Silky pumpkin butter baked up in a rich pecan shortbread dough ~ because you can never have too much pumpkin in your life.
These buttery pumpkin bars are delicious! They’re based on my standard shortbread crumble bars, but this time I’ve enriched the dough with lots of toasty pecans and filled them with a velvety pumpkin butter filling.
If you aren’t familiar with pumpkin butter, just imagine a luscious caramelized pumpkin puree cooked down with brown sugar and a touch of spice ~ there’s no butter involved; it’s like a silky pumpkin jam.
For convenience I went with a jarred pumpkin butter from one of my fave brands, Stonewall Kitchen. BUT Homemade pumpkin butter is easy and fun to make, so if you have the time, I highly recommend it!
what you’ll need for pumpkin butter bars
This is a simple recipe with a short list of ingredients.
- pumpkin butter
- all purpose flour
- white and brown sugar
Can you use other nuts? Sure, how about walnuts or almonds?
Can you make it nut free? Yeah, maybe substitute rolled oats or pepitas.
What about gluten free? Try a reliable gf baking mix.
Can you use homemade pumpkin butter? Of course!
Could you use apple butter? Now you’re thinking!
pumpkin butter bars method
I’ve been making shortbread bars like this for more years than I can count. I think the original inspiration came from Ina Garten, and I’ve been running with it ever since. Sometimes adding nuts, oats, or other flavorings into the basic shortbread dough, and of course changing up the filling. The process is always the same, and so is the result: delicious.
- Combine the shortbread dough in a food processor (you can of course do it by hand as well.)
- Divide the dough using one portion as the bottom crust, and the remainder as the crumble topping.
- Par bake the crust.
- Spread the filling on the crust.
- Top with the crumble.
- Bake again.
related: Cranberry Walnut Shortbread Bars
make these pumpkin butter bars if…
…you’re looking for a simple baking project with tons of Fall cred, this is it. Make it for lunchboxes, tailgating, bake sales (do they even do that anymore?)
…you’re the designated office baker ~ these would be perfect!
…you adore pumpkin and you’re always looking for new ways to cook it up.
…you just made a batch of pumpkin butter and need to use it!
how to store and freeze pumpkin butter bars
If you plan to consume them within a few days, you can keep the bars at room temperature. They should stay fresh for about 3-4 days.
- Make sure the bars are completely cooled before freezing. Cut them into individual servings if they aren’t already.
- Wrap each bar tightly in plastic and put the wrapped bars in a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Remove excess air from the bag before sealing it. This double layer of protection helps maintain the quality of the bars.
- Or put the bars in a single layer in a freezer-safe container, separated by parchment paper.
- Pumpkin butter shortbread bars can generally be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months without a significant loss of quality.
Thawing and Serving:
When you’re ready to enjoy the bars:
- Thawing: Transfer the desired number of bars from the freezer to the refrigerator. Let them thaw overnight. Thawing in the fridge prevents condensation, which can make the shortbread soggy.
- Reheating (Optional): If you prefer them warm, you can gently reheat them in the oven at a low temperature (around 300°F for a few minutes. Check them frequently to avoid overcooking.
Pumpkin Butter Bars
- 9×9 square baking pan
- parchment paper (optional)
- 1 cup pumpkin butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Lightly spray or grease a 9×9 baking pan and line with a sling of parchment paper for easy removal from the pan later. (This step is optional.)
- In a food processor, pulse the flour, 1/2 cup of the pecans, sugars and salt a few times to combine and break up the nuts.
- Add the softened butter and pulse until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture has a large moist crumb texture. Keep pulsing until there is no dry flour left. It will be crumbly.
- Measure out about 1/2 cup of the mixture for the crumb topping and set aside. Turn the rest of the dough into your lined pan. Spread it out and pat down the crust with your fingers. Flour your hands if necessary to prevent sticking. Try to get the dough evenly spread across the bottom of the pan. I like to finish the process with an offset spatula to flatten and smooth the surface.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes.
- Spread out the pumpkin butter evenly over the crust. Note: you can do this over the hot crust, no need to let it cool.
- Toss the remaining chopped pecans with the reserved crumb topping. Sprinkle over the pumpkin butter. I like to compact the crumbs in my hands to create larger crumbles first.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes more until the pumpkin butter is bubbling and the crust is starting to turn golden.
- Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then loosen the edges and remove the bars using the parchment paper sling. The bars will be soft while warm, and will firm up as they cool.
- Proper Butter Temperature: Butter should be at cool room temperature. It should be soft enough to mix easily but not so soft that it’s greasy. This ensures the right texture in the final product.
- Don’t Overmix: Overmixing can lead to a tough shortbread. Mix the dough until just combined (expect it to be crumbly.) Once the flour is incorporated, stop mixing. Overmixing activates the gluten in the flour, which can make the shortbread tough.
- Cooling: Shortbread is delicate when it’s hot, but firms up as it cools. Don’t try to remove from the pan or slice until it’s had a chance to cool down a bit.