Pay de Queso (Mexican Cheese Pie)

published Dec 9, 2023
Pay de Queso Recipe

This classic Mexican-style cheesecake is perfect as is or with a drizzle of dulce de leche.

Serves8 to 12

Prep10 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Pay de Queso
Credit: Kelli Foster

I’m not a cheesecake person. I know I may be one of the few out there, but when served a dense and hefty slice, I always find it much too much — too much richness and too much cream cheese all at once. That is, until fellow baker Roxxanne Delle Site-Jeronimo, the owner of Mexipino, a Filipino- and Mexican-inspired social media bakery, introduced me to the magic of pay de queso. 

Pay de queso translates to cheese pie. It’s pretty much the Mexican equivalent of cheesecake. A slice of pay de queso is much lighter in texture and not as sweet in comparison to its American counterparts, while still being rich, creamy, and smooth. What makes it even better? The dessert calls for basic pantry ingredients, a filling that comes together in a blender, and it bakes without the use of a fussy water bath. Here’s how to make this easy cheesecake at home that’ll make everyone happy. 

What Is Pay de Queso?

Pay de queso, or cheese pie, is the Mexican version of cheesecake. The crust is traditionally made with Maria cookies (or galletas Marias). These lightly sweetened cookies are a staple in Mexican households, where they’re commonly eaten as a snack with coffee or hot chocolate. The filling, made with cream cheese, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and eggs, comes together quickly in a blender. And, as opposed to a more classic cheesecake, pay de queso bakes in a pie plate, which means that it doesn’t require the use of a water bath and a single slice isn’t a hefty affair. 

In her version of this dessert, Roxanne likes to mix in queso fresco, a Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk, for a salty note. When testing this recipe, I leaned into the classic filling and opted for a dash of vanilla extract, salt, and a tiny bit of honey for a more balanced flavor and to add a light floral sweetness. Pay de queso is best served cold all by itself, or with a dollop of dulce de leche, cajeta (a sweet, thick caramel-like spread made from boiled goat’s milk), or strawberry jam, or some fresh fruit. 

Credit: Kelli Foster

Ingredients in Pay de Queso

  • Maria cookies: Crush just one package of these thin, vanilla wafer-like cookies for a flavorful crust. 
  • Eggs: Two eggs contribute to a smooth and creamy filling. 
  • Dairy: This recipe uses four types of dairy — unsalted butter in the crust, as well as cream cheese, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk — all of which are pantry staples. 

How to Make Pay de Queso

  • Make the no-bake cookie crust. Empty one package of Maria cookies into a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs (you can also do this with a plastic zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin). Then, transfer to a bowl and mix in ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pour over melted butter and stir together until the crumbs are evenly coated. Scrape into a standard 9-inch pie plate, pressing the crumbs evenly into the bottoms and up the sides. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. 
  • Blend the filling ingredients. Combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, honey, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. 
  • Bake and serve the pie. Pour the filling into the chilled crust and bake until lightly browned and the center is just set. Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then chill until cold, at least 6 hours or overnight. 

If You’re Making Pay de Queso, a Few Tips

  • Chill the pie well. Although pay de queso is great at any temperature, it especially shines when served cold. Make sure to budget enough fridge time (at least 6 hours) for chilling before slicing and serving. 
  • You can easily double the recipe. Because this recipe uses half a can of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, you can easily double the recipe to make 2 pies and use up the rest of the cans (your guests will thank you!). Otherwise, there are many ways to use up sweetened condensed milk; one of my faves is adding it to my morning cup of coffee. 

Pay de Queso Recipe

This classic Mexican-style cheesecake is perfect as is or with a drizzle of dulce de leche.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces

    full-fat cream cheese

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 (7-ounce) package

    Maria cookies (33 cookies), such as Goya

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (7 ounces)

  • 3/4 cup

    evaporated milk (6 ounces)

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 2 teaspoons

    honey

Instructions

  1. Place 6 ounces full-fat cream cheese and 2 large eggs in a blender. Let sit at room temperature until the cream cheese is softened, about 45 minutes.

  2. Open 1 (7-ounce) package Maria cookies and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse to break the cookies up into large pieces. Process until the cookies are crushed into fine crumbs, about 20 seconds. (Alternatively, place the cookies in a plastic zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin into fine crumbs.)

  3. Transfer the cookie crumbs to a medium bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of kosher salt, and stir until combined.

  4. Place 1 stick unsalted butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second bursts until melted, about 60 seconds total. (Alternatively, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.) Pour the butter over the cookie crumbs and stir until the crumbs are damp and evenly coated.

  5. Transfer the crumb mixture into a standard 9-inch pie plate (not deep dish). Using your fingers or a flat-bottomed drinking glass or measuring cup, press the crumbs evenly into the bottoms and up the sides. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, 3/4 cup evaporated milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons honey to the blender. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.

  7. Place the chilled crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the filling is light golden-brown and the center is just set, about 40 minutes.

  8. Place the pie on a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate the pie until the filling is cold and firm, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crust can be made up to 2 days ahead, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated.

Storage: Leftover pay de queso can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.