No-Bake Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars

Two tall slices of rhubarb-swirled cheesecake on a plate alongside the remaining cake on a cutting board.

Kitra: I saw Erin Clarkson of Cloudy Kitchen post a “coming soon” photo of rhubarb cheesecake, and sent it to Jordan immediately. But soon isn’t ever soon enough for rhubarb cheesecake so we made it up. Sorry, and please go check out Erin’s version when it’s up!

Jordan: I have no doubts that hers will be excellent, given that we shamelessly stole her idea and used her cheesecake base and ours was also excellent, not to brag or anything.

Rhubarb is extremely underrated, so there’s no such thing as too much.

I have questions about why we cultivate it in the first place—the leaves are literal poison?? and the stalks don’t taste great unless you cook them with sugar?—but I’m glad we do, since there’s just something delicious about rhubarb.

And it doesn’t need to be cut with strawberries, or anything else. Rhubarb is GOOD. We had a plant in our front yard growing up and the start of rhubarb season was so exciting.

Rhubarb’s unique flavor really shines when it’s paired with something simple, which makes it a great candidate for a cheesecake topping.

And we love cheesecake. You do too, I assume. Because you should. It’s great.

This, however, is not a normal cheesecake. This is a no-bake cheesecake, which—per Erin’s blog posts—is common in New Zealand but which we had never made. It’s much lighter than a typical dense, rich, egg-based cheesecake.

Plus, it was hot as hell in DC last weekend when we made this, and will be for most of the rest of eternity (thanks climate change, for the sweat) so losing the oven was good. And would be even better for my kitchen where there is no AC.

If you’re not a fan of traditional cheesecake—either making or eating it—this one might be worth a try. My partner, who usually doesn’t like cheesecake, was a fan of it because the filling is so light and fluffy, almost like a cream cheese mousse.

Which also means it’s a way better breakfast/snack/just because cheesecake since you don’t feel like you’ve eaten all your food for the day after a few bites.

Fair warning, though, that it is extremely easy to eat directly out of the container with a fork while standing at your kitchen counter. Not that I have experience with this.

Seconded. Also, can we talk about how thick (thicc even?) it is???

An absolute unit, as the kids say. A chonk.

Yes, we used the wrong size pan and that was a problem, but even in the right size pan it’s a sturdy crust and a nice thick layer of everything. Bless.

I would call this roughly a 2:1 filling-to-crust ratio, which is the right ratio. Crumb crusts are the best crusts and I will die on this hill of graham crackers.

So, with further apologies but also thanks and a lot of credit to Erin, please cheesecake.

A whole cheesecake with rhubarb topping swirled beautifully through the top layer.

No-Bake Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars

Cheesecake base and concept adapted from Cloudy Kitchen

Notes

As we said above, we used a too-small pan for this so it is very thick. The original recipe used a 9”x9” pan and we used an 8”x8”; you could scale this down to a three-quarters batch and it would fit better, or you can just roll with it. You could also use a larger pan (up to a 9”x13”) for thinner bars.

We give a range for the sugar in the rhubarb topping. We used the full ¾ cups and didn’t find it overwhelmingly sweet, but you could probably safely go down to ½ cup if you like a slightly more tart topping.

Finally, you can make the entire crust in a food processor if you prefer, but if you do it by hand you can use the same bowl for the crust and the filling.

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 12oz rhubarb, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • ½ to ¾ cup (100-150g) sugar (see note)
  • ¼ cup water

For the crust:

  • 400g (one 14.4oz box) graham crackers
  • 6oz (1.5 sticks, 12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons (60g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • ½ cup (120g) + 1¼ cups (300g) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 2 8-oz blocks (450g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (130g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

First, make the topping. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 or so minutes while you work on the crust. The topping is done when you drag a spoon across the bottom and it takes a second or so for the trail it leaves to fill back in. Transfer the topping to a bowl and chill in the fridge. Scrape the pan out well and set it aside, since you can use it later.

To make the crust, melt the butter in the bottom of a large bowl. Place the graham crackers in a large Ziploc bag and crush until very fine. Add the crumbs, sugar, and salt to the butter and stir until everything is well-combined. Lightly grease a pan (see note above), then dump the crumb mixture into the pan. Press the crust firmly into an even layer. Set aside.

Make the filling: In a small saucepan (you can use the same one you used for the rhubarb, even if it’s not quite clean) combine the ½ cup cream and gelatin. Heat over low, stirring, just until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Take off the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl or using a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1¼ cup of cream until it holds soft peaks. If using a stand mixer, transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl; you can use the same one you used for the crust if you’ve wiped it out well.

Use your mixer to beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla, salt, and the cream/gelatin mixture and beat again until smooth.

Add about half of the rhubarb topping (roughly 200g) into the cream cheese mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the whipped cream one large scoop at a time.

Spread the filling over the prepared crust as evenly as you can. Carefully spread the remaining half of the rhubarb topping over top. Gently swirl a knife through the topping to marble it to your liking. Chill the entire cheesecake in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

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