I'm going to present a polarizing thesis here and do my best to defend it: No-bake cheesecake is actually better than traditional cheesecake. Besides being easier to perfect, no-bake cheesecake is more flavorful without the long bake and more easily adapted to upgrades like fruit or chocolate flavorings.
If your ideal cheesecake is impossibly smooth without a hint of graininess and has a filling that is perfectly sweet, creamy, and tangy with an incredibly tender crumb crust, then, surprise! You'll love no-bake cheesecake.
What Is a No-Bake Cheesecake?
Much like its namesake, the classic cheesecake, no-bake cheesecake is a custard pie built on cream cheese. Unlike classic cheesecake, however, no-bake cheesecake has no eggs, no granulated sugar, and obviously requires no baking. The cream cheese is sweetened with condensed milk and lightened up with lemon juice and whipped until smooth.
Expect the filling of the no-bake cheesecake to be slightly softer and more dense than a traditional cheesecake. It won't have the same airy, sometimes grainy texture of the classic, but it takes well to additions like jam (for fruity cheesecakes) or melted chocolate without much fuss.
Looking for the classic? How To Make Perfect Cheesecake
Mistakes to Avoid When Making No-Bake Cheesecake
Making no-bake cheesecake is so stunningly simple that it seems hard to mess it up, and while that's mostly true, there are a few things that will take your cake from good to great.
- Don't overmix it. I once tried mixing my filling in the food processor after chilling the crust, only to find a super-soft cheesecake waiting the next day as a result.
- Chill, don't bake the crust. If you're quite familiar with crumb crusts you'll notice that this one has a higher ratio of butter to graham cracker crumbs. This makes for a sturdy crust when refrigerated, but would make for a soggy baked crust.
- Don't rush it. Your cream cheese needs to be room temperature before mixing, and the finished filling really needs to chill overnight. Trying to whip cold cream cheese into the filling will result in little lumps. The filling needs proper chilling to set into sliceable sections, a minimum of 4 hours but preferably overnight.
Serving a No-Bake Cheesecake
You want to slice and serve no-bake cheesecake while it is cold. Unlike classic cheesecake, this pie won't do well at room temperature for longer than 30 minutes before it softens considerably.
As for toppings, the sky is the limit. Personally, I love fresh fruit or fruit preserves, but a drizzle of chocolate or caramel never hurt. You might prefer a layer of slightly sweetened sour cream or Greek yogurt for a flavor more reminiscent of classic sour cream cheesecake.
How To Make an Easy No-Bake Cheesecake
What You Need
For the crust:
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Measuring cups and spoons
9-inch springform pan
Large mixing bowl
Electric hand mixer
Long, thin knife for slicing
- Make the crust: Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse into an even crumb, about 10 pulses. Drizzle in the butter and pulse to incorporate. The mixture should hold together in your hand when squeezed.
- Press the crust into the pan: Transfer the crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs evenly over the the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of pan, using a heavy-bottomed cup as needed to press the mixture into the pan.
- Chill the crust: Refrigerate the crust for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
- Make the filling: Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla and continue to beat until completely smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Chill the filling: Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
Remove from the pan and serve: Before serving, remove the sides of the springform pan. Use a long, thin knife dipped in hot water and then dried to slice the cheesecake.
- Make ahead: This cheesecake can made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.
- Storage: Leftover cheesecake can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but note that after 2 days the crust will soften significantly.