Need an impressive dessert? This 5-ingredient no bake cheesecake is easy enough for a beginner chef, but looks positively gourmet. Jazz it up with fresh berries or chocolate shavings, and watch your friends ooh and aah!
Decadent cheesecake is a dessert that always sounds so fancy! And while the classic baked cheesecake is a somewhat difficult dessert to create at home, this no bake cheesecake recipe is so darn simple, you’ll be whipping it out for all the special occasions.
This simple recipe can also form the base for a variety of variations and flavor combos. Once you’ve learned the not-very-deep secrets of the perfect no-bake classic cheesecake, you’ll be able to whip up a whole host of other no bake desserts!
Baked vs No-Bake Cheesecake
Aside from the obvious — that one is baked and the other isn’t — you might be wondering what the big difference is between these two methods.
First, let’s talk about why they share the same name. They are both called cheesecake because they use cream cheese in their filling. This gives them that creamy texture and signature flavor. However, baked and no bake cheesecake are very different in several other ways. Here are a few of the main differences:
- Baked cheesecake: This tends to be denser, richer, and fuller in flavor. Baked cheesecakes rely on eggs to create structure, which is why they need to baked to be safe to eat. Baked cheesecakes will also have a thin crust on the top and a firmer texture than their no-bake cousins. Baked cheesecake is also notoriously difficult to make. It involves a water bath, and even the best bakers sometimes end up with cracks in that smooth filling. Baking a cheesecake is not for the faint of kitchen heart!
- No-Bake Cheesecake: This version has a fluffier, almost mousse-like texture. It uses whipped cream or gelatin to create that gorgeous silkiness rather than eggs. No-bake cheesecake is actually pretty darn easy to do, so it makes perfect dessert for those who want to learn to make impressive dishes. The hardest part is not eating the filling straight out of the bowl!
What’s in No-Bake Cheesecake?
There are two parts to this recipe: a 2 ingredient homemade crust, and a 3 ingredient creamy cheesecake filling. Each of these ingredients is cheap, highly available, and possibly even something you already have hanging out in your pantry or fridge!
- Graham Crackers: Honey graham crackers form the base of the delicious graham cracker crumb crust.
- Butter: This is the second ingredient in the graham cracker crust. Butter holds the cracker crumbs together and adds a gorgeous buttery flavor to the finished cake.
- Cream Cheese: What would a cheesecake be without cream cheese? I recommend full-fat cream cheese for this recipe. Low-fat versions or Neufchatel cheese will give you a softer set that will come out more like cheesecake gloop than an actual cake.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: Cold heavy cream adds a lightness to the cream cheese that keeps it from being overly rich and dense.
- Powdered Sugar: This is the sweet secret to your cheesecake. We add just enough powdered sugar to showcase the tang of the cream cheese.
How to make perfect 5-ingredient cheesecake
Step 1 | Crush graham crackers
To crush your graham crackers, you can use a food processor or a blender. If you don’t have access to either of those, you can do it old school: put your graham crackers in a Ziploc, then smash them with the heavy end of a butter knife. As a kid we used to fight over this part. Obviously, the best part of making cheesecake is wielding a knife as a hammer!
Step 2 | Make the crust
For this step, you’ll need either a pie pan or a springform pan. I’m using a springform pan in these pictures, but your regular old pie dish will work just fine!
Now you’re going to melt your butter in the microwave, then mix the melted butter into the graham cracker crumbs. Press the entire mixture into the bottom of the pan, making sure to cover the entire thing.
Step 3 | Whip the cream
Pour your cold heavy cream into a mixing bowl. It is really, really important that your cream be cold. My advice is to keep it in the fridge and pull it out at the last second before whipping. That way you’re safe.
Using either a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, whip the cream on medium speed until you have stiff peaks. How do you know your peaks are stiff? They stand up in clear, clean peaks when you pull the beaters out. Here’s an image for reference:
Step 4 | Mix cream cheese and sugar
In another large mixing bowl, mix your cream cheese and powdered sugar. This works best if your cream cheese is room temperature or at least very soft. Otherwise, it can clump up and you get little cream cheese clumps in your cheesecake. It kind of messes up the vibes.
Step 5 | Fold in cream
“Just fold it in, David. I don’t know how I can be any clearer about it!” Thankfully, I am not Moira Rose, so I’ll try to be clearer. This video should help you with the technique. In short, you’re going to fold your whipped cream into your cream cheese mixture. This is different than just stirring: it’s more of an up and over movement you do with the spatula. You’re going to do this gently in order to not lose the gorgeous fluffiness that the whipped cream is bringing to the bowl.
Step 6 | Pour into Pan and Refrigerate
Last but not least, you’re going to pour your filling over your crust, smooth it out, cover it with plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge. It’s going to need at least 6 hours to set, and overnight is better. Don’t try to rush this step, and under no circumstance should you try to freeze your cheesecake in order to speed up the setting up process. That’s just going to make a weird crystalized mess out of your creamy filling. Ask me how I know.
- Leave your cream cheese on the counter for 30 minutes before you start. Room temperature cream cheese mixes much more easily!
- Put some butter or cooking spray on the back of a spoon to press the graham cracker mixture down without it sticking!
- Add powdered sugar a little bit at a time when beating it into the cream cheese. This will help you avoid a powdered sugar blizzard when you turn the mixer on.
Additions and Variations
If you’re looking to change things up, you can add or substitute a few of the ingredients to make entirely different flavors from the same base recipe!
- Make mini cheesecakes in a muffin tin. Just press the buttery graham cracker crust into the bottom of each cupcake space, then pour a small amount of filling on top. Allow them to set as usual.
- Switch out the graham crackers in the crust for Oreo cookies, Biscoff cookies, Nilla Wafers, or golden sandwich cookies.
- To make cherry, blueberry, raspberry, or strawberry cheesecake, spread a can of pie filling over the top after your cheesecake has set.
- For chocolate swirled cheesecake, add several plops of Nutella to the top of the cheesecake before it sets. Use a knife or toothpick to swirl the Nutella in, then cover and allow it to set in the refrigerator. You can also do this with Biscoff cookie butter!
Feel free to mix and match some of these ideas to find your perfect combination!
No. This recipe uses heavy whipping cream and cream cheese as the main ingredients. Neither of these can be substituted without fundamentally changing the recipe.
Yes, after it has set up. If you freeze it before it has set up, it gives it a weird texture. See the instructions for freezing and thawing below.
Absolutely not! Springform pans are fantastic for cheesecake, but not required. You can make this in a regular old pie pan and it will turn out beautifully!
What do I do with leftovers?
Cover any leftover cheesecake with plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You can freeze your finished cheesecake, if you’d like. Just wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, then pop it in the freezer. It will keep for up to 3 months.
To thaw, just place it in the fridge overnight.
5-Ingredient No-Bake Cheesecake
- 11 graham cracker sheets
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 16 oz cream cheese (two bricks)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- Crush or grind graham cracker sheets into fine crumbs.
- Melt the butter and mix it into the graham cracker crumbs.
- Press the crust into the bottom of a greased pie pan or 9" springform pan.
- In a mixing bowl, whip heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
- In another mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar.
- Fold the whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined.
- Spread the filling over the crust. Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 6 or more hours to allow the filling to set up.