No-Bake Vanilla Cheesecake is the perfect choice for when you want a creamy, decadent dessert that is easy to prepare. With its smooth filling, buttery graham cracker crust, and rich vanilla flavor, it is a marvelous dessert for any occasion.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
No oven is needed. No-bake cheesecake is the perfect dessert to make in warm-weather months when you don’t want to turn on your oven. Plus, unlike baked cheesecake, you won’t need to worry about a water bath.
Silky texture. This recipe comes out slightly lighter in texture than a traditional cheesecake, with a more mousse-like filling thanks to the whipped cream. This makes it a refreshing dessert to serve at barbeques and summer gatherings!
Easy recipe. Anyone can make this simple cheesecake no matter their level of proficiency in the kitchen. It’s perfect for beginner bakers or anyone who wants an easy-to-make, yet delicious dessert.
Check out the differences between baked and no-bake cheesecake. And be sure to try these other no-bake favorites!
My personal favorite is this easy Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake! But you can't go wrong with these other varieties.
And for Thanksgiving, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars are always a hit!
Looking for the full recipe? See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients, including measurements and instructions.
Graham Crackers: The primary ingredient to make the crust. Purchase graham cracker crumbs to save you time or you can use a food processor to crush the graham crackers. Substitute digestive biscuits, or cookie crumbs like vanilla wafers, Oreos, or ginger snaps.
Brown Sugar: The moisture in the brown sugar helps prevent the crust from being too crumbly.
Butter: Melted butter moistens the graham crackers and brown sugar to form the crust and help it hold together.
Heavy Cream: Use heavy whipping cream with at least 35% fat content. The fat provides the necessary structure in a no-bake cheesecake. 2 cups of Cool Whip can be used in place of the heavy cream.
Cream Cheese: This ingredient gives cheesecake its classic flavor. It’s important to use full-fat blocks of cream cheese as the tubs contain more moisture which may affect the consistency.
Powdered Sugar: Also known as confectioners' sugar, this type of sugar sweetens and adds structure. It also mixes into the cheesecake filling without adding any graininess.
Sour Cream: Adds more tangy flavor but also thickens the filling.
Vanilla Extract: Make sure to use real vanilla extract rather than imitation for the best flavor. If you want to make a no-bake vanilla bean cheesecake use the seeds of 2 vanilla bean pods instead of the vanilla extract.
1) Prepare the Crust
- If you are using whole graham crackers, place them in a large Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin or rubber mallet. You can also crush them in a food processor.
- It’s important to make sure you have fine crumbs so they will stick together.
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and butter in a bowl.
- Spread the mixture in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
- Use a cup or glass with a flat bottom to press the crumbs tightly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan for the crust. Make sure it is evenly distributed and there are no holes.
- Place the crust in the freezer so it firms up.
2) Whip the Cream
- Pour cold heavy cream into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer. You can also use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- Continue beating until it forms stiff peaks.
- In order to determine when it’s ready, turn off the electric mixer and pull the beaters directly from the whipped cream. When the tips left behind stand straight up it’s ready. If the peaks start to fall over then you need to keep beating.
3) Make the Filling
- Place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a separate large bowl.
- Beat them using the electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.
- It’s important to start with room-temperature cream cheese so that it beats together smoothly without any small chunks of cream cheese.
- Turn the speed down to low. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture and mix until everything is combined.
- Fold the whipped cream gently into the cream cheese base using a large spatula. Don’t overmix or use quick movements which may deflate the whipped cream.
- Remove the graham cracker crust from the freezer and pour in the cheesecake batter.
- Spread it evenly in the pan using an offset spatula to smooth the top.
- Refrigerate for at least five hours or overnight before serving so that it has time to become firmer.
How to Thicken a No-Bake Cheesecake
There are several essential elements to thickening a no-bake cheesecake:
- It is critically important that your heavy cream is beaten into stiff peaks. If your heavy cream is not sufficiently thickened then your cheesecake may be runny.
- Use full-fat cream cheese and sour cream, and make sure your heavy cream has at least 35% fat. Low-fat substitutions do not have enough structure for this recipe.
- Time is the final step in thickening the filling. Giving it time in a very cold environment allows the ingredients time to come together and firm up. Place it in the coldest part of the fridge, and if you have time to let it chill overnight that is ideal.
Toppings and Variations
Vanilla is a subtle flavor that is delicious on its own, but I think it is even better with a topping! Here are some of my favorites:
- Fresh berries: Top with a mixture of fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for a colorful and refreshing topping.
- Chocolate: Drizzle with a rich and decadent chocolate ganache or hot fudge sauce for an indulgent dessert.
- Caramel sauce: Pour warm caramel sauce over the cheesecake for a sweet and sticky topping.
- Whipped cream: A dollop of freshly whipped cream adds a light and airy touch to the cheesecake filling. I recommend using a stabilized whipped cream so that it lasts several days.
- Fruit compote: Make a fresh fruit compote or sauce, like a strawberry filling, then spoon it over the cheesecake.
- Lemon curd: Add a tangy twist by spreading a layer of zesty lemon curd over the cheesecake.
- Toasted nuts: Sprinkle chopped, toasted nuts like almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts over the cheesecake for a crunchy contrast to the smooth filling.
- Cookies and Cream: Use an Oreo cookie crust and mix in about a cup of chopped Oreo cookies into the filling for a fun flavor!
- Banana Pudding: Use a vanilla wafer crust and layer with slices of bananas for a banana pudding cheesecake.
- Whipping the heavy cream until stiff peaks form takes time. You can speed up the time it takes a bit by freezing the bowl and beaters for ten minutes before starting.
- Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese gently. Harsh movements will cause the air in the whipped cream to deflate.
- If you have some lemon juice available then go ahead and add 1 teaspoon to the filling. It adds depth of flavor and also helps the filling set.
- Use an offset spatula to smooth out the top of the filling once it’s added to the crust.
- Place in the refrigerator to set. Do not freeze to set as it will solidify at different rates and result in a gritty texture.
- Once it has fully set, freeze the cheesecake for 10-15 minutes before serving. This will make it easier to cut clean slices.
- For easier slicing, dip your knife in a glass of hot water (drying completely) between slices.
This cheesecake will last about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Store the cheesecake in a container or wrapped well so it doesn’t take on any flavors from the fridge. Learn more in this post about how to store cheesecake.
There are several reasons why a no-bake cheesecake may not have set properly. Your heavy cream was not beaten to stiff peaks, your ingredients were not full fat, the filling was overmixed, or it was not chilled long enough in the refrigerator. Follow all of the tips in this recipe post to ensure a thick, fully set cheesecake.
Yes, you can use a store-bought graham cracker pie crust or make a graham cracker crust in a 9-inch pie plate. This recipe will fill 2 9-inch pies. You can also make this in a 9x13 casserole dish using this 9x13 graham cracker crust recipe.
Yes, you can freeze this cheesecake but it is important that it is fully set in the refrigerator before placing it in the freezer, otherwise, it may become grainy or separate. Wrap the cheesecake tightly with plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container. It will freeze for up to 3 months.
More Cheesecake Recipes
Let me know how you like this recipe by leaving a review! And follow along on Instagram @stateofdinner for behind-the-scenes and to be among the first to know when new recipes post!
Easy No-Bake Vanilla CheesecakeRecipe by:
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs about 12 full sheets of graham crackers, 180 grams
- ¼ cup (53 grams) brown sugar
- 6 tablespooons (85 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
- 3 packages (24 ounces) cream cheese full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (65 grams) powdered sugar
- ¼ cup (60 grams) sour cream room temperature
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl.1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup (53 grams) brown sugar, 6 tablespooons (85 grams) unsalted butter
- Use a flat-bottomed cup to press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Place the pan in the freezer while preparing the filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Set aside.1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes.3 packages (24 ounces) cream cheese, ½ cup (65 grams) powdered sugar
- Mix the sour cream and vanilla extract on low speed.¼ cup (60 grams) sour cream, 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Using a large spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, being careful not to deflate the cream.
- Spread the cheesecake filling into the prepared graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
- Be sure to beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks. This is a critical component in ensuring the cheesecake will fully set.
- Use room-temperature cream cheese so that it blends smoothly and you do not end up with chunks.
- This recipe can be made in advance and will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.