I Tried Trader Joe's Popular Pumpkin Bread Upgrade—It's 100% Worth the Hype|Recipes Spots

  • on September 29, 2023
I Tried Trader Joe's Popular Pumpkin Bread Upgrade—It's 100% Worth the Hype

Trader Joe's pumkin bar upgrade
Simply Recipes / Stephanie Ganz

It’s my firm belief that everyone needs to have a few kitchen tricks up their sleeve—smart cooking hacks, memorized back pocket recipes, and shortcuts that can be called on in a pinch to save the day. Whether it’s something easy to bring to Friendsgiving or a simple one-pot dinner for the busiest days.

One of my most reliable tricks is transforming boxed mixes into something that’s a little bit more exciting than the original recipe on the box, like boxed cake mix donuts and cookie bars. So, when I saw that Trader Joe’s had released a new take on their wildly popular Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix, I had to give the pumpkin bar upgrade a try.

Why Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix Is So Popular

Trader Joe’s fans are known for their passion for seasonal products, and that’s never more obvious than during the first weeks of fall when the pumpkin-spiced goodies start hitting the shelves. TJ’s Reddit is absolutely bursting with accounts of folks stocking up on (ahem, hoarding) their favorites, including this versatile bread mix. It’s beloved for its warm spice profile with notes of nutmeg and cinnamon.

This customer-favorite mix checks two important boxes (in one box!)—it’s super easy to make and, at around $3.50 a box, it’s a great deal.

Trader Joe's pumpkin mix, butter, sugar, and eggs
Simply Recipes / Stephanie Ganz

Transforming the Mix Into Pumpkin Bars

If you were to make Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix according to the box directions, you’d add eggs, oil, and water and end up with a loaf that’s both moist and fluffy, shot through with that characteristic pumpkin spice flavor.

To transform the mix into bars, you’ll use two eggs, a little less water (2 tablespoons), and swap out the oil for butter. The recipe calls for spreading the thick batter in an 8-inch square baking pan and then baking for about 35 minutes. 

How To Make Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bars

Adapted from Trader Joe’s.

For the bars:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus additional butter to grease the pan)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 box TJ’s Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • TJ’s Pumpkin Pie Spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with unsalted butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add the pumpkin bread mix, sugar, and water. Fold together with a spatula just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan, smoothing it into an even layer. The batter will be sticky.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is a dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing.

In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and continue whisking until combined. Cover and refrigerate.

To serve, slice into squares and top with a dollop of the sour cream topping. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, if desired, and serve.

Trader Joe's bars upgrade
Simply Recipes / Stephanie Ganz

My Honest Review of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bars

Rich, dense, and delicious, these pumpkin bars deliver big autumnal flavor that any fall fanatic will love. Baking them in an 8-inch square pan means you get lots of chewy edge pieces, which is clearly the best part.

Whipping up a batch of pumpkin bars filled my house with the warm and toasty aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, which really made it feel like it was time to go leaf-peeping in my warmest flannel. And when I do go leaf peeping, you can bet I’ll bring a batch of pumpkin bars along for the ride. 

One note: while the bars themselves were exactly what I was hoping for, I probably won’t bother with the sour cream topping again. These bars are good enough without it, and the combination of sour cream and powdered sugar didn’t really come together in a satisfying way for me.

If I were going to top these, I might go with a simple or even flavored whipped cream, but the real move here is adding mix-ins like chocolate chips or toasted walnuts—just the touch I need to make this recipe my own.

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