I guarantee you’re going to love the secret ingredient.
Credit: Getty / Premyuda Yospim

I love a great cheesecake. I live in Chicago where Eli's Cheesecake has been the gold standard for my whole life, and I almost always have one in my freezer for emergencies. When I started baking, one of the first things I learned to bake was a fancy layered coffee and chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate espresso crust and a brown sugar sour cream topping, drizzled with dark and white chocolate. It was and is delicious, but it takes the better part of a day to make. 

Baking cheesecakes is always a labor of love, as they can be fussy and often need water baths to cook in to prevent cracking. You want them still wobbly in the center when you take them out of the oven for ideal texture once cooled, but if you pull it too early, you'll have a cheesecake puddle. Pull it too late? Your creation will overbake and dry out around the edges. 

The easiest cheesecake is this no-bake cheesecake

But here's the genius move: When I need cheesecake fast, easy, and foolproof, I lean into a no-bake cheesecake. Not only do I love it because I don't have to turn on the oven, but it also uses less cream cheese than most versions. (Many cheesecake recipes call for two pounds of cream cheese, which can be hard to come by these days as the industry is still reeling from a cream cheese shortage. This version uses less than half that amount, making it the perfect choice when stores are low.)

More secret wonders about this no-bake cheesecake? The secret ingredient in this cheesecake is chocolate! By melting milk or white chocolate and emulsifying it into the batter and chilling it, you get a wonderful velvety texture that is sliceable, but not overly dense. The white chocolate version is the perfect subtle base for other flavors like lemon curd, caramel swirl, and fruit toppings. The milk chocolate version can get fancied up with a layer of peanut butter or banana or become mocha with the addition of some instant espresso powder in the batter. You can also use a caramelized white chocolate for a caramel-flavored cheesecake.

Once you start playing with this cheesecake you might not go back to baked!

How to make the easiest no-bake cheesecake

Ready to rock your dessert world? It couldn't be easier. 

No-Bake Cheesecake

Serves 8

12 ounces cream cheese at room temp (be sure to use full fat version)

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

8 ounces white or milk chocolate, chips or chopped (don't use darker chocolates, as they won't have the creamy texture you want)

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon sour cream or crème fraiche

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

1 store-bought graham cracker or cookie or nut crust

1. Melt the chocolate by microwaving for 30 seconds and then in 15 second intervals, stirring between each one, until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool while you make the batter.

2. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with your hand mixer, whip the cream with the sour cream until light and fluffy, but not stiffly whipped—you want soft peaks and a slumpy texture. Transfer to another bowl and set aside in the fridge.

3. Put the cream cheese and powdered sugar in the dirty bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly, with the mixer on low, drizzle in the melted chocolate until fully combined. Add the salt and vanilla and whip in.

4. By hand, using a large spatula, fold in the whipped cream mixture in two additions, the first about 1/3 of the whipped cream, which you can fold in a bit vigorously to lighten the batter, then the rest more delicately to retain as much fluffiness as possible. It should have the texture of mousse.

5. If you are adding any fruit or other ingredients as a base, add to your chosen crust, or leave plain. Pour the batter into the crust and smooth the top. If you are adding a swirl, you can do this now. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 8 hours. I often make a full day or two in advance. Serve chilled.