These classic cheesecake bars are an easy yet decadent dessert. A traditional graham cracker crust is top with cream cheesecake filling and fresh berries. This dessert is perfect for taking to a potluck or party and sure to become a family favorite!
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I love cheesecake but, let’s face it, baking a cheesecake can be complicated. Springform pans leak, you need a water bath and half the time the top cracks as it cools.
These bars are much easier to make the a standard cheesecake. Just make a simple crust, mix the filling ingredients together and bake. There are no special pans or complicated instructions.
So if you want to make a fancy cheesecake then by all means check out my blueberry cheesecake or Instant Pot oreo cheesecake recipes. Or just make these easy cheesecake bars, which have all the creamy cheesecake flavor with less effort and fuss.
Why You Will Love These Cheesecake Bars
In addition to being easier to make than traditional cheesecakes these bars have a number of other advantages!
- This is a small batch recipe, so it is great for a family dinner when an entire cheesecake would be too much.
- It is much easier to fit an 8 x 8 inch pan of these bars in the refrigerator than a full size cheesecake.
- These cheesecake bars are easy to transport, so you can take them along to a friend’s house or make a double batch to take to a potluck.
- Cream cheese – This recipe will be creamier and easier to mix if you take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before making the recipe.
- Sugar – White granulated sugar is needed to give make these cheesecake bars sweet.
- Sour cream – Adding just a little bit of sour cream gives the cheesecake bars a little bit of tanginess and depth of flavor.
- Eggs – The eggs firm the cheesecake bars up as they bake and make it possible to cut it into nice squares.
- Crust – I usually make this with a graham cracker crust, but a crust is one of the easiest things to change in this recipe. See this section below for some crust variation suggestions.
Step by Step Instructions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Also if you haven’t already gotten the cream cheese out of the refrigerator do it now, so it has some time to soften.
Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil. This will allow you to lift the bars out once they are cooled and cut crisp squares.
2. Make the Graham Cracker Crust
Crush the graham crackers by putting them in a food processor or by putting them in a plastic bag and rolling them with a heavy rolling pin.
Melt the butter and then stir the butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a bowl. Mix it until it is well combined and crumbly.
Press the crackers into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, using your fingers or a spatula to flatten them down. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes.
Put the baking pan on a cooling rack and let it cool while you make the filling. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F, because the filling cooks at a lower temperature than the crust.
3. Make the Cheesecake Filling
In a large bowl combine the cream cheese and sugar and beat it with an electric mixture until it is fluffy and smooth.
Then add in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla and beat well. If you are using the optional lemon zest and lemon juice mix them in also.
Once the mixture is smooth and creamy pour it over the prepared crust and spread it to the edges evenly. Bake the cheesecake bars in a 325 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes.
When the bars are done the filling will look done on the edges but still be a little soft in the center. Put the pan on a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
Put the bars in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to cool before cutting and serving. They need to set up for a little while in the refrigerator or they will be runny.
How to Serve
I prefer to keep the bars in the 8 x 8 inch baking pan until I am ready to serve them. Then use the foil or parchment paper to lift them out of the pan.
Cut the bars into squares about 1 inch each. The trick to getting a nice clean cut is to heat the knife up before cutting, by adding it to a cup of very hot water for a few minutes.
Then dry the knife off and cut the cheesecake bars. Clean the knife off between each cut and you should get nice square cheesecake bars.
Topping the Cheesecake Bars
There are lots of options for topping off these bars. They are delicious plain, without any toppings or with just a dollop of whipped cream.
Fresh fruit is also an excellent idea. Strawberries, raspberries or something more tropical like kiwi fruit all make wonderful toppings for these bars.
Another, messier, way to dress these bars up is with a dessert sauce. caramel sauce, strawberry sauce or blueberry sauce are all great choices. And if you don’t want to make a homemade sauce just use a can of pie filling.
You can also serve them a variety of sauces and let everyone choose their own! This is especially fun if you are serving these for a party!
How to Store
These bars store well in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, although they never last that long in my house! You can also freeze them, tightly wrapped, for 2-3 months. To thaw them put them in the refrigerator overnight.
Changing up the crust is a great way to make this dessert unique. Use chocolate graham crackers, Oreo cookies, gingersnaps or sugar cookies instead of honey graham crackers.
You can also add some extras to the filling as long as you don’t add too much. Chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, or sprinkles can be stirred in or sprinkled on top for extra color and flavor.
Keep the mix-ins to less than 3/4 of a cup and don’t add anything liquid, since that will change how the bars bake.
Find More Easy Dessert Bars
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (8-10 whole crackers)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil.
- Use a food processor to crush the graham crackers into crumbs. Melt the butter.
- In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and sugar. Stir until well mixed.
- Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Then bake at 375 F for 10 minutes.
- Let the crust cool while you make the filling.
- Reduce the heat of the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Put the softened cream cheese in a bowl and mix with the sugar until it is fluffy and smooth.
- Add the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Add the lemon zest and juice if using.
- Mix until everything is well combined and creamy.
- Pour the filling into the crust and spread it evenly.
- Bake at 325 F for 30-40 minutes. The filling will be set on the edges but still a little soft in the middle.
- Cool on a wire rack for about an hour, then refrigerate for a few hours before cutting.
- Serve topped with fresh strawberries, a dessert sauce or whipped cream.
The trick to getting a nice clean cut is to heat the knife up before cutting, by adding it to a cup of very hot water for a few minutes.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 174mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 4g
Nutrition facts are estimates.