No-Cook

No-Bake Lime Cheesecake

by:
February 13, 2020
9 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.
Author Notes

I’ve never been a huge fan of key lime pie (too sour, too sweet), which is where this no-bake cheesecake swoops in to save the day. The acidity of the filling, in a way, offsets its sweetness and highlights its perfect "just rightness"; meanwhile, the heavy cream softly finishes the sour lime and cream cheese. It’s important, too, that this isn’t a traditional baked cheesecake: It’s much lighter, sprightlier, which means you can inhale it without chewing. And as soon as chewing is out, the rest is a breeze.

There were many inspirations here when I developed it years ago: Nigella Lawson’s no-bake cheesecake, which she tops with cherry preserves (also very good) and Magnolia Bakery’s single-serving lime cheesecakes, the best parts of which are the little pompadours of whipped cream on top that offer relief from the sharp citrus beneath.

This is my favorite cheesecake to make 1) because I’m lazy, 2) because I enjoy that soft voluptuousness from the no-bake, and 3) because, well, it’s the one I make. Most of all, it’s important to know that you in no way need an electric mixer of any kind (though it certainly makes things easier). I've made the filling in a stand mixer, with an electric hand mixer, and by hand. All methods work (especially if the cream cheese is at room temperature). Only thing is, if you’re doing it by hand, you may want to whip the cream first in a separate bowl before folding into the cream cheese mixture. The idea is that you’re creating volume by adding air, which thickens the cream.

Lastly, a note about candying citrus: You could garnish your cheesecake however you like. Our food stylist Anna Billingskog had the wonderful idea of topping this with candied lime slices, which is easy enough to manage: Just follow this guide. Otherwise, a simple smattering of fresh lime zest will do. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 3 Easy, Foolproof Desserts for the Weekend. —The Editors

  • Prep time 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Makes one 8-inch cheesecake
Ingredients
  • Crust
  • 18 whole graham crackers, or 2 sleeves (about 279 grams)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Zest of 4 limes
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • Filling
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) lime juice
  • 1 cup (227 grams) heavy cream, very cold
  • Candied lime slices, for garnish (very optional; see Author’s Notes)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Make the crust: Process the graham crackers into the texture of dry sand. (If you don't have a food processor, put the crackers in a resealable plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin or heavy-bottomed pan.) Into this, stir the melted butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt until well combined, like wet sand. Tumble into a round 8-inch springform pan and, with a ramekin, wine glass, or anything with a flat base, press and pack the crumbs into the bottom and all the way up the sides. You should be left with what looks like a large, empty Cookie Shot. Fridge this until ready to fill.
  2. Make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer), cream together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and lime juice until smooth and fluffy at medium speed, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in the heavy cream and continue mixing until the batter increases in volume and thickens considerably. It should form relatively stiff peaks, if that means anything to you (or when you tilt the bowl, the batter shouldn't move much). Pour this filling into the prepared graham cracker crust and smooth off the top.
  3. Refrigerate for 2 hours at least, preferably overnight, before garnishing with optional lime slices and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

24 Reviews

Annabel M. September 14, 2020
Tastes amazing but the filling did not hold up. When I cut it it just sort of flowed out. I kept it in the fridge for a good 8 hours or so. We don't get heavy cream here, so I used Elle and Vire cooking cream. Should I have used whipping cream instead? It's still in the fridge and I don't know how to fix it.
 
mdelgatty September 14, 2020
Terminology is fascinating, if sometimes frustrating! I hadn't heard of 'cooking cream' before, but according to Google, it's processed to not curdle for high temperature cooking. Heavy cream I think usually refers to the highest fat cream available, which in my part of the world is called whipping cream, and is usually 35% milk fat.
 
Annabel M. September 15, 2020
Yes but my cooking cream is also 35% same as whipping.
 
mdelgatty September 15, 2020
So that doesn't sound like the problem. You sent me down the cream rabbit hole, though, so I know a whole lot more about cream than I did this morning! One reference I came across said cooking cream is 'stabilized', which is apparently usually done by adding a starch, but I don't know how that would affect its whippability. I've never seen 'cooking cream' for sale here in Vancouver, so I'm curious where you are. What else do you use it for?
(Maybe you could just serve your runny pie frozen...?)
 
mdelgatty September 15, 2020
So I just had a thought and am shocked to discover that the 'whipping cream' in my fridge is only 33% butterfat, but also includes milk and carrageenan! I feel pretty indignant, but I guess I should have read the label sooner. Is there an ingredient list on your cooking cream?
 
Todd B. September 13, 2020
Made this yesterday afternoon. But after 16 hours in the fridge, still hasn't set. :( I'll probably pop it into the freezer for a while, but that's still a bit of a disappointment for what I was hoping to be a very straight-forward "mix, chill, & serve" pie.
 
Carolina H. April 21, 2020
Loved the filling but the crust just broke into pieces when I was trying to serve it. Very good flavours though!
 
Jennifer F. April 13, 2020
Made this for my hubby, who oohed and aahed over it. I followed the recipe precisely and was pleased with the results, except that I think the crust was a bit on the thick side, so next time I will cut down the cookies (I used McVitie's biscuits as we can't get graham crackers in this part of France). Nice creamy texture, good lime flavour, a pretty result.
 
Mr. B. March 13, 2020
I want to make this but not crazy about Graham crust. If I use shortbread crust should I add zest to batter mix?
 
Mr. B. March 14, 2020
Update:
I made the cheesecake and it is tasty. I did make a small change, I upped the sugar to 2/3 a cup. I used a store bought shortcake crust. I sprinkled zest on the crust before filling it and again on top. Wish I could attach a pic.
 
Barry March 10, 2020
This was a hit! Perfect for a dinner party. Awesome flavor profile for the crust and filling. I made it the day before serving and improvised with an 8"x8" baking dish. The filling was just over an inch thick and I didn't use all the crust since the baking dish was not very deep. I'd make it again!
 
doron March 7, 2020
I love the idea. But - I don't eat gluten. And the crust seems crusial here.
How can I made the crust without gluten?
Thanks
 
Author Comment
Eric K. March 7, 2020
Can you eat nuts? You could try a crust like this: https://food52.com/recipes/30383-yogurt-and-berry-tart-with-a-pecan-crust

I’d recommend adding sugar, lime zest, and salt so you get the same flavors.
 
doron March 7, 2020
Thanks!!!!
 
Rebecca K. March 7, 2020
Use gf graham crackers or vanilla wafers! I believe Kinnikinnick makes them. I also keep a box of gf graham pie shells in my freezer, great for an impromptu cream pie. One brand is Mi-Del.
 
Elizabeth H. July 2, 2020
I just found gluten-free graham crackers at Whole Foods. Haven't tried the crust yet.
 
mdelgatty March 7, 2020
what salt?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. March 7, 2020
1 pinch kosher salt. Looks like it fell off the ingredient list on the upload—thanks for flagging!
 
Penny March 7, 2020
We don’t have graham crackers in Australia. Can you suggest a substitute, preferably with weight in grams, please?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. March 7, 2020
Hi Penny! Digestive or Arnott's Marie biscuits would work here; same weight, about 279 grams.
 
Penny March 7, 2020
Thank you.😊
 
Tracy February 24, 2020
Holy smokies! This was delicious! I made it last night for 5 adults and we ate the entire cheesecake. I know! It is incredibly light and refreshing, and the graham cracker crust is so dang good with the lime zest. And, it’s ridiculously easy to make. My new favorite dessert!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. February 24, 2020
Thank you so much, Tracy! I'm so glad! This made my day.
 
judy February 15, 2020
Very nice. I too am not a fan of traditional Key Lime pie--mostly because of the sweetened condensed milk. substituting whipping cream and sugar is a great idea. The cream cheese provides tang. I have done this myself. The only change I would make into add zest from the limes used to the batter. Or bended int teh shipped cream one may want to put on top. I blend the zest with a little bit of the sugar first before blending into the batter. Reduces the bitterness, and enhances the overall lie flavor without being sour. Really nice. Thanks.