Big Little Recipes

A Better No-Bake Cheesecake, Thanks to a Pretzel Twist

July 16, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making—but not baking—a cheesecake.

It’s hard to bake a cheesecake just right. Underdone, it’s gooey and unsliceable. Overdone, it’s cracked and dry. Which is why most recipes recommend baking at an ultra-low temperature, or in a water bath, or covering the pan with foil.

The easier route is to not bake the cheesecake at all.

This style, known as no-bake cheesecake, yields 66,200,000 results on Google. Compare that with New York cheesecake (81,100,000) and ricotta cheesecake (21,500,000) and you begin to see just how sought-after this approach is.

Though it wasn’t always so popular. Flip through iconic American cookbooks and you’d be hard-pressed to find it. The most recent edition of The Joy of Cooking doesn’t include it. Nor does The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, The Gourmet Cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook, or How to Cook Everything.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I did a half recipe made about 7, which for 2 people was just right to eat over several days.”
— Jackie N.

Why? As a former no-bake cheesecake skeptic, I have a theory: It sounds too good to be true. Classic cheesecake, like most other cakes, starts as an inedible batter (because of raw eggs), which the oven transforms into a smooth, creamy, and set dessert. Most no-bake cheesecakes, on the other hand, more closely resemble the ingredient list for cream cheese frosting—cream cheese, granulated or powdered sugar, and heavy cream.

And I don’t really want to eat a wedge of cream cheese frosting.

Photo by Rocky Luten

Which is why this recipe is not that. Instead of using cream cheese and heavy cream, we’re going to take a cue from Italian-style cheesecakes, and call in another cheese (yahoo!)—milky, fluffy, good enough to eat plain ricotta. Unlike cream, which is mild as can be, ricotta has its own spunky personality and whips up like a champ in cheesecake filling.

Now, about that crust. Most recipes use graham crackers, or other cookie friends (think Oreos, Nutter Butters, Gingersnaps). One Big-Little swap makes all the difference: salty pretzels. Blitzed up in a food processor and combined with butter and a little bit of sugar, these act just like graham crackers, but their malty-savory flavor balances the sweet filling.

It isn’t a classic cheesecake, by any means, but it’s a heck of a lot easier. And during this extra-sweaty summer, I’ll take any excuse I can get to not preheat my oven. Especially when that excuse is cool, creamy, and covered in berries.

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission. Have you ever made no-bake cheesecake before? Tell us about it in the comments!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jackie Nobles
    Jackie Nobles
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  • HalfPint
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Jackie N. August 20, 2019
I made this in a cupcake tin using foil liners. I used crumbled graham crackers in the bottom. It worked out great. I did a half recipe made about 7, which for 2 people was just right to eat over several days.
Emma L. August 20, 2019
That's awesome, Jackie—thanks for reporting back!
Bri L. July 18, 2019
The best way to cook a cheesecake isn’t the oven, it is the pressure cooker. Look up instant pot cheesecakes. No heating ovens, no cracked overcooked cheesecake, just smooth perfection. No bake? OK, but real cheesecake in the instant pot—YES!!!
Emma L. July 18, 2019
Ooh yes, that's another great method! We actually have one on the site if you want to check it out:
Rene July 16, 2019
Living in LONDON UK I do not know where I can get Kosher salt,also am diabetic 2,can one use Truviaa Stevia substitute,you recipe is clear and easy to follow,many thanks,Rene
HalfPint July 16, 2019
I have made the recipe, but for that small amount, I think you can use table salt or sea salt. You would use a little less, say a generous 1/4 tsp salt since kosher salt tends to be larger flakes and not smaller granular like table or fine sea salt. Finally, you can certainly use Truvia to sweeten since it's a no-bake cheesecake and the texture and consistency will be coming from the cheeses.
HalfPint July 16, 2019
Sorry meant to write: I have not made the recipe...