Easier Than Cheesecake, Just as Delicious

By America's Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen
For 25 years, home cooks have relied on America's Test Kitchen for rigorously tested recipes developed by professional test cooks and vetted by 60,000 at-home recipe testers. The family of brands—which includes Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, and America's Test Kitchen Kids—offers reliable recipes for cooks of all ages and skill levels. See more online at AmericasTestKitchen.com/TCA. Copyright 2021 America's Test Kitchen. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
August 11, 2021 Updated: August 11, 2021

Cheesecake is delicious, but baking a big traditional one can be tricky. You have to bake a large cheesecake inside another pan filled with water to make sure it bakes evenly—a fussy and delicate maneuver in the oven.

Smaller cheesecake bars are just as delicious, with a crisp graham cracker crust and a tangy, custardy filling, and are much easier to make (no water bath required). Plus, they’re portable and easy to share, perfect for bake sales, parties, or any occasion.

Cheesecake Bars

Makes 16 bars

For the Crust

  • 5 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces (or 3/4 cup store-bought graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup (1 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Strawberry topping (optional, see Notes)

For the Crust

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F. Make an aluminum foil sling for an 8-inch square metal baking pan. Spray foil with vegetable oil spray.

Pulse cracker pieces, flour, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor until crackers are broken into small pieces, about five 1-second pulses. Process until crackers are finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and pulse until butter is combined with crumbs, about 10 1-second pulses.

Transfer mixture to foil-lined baking pan. Use your hands to press crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom of baking pan, then use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to press crumbs firmly into pan until very flat.

Bake until crust begins to brown at edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Place baking pan on a cooling rack and let crust cool for at least 15 minutes. (Do not turn off oven.)

For the Cheesecake Filling

Add cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar to the clean, dry food processor and process until smooth, about 3 minutes. With processor running, add eggs and vanilla and process until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Pour the filling evenly over the cooled crust. Transfer pan to oven and bake until edges are set and puffed slightly but the center still jiggles slightly when baking pan is shaken, 30 to 35 minutes.

Place the baking pan on the cooling rack and let bars cool in pan for 2 hours. Cover baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until bars are chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or up to two days.

To Serve

Use foil to lift the bars out of the baking pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Top each square with strawberry topping (if using). Serve.

Recipe Notes

Fresh berries are a great topping for baked goods such as cheesecake bars, olive oil cake, or individual flourless chocolate cakes, but tossing strawberries with sugar (called macerating) takes it to the next level. The sugar draws out juice from the berries and turns them a bright ruby red.

To make a strawberry topping: Use a paring knife to hull 2 cups (10 ounces) strawberries. Slice strawberries and place in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and stir until combined. Let sit until sugar has dissolved and strawberries are juicy, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Spoon over your favorite baked good or ice cream!

For 25 years, home cooks have relied on America’s Test Kitchen for rigorously tested recipes developed by professional test cooks and vetted by 60,000 at-home recipe testers. The family of brands—which includes Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and America’s Test Kitchen Kids—offers reliable recipes for cooks of all ages and skill levels. See more online at AmericasTestKitchen.com/TCA. Copyright 2021 America’s Test Kitchen. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

America's Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen
For 25 years, home cooks have relied on America's Test Kitchen for rigorously tested recipes developed by professional test cooks and vetted by 60,000 at-home recipe testers. The family of brands—which includes Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, and America's Test Kitchen Kids—offers reliable recipes for cooks of all ages and skill levels. See more online at AmericasTestKitchen.com/TCA. Copyright 2021 America's Test Kitchen. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.