This easy no bake recipe uses our sweet and salty pretzel pie crust with an irresistibly tangy whipped vanilla bean cheesecake filling. It's a beautiful canvas for various toppings but ours is piled high with fresh Summer berries to give it a naturally red, white and blue color that is a festive addition to American holidays and cookouts.
For another yummy no bake dessert, try our No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie!
- Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Baking With Fresh Vanilla Beans
- Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pie Crust
- No Bake Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
- Mixed Berry Topping
- Other Topping Ideas
- Pro Tips for Perfect Cheesecake
- Slicing, Saving & Storing
- Serving Variations
- Frequently Asked Questions
- You May Also Like...
- 💬 Comments
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Creamy, delicious and not too sweet - The pretzel crust gives this dessert the perfect sweet and salty balance. The filling is lightly sweetened to be tangy and not too cloying.
- Easy peasy - Just 25 minutes of hands on prep time.
- You'll never have to turn on the oven - Not even for the crust! Don't worry about heating up the house - this is the perfect dessert for Summer weather.
- Versatile for many occasions & flavors - We went for a mixed berry topping for a touch of tart fresh fruit flavor and festive American colors but this cheesecake is a blank canvas for endless toppings. See more topping ideas below.
Here's what you'll need for the crust, cheesecake filling and mixed berry topping:
Pretzel Pie Crust Ingredients
- Pretzels - We usually use twists, but any shape works. You can even use gluten-free pretzels to keep this dessert allergen friendly.
- Brown Sugar
- Butter - Use brown butter for a hint of richer, nuttier flavor.
Vanilla Cheesecake Ingredients
Unlike many no bake recipes, this cheesecake recipe is made without gelatin. The filling fully sets to a semi-firm silky smooth consistency and is vegetarian friendly.
Mixed Berry Topping Ingredients (Optional for a Festive Red, White & Blue Dessert)
This recipe is a staple of our gatherings at Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. The berries bring a fun, festive coloring for these American holidays.
- Fresh Berries - I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
- Granulated Sugar
- Lemon Juice
Baking With Fresh Vanilla Beans
The key to a cheesecake with ultimate vanilla flavor is using a fresh, Grade A vanilla bean. Real vanilla beans provide beautiful, complex flavor and add a sophisticated speckle! Admittedly, they're not cheap but they are worth every penny!
Great vanilla beans can be sourced from several places worldwide. I have found great quality vanilla beans (with reasonable pricing) when purchasing vanilla online from Native Vanilla. (The more you buy, the better the price. I keep mine fresh, stored in a quart sized mason jar, for several months at a time.)
We recommend using Grade A vanilla beans. Grade A beans are still moist with their own natural oils lending to stronger, superior vanilla flavor. Alternatively, you can use 1 Tablespoon of a high-quality vanilla bean paste.
How To Use Fresh Vanilla Beans
To use fresh vanilla beans, start by using a sharp paring knife to split the bean in half lengthwise. Then, use the dull side of the knife to scrape to seeds from the bean.
The leftover pod is still packed with lots of flavor! Save the pod to make vanilla sugar or use in custard recipes like our vanilla bean ice cream. You can also dehydrate the pods and grind them into a fine vanilla bean powder to add to other baked goods.
Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pie Crust
We love making this recipe with our homemade pretzel pie crust. It creates the perfect base for a sweet and salty dessert that is quick and easy to make and requires no baking. You can also make this recipe with a store-bought pie crust (although you may have extra filling), or a homemade graham cracker or Oreo pie crust.
Check out the entire pretzel pie crust recipe post for other no bake dessert recipes and ideas.
- To make the pretzel pie crust, start by crushing the pretzels into fine crumbs. I like to use a food processor, but you can crush pretzels in bag with a rolling pin, if desired.
- In a large bowl, combine the pretzel crumbs, melted butter (or brown butter), and brown sugar. Mix to combine.
Pro Tip: Finding the Perfect Consistency - The pretzel mixture should hold together firmly when squeezed. Add an additional Tablespoon, or two, of melted butter, as necessary.
- Transfer with pretzel crust mixture to a spring form pan. I like to line the entire pan with crumpled parchment paper, so that it is easy to transfer after chilling. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or straight edged glass to press the filling into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
- Pop the crust in the freezer and allow to harden and chill while you prepare the vanilla bean cheesecake filling.
No Bake Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
This creamy vanilla-y cheesecake filling whips up in one bowl. You can use a handheld electric mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add room temperature cream cheese and powdered sugar to a medium mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) for 3 - 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Pro Tip: Ingredient Temperature Matters! - Make sure your cream cheese has had time to fully soften at room temperature. Cold cream cheese will cause a lumpy filling and uneven mixing. If you notice clumps of cream cheese in your batter at this stage, allow it to temper and repeat until smooth and fluffy before proceeding.
- Add in the vanilla bean, vanilla extract and salt. Whip on medium speed, scraping the bowl as necessary until evenly incorporated.
- While mixing, slowly stream in the cold heavy cream. Whip on medium-high speed for 1 - 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and consistent.
- Use a rubber spatula to stir the batter and knock down any large air bubbles.
- Pour the mixture into the chilled pie crust. Use an offset spatulas to spread the cheesecake batter evenly. Give it a little swirly pattern, if you like.
- Chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Allowing the cheesecake to chill completely will ensure the filling sets and the slices hold their shape.
Mixed Berry Topping
This berry topping is optional, but it adds delicious flavor and a pop of festive red, white and blue coloring. That being said, vanilla bean cheesecake is like a blank canvas that pairs beautifully with lots of other toppings and flavors. I've included dome more ideas in the section below.
- Add half of the sliced strawberries and raspberries to a sauce pan with the sugar and water. Heat over medium heat. Use a fork to stir the mixture and mash the berries into the syrup as you bring it to a light simmer. Allow to simmer for 1 - 2 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare a cornstarch slurry by whisking cornstarch with a splash of cold water. While cooking, stir the cornstarch into the berry mixture. Return to simmer for 1 -2 minutes or until the syrup is translucent and has thickened considerably.
- Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer and set aside to cool. Once cooled add the lemon juice, and remaining strawberry slices, raspberries and blueberries. Spoon over the cheesecake as desired!
If you would prefer, you can top the entire cheesecake with the mixed berry topping. After a couple hours of allowing the cheesecake to set in the refrigerator, pour the room-temperature berry filling over the top. The berry mixture will thicken and set on the top. If serving on the side, I recommend keeping the topping at room temperature, to allow for a thinner drizzling consistency.
Other Topping Ideas
This cheesecake is incredible with endless toppings... here are a few of our favorite pairings:
- Salted caramel sauce - Make your own with this easy old fashioned caramel recipe.
- Chocolate ganache, chocolate fudge sauce or chocolate shavings
- Whipped cream
- Jam or preserves - Any flavor works, we love blackberry or fig.
- Caramelized peaches
- Cherry pie filling
- Crushed Oreos
- Chopped candy bars
- Candied Nuts - Try it with dark chocolate curls and rosemary candied nuts for a hint of sophisticated savory crunch.
Pro Tips for Perfect Cheesecake
For the best results, follow these guidelines for making this no bake vanilla bean cheesecake:
- Use full-fat dairy. This no bake recipe relies on the fat content to help it properly set to the creamiest texture. Do not use light or fat free dairy products.
- Use room temperature cream cheese and cold cream.
- Whip the filling until light and fluffy. Don't under-mix!
- Use a real vanilla bean. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh vanilla! I buy Grade A beans from Madagascar online at Native Vanilla.
- Allow the cheesecake to fully set in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Serve the cheesecake chilled. This dessert tastes best straight from the fridge. As it warms up, the cheesecake will be more difficult to slice and may begin to melt in hot temperatures.
Slicing, Saving & Storing
- Slicing - For perfect slices that look clean and professional, slice the cheesecake with a HOT, sharp knife! Heat a chef's knife under hot running water and wipe clean and dry between each cut.
- Saving & Storing - This cheesecake is made of perishable dairy products and should be kept refrigerated. (I like to keep mine on a platter covered by a large, upside-down mixing bowl.) Leftover cheesecake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.
This recipe makes a large, traditional sized cheesecake that is perfect for slicing and serving to large crowds. However, this recipe is easily adaptable to other sizes and presentations.
- Small Cheesecake - Halve this recipe (using the ½ multiplier button in the recipe card) for the perfect portions for a smaller 7 inch cheesecake.
- Mini Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes - These are perfect for party buffets and fancy little dessert tables. You can divide this recipe into 12 - 18 mini cheesecakes using muffin tins, ramekins or 4 ounce mason jars. So cute!
- No Bake Cheesecake Bars - With a sheet pan extender, you can make this recipe on a half sheet pan. I recommend doubling the crust recipe and leaving the filling recipe as is. This will give you a nice ratio of crust to cheesecake that stands up to being a handheld treat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cheesecake is traditionally made in a springform pan because it creates a tall dessert with straight sides. The sides of the pan are removable and it makes the cheesecake easy to present, slice and serve.
If you do not have a springform pan, this recipe can be made in a deep dish pie plate.
Unfortunately, no bake cheesecake takes several hours to set in the refrigerator. I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as it will alter the texture of the cheesecake filling.
Lumpy no-bake cheesecake is generally a result of mixing the batter with cold cream cheese. Allow the cream cheese to fully soften at room temperature before mixing.
In short, yes. You can use just vanilla extract for this recipe if that is what is available to you.
For the best vanilla flavor, we recommend using a fresh Grade A vanilla bean sourced from Madagascar. For a nice compromise of price and flavor, you can also substitute 1 Tablespoon of vanilla bean paste.
Yes! Our recipe for no bake vanilla cheesecake is made without gelatin and is vegetarian friendly.
No Bake Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust
- Food Processor with Blade Attachment (Optional for pretzel crust)
- Springform Pan (10 ½ inch) (or a deep dish pie plate)
- Electric Mixer (or Stand Mixer fitted with the paddle attachment)
- Fine-Mesh Strainer
Sweet & Salty Pretzel Crust
- 7 ounces pretzels (1¾ Cups pretzel crumbs); regular or gluten-free
- ¼ Cup brown sugar
- 8 - 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
No Bake Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
- 2 pounds full-fat cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1 ½ Cups powdered sugar
- 1 Grade A vanilla bean split and seeded; OR 1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 Tablespoon vanila extract
- 1 Tablespoon fine kosher salt*
- 1 Cup heavy cream cold
Mixed Berry Topping
- 2 Cups mixed berried We used sliced strawberries, raspberries and blueberries; divided
- ½ Cup water
- ½ Cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch whisked to a slurry with a splash of cold water
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Sweet & Salty Pretzel Crust
- In a food processor (or sealed bag with rolling pin) crush the pretzels until a fine crumb forms. Add in brown sugar and 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) melted butter.
- The consistency of the pretzel mixture should resemble wet sand and hold firmly together when squeezed. If too dry, drizzle in an additional 1 - 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, as needed. Transfer the crumb mixture to a springform pan lined with parchment paper.
- With a smooth-edged drinking glass (or measuring cup) press the crumbs into the tart shell to create a crust that comes up about ⅔ the sides of the pan. Freeze or refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.
No Bake Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
- In medium mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine room temperature cream cheese and powdered sugar. With an electric mixer (or stand mixer) whip the ingredients for 3 - 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy.
- Add the scraped vanilla bean, vanilla extract and salt. Mix until evenly combined.
- While mixing on low speed, slowly stream in the cold heavy cream. Increase speed and mix on medium for 1 - 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture and knock out any large air bubbles. Pour the batter into the chilled pretzel pie crust. Use a rubber or offset spatula to smooth the cheesecake filling in the pan.
- Transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 4 hours but preferably overnight. Slice, serve and enjoy with mixed berry topping, as desired.
Mixed Berry Topping
- In medium saucepan, combine sugar, water and about ¾ Cup of sliced strawberries and raspberries. Set mixture over medium heat and stir frequently. Use a fork to mash the berries into the syrup and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to a simmer for 1 - 2 minutes.(We omitted blueberries in this portion to keep the syrup a vibrant red color).
- Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer to remove the berry pulp.
- Return the strained syrup to the saucepan. Prepare a cornstarch slurry by whisking cornstarch with a splash of cold water. With he syrup cooking over medium heat, stir in the cornstarch slurry. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 - 2 minutes of until the syrup in translucent and thick. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, strip in the remaining berries and lemon juice. Serve spooned over slices of cheesecake, as desired.
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.