For many Thanksgivings, it was my tradition to make a gorgeous, pumpkin cheesecake. The recipe was long, complicated, and very particular. The slightest mistake would lead to giant cracks in the middle of my masterpiece. But, if all went perfectly, it was a beautiful masterpiece; and, if not, it still tasted amazing!
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Then, came celiac disease, and the way we prepared our Thanksgiving feast had to change. To keep Miss E and me safe, hosting Thanksgiving and cooking the majority of the gluten-free Thanksgiving meal became my responsibility. We clean our house and prep food for days. Depending on guests’ comfort level with avoiding cross-contamination, some still bring a homemade dish to share, but most bring something simple like a veggie tray or ice cream. Spending hours on a cheesecake was no longer possible.
For our best tips on celebrating a gluten-free Thanksgiving, whether a guest or the host, check out our post on How to Simplify Your Gluten-Free Thanksgiving and download our free Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Planner.
Gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake bars were the answer to my easy, gluten-free Thanksgiving dessert quest!
These bars are quick, simple, delicious, and forgiving. Minor cracking is easily disguised when serving pre-cut bars. These can be made a few days in advance, freeing up valuable time and kitchen space on Thanksgiving.
I used Tate’s gluten-free Ginger Zinger Cookies, which are a stand-alone gluten-free Thanksgiving dessert in their own right, for the crust. They have chewy ginger pieces, which I loved; but may not appeal to young guests, in particular. If you want a safer bet, any gluten-free graham cracker would be fabulous in this crust! These are some brands I recommend:
The ingredients and the recipe are simple.
You could top these gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake bars with store-bought whipped cream, ice cream, or my preference, homemade whipped cream. After everyone is finished eating the 100% gluten-free Thanksgiving feast and somehow finding room for dessert, I let my stand mixer make the whipped cream and my coffee maker brew the coffee, while I continue to visit with guests.
Once the whipped cream is ready, we plate the gluten-free cheesecake bars and add the whipped cream, from a dollop to completely covered, depending on the guests’ wishes!
Before diving into the recipe, I think it’s important to give credit to my inspiration for these gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake bars: The Novice Chef. With rare exceptions, recipes are inherently derivative. There are very few completely original creations, but instead a lot of wonderful recipes where one chef builds on the work of many chefs before. These gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake bars were built on the foundation of the Novice Chef’s swirled pumpkin cheesecake bars, with a few tweaks for my preferences and primarily to make them celiac-safe.
More than once, I have stated on Go Gluten Freely that I am not an expert baker nor master chef. I’m a mom, a party-thrower, and a lover of good, gluten-free food. If I can learn to transform gluten-containing recipes to gluten-free ones, you can, too. If you are new to your gluten-free journey, Thanksgiving is a great time to turn your favorite traditional dishes into gluten-free ones you can still enjoy.
Now, let’s bake!
Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- 3 cups gluten-free graham cracker (or gingerbread cookie) crumbs
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 can of pure pumpkin
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 8 oz cream cheese (soften on the counter for 30 minutes)
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use parchment paper to line a 9×13 pan.
- Melt butter in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time. Combine melted butter and gingerbread cookie (or graham cracker) crumbs in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture into prepared 9×13 pan.
- Combine all pumpkin batter ingredients in a medium bowl. Use a whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer to mix ingredients until smooth. Pour into a 9×13 pan on top of the crust.
- Combine all cheesecake batter ingredients in a medium bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer to mix ingredients until smooth. Spoon cheesecake batter into 9×13 pan on top of the pumpkin layer.
- Create a marbled look by gently swirling a knife through the cheesecake batter, combining it with the pumpkin butter.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
More Fall Dessert Recipes:
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe with Homemade Crust
- Easy Gluten-Free Apple Galette Recipe
- Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
- Chewy Gluten-Free Gingersnaps Recipe
- 3-Ingredient Cream Cheese Caramel Apple Dip Recipe (for dipping apples or fall cookies)
- Homemade Maple Whipped Cream Recipe
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