Easy No-Bake Cheesecake Recipe

A no-cook, no-bake cheesecake is the perfect dessert for beating the summer heat.

A slice of no-bake cheesecake on a plate, topped with a medley of fresh berries. A raspberry and halved cherry have fallen off the slice.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats Video.

Why It Works

  • Biscoff cookies add rich, caramelized flavor to the no-bake crust.
  • Beating the cream cheese will make it silky and smooth.
  • Whipping the cream will thicken and aerate the filling.
  • Cooling to about 40°F (4°C) will ensure the filling is sliceable and firm.

I'm all about cheesecake in any form, whether it's Japanese-style and cotton soft or a towering slab like they serve in New York; I'd even take a scoop of cheesecake ice cream, with graham cracker bits mixed right in. So when a friend asked if I looked down on "no-bake" cheesecake, my answer was a resounding, "Hell no!"

Sure, there are times I want a classic cheesecake, but there are also times at the height of summer when you couldn't pay me to fire up the oven. Yet the middle of summer is just when I could really go for a slice of cheesecake, all tangy and cool and loaded with fresh fruit.

Beyond keeping my oven off and the temperature down, no-bake cheesecake is eggless, which gives it a super clean flavor profile—freed from the custardy yolks, the creamy dairy notes really stand out. That simplicity makes no-bake cheesecake an excellent vehicle for fresh fruit, where it takes on a real berries-and-cream vibe.

Overhead shot of the berry-studded cheesecake and a plated slice on a magenta table cloth.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Most no-bake cheesecake recipes either incorporate gelatin for body, which can quickly veer into a weirdly panna cotta-like territory, or else fall back on what I call the Key lime pie method. As you might expect, this technique relies on a chemical reaction between citrus juice and sweetened condensed milk to thicken the filling. It's a great, cheesecake-y twist on Key lime pie, but far too citrusy and acidic to scratch the itch when I'm craving cheesecake.

The Perfect No-Bake Crust

When I'm taking a no-bake approach, I prefer a method that puts cream cheese center stage. But before diving into the details, let's talk crust. Obviously, graham crackers are a classic choice, but having just come off a month of recipe testing for homemade Biscoff, I've gotta say: They make a killer crust.

Biscoff cookies being crushed in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Especially in no-bake form, where crumb crusts lack the nutty, toasty flavors that develop in the oven, Biscoff cookies (whether store-bought or homemade) add a welcome depth of flavor. By comparison, an unbaked graham cracker crust tastes a little blah, though I'm willing to acknowledge that may simply be a personal preference.

Wherever you land on the cookie/cracker divide, making the crust is a straightforward affair: melt some butter, mix in the crumbs, and season to taste with a pinch of salt. From there, scatter the moistened crumbs in a 9-inch pie plate or quiche pan, and press into an even layer with a drinking glass, measuring cup, or some type of flat tool. Since there will be no baking to bind the crumbs together, it's important to really compress them to avoid, well, a crummy crust.

Four images showing buttered Biscoff crumbs being poured into a fluted, white pie plate and being pressed into an even layer with a drinking glass.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Pop the crust in the fridge (if you like, it can be wrapped in plastic and held for a few days in advance), then start on the filling. Full disclosure: My recipe is embarrassingly simple. I beat up a pound of cream cheese with about five ounces of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, a drop of vanilla, and a pinch of kosher salt in a stand mixer. Once everything's nice and creamy, I switch to a whisk attachment and whip in twelve ounces of cream.

Making the Filling

At first, the mixture will look runny and soft, but after a few minutes of aeration it will begin to thicken.

Close-up of the whisk attachment for a stand mixer. The lower half of the tines are coated in cheesecake filling.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Transfer the whipped cream cheese into the prepared crust, and spread it out in an even layer. It can be near impossible to scrape it into a perfectly smooth finish, so I embrace a more casual presentation with lots of messy swoops and swirls.

And really, messy can be very beautiful indeed.

The Biscoff crust, filled with the cheesecake mixture. The irregular surface of the filling is backlit, and suggestive of a mountainous snow-covered landscape.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Chilling the Cheesecake

No-bake cheesecakes may not need an oven, but they do need a refrigerator and several hours to chill before serving. When the filling is still above 50°F (10°C), it's soft, loose, and airy, something like a mousse, with a crust that crumbles a bit more readily.

A slice of the cheesecake after it has had 2 hours in the refrigerator to set. The cut surfaces are clean, with sharply defined edges.
No-bake cheesecake after 2 hours of refrigeration.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

But given time to chill all the way down to 40°F (4°C), which takes about six hours, the filling becomes firm and dense, much more like a "real" cheesecake and far easier to slice. During that time, the filling will lend some of its moisture to the crust, making it considerably less crumbly.

A close-up of a slice of cheesecake that has been refrigerated for 6 hours. A fork has severed the slender tip of the slice by piercing downward. The bite of cheesecake is holding together on the tines of the fork.
No-bake cheesecake after 6 hours of refrigeration.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

So if you're just itching for a bite of something sweet on a lazy afternoon, it's okay to rush things a little, but if you'd like to cut pretty slices for a dinner party you've got to give a no-bake cheesecake plenty of time. And trust me, it's well worth the wait; compared to the airy texture it has early on, I vasty prefer the velvety density that develops only after several hours of refrigeration.

That gives no-bake cheesecake an edge as a make-ahead dessert, since you can whip it up a day or two in advance. I think it's best within the first 36 hours, as its brightness will start to dull over time, but that's admittedly a pastry chef's pickiness talking. I've been assured by my family and co-workers that their test cheesecakes were quite tasty even a week after I dropped them off.

A fork cradling a bite of no-bake cheesecake on its tines. The rest of the cake—as well as the slice it was taken from—are visible in the background, though blurred by the shallow depth of focus.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

But don't count on keeping this dessert around for long; it's light, fresh, tangy, cold, and refreshing—perfect on a summer day when other desserts can seem too heavy or rich. So when you're ready to kick back and keep cool, remember that cheesecake is beautiful in any form.

7:54

How to Make No-Bake Cheesecake

July 2017

Recipe Facts

Prep: 15 mins
Active: 15 mins
Chilling Time: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 15 mins
Serves: 8 to 12 servings

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Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 8 3/4 ounces graham cracker or Biscoff crumbs (see notes), store-bought or homemade (about 2 cups; 250g)

  • 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted (about 5 tablespoons; 70g)

  • Kosher salt, to taste

For the Filling:

  • 16 ounces plain, full-fat cream cheese, (two 8-ounce packages; 455g) (preferably Philadelphia brand; see notes)

  • 5 1/4 ounces sugar (about 3/4 cup; 150g)

  • 3/4 ounce fresh juice from 1 lemon (about 4 1/2 teaspoons; 20g)

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight

  • 12 ounces heavy cream (about 1 1/2 cups; 340g)

To Serve:

  • 12 ounces fresh fruit (about 2 cups; 340g), washed and dried

Directions

  1. For the Crust: Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl, then stir in a pinch of salt to taste. Sprinkle into a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate, spread into an even layer, then compress firmly with a flat-bottomed drinking glass or measuring cup; this will naturally push the crumbs up the sides of the pan. Keep pressing until the crumbs are in a compact, even layer across the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate until needed. (The crust can be made and held for a day or two if wrapped in plastic.)

    A collage of melted butter in a saucepan and Biscoff cookies crumbs being poured into the melted butter
  2. For the Filling: Combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at low speed to form a thick paste, then increase to medium speed until soft and smooth.

  3. Scrape bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, then switch to the whisk attachment and pour in cream. Mix at low speed to combine, then increase to high and whip until the mixture can hold stiff peaks, 3 to 5 minutes depending on the horsepower of your mixer.

    A collage of sugar and cream cheese being beaten in a bowl of a standing mixer, followed by cream being whipped with a whisk attachment until the mixture achieves stiff peak.
  4. Scrape filling into prepared crust and spread into an even layer, using the back of a spoon to sculpt filling into swoops and swirls. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until the filling is firm and cold, about 6 hours or to an internal temperature of 40°F (4°C).

    A collage of the cheesecake filling being poured into a prepared pie plate with Biscoff cookies crust. The surface of the filling is full of swirls.
  5. To Serve: Top with fresh fruit and cut into wedges with a hot chef’s knife, rinsing the knife under hot running water between slices. Carefully slide a pie server under the crust, making sure it reaches all the way to the tip of the wedge (the first slice will be the most difficult and messy to remove).

    Close up view of no-bake cheesecake in a pie plate, topped with strawberries and blackberries.

Special Equipment

Stand mixer, flexible spatula, 9-inch pie plate or tart pan

Notes

This recipe works great with your favorite graham cracker, but after much experimenting, I've found that the stronger spices and deep caramel flavor of Biscoff cookies taste even better in a no-bake crust. You can pick up a package of Biscoff at the store, or make your own if you don't mind firing up the oven.

Due to variations in formulae, not all brands of cream cheese perform equally well in this recipe. For best results, use Philadelphia cream cheese.

Make-Ahead and Storage

To make this cheesecake partially ahead of time, assemble the crust up to a couple of days in advance, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until it's needed.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
438 Calories
33g Fat
33g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 438
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 18g 92%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 220mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 23g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 13mg 67%
Calcium 80mg 6%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 178mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)