The cool cocktail-inspired treats practically make themselves.

By Darcy Lenz
May 01, 2020
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Darcy Lenz

I had a strong bias against no-bake cheesecake instilled into me early on in life. My maternal nana would almost always make the cherry variety born of a JELL-O mix for holidays and family get-togethers. And without fail, my mom would steer me away towards other options along the dessert counter, noting, “that’s not real cheesecake.”      

And it’s true. The level of creamy richness isn’t quite the same between a baked and no-baked cheesecake. The no-bakes are inclined to be fluffier and lack a bit of that decadent baked custard factor. But here’s the thing: That’s not necessarily bad. 

As warmer weather rolls in, and the last thing you’re aiming to do is have the oven running for an hour plus, desserts that are made in the fridge and freezer are the real MVPs. Besides keeping the kitchen cool, they too have an inherent coolness to them—they feel a touch lighter and more energetic than their baked comrades. And what the no-bake cheesecake lacks in dense decadence, it makes up for in ease. 

As my colleague, MyRecipes assistant editor, Sarra Sedghi put it, “We could all use a break sometimes… and I bet all of the desserts in Margaritaville are no-bake.”

So here we are. 

Darcy Lenz

No-Bake Margarita Cheesecake Bars

No-bake cheesecake’s ease of execution joins forces with the classic cocktail’s signature chill vibe to yield the most laid-back dessert you’ll make this year. Forget preheating the oven, no need for a water bath, no eggs are necessary, and no—you definitely don’t need a springform pan. (Although, if you wanted to convert bars to a no-bake cheesecake “pie,” you could prepare this same recipe using a pie dish instead of a square baking pan.) 

We’ve infused these fuss-free dessert bars with all of the key flavor elements of a grade-A margarita. Plenty of kosher salt in the buttery graham cracker crust provides the perfect salty balance to a luscious sweet and sour filling. That filling features orange zest (acting in place of the orange liqueur typically mixed into a traditional margarita), lime zest, fresh lime juice, and tequila—for authenticity, of course. You can use whatever variety of tequila you like here (silver, reposado, etc. are all fair game) or you can skip the booze if you’d prefer. And if you want to give your margarita cheesecake bars a gentle green hue, a few dabs of food dye will do the trick. Just be sure to use gel food coloring, as the gel variety will not affect your cheesecake’s ability to set up. 

General Tips for Making No-Bake Cheesecake

Obviously, you can make no-bake cheesecakes in any flavor profile and format you like. Here are a few pro tips to ensure yours comes out delicious every time: 

Freeze the crust. Whether you’re making bars, a cheesecake pie, or a traditional cheesecake in a springform pan, popping the crust into the freezer while you make the filling will re-solidify the butter in a snap, giving you a solid base to build on. 

But don’t freeze the filling. You may be tempted to shortcut the chill time by popping your assembled no-bake cheesecake into the freezer—don’t do it. This will yield an icy, unpleasant texture.

Whip your cream to stiff peaks. Most no-bake cheesecake recipes call for folding whipped cream into the sweetened cream cheese mixture to give the cheesecake volume and airiness. And while soft, billowy piles of whipped cream are perfect to serve with pound cake and berries, for this application, you’ll want to keep whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks in order to provide the lift you’re looking for. You can also swap in prepared whipped topping (like Cool Whip) in place of the whipped heavy cream.

Be conservative with liquid additions. If you’re going off-book and making your own custom no-bake cheesecake, first thing—way to be. Second, be careful to avoid going overboard with flavoring ingredients like fruit juice or liquor. Adding a lot of liquid to the mixture will (obviously) thin and  loosen your cheesecake filling, and there’s only so much the refrigerator can do after a certain point. 

Allow plenty of chill time. I know it’s difficult, but don’t rush the process. Give your cheesecake a full 6-8 hours in the fridge to set up. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. 

Feeling like really leaning into this carefree no-bake life? Check out a few more of our favorite no-bake cheesecake recipes: No-Bake Strawberry Nutella Cheesecake, No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake with Mixed Berries, No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake, Rocky Road No-Bake Cheesecake, No-Bake Cheesecake with Pecan Caramel