No-bake pumpkin cheesecake bars are the cozy fall version of my classic no-bake cheesecake bars. Made with a creamy pumpkin filling and graham cracker crust, these no-bake bars are perfect for your next fall party like Halloween or Thanksgiving.
Do you love pumpkin spice season? If so, these dreamy no-bake pumpkin cheesecake bars are for you. The best part? There's no need to turn on the oven. Just mix, assemble, and chill.
First, you'll start with a graham cracker crust. Melted butter and granulated sugar hold the crust together like glue. By pressing it firmly into the pan and refrigerating, it doesn't need to be baked.
The creamy pumpkin filling is lightly spiced and filled with cozy, comforting flavor. It has a light, fluffy texture, kind of like a pumpkin mousse!
These delicious cheesecake bars are perfect for the dessert table at your next fall event. Serve them for Halloween or even for Thanksgiving - they make a great alternative to the classic pumpkin pie.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Graham cracker crumbs - For this recipe, you'll need 2 and ¼ cups of graham cracker crumbs. This (for me) was 16 full rectangle graham cracker sheets.
- Melted butter - Unsalted butter can be substituted with salted butter (omit the salt listed in the crust). Do not reduce the amount of butter in this recipe. Just enough is used to moisten the graham cracker crumbs and hold the crust together.
- Granulated sugar - Sugar helps retain moisture in the crust and acts as a glue with the butter to hold the crust together. I do not recommend omitting the sugar. Granulated sugar can be substituted with brown sugar for a caramelized flavor.
- Salt - I like to add a small amount of salt to the crust to contrast the rich, sweet filing.
- Cream cheese - It's important to use regular, block-style cream cheese for this recipe. Whipped cream cheese or spreadable cream cheese will not set up properly.
- Confectioner's sugar - I like to use confectioner's sugar in no-bake cheesecake because it incorporates seamlessly into the filling and helps add structure.
- Pumpkin puree - You'll need one whole can of pumpkin puree for this recipe. It's important to make sure you're grabbing a can of plain pumpkin puree for this recipe, not pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling is already sweetened and spiced, which would make this recipe too sweet and too heavily spiced.
- Vanilla extract - Adds depth of flavor to your cheesecake.
- Spices - Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves add pumpkin pie flavor to your cheesecake bars. These spices can be substituted with equal amounts of pumpkin pie spice blend if you have some on hand.
- Heavy cream - Whipped cream is a must for this recipe. You'll be whipping heavy cream to make whipped cream, which makes your filling light and fluffy and adds stability. The heavy cream can be substituted with an 8 ounce container of Cool Whip if desired (skip the step of whipping and fold the Cool Whip into the cream cheese mixture as directed below).
Cheesecake vs. no-bake cheesecake
So, what's the difference between traditional cheesecake and no-bake cheesecake? Here are a few of the biggest differences:
- Structure: Traditional cheesecake is made with eggs for stability, then baked in the oven with a water bath. No-bake cheesecake is made by folding in whipped cream and refrigerating until set.
- Texture: They're both made with similar flavor profiles - tangy, sweetened cream cheese - but have different textures. Traditional cheesecake is dense and rich while no-bake cheesecake is fluffy and light.
- Toppings: Traditional cheesecake can be served with warm toppings like hot fudge and warm fruit filling, whereas no-bake cheesecake will wilt and melt (it's basically a cheesecake mousse).
If you truly want a classic cheesecake taste and texture, you may be disappointed by no-bake cheesecake. The two really only share a similar flavor, but otherwise feel different texturally. Try my mini cheesecakes recipe for a classic cheesecake experience. They're perfect for a feeding a crowd!
Crust tips and tricks
Properly measure your graham cracker crumbs: Too many crumbs make a dry, crumbly crust and too few crumbs make a soggy crust. I used exactly 16 Honey Maid brand graham cracker rectangles for 2 and ¼ cups of crumbs. However, different brands can be made slightly smaller or thinner, so I recommend measuring your crumbs with a measuring cup or by weight (gram measurements can be found in the recipe card).
Do not reduce or omit the butter or sugar: The combination of melted butter and sugar helps create a "glue" that holds the crust together. Melted butter solidifies when refrigerated, and sugar helps attract moisture, which holds the crust together. I do not recommend substituting or omitting either of these ingredients.
Press crust firmly into the pan: I recommend using a flat bottom measuring cup to help press the crust firmly into the bottom of your parchment-lined pan. Make sure every inch of your crust is pressed down firmly - in the corners, around the sides, and in the middle.
Refrigerate: The magical last step of this process is refrigerating (or freezing) your crust. Refrigerating solidifies the butter in the crust, making it nice and firm (without the need for baking).
Cheesecake filling tips
Whip your heavy cream to stiff peaks - This is arguably the most important step in the entire recipe. Don't skip the step of whipping your heavy cream to stiff peaks. Adding heavy cream directly to the cheesecake filling will 100% result in a runny, liquid filling. It will never set up if it's not whipped first. Whipping adds air and creates whipped cream (like an unsweetened Cool Whip), which gives the cheesecake filling its mousse-like texture.
Or substitute with Cool Whip - If you're concerned about making your own whipped cream properly, or don't have the proper tools to do so, heavy cream can be substituted with an 8 ounce container of Cool Whip.
Use room temperature, block-style cream cheese - Room temperature cream cheese mixes seamlessly with the other ingredients, creating a smooth filling. Block style cream cheese (the rectangular brick type) is needed because it's thick, dense, and adds structure to the cheesecake. Whipped or spreadable cream cheese is too loose and fluffy to set properly.
Don't overmix the filling - By folding the whipped cream gently into the cream cheese mixture, you ensure the whipped cream doesn't deflate. Part of the stability of no-bake cheesecake comes from the addition of the whipped cream.
Chill the cheesecake for the listed amount of time - Your no-bake cheesecake bars need several hours in the refrigerator to set up properly. I highly recommend letting your cheesecake set overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours.
Keep no-bake cheesecake refrigerated until ready to serve - Just like any dairy based dessert, cheesecake needs to be kept cold until ready to serve. Leaving no-bake cheesecake bars out in hot weather will cause them to melt and wilt.
No-bake pumpkin cheesecake bars are the perfect make-ahead dessert recipe. They need a minimum of 8 hours in the refrigerator to set properly and taste even better after a full day of storage.
Prepare your cheesecake bars up to 2 days ahead of an event and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve.
No-Bake Cheesecake Bars
Graham cracker crust
- 2 ¼ cups (248 g) graham cracker crumbs, about 16 rectangles
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt, omit if using salted butter
- 16 ounces (453 g) block-style cream cheese, room temperature
- 15 ounces (425 g) canned pumpkin puree
- 1 ¼ cups (142 g) confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 ½ cups (341 g) heavy cream, very cold
Graham cracker crust
- If making graham cracker crumbs from whole crackers: Place graham crackers into a food processor and process until finely ground. Or place crackers in a large plastic bag and use a rolling pin to finely crush.
- If using a food processor: Add melted butter, sugar, and salt to food processor with graham cracker crumbs and pulse until fully incorporated. Or, add crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt to a bowl and mix until evenly combined. Your mixture should be thick and sandy.
- Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. Pour graham cracker mixture into prepared pan. Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup and/or your hands to press crust firmly into the bottom of the pan. Transfer to refrigerator while preparing filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, add cream cheese. With a hand mixer, blend unto smooth and creamy, about a minute. Add pumpkin puree, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Beat until smooth and creamy, about a minute.
- In a separate large bowl, add cold heavy cream. Using a hand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Once you begin to see ripples in the cream from your mixer and it appears to be holding its shape, stop the mixer and pull the whisk out of the bowl. If the tip of the whipped cream holds its shape without drooping, your whipped cream is ready. Take care not to over-mix or your whipped cream will separate.
- Using a spatula, gently fold whipped cream into pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated. Pour cheesecake filling over prepared graham cracker crust and using a spatula, spread to the edges of the pan in an even layer.
- Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours, or overnight, until firm. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Slice and serve cold.
- 1.5 cups of heavy cream can be substituted with an 8 ounce tub of Cool Whip. Skip the step of whipping your cream, then fold Cool Whip into cream cheese mixture as directed.
- No-bake cheesecake will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container, and is best after resting for at least 8 hours. A great dessert to make a day or two ahead of an event.
- For tips on making a sturdy graham cracker crust and preventing a runny filling, please see tips in the post above.