Buckeye Cheesecake Bars

published Nov 29, 2023
Holiday Cookies 2023
Buckeye Cheesecake Bars Recipe

Bake up a batch of these triple-layer bars with an Oreo cookie crust, layer of peanut butter cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping.

Serves16

Prep25 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Head on view of a stack of 3 buckeye bars.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Jason Schreiber

What’s your holiday cookie personality? Take our quiz, then discover 10 brand-new delicious cookie recipes, featuring some of The Kitchn’s favorite bakers. This content is presented in partnership with Challenge Butter; it was created independently by our editorial team. 

While I’m admittedly not a huge chocolate-lover (I know, I know), I go absolutely wild for anything that combines chocolate and peanuts together. Enter: buckeye cheesecake bars. They taste just like an elevated peanut butter cup. With a slightly salty Oreo cookie crust, a creamy layer of peanut butter-flavored cheesecake, and a silky topping of chocolate ganache flecked with flaky salt, these cheesecake bars are a holiday showstopper in their own right. They’re the perfect combination of creamy and sweet with just the right amount of salt, and it’s impossible to only eat one — a fact that I can confirm. 

If you’re unfamiliar with buckeyes, they’re a Midwestern confection that combines a round of peanut butter fudge dipped in chocolate. Named after the state tree of Ohio, the buckeye, these sweet treats became popularized when they were sold to fans at Ohio State football games. 

One of my best friends always makes buckeyes for her Christmas cookie boxes. And of all the treats, the buckeyes are always the star of the show. While the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is a classic in its own right, she swears that the addition of chocolate hazelnut spread in the peanut butter mixture is what sets hers apart. Taking a cue from her, I added chocolate hazelnut spread to the peanut cheesecake filling in these bars, which acts similarly to adding a touch of espresso powder in chocolate baked goods — it enhances the peanut flavor, without overpowering it.  

To pull these bars off, you’ll need to plan accordingly. While the bars are easy to execute, it’s crucial to account for enough time to chill the bars so that they have time to fully set and slice easily. If you love planning way in advance, you can even make the bars, freeze them (for up to four months!), and then thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Jason Schreiber

If You’re Making Buckeye Cheesecake Bars, a Few Tips

  • Skip the natural food aisle this time. I love natural, crunchy peanut butter, but the success in the filling lies in using creamy peanut butter, like JIF, over a natural brand. 
  • Wait to salt. You may be tempted to sprinkle the salt on the chocolate ganache as soon as it gets poured over, but it’s best to wait until the ganache has set — otherwise the salt will sink into the chocolate. You’ll still get the flavor of salt, but will miss the prettiness it adds to the bars. 

Buckeye Cheesecake Bars Recipe

Bake up a batch of these triple-layer bars with an Oreo cookie crust, layer of peanut butter cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping.

Prep time 25 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 16 ounces

    full-fat cream cheese

  • 1/2 cup

    sour cream

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    smooth peanut butter, preferably Skippy or Jif

  • 1/4 cup

    chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the crust:

  • 5 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 20

    Oreo cookies

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the ganache:

  • 8 ounces

    semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/3 cups)

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon

    flaky salt

Instructions

  1. Place 16 ounces cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 large eggs on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the cream cheese is softened. Meanwhile, make the crust.

Make the crust:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom and two opposite sides of a 9x9-inch baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang over the sides by 1 inch to form a sling.

  2. Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Place 20 Oreo cookies and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until finely ground, about 30 (1-second) pulses. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 15 (1-second) pulses.

  3. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan. Press it evenly into the bottom with the bottom of a flat measuring cup.

  4. Bake until the crust is just set and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack and keep the oven at 350ºF.

Make the filling:

  1. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of cream cheese. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula.

  2. Add the sour cream, 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, 1/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium speed until just combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined and the mixture is smooth. Pour into the crust and spread into an even layer.

  4. Bake until the filling is just set but has a slight jiggle in the center still, 20 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Make the ganache:

  1. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat 1 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Pour over the chocolate chips and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth and glossy.

  2. Pour over the cheesecake in an even layer. Let sit at room temperature until the chocolate begins to firm up, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

  3. Grasping the excess parchment, lift the slab out of the baking dish and place on a cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces, dipping the knife in hot water and wiping it dry between each cut for the cleanest-looking pieces.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crust can be made up to 1 day ahead. Let cool, then cover tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Unwrap before filling and baking.

Storage: The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 hour or at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

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