How to Make a Creamy Dairy Free Cheesecake
First, it all starts with your ingredients. Cheesecake is full of – you guessed it – cheese! Cream cheese to be exact. And loads of it! I’m talking four bricks of that tangy, creamy goodness. But if your tummy doesn’t do well with dairy (like mine) or if you’re plant-based, then check this out – Creamy Dairy Free Cheesecake!! That’s right, we can ALL enjoy cheesecake! 🍰 The secret is finding a non-dairy substitute for cream cheese.
There are several ways to make cream cheese without real cheese. You could make a real simple batch of plant-based cream cheese with cashews! But my sister is allergic to cashews, and I wanted to be able to share this fluffy, tangy cheesecake with her. (I also wanted her to taste it before I told her it was vegan, so I could really get a blind taste-test on how good this stuff is. Spoiler alert: it’s bomb-diggity delicious!)
If you have a nut allergy, you could make vegan cream cheese with butter beans! But I opted for the simplest method – buying it from the store. Now, this stuff didn’t come cheap. Each tub was about $4, and since I needed four tubs, I dropped $12 just on vegan cream cheese. The taste totally makes up for the dent it put in my wallet, but it might be more economical to make your own plant-based cream cheese at home.
I bought Tofutti cream cheese from my local grocery store which is made with tofu. And I bet this recipe for tofu cream cheese with a little ACV and nutritional yeast may taste similar to the store-bought version. Whether you make your own vegan cream cheese at home or buy it from the store, make sure it’s thick, creamy and tangy for the ideal cheesecake!
The recipe that inspired this cheesecake is from the gorgeous book Tartine! 💝 I followed it closely (since this was my first ever cheesecake attempt) but I subbed the dairy-based ingredients for plant-based alternatives.
The Finer Things in Life – Plant Based
I love finding ways to make classic recipes plant-based. It’s better for the environment to eat less meat, and it’s often better on our bodies and the millions of people working in the food industry around the world. Not long ago, I made vegan macarons stuffed with a vegan chickpea cookie dough. If you haven’t tried them, bookmark this page and go make some right now! 💜 This particular cheesecake recipe is dairy-free, but it’s not vegan since there’s still a few eggs to bind all the ingredients together.
Bonus: you can make this creamy vegan cheesecake gluten-free just by using gluten-free graham crackers in the crust! Enjoy! 🥰💚
More Plant Based Recipes
I also wrote an entire post dedicated to the in’s and out’s of developing a vegan recipe. The possibilities are truly endless! Vegan brownies made with black beans! Baked vegan donuts dyed pink with beets! Or with the holidays coming up, you could whip up a gigantic vegan cinnamon roll for breakfast, and a no-bake vegan pumpkin pie for dessert! Trust me, “dairy free” or “plant-based” doesn’t have to be the equivalent to “boring” and “tastes like cardboard”.
Creamy Dairy Free Cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crumb Crust
- 210 grams graham crackers (about 7 full sheets or half a box), crushed in a food processor or by hand to fine crumbs.
- 4 Tbsp (half a stick) butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
Dairy Free Cheesecake
- 32 ounces vegan cream cheese, either homemade or store-bought, softened to room temperature
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1⅓ cups dairy-free or lactose-free plain Greek yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make sure an oven rack is in the middle of the oven. Tightly wrap a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan with several large sheets of aluminum foil, so water doesn't get into the pan when it's submerged halfway in a water bath. Fold the foil that reaches over the sides down, so it doesn't go inside the pan.
- Mix together the graham cracker crumb crust ingredients in a large bowl. It should mostly clump together when you press some in the palm of your hand. If it's too dry and just falls apart, add another 1 Tbsp melted butter.Spoon the crumb mixture into the springform pan and press it down in an even layer.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until it is golden brown. Let cool while the cheesecake filling is prepared.
- Reduce the oven heat to 325°F.
- In a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl with an electric whisk, beat the room temperature cream cheese for 4 to 6 minutes, until it is smooth and creamy. If there are any lumps, you'll end up with a lumpy or wonky cheesecake. Scrape the sides of the bowl during this process, to make sure all the cream cheese gets creamed.
- Mix the 1¼ granulated sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt into the cream cheese for another 4 minutes.
- Add the 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Mix everything until it's fully combined.
- While mixing on low speed, add the whole eggs and then the egg yolks one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next egg.
- Add the 1⅓ dairy-free or lactose-free plain Greek yogurt and continue to mix on a low speed until it's smooth, creamy and fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and give the mixture a few last stirs by hand, to ensure there are no pockets of ingredients that aren't fully mixed.
- Pour the batter onto the cooled crumb crust in the springform pan. Smooth the top surface with a small spatula or spoon.
- Bring a full kettle of water to a boil. Place the springform pan in the middle of a large Dutch oven or roasting pan with sides that are at least as tall as the springform pan.Add the boiling water so the water level comes about halfway up the sides of the aluminum foil-lined springform pan. Carefully and gently transfer the Dutch oven or roasting pan to the oven.
- Bake for 1 hour, then begin checking the cheesecake to see if it's done. Give the pan a gentle jiggle. The cheesecake is done once only the center is jiggly, and the outer edge is set and doesn't move. It it's still too jiggly, bake for another 10 minutes and check it again. (My cheesecake took close to a total of 2 hours to finish baking.)
- Once the cheesecake is done baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the roasting pan and water for one hour.
- Remove the springform pan from the water bath and remove the aluminum foil. Let it continue to cool to room temperature, if it's still warm.
- Loosely cover the top of the cheesecake with aluminum foil and chill in the fridge to fully set it for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- To serve, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen it. Release the sides of the pan and transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate or cake stand. Slice up and enjoy!