Paula Deen Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe is a true classic! Similar to pumpkin pie, but it's creamy and rich, yet impossibly light, sitting on a cinnamon-y graham cracker crust. Simple and easy to make, it'll be your new go-to Thanksgiving dessert!
We love Paula Deen and wanted to share her recipe with you. We've made the instructions more thorough, but stayed true to her classic recipe which you can find here.
Pumpkin Cheesecake is a delicious dessert through fall and winter, but is especially popular for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Below is a list of ingredients needed for this recipe. Follow our tips on each ingredient for best results.
- graham crackers - I used regular, honey graham crackers.
- brown sugar - light brown or dark brown work great.
- cinnamon - to add some flavor
- butter - we used real butter, but this recipe will work with dairy free butter.
- Philadelphia cream cheese -We highly recommend you don't use any other brand than PHILADELPHIA. As we have tested cheesecake recipes we have found that it yields the smoothest cheesecake. Make sure it is completely softened.
- sugar - regular, granulated sugar.
- flour- All-purpose flour does the trick here.
- cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves - We used saigon cinnamon, but you can use any type. These spices were tested and formulated for the best flavor to go with the pumpkin.
- eggs - We used large eggs for this recipe
- vanilla - We always recommend using pure vanilla. In this recipe, pumpkin is the highlighted flavor and not vanilla, so imitation will work in a pinch.
- pureed pumpkin - NOT to be confused with pumpkin pie filling.
- sour cream - Gives the cheesecake a little tang and adds to the smoothness.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake
Use these process shots to help get the results you are wanting. The pictures can help with texture and be a visual guide for best results.
1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Crush graham crackers using a food processor or rolling pin. Place in a bowl and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
2. Add the butter and mix well. Using your fingers, press into the bottom and partway up the sides of a springform pan.
3. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In the bowl of stand mixer or using a large mixing bowl and hand mixer: Add one package of cream cheese, the flour mixture and ½ cup of sugar to a bowl. Beat on low speed for 3 minutes.
4. Scrape down the edges of the bowl. Add cream cheese, one package at a time, beating on medium low for 1 minute and scraping down the sides between each addition. Add the rest of the sugar and beat one more minute and scrape down the sides.
5. Add 2 of the eggs and beat on medium high speed for about 30 seconds. Add the last egg plus the egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the edges.
6. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and sour cream and mix just until combined. Pour on top of crust and place in a water bath. We use a large turkey pan and fill it about ½ way up the cheesecake pan. For more instruction see this tutorial.
7. Bake at 350*F for about 70-80 minutes. The edges of the cheesecake will just start to darken and the center should still be wobbly when nudging the pan. Remove from the oven and walk away. Leave it completely alone and let it cool on the counter until at room temperature, about 2-3 hours. Refrigerate at least 4 hours after that. Do not rush the cooling process or it will not set up and the texture will be ruined!
Hint: Spend your time mixing! Don't skip or shorten the mixing time, or the texture will suffer.
Substitutions and Variations
We love switching things up when we're in the kitchen. Try any of these variations for something a little different.
- Ginger Snap Crust - instead of graham crackers and cinnamon, use 1 ¾ cups crushed ginger snaps and 6 Tablespoons butter.
- Pumpkin Spice - in the cheesecake filling, switch out the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg for ¾ teaspoon pumpkin spice
- Gluten Free - all ingredients besides the graham crackers are naturally gluten free, so simply substitute them for gluten free graham crackers and use 2 Tablespoons less butter for gluten free.
- Pumpkin Spice Deluxe - skip the cinnamon and add ¾ teaspoon pumpkin spice to the crust. In the cheesecake filling, keep everything the same and add ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice, then sprinkle a light dusting of pumpkin spice on top of the cheesecake.
- Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake - make the filling as directed, but don't add the pumpkin. Spoon ¾ of the filling into the crust. Add 1 cup of pumpkin to the remaining filling and stir to combine. Drop in spoonfuls on top of the plain filling, pressing each spoonful in lightly. Use a knife to swirl, making figure 8 patterns going across, then rotate the pan 90 degrees and repeat the figure 8 pattern. Bake as directed.
We have a few recommendations to make this cheesecake the absolute best. These will help you get the best results.
- Springform pan: We HIGHLY recommend getting either a pan that is 100% leakproof or a cheesecake moat for making any cheesecake. A water bath is so important for that perfect texture, and wrapping in foil just isn't guaranteed. If you do wrap in foil, we highly recommend using this method. Twice.
- stand mixer -OR- hand mixer - if using a hand mixer make sure it is a high power one; I have burned out the motor on a hand mixer making cheesecake before.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It will last longer before going bad, but the filling starts to weep into the crust and it doesn't taste as good.
Store fresh pumpkin cheesecake in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator for 2-hours or at room temperature for 1-1 ½ hours. Eat immediately after defrosting.
Use Philadelphia cream cheese, or other more expensive cream cheese. We have tried every type of cream cheese, including Kirkland and Member's Mark as well as all the budget brands at multiple local grocery stores. The type of cream cheese you use makes a huge difference. With the nicer brands we have found that the texture just isn't quite as smooth, and with the budget brands the texture was just plain lumpy and gross.
Make sure your cream cheese has been softened to room temperature for best results.
Paula Deen Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar see notes below
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoons salted butter see notes below
- 24 ounce Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature, see notes below
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 15 ounce can pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
For the crust:
- Food process or smash graham crackers with a rolling pin. It took me about 1 ½ packages of graham crackers to make 1 ¾ cups.
- Place in a bowl, then add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
- Add the butter and stir. Using your fingers, press into the bottom and partway up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Set aside
For the Filling:
- Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together. Place one brick of cream cheese into a large mixing bowl with hand mixer or bowl of stand mixer. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed for about 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and add one more brick of cream cheese. Mix for one more minute and scrape down the edges again. Add the last brick of cream cheese and beat one more minute.
- Increase the speed to medium and add the rest of the sugar. Beat for one minute. Add 2 of the eggs and beat for 30 seconds. Add the last egg and the egg yolk and beat 30 more seconds. Scrape down the sides.
- Add the pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla. Beat on low just until combined. Scrape the sides and make sure everything is well combined.
- Pour on top of the crust. Place springform pan in a water bath. Use a large roasting pan or other pan larger than the springform and fill the water halfway up the pan. For the perfect texture, do not skip the water bath!
- Bake at 350°F for 70-80 minutes. The edges will start to darken and the middle will still be wobbly when bumping the pan.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 2-4 hours, undisturbed. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. Make sure to allow the cheesecake to cool slowly or it will not turn out!
- Serve and enjoy!
- Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
- Store fresh cheesecake in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature for 1-2 hours or in the refrigerator 2-4 hours. Eat immediately.
- The original recipe by Paula Deen calls for 3 Tablespoons brown sugar and 8 Tablespoons butter in the crust. We found it to be so much butter that the crust was oozing butter and it was too sweet. We prefer it with the measurements listed above.
- Make sure your cream cheese is fully softened to room temperature for the best and smoothest results.
- Do not put the cheesecake immediately in the refrigerator or it will not set up right!