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Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin bars are good, but Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars are even better! A graham cracker crust is topped with a layer of creamy dulce de leche cheesecake, followed by pumpkin pie filling. Finish with a dollop of whipped cream for a fall dessert that’s sure to impress.

Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bar on white plate, topped with whipped cream

Epic pumpkin bars — with a twist!

When I say these Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars are epic, I mean they are epic. If you have a weakness for cheesecake, a soft spot for pumpkin bars, and a hankering for an autumnal treat that’s not the same old, same old, this is the recipe for you. (Oh, and you also might want to try my Pumpkin S’mores Bars for another fall dessert mashup!)

If you’re throwing a Halloween party, Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars are the perfect handheld treat when cut into small squares. They’re also right at home on your Thanksgiving dessert table, either in addition to or instead of traditional pumpkin pie. A warning, though: once you make these, everyone is going to demand that you make them every year!


What you’ll need

The pumpkin layer is your standard pumpkin pie filling, but you might be surprised that the cheesecake layer only calls for 3 ingredients! That’s because it’s sweetened and flavored with dulce de leche, so you don’t need to add much else.

Ingredients:

  • Graham cracker crumbs – You’ll need to crush about a full sleeve of graham crackers if you’re making your own crumbs.
  • Light brown sugar – Adds a lovely molasses hint of molasses to the pumpkin filling and base.
  • Unsalted butter
  • Cream cheese – Take this out and let it sit on the counter so it comes to room temperature before you start baking.
  • Dulce de leche – Store-bought or homemade (see below!).
  • Egg – The egg should also be room temperature, so take it out of the fridge at the same time as the cream cheese.
  • Pumpkin puree – Not pumpkin pie mix! That comes pre-sweetened.
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Evaporated milk – Don't use condensed milk! It's not the same.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Eggs – Yep, the eggs for this layer need to be room temperature too!
  • Sweetened whipped cream – Here’s how to make whipped cream. A spoonful of dulce de leche can be added to this recipe; just add all the ingredients to a bowl and whip to stiff peaks.

What is dulce de leche?

Traditionally, dulce de leche is a combination of milk and sugar that is slowly simmered and stirred for almost 2 hours until the milk thickens and caramelizes. There’s a dulce de leche hack that lets you eliminate the simmering and stirring, though—all you need for it is a can of sweetened condensed milk. That’s what I use in this recipe. You can use any leftover dulce de leche in Tres Leches Cake or Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies.

What can I substitute for pumpkin pie spice?

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, mix 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves. Use only ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture.

  • Mixer – You only need an electric hand mixer for the cream cheese layer. The pumpkin layer is mixed with a whisk.
  • Baking pan – These bars bake in a 9x9 pan.
Overhead shot of Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars in pan with one removed and plated

How to make dulce de leche pumpkin bars

Although you'll need some time to let the layers set and bake, these bars are simple to make! Here's how to do it.

  1. Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350ºF, then line a 9x9-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray so the bars pop out easily.
  2. Make the crust. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Transfer the mixture to the pan and press it into the bottom, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then put it in the refrigerator to cool.
  1. Make the cheesecake layer. Beat the cream cheese and dulce de leche with an electric mixer on medium speed until it reaches a smooth and creamy consistency, then beat in the egg. Spread the cheesecake mixture onto the chilled crust. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until set.
  1. Make the pumpkin layer. Whisk the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout. Once these ingredients are well-combined, whisk in the evaporated milk, vanilla, and eggs. Pour this layer over the cheesecake and smooth the top with a spatula.
Overhead shot of Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bar in pan
  1. Bake the Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars. Place the pan in the oven and bake the bars for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the filling is set and the center is no longer jiggly.
  2. Cool. Place the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate the bars in the pan for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  3. Cut and serve. Carefully lift the bars out of the pan, then cut them into squares. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of dulce de leche, if desired.
Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bar on plate with bite taken out

Tips for success

Here are some hints to help you make sure your Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars are a success!

  • Soften the cream cheese. Set the cream cheese out for at least 45 minutes before using it to make the cheesecake layer. If it's too firm, you will have difficulty mixing in the dulce de leche.
  • Work carefully. The two layers for the bars require a little finessing to keep them separate. Chill the bottom layer before adding the top layer, and use a light touch when spreading the pumpkin layer over the cheesecake.
  • Make perfect squares. To make clean cuts, use a large chef’s knife or a pizza chopper (the kind that looks a little like a mezzaluna) and wipe it off between cuts. 

How to store leftovers

The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Use wax paper to separate layers and keep the bars from sticking together when stacked.


Can I freeze this recipe?

You can freeze Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

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Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bar on white plate, topped with whipped cream

Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars

Yield: 16 bars
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

This recipe for Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars gives you the flavor of a pumpkin pie without the hassle of making a pie. A graham cracker crust is topped with a layer of dulce de leche cheesecake and a layer of pumpkin pie filling for an epic twist on the classic pumpkin pie.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 ½ cups (150 g) graham cracker crumbs, 1 full sleeve
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (56 g) unsalted butter, melted

For the dulce de leche layer

  • 8 ounces (226 g) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (70 g) dulce de leche, storebought or homemade
  • 1 large egg, room temperature

For the pumpkin layer

  • 15 ounces (425 g) canned pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup (70 g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • sweetened whipped cream, optional
  • dulce de leche for drizzling, optional

Instructions

Make the crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x9 square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides. Spray the paper lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and butter in a medium bowl until well combined. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust in the refrigerator to cool while you make the first layer of filling.

Make the dulce de leche layer

  1. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese and dulce de leche with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and beat until smooth.
  2. Spread the mixture evenly over the prepared crust. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the pumpkin layer

  1. Add the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice to a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the evaporated milk and vanilla followed by the eggs.
  2. Carefully drizzle the filling over the cream cheese layer. Use a rubber spatula to smooth over the top.
  3. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the center is no longer wobbly.
  4. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  5. Lift the bars out of the pan by the foil overhang. Cut into squares. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of dulce de leche if desired.

Notes

Dulce de leche: I love my homemade dulce de leche but you may find it simpler to just purchase a can. Either one will work!

Pumpkin: Use pure pumpkin puree in a can, not pumpkin pie filling.

Make ahead tip:

  • The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • You can freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 183Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 113mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 12gProtein: 4g

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients you used in the recipe.

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Neera

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Hi, Is sweetened whipped cream regular whipped cream? Or do you have a recipe for it? I can’t wait to try this recipe.

Jen Sobjack

Monday 23rd of November 2020

You can use cool whip, Reddi-wip®, or homemade whipped cream.

Elizabeth

Saturday 21st of November 2015

Where do I find dulce de leche

Jen

Monday 23rd of November 2015

You can find it at most supermarkets in the international or Mexican foods aisle.

Judi

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Where can I get the Dulce de leche?

Jen

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

You can find it in most supermarkets on the baking isle or with the mexican foods.

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