This no-bake vanilla cheesecake is light, creamy, and perfect for any dinner party or holiday gathering.
It also eliminates a lot of the worries that might keep you from making a cheesecake in the first place: There’s no need for fussy water baths or elaborate cool-down steps. No worries about cracks in the top. No need to even turn on the oven!
Leave your no-bake cheesecake plain or top it with your favorite fruit. Either way, this cheesecake is a winner.
This no-bake cheesecake is made by beating together cream cheese and powdered sugar, and then whipping in some heavy cream until the mixture is thick and billowy. A little gelatin whisked in at the end helps make the cheesecake stable and easily sliced.
The finished cheesecake has a creamy, silky texture, like a cross between traditional cheesecake and extra-thick whipped cream.
There are two key things to keep in mind for this process: First, make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature (very soft), and second, sift the powdered sugar so there are no dry clumps when you mix it with the cream cheese.
Cold cream cheese becomes lumpy when mixed and you’ll never be able to get the signature light and fluffy texture of a no-bake cheesecake. Let it warm on the counter for at least two hours before making the cheesecake. It should feel very soft when you press on the package.
If you forget to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator, you can hurry the process a bit by placing the bricks of cream cheese (removed from their boxes, but still sealed in their foil wrapping) in a large bowl of warm water. Just be sure to replace the water with more warm water as it cools. Repeat until the cream cheese is at room temperature.
I also add gelatin to this cheesecake to help it firm up and make it easy to slice. Without it, the cheesecake is fairly soft and will gradually deflate.
Some no-bake cheesecake recipes use commercial whipped cream (which is already stabilized) or condensed milk instead of gelatin, but personally, I don’t like the chemical taste that commercial whipped cream can give the dessert or the super-sweetness of the condensed-milk version.
If you’d prefer not to use gelatin, I’d recommend just making a classic baked cheesecake instead.
Of course, my favorite part of the no-bake cheesecake is picking a topping. My go-to favorite is strawberries in an easy sugar syrup. You can swap in blueberries, blackberries, peaches, cherries or whatever fruit you like. Frozen fruit works well, too, though you might need to add some extra cornstarch if the sauce is too runny.
If you’re not in the mood for fruit, you can also top the cheesecake with chocolate shavings or whipped cream.
No-Bake Cheesecake RecipePrint
Be sure to let the cream cheese warm at room temperature until very soft before making the cheesecake, at least 2 hours. If you forget, you can speed up the process by placing the wrapped packages of cream cheese in a bowl of warm water.
I use an actual vanilla bean in this cheesecake because I think it adds a rounder and more complex flavor than extract, plus I like the way the specks look in the finished cheesecake.
If you don’t have a vanilla bean, feel free to add an additional 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to the cheesecake (a total of 4 teaspoons).
The gelatin in this recipe helps firm up the cheesecake and make it easy to slice without the need for commercial whipped cream (which already has stabilizers) or sweetened condensed milk (which can make the cheesecake too sweet).
For the crust:
- 8 ounces (225 g) store-bought graham crackers (about 14 rectangular crackers)
- 6 tablespoons (85 g or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
- 1 tablespoon (1 1/2 packages) powdered gelatin
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 16 ounces (455 g or 2 bricks) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup (175 g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups cold heavy cream
For the strawberry sauce (optional):
- 1 pound (455 g) fresh or frozen hulled and sliced strawberries
- 2/3 cups (135 g) granulated white sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 Make the crust: Lightly coat a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray. Break the graham crackers into a few large pieces and place them in a food processor. Process into crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and process until the crumbs start to clump together. Dump the buttery crumbs into the prepared pan and press into a thick crust over the bottom of the pan using the bottom of a glass.
2 Dissolve the gelatin: Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Stir to moisten - it should look like applesauce. Set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Once softened, microwave the gelatin for 20 to 30 seconds, until the gelatin is dissolved and liquid. Set aside to cool.
3 Prepare the cheesecake base: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and sift the powdered sugar over top. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the sugar is begins to mix into the cream cheese, and then raise the mixer speed to medium and mix until the sugar is fully incorporated and the cream cheese looks fluffy and creamy, like frosting.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of a butter knife. Add the seeds to the cheesecake batter, and reserve the vanilla pod for another use. Mix for an additional 15 seconds or until the vanilla extract and seeds have been blended in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater.
4 Switch to a whisk attachment and add the cream. Mix on low speed until the cream is incorporated, then raise the speed to medium. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Continue to mix, slowly increasing the speed to high, until soft peaks form (peaks that slowly bend over at the tips).
5 Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle the warm gelatin into the bowl. If your gelatin has cooled too much and started to gel, warm it in the microwave for another 5 to 10 seconds until liquidy again before adding mixing it into the filling. Once all the gelatin has been added, return the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture forms firm peaks (peaks that stay firmly upright at the tips).
6 Spoon the filling into the pan on top of the graham cracker crust. Smooth the top of the cheesecake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight to firm up.
7 Prepare the strawberry sauce (optional): Place the strawberries and sugar in a large pot. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and cold water together until they make a smooth, milky liquid, and then pour over the strawberries. Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the strawberries have softened and the sauce has thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar if using. Let cool to room temperature, then spoon over the chilled cheesecake and return to the refrigerator to chill for an additional hour or overnight. (Alternatively, serve the sauce at the table and spoon over individual slices.)
8 When ready to serve: Run an offset spatula or a thin butterknife around the edge of the cake, then remove the outer ring. Leave it on the pan base, and transfer to a serving platter or cake stand. Top with any toppings you like. Slice and serve.
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