These easy cheesecake bars taste like your favorite creamy homemade cheesecake, minus the water bath! It’s a classic dessert that’s perfect for celebrations, weekday snacking, or gifting.
Making my classic cheesecake recipe is a labor of love that I don’t always have time for. Between preparing the water bath, baking the cheesecake for an hour or more, then cooling it in the oven and the fridge — the rich and creamy results are absolutely worth it, but when I’m short on time I often make a batch of cheesecake bars instead.
These cheesecake bars have the same tangy-sweet flavor and creaminess of classic cheesecake, but the prep work is reduced and the baking time is even shorter.
I opted to keep these bars simple, but they can easily be customized with a variety of toppings and mix-ins. You can even prepare a batch the night before to enjoy the following day!
This easy recipe uses many of the same ingredients as my regular cheesecake and mini cheesecakes, but the ratios are different to accommodate a smaller pan. Let’s quickly review the main items you’ll need to have on hand:
- Graham Cracker Crumbs: You can either purchase pre-made graham cracker crumbs at the grocery store, or you can crush full sheets of graham crackers using a food processor or a zip-top bag and a rolling pin. You’ll need 1 1/4 cups total, which is about 10 to 11 full sheets.
- Cream Cheese: You must use two blocks of cream cheese for this recipe. Do not use whipped cream cheese that’s sold in a tub because it’s too thin to make the filling.
- Sour Cream: This helps to break up the heaviness of the cream cheese and makes for an especially smooth and creamy filling. You can also substitute the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt.
- Eggs: Make sure to use two large eggs and bring them to room temperature before adding them to the filling.
- Granulated Sugar: Used in both the crust and filling to sweeten the bars.
How To Make Cheesecake Bars
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar.
- Firmly press the mixture in the bottom of a parchment paper-lined 8-inch baking dish. Bake the crust at 350°F (177°C) for about 10 minutes, then set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla and continue mixing until well combined. If needed, stop your mixer and scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure everything is fully combined.
- Add the eggs to a small bowl and lightly beat them, then mix them into the filling on low speed until just combined.
- Pour the filling over the cooled graham cracker crust and smooth it out into an even layer using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
- Place the pan back in the oven and allow the filling to bake for about 35 minutes at 325ºF. You’ll know the bars are done when the center is set, but still has some jiggle to it. Let the bars cool to room temperature on your counter, then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since these bars contain dairy, I don’t recommend letting them sit out for more than 2 hours. However, they may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
Absolutely! Once the bars have cooled completely and chilled, wrap them with plastic wrap and store them in a large freezer bag. To thaw the bars, place them in the fridge overnight.
I recommend using a sharp knife to slice the bars and wiping your knife clean with some damp paper towels between each cut.
You may also run your knife under warm water each time so it slices through the bars better. Just make sure to wipe all of the water off of the knife before you slice into them.
Recipe Variations to Try
This recipe is for classic cheesecake bars, but you’re welcome to add your favorite toppings, mix-ins, and swirls or sauces. Here are some variations you can try:
- Add up to 1 cup of any of the following mix-ins to the filling: mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, or chopped Oreos.
- Dollop the top of the bars with Nutella, peanut butter, or salted caramel sauce, then swirl with a knife to create a pretty pattern before baking.
- Garnish your baked cheesecake bars with one or more of the following toppings: fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate ganache, blueberry sauce, strawberry sauce, dulce de leche, or homemade lemon curd.
- Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature before making the filling. Room temperature ingredients make for a smoother, creamier filling.
- Do not over beat the eggs! I recommend lightly beating them in a separate small bowl before mixing them into the filling. If you over mix the eggs it can cause the cheesecake to sink and crack.
- Want to make a larger batch of cheesecake bars? Simply double the ingredients and bake in a 9×13-inch pan for approximately the same amount of time.
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ¼ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (150 grams)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (50 grams)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted & slightly cooled (75 grams)
- 16 ounces brick-style cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream at room temperature (120 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- To make the graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving some overhang for easy removal, and set aside.
- Add the crushed graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter to a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.
- Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and firmly press it down into an even layer.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (163°C).
- To make the cheesecake filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on low-medium speed until smooth. Add the sour cream and mix until fully combined, then mix in the granulated sugar and vanilla extract. If needed, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well combined.
- Add the eggs to a separate mixing bowl and lightly beat them. Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the cheesecake mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to turn the filling a few times to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together.
- Pour the cheesecake filling on top of the graham cracker crust and smooth it out into one even layer.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set and the center is just a little wobbly.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Cover tightly and transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 4 to 5 hours or until the bars are thoroughly chilled and firm.
- Using the overhang from the foil or parchment paper, lift the bars out of the pan, slice, and enjoy!