Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving is over and that most people have probably had their fill of pumpkin, but I simply can’t not post this recipe. It was utterly delectable, and it would be unfair of me to deprive you of the possibility of making this yourself sometime, even if it has to wait until next Thanksgiving. It was that good, and I daresay that had we had any guests to share our meal, they never would have know it was low carb. I would rank it up there with one of my top Thanksgiving desserts ever. I am quite serious when I say this. Whether you make it with sugar or with sugar substitutes, this is a must-make holiday dessert.

I’ve always thought pumpkin cheesecake sounded delicious and considered making it for Thanksgiving, but ended up going with the more traditional pumpkin or pecan pie. This year, it was a no-brainer, given the relative ease of making it low carb. I took a recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book as my guide, although I modified more than just the sweetener. The carb-filled graham cracker crust had to go, so I replaced it with ground pecans and almonds. The filling called for 3 bricks of cream cheese, and I cut this back to 2, and reduced the other ingredients accordingly. I am glad I did, as the final result was big enough and filling enough as it was. But I did use their trick of drying the pumpkin puree between paper towels to reduce moisture and make the whole cake less mushy.

I dressed up the final product with toasted pecans and a caramel bourbon glaze made with erythritol. The thing to know here is that while erythritol will caramelize nicely when hot, it will start to harden back up quickly as it cools. You aren’t going to get a nice, soft caramel sauce here. You need to pour it onto the cake while it is still quite hot, and let it cool and harden. If it hardens while still in the pan, just heat it back up again and add a little more cream or liquid to get it soft again.

My whole Thanksgiving meal was a resounding success, even with my low carb changes. My son asked for seconds of only the stuffing made with my low carb quick bread! And I got some of the lowest post-meal blood sugar readings that I’ve had in a while – after Thanksgiving dinner, the ultimate in over-the-top feasts. Okay, so I ran a 5k turkey trot in the morning, which likely helped, but I know that my planning ahead so that I could indulge played a huge part. With Christmas, my favourite holiday, looming ahead, it’s a relief to know that I can find ways to indulge as much as the next person without going too far off track and putting my health at risk.

Now, if someone can just tell me how to release my cheesecakes from the bottom of the spring-form pan so that I can put them on pretty serving dishes, I would be forever in your debt!

Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust

3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup almonds
1 1/2 tsp granulated erythritol or xylitol
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 tbsp butter, melted plus extra for brushing pan

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup erythritol
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
25 drops stevia extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp bourbon
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream

24 pecan halves, toasted
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp granulated erythritol
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp bourbon

For the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grind pecans and almonds in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. Pour into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and stir in sweetener and spices until combined. Pour melted butter over and stir until thoroughly combined, then press mixture firmly and evenly into bottom of pan.

Bake until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool until pan isn’t too hot to touch, and then wrap outside of pan with two sheets of heavy duty foil. Set in a large roasting pan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

For the filling, line a baking sheet with a tea towel and then two layers of paper towel. Spread pumpkin puree out evenly on paper towel and then top with two more layers of paper towel. Press until top layer is saturated with moisture. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in erythritol and spices until incorporated. Beat in dried pumpkin puree, stevia, vanilla and bourbon. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat in heavy cream. Scrape down beaters and sides of bowl as needed.

Brush inside of springform pan with extra melted butter, being careful not to disturb baked crust. Pour filling over crust. Set the whole roasting pan with cheesecake inside on the middle oven rack and pour boiling water into roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake until set, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Let cheesecake cool in roasting pan for 45 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further, running a sharp knife round edges of cake every hour or so. Remove sides of pan, cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator about three hours.

For the topping, place toasted pecans around edges of cake. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in erythritol and raise heat to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously, until light amber in colour, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in cream, vanilla and bourbon. Mixture will bubble and froth. Stir vigorously and place back over heat, stirring continuously until all ingredients are combined.

Remove from heat and cool until just beginning to thicken, then pour over chilled cake, allowing it to drip down sides. If it begins to harden up, place back on heat and add a splash of cream and stir, then pour over cake.

Serves 12. 18g total carbs per serving, but only 7g if you subtract erythritol.

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  1. Charlie @ SweetSaltySpicy says

    This cheesecake looks so good! The crust sounds great; nutty & spicy! A nice change from the regular graham crust ;).

  2. Megan says

    Morning! What a gorgeous job you did! Just beautiful! I just love how you keep coming up with non-traditional ways to keep eating wonderful food!

    I have a spring-form pan with a glass bottom. When I quick release from the pan I just place the entire cheesecake on the serving dish as you don't really see the glass… or you could put a circle of parchment on the bottom of the pan pan on the bottom (first grease the bottom of pan and then grease the parchment…. I think you could get a nice slide off of your pan… possibly)//… I just use my glass bottomed spring-forms as they are beautiful. and blend right in with the pie/cake/cheesecake)

  3. Pretend Chef says

    This looks decadent! I wish I had a slice in front of me now to go with my coffee. I am so happy for you that you got to enjoy the holiday and indulge yourself as well!

  4. melissa says

    Wow, Carolyn, this is incredible! I can only imagine how good this would be with a cup of coffee after a great Thanksgiving meal.

  5. Jara says

    I'm not a big fan of things pumpkin flavoured but I will say that the photography of this makes it something I'd definitely be willing to try. It looks soooo good!

  6. Kim - Liv Life says

    I have never been able to get my cheesecake off of the bottom of the pan, I just put cake with the pan bottom on a pretty plate and am good to go. Good for you with the low pre-meal dinner! I know that my mom's and MIL's were probably not where they were supposed to be.
    You can never post too much pumpkin! IMHO, pumpkin goes all year round!
    Lovely cheesecake!

  7. Sommer J says

    When I first heard of this I knew I'd looooooove this!! Will have to try! love the use of ground almonds and pecans for the crust! Sounds amazing!! Will try this as part of my Christmas

  8. Ang says

    Wow! This looks incredible. I love reading your posts. My husband lost 50 pounds doing low Carb foods. Thanks for giving me ideas and recipes. I often run out of ideas to keep things lower Carb for him:)

  9. Indie.Tea says

    Wow, this sounds INCREDIBLE! I think, perhaps the best Thanksgiving-ish pumpkin-y dessert I've seen this year. YUM.

  10. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines says

    This is so pretty it almost makes me want to faint! I wouldn't of guessed it was low carb.

  11. Dawn says

    Oh. Yum. I will now have to go and make my own pumpkin puree so I can try this recipe. (No canned pumpkin here.) I just made a batch of your blondies today using Lindt 90% for the chocolate chunks. Wow! So delicious, and they looked just like your picture. :)

  12. Stephanie says

    I just want to lick that frosting off! I haven't had an overdose of pumpkin yet this year, so I'm definitely okay ogling that cheesecake. Looks really yummy.

  13. Elisabeth says

    That's the most amazing cheesecake I have seen in a long time…and to think it's gluten free, which would be perfect for mya daughter's BFF.
    Thanks for sharing…great recipe, and beautiufl photos!

  14. Liv Wan says

    Oh my, this cheese cake looks amazing and sounds so tasty. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe and I hope you had a great thanksgiving. 😉

  15. Chef Dennis says

    what a beautiful pumpkin cheesecake! Low carb and gluten free….wow…it never ceases to amaze me how creative recipe can be! The crust is perfect for any cheesecake, and that topping just a perfect finish!
    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Spicie Foodie says

    I could never get tired of pumpkin. And when you tease us with the most beautiful treat, how can we deny it. It doesn't only look and sound scrumptious you've decorated beautifully!

  17. Tessie of Germany says

    This looks very awesome I am not usually a fan of pecans or nuts in general but you did a good job convincing me that I should add this to my try list.

  18. Stella says

    Yes, Thanksgiving is over, Carolyn. Gosh! However, pumpkin is also essential for Christmas and, being that this looks absolutely awesome, posting it is nothing but sheer genius;-) Yeah!!!

  19. Evan @swEEts says

    Your cheesecake looks amazing! I've found that pumpkin cheesecakes are the only ones that I actually truly enjoy (i know its crazy I don't really like cheesecake) and with bourbon? delicious!

  20. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says

    I could never get tired of pumpkin, bring on the delicious pumpkin desserts! Your bourbon pumpkin cheesecake looks so incredibly beautiful and delicious. I love the glaze that you put on top, YUM! :)

  21. Amy says

    Coming from Australia (and not, obviously, celebrating Thanksgiving), pumpkin desserts have always had me bemused. However, your recipe has me curious, and I think I might try some out of season (it's summer here) pumkin baking and cook a variation of this cheesecake for my family at Christmastime! x Amy

  22. Green Girl @ A little bit of everything says

    so happy to hear there are more Christmas lovers :) it's my fav time of the year.
    how to get the cheesecake out of the spring-form is a little hard and requires lots of practice, I have to agree, i ruined a couple till I got it right. There are two ways : one, put some parchment paper over greased bottom and when the cheesecake is done and cooled it easily slides to the serving plate and carefully you pull the paper.
    the second one is using a big spatula, like those used to spread buttercream over cake and carefully loosen the bottom of cooled cheesecake then it easily slides on the serving plate.
    I hope you understand what I'm trying to say, if not, let me know and at my next cheesecake I'll take pictures to show how I do it.

    Hope you'll have a wonderful week

  23. Sprinkles of Parsley says

    Oh.my.God…. this looks insane! I was so busy last week I didn't see this in time for Thanksgiving!! Shoot! I'll definitely be bookmarking it for next year! Looks great!

  24. Amy says

    This cheesecake sounds amazing! I love pumpkin cheesecakes, but the addition of bourbon puts this one over the top :)! Thanks for sharing!

  25. FamilySpice says

    This is the time of the year where I gain weight just by surfing the net and seeing such amazing desserts like yours! Beautiful! Have you tried lining the bottom of your spring form pan with parchment paper? I've been doing this more often for my cakes and breads, especially ones with fruit in it as it gets sticky, even if you do grease the whole thing.

  26. Karen says

    I don't care how sick of pumpkin I am, I could always find it in me to eat this! Wow…amazing cheesecake. The spiced crust and spike of bourbon just sound heavenly! Lucky eaters who got this one.

  27. The Mom Chef says

    Oh, I want this so bad. Since I only eat pumpkin around now, I NEVER get sick of it and I love it. And you know me and cheesecake. Bourbon? Holy cow I'm in love with this thing.

  28. Jelly Shot Test Kitchen says

    Mercy, what I wouldn't do for a slice of that heavenly wonderfulness right now. Pumpkin. Cheesecake. YUM! Can never get enough pumpkin . . . Cheers, Michelle

  29. TheHousewifeDiary says

    I never knew gluten free and low carb anything could look this delicious. You are amazing! You have literally created a healthier version of EVERYTHING! I will definitely be back often (daily).

  30. Nancy says

    I was telling Barb that we might just need to start a group called "pumpkin bourbon anonymous" since we seem to love those two flavors together! Glad that I am in such great company!!

  31. Catherine H. says

    This cake was not a huge success for me, but I think the reason is almost completely my fault. I was thrown by the instructions to bake the cheesecake 1 *to* 1 1/2 hrs. I don't think I've ever baked a cheesecake under 1 1/2 hrs, but I started to second-guess myself and eventually pulled it from the oven at about an hour, because it passed the wiggle test–not the most reliable test, as I now know! I also do not like the bourbon flavor (whiskey in a dessert being a first for me) but I wonder if the flavor might have tamed a bit with a longer cooking time. In any case, a gorgeous cake ruined by my own mistake. I loved the crust, the nuts on top, and the bourbon-caramel topping, however! Next time I get around to making this, I'll just be more careful.

  32. Christina Ford says

    I made this last night for my friend for her birthday. It was fantastic!! Everyone loved it. My only problem was that some of the water got into the foil around the pan and into the pan. I was so worried that my crust would be so soggy, but to my surprise it wasn’t! Thanks so much for a GREAT recipe!!!

  33. Becky says

    I’m sure you’ve been asked this numerous times, but could I use granulated Splenda in the recipe instead of the erythritol and stevia extract? I figure I could just use enough Splenda to make the batter taste sweet enough and I will be good. Would this substitute change the outcome much?

    • Carolyn says

      For the cheesecake, I don’t think it will be an issue. But you can’t caramelize Splenda so the sauce will be a no-go!

  34. Janine says

    What if I didn’t want to use the sugar substitutes…how would I translate this?

    erythritol and 25 drops stevia extract

    thank you for your help…..my daughter has an intolerance for Gluten…this looks wonderful but I’m not a fan of using the sugar substitutes….

  35. Amanda says

    There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not distilled alcohols that are grain based are gluten free or not. As it stands though, the general consensus is that bourbon is not safe for people that are Celiac/gluten intolerant. Even corn whiskey is only mostly corn based. It still has some combo of wheat, barley and rye as well. If you are trying to stick to a gluten free diet, I highly recommend omitting the bourbon.

  36. Jan Phillips says

    Too many comments to read through to see if someone answered your question about releasing your cake from the pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to the size of your pan.

  37. Marnie says

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner – it was a huge hit! A few oddities – my topping/frosting began to smoke before it boiled, and then almost turned to hard candy in the saucepan, this could be because I’m at high altitude, so I’d go by color rather than by boil in the future (it still worked out). I think it was ready when it turned brown. Also, make sure to read the whole article. I just got all the ingredients, and not the instructions until it was go time, and had to make my husband run out for a disposable roaster pan for the water bath halfway through. Also, the pumpkin drying this is really weird, and was pretty scary for me as a first timer, but it works. I was quite dubious, especially that I would get paper towel crumblies in the cheesecake, but it all went flawlessly. I am not a cook, and I’ve only made a cheesecake once, so I was pretty shocked that this turned out so great. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

    • Sheryl says

      Marnie – I made this as well this Thanksgiving and my topping did the exact same as yours. It smoked and really never boiled. It became hard in the pan, like you mentioned and it was dark. But I was still able to pour it and it tasted great. I used swerve brand sweetener and wonder if that was the reason.

  38. Hanna says

    I do not quite understand the part with drying the pumpkin purée…do I put baking sheet, then cotton tea towel and then kitchen towel? And more layers of it? Sorry confused …want to try this for Christmas thank you!!

    • Carolyn says

      Spread a few layers of paper towel on a cotton tea towel, then spread the pumpkin puree on it, then top with more paper towel to blot it.


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