Cheesecake is a dessert that typically consists of a crust made from crushed graham crackers that is topped with a cream cheese, egg, and sugar filling. As the cheesecake bakes, the heat helps the eggs serve as a means to bind the other filling ingredients together. A no-bake cheesecake tends to refer to a variation of the basic cheesecake recipe that replaces the eggs in the filling with another type of binding ingredient that is able to stabilize and firm the filling without the use of heat. This variation may be preferred for those who have egg allergies, but may also be less time-consuming and prone to the cracking on top that often occurs with baked cheesecake.
The crust of a traditional baked cheesecake is usually made by combining the crushed graham cracker crumbs with butter and then pressing the mixture into the bottom of a pan and baking it until the mixture hardened into a solid crust. No-bake cheesecake crust tends to consist of the same ingredients, but mainly uses refrigerator chilling rather than baking to get the crust to become firm. Pre-made graham cracker crusts may also be substituted in no-bake recipes.
No-bake cheesecake recipes may vary on their recommended ingredients for the filling. Although the cream cheese, sugar, and other flavoring ingredients tend to remain the same, the binding ingredient may vary depending on the specific recipe used. A commonly recommended binding ingredient that is called for in no-bake versions of cheesecake is lemon juice, which contains acids that are thought to help stabilize other ingredients and give a firmer texture to the filling. Other recipes may call for gelatin, which has a texture resembling gel when combined with liquid. Unflavored gelatin may be used, as well as fruit-flavored gelatin for a flavor variation on the standard cheesecake recipe.
In order to get the crust and filling to set without the use of heat, no-bake cheesecake typically uses cold temperatures to chill and firm the ingredients. The crust is generally chilled separately while the cheesecake filling is being prepared because if the crust is not completely firm before the filling is added, it may result in the crumbs mixing in with the filling, rather than being a separate layer. After the filling is added to the crust, it usually takes a minimum of one hour of chilling time for the cheesecake to become set. The cheesecake may be served plain or topped with fruit, chocolate, caramel, or any preferred sauces or glazes.