Creamy no-bake cheesecake is the perfect easy, cooling dessert for summer, no cooking or oven required!
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Too hot to bake this summer? No-bake cheesecake is the perfect creamy treat that can be made without turning on your oven at all! I love the simplicity of no-bake cheesecake. Essentially, all you need is some cream cheese, sour cream, a stabilizer, butter and graham cracker crumbs and you’re well on your way!
But given how many recipe permutations there are, I had to test 9 popular no-bake cheesecake recipes side by side in one day to find the best. After more than 30 tasters gave their feedback, I’m happy to say we found some solid crowd favorites. Let’s dive in!
- 32 total tasters
- All cheesecakes were assembled in 9″ springform pans
- Cheesecakes were set overnight (except for Divas Can Cook and Bravetart)
- Each taster ranked each cheesecake on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture and overall as a whole
- Philadelphia cream cheese
- Good & Gather heavy cream
- Belgioioso mascarpone
- Daisy sour cream
- Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
- Cool Whip
- Gold Medal Flour
- Kirkland butter
- Kirkland organic honey
- Knox unflavored gelatin
- Keebler graham crust
- Honey Maid graham crackers
- Nielsen Massey vanilla extract
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated, brown and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
Here are the ratings as voted by raters (who rated each cheesecake on a scale of 1-10 for flavor, texture and overall). As always, I always recommend reading through the entire blog post to understand the profile of each recipe and decide which sounds best to you. My favorites in each bake off don’t always match the top-rated recipes (see bottom of the post for my picks).
There are always taster preferences that affect the rankings–such as a preference against honey. In this bake off, it was quite clear that a different sweetener (specifically the honey in Southern Living’s recipe) did not fare well against the other sugar-sweetened cheesecakes.
Lastly, please always take the results with a grain of salt as any issues could be my own baker error rather than the fault of the recipe. I do truly believe all of these recipes are worth trying and would be delicious standalone!
As I chose the recipes for this bake off, I tried to select recipes that used different techniques and ingredients. Below I’ll discuss how I think each factor affect the results!
- Thickener: In a no-bake cheesecake, there are three typical ways that you create structure: folding in stiffly whipped heavy cream, folding in an alternative stabilizer like Cool Whip, or gelatin. I was surprised to find that most recipes use heavy cream–fewer recipes use Cool Whip and I found even fewer popular recipes that use gelatin. After the bake off, it was clear why–the gelatin-based cheesecake had a distinct Jello-like texture that didn’t feel much like cheesecake. Texturally, the difference between heavy cream and Cool Whip was quite minimal. Both yield a creamy, light texture–Cool Whip did seem slightly more stable and will yield more consistent results since it doesn’t rely on the baker determining the right level of stiff peaks. As someone who likes baking from scratch, heavy cream will be my go-to, but Cool Whip is a great option for a shortcut!
- Type of dairy: The grand majority of the cheesecakes were made simply with cream cheese, but I added Natasha’s Kitchen into the test for its use of mascarpone. Unfortunately, the distinctly buttery, slightly funky flavor of mascarpone generally stood out in a negative way to tasters in contrast to the other cheesecakes. While I think this cheesecake would be deeply enjoyed on its own, I think this shows that you don’t need to splurge on two types of cheese for a superior no-bake cheesecake. (Unless you REALLY love the taste of mascarpone.)
- Sweetener: Virtually all cheesecakes used either granulated or powdered sugar–only Southern Living omitted sugar in favor of reduced honey. This of course lent a very strong honey flavor to the cheesecake and also gave it quite a soft texture that most didn’t love. Preppy Kitchen adds 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, which gives a nice rounded complexity to the sweetness and contrasted the sour cream. When it comes to the question of powdered sugar vs. granulated sugar, there were too many confounding factors to tell whether this made a difference. The cornstarch in powdered sugar should help firm up the filling slightly, but the real determiner of texture lies in the technique. (More on technique in the FAQ.)
- Crust: I had a feeling Bravetart would take top marks based on its Biscoff crust and taster feedback would reinforce this hypothesis! The caramelized flavor of Biscoff was a crowd pleaser, and I highly recommend using them in lieu of graham crackers. I would also pay attention to the ratio of graham cracker crumbs to butter. Preppy Kitchen’s ratio felt too dry while Natasha’s Kitchen felt quite wet. I think Southern Living or Sally’s Baking Addiction’s ratio of 2 cups (240g) graham crumbs to 1 stick of butter with 1/4-1/3 cup sugar is about right.
- Sour cream: Around half the recipes used sour cream, and they generally ended up in the top half of the recipes. Bravetart (the winning recipe) was the exception, but I think that’s due in part to how popular the crust was. In general, most tasters seemed to enjoy the tang and additional flavor that sour cream adds.
Tips and FAQ on Making the Best No-Bake Cheesecake
After making an extremely soupy version of Bravetart’s cheesecake, I learned a few lessons. The primary reason a no-bake cheesecake is too runny or doesn’t set up properly is generally the temperature of the ingredients. If your cream cheese is too warm, the mixture will be too soft and will never set up properly. Especially if the recipe calls for adding heavy cream and whipping until stiff peaks form–this is tricky since it’s very easy to overbeat the cream cheese, turning the entire mixture soupy and grainy. Unfortunately once you overbeat the cream cheese, there’s no way to bring it back to a normal texture. You can turn it into a cheesecake parfait instead!
My best tip: when making no-bake cheesecake, use cold cream cheese! You can soften it for 5-10 minutes at room temperature, but as long as you’re beating it in a stand mixer, the mixer will easily paddle it to the appropriate texture.
The most reliable technique I’ve found is to first beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks and set it aside in a bowl. Then, paddle the cheesecake, sweetener, and any other ingredients with a stand mixer until creamy. Gently fold in the cream into the cream cheese mixture and voila! The mixture should be thick, creamy, and will set up beautifully in the fridge.
As long as you use the above technique and paddle the cream cheese mixture until creamy and smooth, there shouldn’t be any lumps in your batter. You may run the batter through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any lumps, but this is an extra step I generally wouldn’t bother with.
Personally, I find it to be 2 cups (240g) graham cracker crumbs to 1 stick of butter to 1/3 cup sugar. For a flavor boost, use Biscoff crumbs instead of graham crackers!
Generally at least 6 hours, but most recipes recommend an overnight rest. I think resting for up to 24 hours is fine.
Most recipes call for a springform pan. To serve, I recommend removing the springform ring and serving slices directly from the springform pan bottom. You can line the pan with parchment before assembling the cheesecake to protect the bottom of the pan.
Analysis of the Best No-Bake Cheesecake Recipes
Southern Living: a creamy, honey-forward filling with a cinnamon-spiked crust
While I teetered between including this recipe for days, I ultimately decided to include it for something a little different. This cheesecake calls for reducing honey until dark golden and caramelized, which serves as the main sweetener in lieu of any sugar. The cream cheese base is stabilized with whipped cream and flavored with just a little sour cream and lemon juice. This was the only crust to use cinnamon graham crackers!
As someone who admittedly doesn’t *love* cheesecake or cream cheese, I really enjoyed this because the honey flavor masks the pure dairy flavor. I think this would be absolutely delicious styled as a baklava cheesecake with pistachios, more honey and maybe a phyllo garnish. The texture was quite soft and creamy, though it held its structure fairly well. Unfortunately, the honey flavor was quite jarring against the other cheesecakes, so this was not a crowd favorite. I think if this was served standalone at a party and people were told that it was a honey cheesecake, it would be received far more positively!
- Feels like taking a spoonful of honey!!! It’s so overwhelming, even when you like honey. The cream is airy and crust has the right bite. The crust to cream ratio is the best of all
- Love the touch of honey! Wish the texture was a bit firmer
- Unique honey flavor but not quite my jam, doesn’t taste like cheesecake. I like the touch of cinnamon in the crust
- I am not a fan of the texture as it’s too sticky and heavy. The filling tastes so strongly of honey that it’s more similar to a yogurt with honey than any cheesecake I’ve had before. The flavor and texture of the cheesecake is not very memorable as all I can focus on is the honey flavor.
Simply Recipes: a clean, soft and bouncy texture with a light vanilla flavor and soft crust
When I think of no-bake cheesecake, I immediately think of gelatin as the stabilizing ingredient. Surprisingly, I didn’t find many recipes that used gelatin, so Simply Recipes is our only recipe with it! It uses a base of cream cheese lightened with whipped cream and sweetened with powdered sugar. Softened gelatin gets poured into the mixture and gets firmed up overnight in the fridge. Note: this recipe does call for a vanilla bean but I used vanilla bean paste instead.
Upon slicing this cheesecake, the textural difference was immediately apparent. This sliced extremely cleanly with a texture akin to Jello. The mouthfeel is quite light, soft and almost bouncy. The flavor is fairly subtle–despite the speckles of vanilla bean, the vanilla flavor didn’t feel dramatically more pronounced in this cheesecake compared to others. Overall, I think many tasters summed up their thoughts of this cheesecake in that it didn’t really feel like cheesecake due to the odd texture.
- Good flavor. Odd jello-y texture that I wasn’t mad at–it would hold up best outside the fridge. I’d prefer it with side crust
- I like this one. Good crust flavor, cheesecake flavor is there and not strong.
- The flavor was fantastic, strong vanilla notes. The texture was structurally sound and slices beautifully but reminded me of jello, not a big fan. The crust was solid yet soft.
- It looks good, but not flavorful enough and gelatin adds a bit of a weird texture. It holds a second too long instead of melting in your mouth/being super creamy. Flavor is good but not close to a classic cheesecake, it’s more milky and vanilla than anything. Crust is ok but not amazing. Overall artificial.
- Initially I had high hopes for this one bc it was the best looking cake in terms of keeping its shape and cutting neatly. But the flavor was not there. This was like cheesecake flavored jello – I suspect its firm shape is thanks to gelatin.
- Texture was like flan or a squishy marshmallow, which I did not like in a cheesecake. Vanilla was a bit overpowering
Natasha’s Kitchen: a mascarpone-forward cheesecake with a very buttery, structurally sound crust
Similarly to Southern Living, I was curious to include Natasha’s Kitchen’s recipe for something different–her mix of cream cheese and mascarpone is quite unique. This is another cheesecake stabilized with whipped cream, sweetened with granulated sugar and flavored with lemon juice. Her crust uses a generous stick of butter to 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs for a very damp crust that held together very well.
The texture of this cheesecake was fantastic! Because the recipe requires beating cold mascarpone into the cream cheese, I think this recipe helps prevent a lot of issues. It’s creamy and a little firmer than some while still remaining quite light. The main reason for its lower score is 100% due to the flavor of the mascarpone. Many tasters commented that the filling tasted “cheesy” and I agree that the very subtle funk from the mascarpone was not my favorite. The graham crust was extremely buttery and served as a solid base–honestly, I think the butter could be reduced by a few tablespoons. Overall, I’d be curious to try this again with slightly less butter in the crust and all cream cheese.
- So unique. Incredibly creamy and unique texture and flavor! My favorite I think
- This was my favorite, by far. It is also the most savory leaving. This one reminded me of eating soft cheese and crackers. Both filling and crust were dense compared to the others, but I mean that in the best way.
- The filling is like whipped cream in texture and leaves a similar feeling on your tongue as whipped cream. The crust tastes a lot like animal crackers. It’s sturdier but similar to the crust for Sample 2. Overall my feeling is: meh.
- Liked the unique flavor but couldn’t put my finger on what the flavor was
- This one tasted lemony and I liked that. The texture is excellent and the crust is very thick but lacks flavor.
- Texture was fine. Tasted so cheesy it reminded me of animal flavor
- Tasted like cheesecake, thick and creamy. While I liked the texture of the cake and crumb, the cake didn’t have a lot of flavor. The crumb had a flavor and thicker in crust.
- One of my favorites but a little too sweet – crust is solid and delicious with good integrity but the flavor was just a little too sweet
- Too sweet, and tasted like feta
Divas Can Cook: a close cousin to key lime pie with a slightly runny texture
Divas Can Cook was one of two recipes to use sweetened condensed milk. This is an extremely simple recipe–just cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla in a prepared pie crust! Monique uses the same technique used in many key lime pies. The acid in the lemon juice reacts with the milk proteins in both the cream cheese and condensed milk to thicken the mixture. Interestingly, Monique notes that she cut down on her original measurement of 1/3 cup lemon juice to just 2 tablespoons.
Unfortunately, the filling was extremely soft and gooey–not exactly what I would call sliceable. This could be baker’s error because my cream cheese was EXTREMELY soft (Monique specifies room temp cream cheese). I think making this with cold cream cheese would result in a more sliceable, firmer texture. This was one of my favorites in terms of flavor–if you like key lime pie, this one doesn’t taste very far off! Bland pre-made crust aside, tasters generally seemed to love the flavor. Most thought the texture was too runny, which is a very fixable issue. I’d happily make this again.
- The filling is very creamy and there’s a nice tartness. It is recognizably a cheesecake flavor. The crust tastes strongly of graham cracker with maybe a bit of cinnamon. It noticeably has less caramel flavor than samples 1-4, which I missed when eating the cheesecake filling in the same bite as the crust.
- I like the lemon zesty coupled with buttery crust. The texture feels like heavy ish cream
- Mousse more than cheesecake. Nice tang
- This is more loose/liquid and flavor is more citrus or tangy I think. It’s good but different and not what i was expecting.
- Felt too lemony and more like a lemon custard tart or a key lime pie
- Favor of the filling is good but it’s too creamy. The crust is thin and somewhat tasteless.
- Melted really fast. The flavor might be there but couldn’t get past the texture being so wet
Taste and Tell: a tangy, almost mousse-like cheesecake
Taste and Tell was one of two recipes to use Cool Whip and uses just 5 ingredients in the filling. 31 Daily is a very similar recipe; the main differences are that Taste and Tell uses half the amount of cream cheese, double the amount of sour cream, and granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar. This recipe also used a homemade crust instead of a premade crust.
Due to the lower ratio of cream cheese in this cheesecake, the mousse-y texture of the Cool Whip came through more strongly. The very creamy and light filling was also quite tangy due to the higher proportion of sour cream (basically 1:1 with the cream cheese). Some noted an artificial taste to this while others thought there wasn’t enough cream cheese flavor. While I thought the crust was decent, this cheesecake didn’t really stand out to me besides having a really light and creamy texture. It’s a great recipe to try if you don’t have a lot of time and want to use minimal ingredients!
- Second favorite. Great flavor in the filling, kind of a moussey texture
- This one is extra fluffy. It’s delicious and really light, held up relatively well. It’s very buttery, although a little thin.
- The texture is extremely light. So light it doesn’t taste like cheesecake. But the flavour is not bad. Probably #3 for me
- Too sweet, not much other flavor. The texture was also too buttery. I could see myself getting tired of this one pretty quickly.
- This “cake” would taste great smeared across a cinnamon raisin bagel bc it tastes like sweet whipped cream cheese!
- Very cream forward, no cream cheese flavor, overly sweet, overall bland and too airy–we need more texture for cheesecake. Could have a better crust to cream ratio
- Texture was really light/fluffy. I couldn’t get past the artificial taste on this one. I suspect cool whip or a similar product was used in this one.
31 Daily: a tangy, lighter, slightly sticky cheesecake
31 Daily was the second recipe to use Cool Whip and is a similarly easy recipe like Taste and Tell. The main difference between this recipe and Taste and Tell was a double the amount of cream cheese, half the amount of sour cream, and powdered sugar instead of regular sugar. This recipe also used a ready-made graham cracker crust instead of a homemade crust.
I was surprised by how solid the final filling was–it sliced very cleanly for such a fluffy, light filling. Despite having half the amount of sour cream to double the amount of cream cheese as Taste and Tell, 31 Daily had a more balanced tang, though I didn’t love the slightly sticky aftertaste to the filling. The premade crust tasted fairly bland compared to the homemade crusts–I’d always recommend making the crust if time permits. I preferred this of the two Cool Whip recipes, but generally preferred other recipes made without Cool Whip more.
- Tangy, most dense, reminded me most of what I envision a cheesecake being
- Really liked this overall. It has a fluffy whipped cream texture, both sweet and tangy.
- This had a bit of an unusual texture and flavor for a cheesecake, but not in a bad way. It was almost a cross between cheesecake and whipped cream. Would be good for someone who wants a lighter cake, would be nice with fruit.
- Airy texture, good cream but missing some of the cream cheese component
- Too fluffy of a texture: taste was nice and tart
- Crust too sugary, could have a higher crust to cream ratio
- Texture was too close to cream cheese in a bad way. And had a whipped cream finish in the flavor that overrode the cheesecake flavor
Preppy Kitchen: a clean, creamy cheesecake with a generous but very crumbly crust
Preppy Kitchen was one of two recipes to use sweetened condensed milk. Unlike Divas Can Cook, John uses a base of cream cheese that gets lightened with whipped cream and sour cream. Just a little condensed milk is added as a sweetener in addition to granulated and powdered sugar. Vanilla and lemon are also added for flavor in the filling. Meanwhile, the crust is made from just graham crackers, butter, light brown sugar and salt.
I did make this in a 9″ springform instead of the 10″ springform John suggests, which is why the crust looks a extra thick. Overall, the filling was pleasantly creamy with more structure than most. It set up on the more solid end of the spectrum and was one of the closest to a baked cheesecake (though still quite creamy). The filling has a balanced tang and sweetness that was contrasted beautifully with the generous amount of buttery, crumbly crust. This was a crowd favorite, though it’s definitely designed for a crowd with 2 pounds of cream cheese. I’d probably cut this recipe in half unless I was baking for a huge crowd because it makes a huge cheesecake.
- Loved this one! It tasted like a typical cheesecake. The crust is buttery and sweet and the filling is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.
- The filling is pleasantly tangy and tastes the most like there is actual cream cheese in it than the other samples so far. It was well balanced with the sweetener, but sweet and tangy were the top notes. My preference is for tangy so this was my favorite. The texture is the best so far and is most similar to a baked cheesecake in how it holds up, but without the gelatin in recipe (like [Simply Recipes]). It leaves such a pleasant taste in the mouth after you’ve eaten it that I kept going back for more and finished the sample. However, the crust, although tasty, was somehow both dry and hard. It completely fell away from the filling in one piece, but turned into a dusty crumble in my mouth. Not a fan of the texture.
- The texture of the cake was creamy but not runny. I wish the crust was more solid, it broke apart and crumbled too easily.
- Very similar to [Sally’s Baking Addiction] but the crust is more crumbly/graham cracker, texture is more whipped cream
- This one was slightly too tangy and the crust was a little too crumbly, didn’t hold together very well. Tasted like cookie crumbs.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: the closest to a traditional baked cheesecake in a firm graham crust
Sally’s recipe is fairly similar to Preppy Kitchen but uses more than double the amount of heavy cream and omits the sweetened condensed milk. They both use the same technique of whipping the heavy cream and folding it into the cream cheese mixture. The crust recipes are also similar, though Sally uses less graham crackers for a thinner but buttery crust that holds together better.
I liked the firm yet creamy texture of this cheesecake. The generous amount of cream cheese lends a good amount of structure that reminded me the most of a baked cheesecake. I was surprised that some tasters thought this was too tangy as I thought the relatively small amount of sour cream lent the right amount of tang to balance the richness from the cream. The small amount of vanilla and lemon round out the overall flavor. In my mind, this is the quintessential no-bake cheesecake and it’s easy to see why this was another crowd favorite! Like Preppy Kitchen, this Is another generously sized cheesecake for a crowd.
- Heavy cream cheese flavor. Not super sweet. Texture is great. Fluffy, not too dense. The crust is not very thick but it’s sweet and that helps the cheese layer be sweeter.
- Good balance between cream and cream cheese, not rich
- The crust is very caramel-like in flavor. The flavor of the filling itself is reminiscent of sweetened condensed milk with a light vanilla flavor. It’s very creamy texture reminds me of very soft brie. Overall the filling flavor is well-balanced.
- It had a tiny hint of lemon, with a moussey/foamy light texture. The crust was a tad too crumbly
- Airy texture and contrast with salty crust. Could have more crust to cream ratio
- Tangy. Good crumb. Could be a little denser–kinda tasted like whipped cream (not ideal for a cheesecake)
- Too tangy worst flavor felt like I was eating plain yogurt instead of cheesecake, texture is nice but the flavor makes it too tough to eat
Bravetart: a thick and creamy, slightly tangy cheesecake in a caramelized Biscoff crust
Bravetart’s recipe looks fairly straightforward: another cream cheese base lightened with whipped cream along with sugar, vanilla, lemon and salt. Her unique crust offers the option to use Biscoff crumbs instead of graham crackers, which I chose to take. Most recipes called for whipped the cream separately and folding it into the cream cheese mixture. Bravetart calls for adding the cream directly into the cream cheese mixture and whipped until stiff peaks form. I had immediate issues with this technique and my mixture almost immediately turned soupy and never firmed up.
Ultimately, I re-made the recipe using cold cream cheese (I had been using softened cream cheese) and whipped the cream separately before folding it in, which worked quite well. This had a lusciously creamy texture that felt like thick whipped pudding. Where this recipe really shines is in the buttery, caramelized, Biscoff crumb crust! The salty, buttery crumbs seemed to fall off the crust at every turn, waiting to be scooped up with a forkful of the creamy filling. (My ideal format for this cheesecake? A parfait with layers of the Biscoff crumbs instead of keeping the crust isolated at the bottom!) I highly recommend giving this crust a try–it pairs well with the given filling, but could work with any other filling tested!
- The best crust — pushes this to be the best one over #1. As soon as I ate it, it spoiled the flavors/appeal of any other sample — it was SO good. Solid filling. Best overall, this feels like what I’d expect from a cheesecake
- YUMMY crust. Good flavor but the texture is too light for my taste, wish it was firmer
- Loved this one too! I can taste the cinnamon in the crust and it adds a nice element to it. The texture of the filling is airy and it’s sweet.
- Flavor is nice, texture is soft but has some structural integrity unlike most of the others. This is lighter than what I would expect from a traditional cheesecake, but would be a nice summer dessert w fruit.
- The burnt sugar/brown butter flavor in the crust is the dominant flavor when the crust and filling are eaten together. The texture of the filling was nice but the flavor wasn’t strong. The flavor was not overwhelming, but I didn’t really remember what the filling tasted like because the burnt sugar flavor was coating my mouth. I think a tangier filling would pair better with this crust.
- The cake had almost no texture to it like cotton candy. But it was great contrast to the thick crust (a little too toasty for me but maybe a personal preference)
Erika’s picks: Bravetart’s crust with Sally’s Baking Addiction’s filling
Crowd favorite: Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best crust: Bravetart
Most similar to a baked cheesecake texture: Sally’s Baking Addiction, Preppy Kitchen
Easiest for best flavor payoff: Divas Can Cook or 31 Daily
Best soft and creamy filling: Bravetart, 31 Daily, Taste and Tell
Most smooth and light: Simply Recipes
Tangiest, most key lime pie-esque: Divas Can Cook
Most unique flavor profiles: Southern Living, Natasha’s Kitchen