If you’re looking for the best Pumpkin Cheesecake, all recipes are not created equal. This beautiful pumpkin cheesecake with a graham cracker crust is rich, smooth, and made from scratch using a few indispensable tips I’ve learned along the way. For a pumpkin pie cheesecake lover, Thanksgiving can’t come too quickly!
Do I have to roast my own pumpkin to make Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Absolutely not. Canned pumpkin (but not pumpkin pie filling!) is preferred, as long as you wick some of the moisture out of the pumpkin first, to keep the cheesecake from getting waterlogged.
Removing moisture also makes the pumpkin flavor more concentrated, which is a great thing. There are several ways to do this:
- Stovetop: Transfer the puree into a saucepan or large skillet and cook for about five minutes on medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching and sticking. You’re not looking to cook or reduce the pumpkin too much, just to release its flavor a little bit. Once it’s steamy and fragrant, you’re done. Let the pumpkin cool to room temperature before proceeding with your recipe.
- Dry roasting: Spread out the pumpkin purée on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and roast in an oven heated to 400 degrees for several minutes. Keep a close eye on it — you don’t want the pumpkin to burn or even to “set,” just to release a fragrance. Let the pumpkin cool to room temperature before proceeding with your recipe.
- Paper towels: Put a triple layer of paper towels onto a baking sheet — one that has sides, to catch the eventual runoff. The pumpkin goes from the can right onto the towels, where it’s smeared around. Put more towels on top, and fold the whole thing in half, then fold again. As you do this, pat the bundle, squeezing water and moisture out. Then flip it over, and carefully peel back the top layer of paper. Gently scrape pumpkin off of towels and proceed with the recipe.
Other kinds of Pumpkin Cheesecake Crusts:
I get it! A pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap, chocolate, or nut crust sound amazing! Make your favorite crust and let me know how it turns out.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust:
- 7-½ ounces gingersnaps (or 1-½ cups finely ground gingersnap crumbs)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons melted butter
- Pulse the crackers (or crumbs) and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until finely ground.
- Add the butter and pulse a few times to combine.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust:
Oreo cookies are the secret to this deeply chocolatey crust.
- 24 whole Oreo cookies
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- In a large zip-top bag or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, crush or blend Oreos until fine crumbs form.
- Transfer to a bowl and pour in melted butter.
- Stir until crumbs are completely coated and moist.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crust:
- 1 1⁄2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
- ¾ cup ground pecans
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- Combine all crust ingredients in medium bowl.
- Stir until moist clumps form and you can pinch it together with your fingertips and it holds together.
How do you make Pumpkin Cheesecake bars?
If you haven’t already tried my Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting, I recommend it. But if you’re curious about making pumpkin cheesecake bars, you can use this recipe, but ideally the crust needs to be a little sturdier, and you probably won’t need the water bath. Use the adjustment below for the crust.
Crust for Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars:
- 16 graham crackers
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup reduced-fat butter, melted
- In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter.
- Press onto the bottom of a 13”x 9” baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
- Follow recipe for filling, then pour cheesecake filling over crust.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until center is almost set.
- Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Cut cheesecake into 20 bars.
Do you have to bake a cheesecake in a water bath?
While it’s not always absolutely mandatory to use a water bath when making cheesecake, without one, a cheesecake will brown around the edges, be a little drier, fall in the center while cooling, and could crack. From one cheesecake lover to another, it’s worth the extra step to get the picture perfect masterpiece.
If you decide to use a water bath for cheesecake, line a roasting pan with a clean dish towel for the pan to rest on while the cake bakes.
How do you keep a cheesecake water bath from leaking?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than a soggy cheesecake, after all your hard work and expensive ingredients go into making dessert. Unfortunately every springform pan is different, and many of them leak to some degree.
To prevent water from leaking in during the critical baking period, there are a few ways to ensure a fail-proof water bath for your cheesecake, everytime.
- Make sure you have a tight-fitting springform pan.
- Double wrap your cheesecake pan with heavy duty foil.
- Before you wrap in foil, you could use a heat-safe, (and totally genius) plastic slow cooker liner to safeguard against water seeping inside the cheesecake. Place the cheesecake inside the liner, then twist the extra plastic and knot it up tightly just under the top rim of the springform pan. You’re good to go!
For the crust:
- 9 graham crackers
- 5 tablespoons butter melted, plus more for brushing the pan
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
For the filling:
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée (see note 1)
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese cut into chunks and softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy cream
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, or in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, finely crush graham crackers.
- In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crumbs evenly on the bottom.
- Bake until starting to brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Once cool, wrap the outside of the pan with 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and set in a large roasting pan lined with a dish towel. Bring a kettle of water to boil.
To make the filling:
- Pat the pumpkin puree dry with several layers of paper towel. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment, or with an electric mixer by hand, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 to 3 minutes. Scrape down bowl and beaters as necessary.
- Add the sugar mixture in two batches, beating after each addition until incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, lemon juice, and vanilla and mix until combined.
- Add in eggs one at a time until incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Beat in heavy cream until incorporated, 1 to 3 minutes.
- Brush the inside of the springform pan with melted butter (being careful not to disturb the graham cracker crust). Carefully pour the filling into the pan. Set the roasting pan, with the cheesecake, on an oven rack and pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pan.
- Bake until the cheesecake reaches 150 degrees at the center when tested with an internal thermometer, about 1 ½ hours. Remove from oven.
- Let cheesecake cool in the roasting pan for 45 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, about 2 ½ to 3 hours longer. Run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan about once per hour to loosen the cake.
- Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
- To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a kitchen towel wet with hot water around the cake pan for 1 minute. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully slide the cake onto a cake platter. Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
- Pumpkin purée: Canned pumpkin pureé (not pumpkin pie filling) is convenient for this recipe. If you want to make your own pureé, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut your pumpkin in half and remove all seeds and fibrous strings. Cut each half into 2 or 3 pieces, then roast until tender, 60 to 90 minutes. Cool completely, then scoop out the pumpkin flesh from the skin. Blend in a food processor blender until smooth. Finally, drain over cheesecloth or paper towels to remove excess water.
- Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.