The Best Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
These are the best strawberry cheesecake bars ever! Graham cracker crust, light and creamy cheesecake, spiked strawberry topping, and a hint of lemon come together for a classic, summery dessert.
Up until recently, I was under the impression that I wasn’t a fan of regular cheesecake. I’ve always thought it was just very “meh”. But then I realized that a lot of people just…don’t really know…how to ma-…
Uhhh, I’m not trying to call anyone out here. But the point of the story is that I went down a deep cheesecake rabbit hole and I’m happy to report that I love it now! So long that it’s mine. Or my mom’s. And maybe some other people’s. But the point is that I’m very picky when it comes to cheesecake and I need you to know that when making these bars, because I don’t say good things about any ol’ cheesecake.
Are you convinced yet? Am I coming off desperate? You know what, I don’t even care, they’re that good.
A few details
Anyways, these strawberry cheesecake bars have got it all. A thick layer of graham cracker crust, a hint of lemon, the creamiest cream cheese filling ever, and a boozy strawberry situation. They’re beyond.
Even better, we’re not doing any weird, hard-to-find ingredients or time-consuming steps here. No shortbreads, cake mixes, or crumb toppings. No purees or homemade jams. Just really delicious cheesecake bars with a simple, no-cook strawberry topping. Plus, they’re just a bit easier and more convenient than traditional cheesecake! The bars are totally perfect for cute little picnics or BBQs or any get-together really, and trust me when I say that they’re a huge hit every time.
Also, if we could take a moment to appreciate the texture of that filling? I’m very proud of it.
Ingredients you’ll need
For these bars, you’ll need just a few basic ingredients:
- Graham crackers – you’ll need about 10 full sheets. I like the regular honey flavor.
- Cream cheese – two blocks. I find it easiest to make these bars when the cream cheese is room temperature.
- Sour cream – just to add a little creaminess to the filling! We’re going to skip a sour cream layer here because 1. that’s not in the spirit of a simple dessert, and 2. I’m honestly just not a huge fan of a layer of sour cream.
- Lemon – you’ll just need the zest. It goes perfectly with the strawberries!
- Strawberries – fresh strawberries for our topping.
- Grand Marnier – just a splash for the berries. Totally optional but highly recommended. If you don’t have Grand Marnier, you could also use Triple Sec or limoncello!
- Baking basics – a stick of unsalted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and Kosher salt.
How to make this recipe
Strawberry cheesecake bars are so simple and come together in three parts! A lot of people are intimidated by cheesecake but it’s really quite easy to make.
Graham cracker crust
First, we’ll start by making the crust:
- Pulse the graham crackers in the food processor until you have fine crumbs.
- Add the sugar, some melted butter, and a pinch of Kosher salt until the crust forms.
- Press the mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
- Bake at 325°F until golden brown, about 9-10 minutes. Let it cool while you make the filling.
Lemon cheesecake filling
Next, make the lemon filling!
- Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is sandy. Add the cream cheese and mix until combined.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.
- Lastly, mix in the eggs until just combined.
- Pour the mixture over the cooled graham cracker crust.
- Lastly, bake at 325° until the edges are set and the middle is still a bit jiggly. This should take about 40-45 minutes.
- Let the bars cool completely, and then slice into 16 squares.
- First, sprinkle the chopped strawberries with sugar and a splash of Grand Marnier.
- Let the berries macerate for at least 30 minutes while the bars cool.
- Lastly, spoon the berries over the sliced bars. Enjoy!
How to slice!
It seems silly, but there really is an art to cutting strawberry cheesecake bars into pretty little squares. To get those gorgeous clean edges, dip a large chef’s knife into a bowl of hot water. Wipe it off with a clean towel, and slice the bars in one go. Repeat these steps with each and every cut to avoid those messy edges!
The right way to cool cheesecake
To avoid that dreaded crack in the middle of your strawberry cheesecake bars, try this tip! After they’re nice and baked, just turn off your oven and crack the door. Let the bars cool in the oven for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour. This lets the filling cool gradually so the top doesn’t crack!
Storing the bars
To store strawberry cheesecake bars, just place them in an airtight container. Or, go ahead and keep them in a pan covered with some plastic/beeswax wrap. Then, refrigerate them for up to 3 or 4 days. After a few days, the crust and strawberries will get a little soggy, so it’s best to eat them sooner than later!
As far as freezing goes, you can technically freeze them. However, I think that would make the texture a bit funky and the crust/strawberries would probably thaw with a weird texture. Overall, these bars are super simple so I’d probably just make them fresh whenever possible!
The importance of room-temp ingredients
To get that ultimate creamy texture, make sure that all of your ingredients are room temperature before baking. The butter, cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream should all sit at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes before you start mixing!
An alternative to the dreaded water bath
Traditional cheesecake is baked in a water bath to prevent the filling from cracking. It’s honestly such a mess and I avoid it at all costs. For these strawberry cheesecake bars (and all cheesecakes for that matter), I just use this little trick. I set the bars on the middle rack of my oven, and then I fill a cake pan with a few inches of water. Then, I place the cake pan on the rack under the bars so that it creates steam and mimics the water bath effect. Works every time!
Tips & Tricks
- If you don’t have a food processor, just place the graham crackers in a bowl and use the handle of a wooden spoon to break up the crackers into fine crumbs. Then, just add the rest of the crust ingredients and stir together!
- Line your pan with parchment paper to make removing the bars super easy! I just cover the bottom with parchment paper and leave two wings on each side. Then, when you’re ready to cut, all you have to do is run a knife around the edges of the pan, and use the wings to release the bars.
- To get that straight crust, simply use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to pack down the crust.
- You totally don’t have to top these bars with strawberries! Try replacing the strawberries with raspberries, blueberries, or peaches. Or, for a more decadent route, drizzle the bars with chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, or caramel.
- You can double the recipe and bake the strawberry cheesecake bars in a 9×13” pan. The bars may take longer to bake, closer to 45-50 minutes.
Other delicious dessert bars
Irish Coffee Brownies with Whiskey Ganache
Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats with Dark Chocolate & Pretzels
Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars [Vegan, Healthy, + No-Bake!]
Pumpkin Millionaire’s Shortbread
Chamomile Lemon Bars
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The Best Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
Graham Cracker Crust
- 10 full graham cracker sheets (1 1/2 cups of crumbs)
- 1/4 c sugar
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
- Pinch of Kosher salt
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 c sugar
- 2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 c sour cream, room temperature
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 lb strawberries, cored and sliced
- 1 1/2 Tbs sugar
- 1 Tbs Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec or limoncello), optional
- Food processor (optional)
Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8×8'' square baking pan with butter or neutral cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving wings on each side.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham cracker sheets, in batches if necessary, until you have semi-fine crumbs. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. Add the sugar, melted butter, and salt and pulse until the graham crackers are finely ground and the mixture comes together.
- Tip the graham mixture into the prepared pan and press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 9-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool to room temperature while you prepare the filling.
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
- Fill a cake pan (or other oven-safe pan) with a few inches of water. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is sandy. Add the cream cheese and beat until light and creamy.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Mix until incorporated. Then, add the eggs and beat just until they are blended into the filling.
- Pour the filling over the crust. Place the bars on the middle rack of the oven, and then set the pan of water under the bars. Bake at 325°F for 40-45 minutes, or until the edges are set and the filling is still a bit jiggly.
- Turn off the oven, and crack the oven door. Let the bars cool for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour in the oven. Then, cover the bars and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours or until the filling is completely set.
- Once cooled, slice the bars into 16 squares.
Spiked Strawberry Topping
- Place the sliced strawberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with the Grand Marnier (if using). Stir and let macerate in the fridge for about 30 minutes while the bars cool.
- Spoon the macerated berries over the cooled cheesecake bars. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Without You by Strawberry Guy