, and par-baked.
The pumpkin custard gets a heady dose of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla. For even more of a fiery kick, flecks of finely chopped candied ginger are folded into the whipped cream topping.
Each luscious bite is bursting with spice. The bars can be eaten out of hand or served with fancy china and a fork. Who doesn’t love a dessert that can be dressed up or down?!
Pumpkin Loves Ginger!
Candied ginger, also known as crystallized ginger, can be a secret weapon for your baking, adding a hint of sweet heat to scones, muffins, and cakes. (It’s also lovely folded into your morning oatmeal or yogurt.)
It’s made by cooking thin slices of peeled ginger in a sugary syrup until sweet and tender. The ginger is then strained and tossed in more sugar until well-coated.
- You can find candied ginger at grocers like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Safeway, as well as online.
- If the candied ginger sticks together while you’re chopping it, toss it with a couple of teaspoons of sugar to break up any large clumps.
- The more finely chopped the candied ginger is, the more evenly it will distribute throughout the whipped cream.
How to Serve Pumpkin Pie Bars Like a Pro
Using the rectangular baking dish means no flimsy slivers of pie here! Depending on how you cut the bars, this is the kind of dessert that can feed 24 people as easily as a dozen.
- Lining the baking dish with a parchment sling allows you to transfer the entire dessert from the baking dish to the cutting board for easy slicing.
- To get clean slices each time, use a long, sharp knife, and clean the blade in between each slice. (I run the knife under hot water, then wipe it dry with a tea towel.)
- Spooning dollops of whipped cream on top of each bar works great, but for an extra polished look, use a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip. To use a piping tip make sure the ginger is minced so the tip doesn’t clog. Garnish each dollop of whipped cream with a bit more candied ginger for extra flare.
How to Make Ahead, Store, and Freeze Pumpkin Pie Bars
What’s especially nice about this recipe is that you can make these bars ahead of time, making them an ideal holiday dessert.
- Uncut, the bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a sheet of parchment and foil, for up to three days. Sliced into bars, they can be stored in a single layer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- The whipped cream is best served the day it’s made, though you can finely chop the candied ginger a day or two ahead.
But, do they freeze well?
- Yes! Place the cut bars in a single layer in an airtight container and freeze for up to one month. The day you plan to serve, transfer the bars to the refrigerator to thaw for a couple of hours, then let them sit at room temperature for about an hour. While the bars thaw, make the whipped cream.
You Need Pumpkin; We Have Recipes!
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping
- Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Waffles
- Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Pie Bars with Candied Ginger Whipped Cream
- For the graham cracker crust:
- 24 (420 grams) full graham cracker sheets
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 228 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (88 grams) light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- For the custard:
- 2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 (264 grams) cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the whipped cream:
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger, plus more for garnish
Prepare the oven and pan
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper, leaving enough of the paper hanging over the sides to use as a sling to remove the bars once they’re baked. Feel free to smear a little butter on the bottom of the pan to help the parchment stay in place.
Make the crust
Add the graham crackers to the bowl of a food processor and pulverize them until they are finely ground and resemble sand. You should have a little over 3 cups once ground. (If you don’t have a food processor you can also do this by placing the graham crackers in a ziptop bag and smashing them with a rolling pin.)
Add the light brown sugar and salt; pulse until fully combined. Add the butter in a steady stream while the food processor is running.
Transfer to the prepared baking dish
Spread the graham cracker mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish. Use your fingers and the bottom of a dry measuring cup to help press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the dish.
Bake the crust
Transfer the baking dish to the oven and place it on the center rack. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the crust darkens a bit and smells slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
Make the custard
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, light brown sugar, cream, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla, until smooth and well-combined. Pour the custard over the graham cracker crust.
Bake the bars
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the custard is set (the surface should look dry and the center should be firm but have a little wobble), 50 to 55 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool
Place the baking dish on a wire rack, and cool completely, at least 2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Make the whipped cream
While the bars chill in the refrigerator, make the whipped cream.
In a well-chilled bowl, whisk together the cream and vanilla until stiff peaks begin to form. (If doing this by hand, this could take 10 to 15 minutes or more.) If you want to learn all about properly whipped cream read our post: How to Make Whipped Cream.
Once the cream has been whipped to stiff peaks, fold in the finely chopped candied ginger. If you’re piping the whipped cream onto the bars, pay close attention to how finely chopped the ginger is so it doesn’t clog the piping tip.
Cut the bars
When the bars are chilled, lift the parchment ends and remove from the pan. Use a long sharp knife to cut the pie into bars. For the cleanest lines, cut straight down rather than dragging the knife through the bars, and carefully wipe the blade between each cut.
Spoon a dollop of whipped cream on top of each bar or, for a more decorative approach, use a large open star tip to pipe the whipped cream. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger, and serve.