No Bake Lemon Cheesecake

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This no bake lemon cheesecake is the perfect summer dessert. A smooth, creamy cheesecake filling loaded with real lemon flavor sits atop a sweet vanilla wafer crust. It’s super easy to make and you don’t even have to turn on the oven!

Why You’ll Love This No Bake Lemon Cheesecake Recipe

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors for this time of year and when it comes to cheesecake, lemon is a must-have. This lemon cheesecake has so many selling points but here are a few of the biggest.

  • No baking required. I love that you don’t even have to turn on your oven for this recipe. It takes so much of the time and effort out of the process and keeps your kitchen nice and cool as the days get warmer.
  • Fresh lemon flavor. I used a hefty amount of fresh lemon juice (and lemon zest to go along with it) in order to get the perfect, natural lemon flavor. Every bite tastes like a bright ray of sunshine.
  • Creamy and refreshing. The filling for this cheesecake is creamy, light and refreshing. It’s a cheesecake, so it’s rich by nature, but the tart, bright flavor of the lemon break that richness up and make it the perfect light dessert for warmer months.
No bake lemon cheesecake on a serving platter.

What Makes This Recipe Work?

Adding lemon flavor to a no-bake cheesecake can be a little tricky, because adding lemon juice can thin out the filling. Sure, you could use things like lemon jello or lemon extract, but I wanted real-deal fresh lemon flavor straight from the lemon. To achieve that flavor and still have the perfect cheesecake consistency, I used two things: gelatin and the powder of acid combined with cream.

  • Gelatin – I tried to avoid the gelatin, because I know it can seem intimidating to use if you haven’t used it before and it adds a couple more steps. But the cheesecake just didn’t firm up as much as I like without it. That said, I really don’t care for cheesecakes that have too much gelatin in them. You really taste it and you not only sacrifice flavor, but also texture. So I used as little as possible.
  • Acid and Cream Mixture – That’s where the acid and cream come in and help thicken the filling a bit without needed too much gelatin. How does that work? Well, in this cheesecake the “cream” is sweetened condensed milk. When combined, the acid in lemon juice basically “spoils” the milk and therefore thickens it. This cheesecake uses just enough sweetened condensed milk to help things thicken, but not so much that the cheesecake tastes heavily of sweetened condensed milk.

How to Use Gelatin

Gelatin isn’t hard to use, but you do need to follow a couple steps. The first is to allow the powdered gelatin to “bloom”, or activate. Gelatin needs a cool liquid for this step. So, sprinkle the powder over the lemon juice and let it sit for about 5 minutes. The gelatin will activate and the lemon juice will thicken like gelatin. Microwave it for 10-20 seconds to melt it and then you can add it to your cheesecake filling (or other desserts!). 

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here’s what you’ll need to make this no bake lemon cheesecake recipe. It’s a fairly simple list, so you should be able to find it all at your local grocery store. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below for precise measurements.

Ingredients for no bake lemon cheesecake.
  • Vanilla wafer crumbs – I love the sweetness of the cookies, but you could use graham crackers here instead.
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice – Fresh really is best here. Lemon juice that comes from a bottle just doesn’t have the same brightness to it.
  • Unflavored gelatin – I used a lot of lemon juice in this recipe, which thins the filling out. The gelatin helps things thicken back up. I used powdered gelatin.
  • Sweetened condensed milk – Be sure not to grab evaporated milk. They aren’t the same.
  • Cream cheese – The cream cheese should be at room temperature. If it is too cold, it won’t mix smoothly and easily with the other ingredients and you’ll end up with a lumpy filling. Also be sure to use brick-style full-fat cream cheese. The kind in the tub is thinner, as is reduced fat. Since we want the filling to thicken properly, those won’t work.
  • Sour cream – The sour cream adds creaminess and flavor to the filling that makes it more closely resemble a baked cheesecake.
  • Lemon zest – For a little extra real lemon flavor. Use fresh lemon zest, not jarred.
  • Heavy whipping cream – The heavy cream must be cold. If it is too warm, it won’t whip up and hold volume properly and you’ll end up with a flat cheesecake.
  • Powdered sugar – The powdered sugar keeps the whipped cream stable. It won’t ever wilt. Don’t leave it out.

How to Make No Bake Lemon Cheesecake

Ready to hop in the kitchen? Here’s a quick overview of how to make this light, bright no bake cheesecake. Looking for more detailed instructions? Scroll to the recipe card below.

  • Make the crust. Mix together the ingredients for the crust until well combined and press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill in the fridge.
  • Bloom the gelatin. Add the lemon juice to a mixing bowl and sprinkle with powdered gelatin. Let stand for 4-5 minutes. Pop the mixture in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.
  • Add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir the sweetened condensed milk into the lemon juice mixture and set aside.
  • Beat. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and lemon zest followed by the cooled lemon juice mixture.
  • Add volume. Whip the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the rest of the filling.
  • Chill. Spread the filling into the crust and chill in the fridge for at least 5-6 hours.
  • Prepare to decorate. Free the set cheesecake from the springform pan and place it on a serving platter.
  • Make the whipped cream. Whip the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Decorate. Pipe swirls of whipped cream around the edge of the cheesecake and top however you see fit. I used lemon slices, raspberries, and mint leaves.
  • Chill. Refrigerate the cheesecake until ready to serve.
Overhead image of no bake lemon cheesecake on a serving platter.

Tips for Success

  • Use a springform pan. While you can use a standard pan lined with plastic wrap, a springform pan makes things a million times easier when it comes time to remove the cheesecake from the pan.
  • Room temperature cream cheese. Start with room-temperature cream cheese. If it is too cold, it will have a difficult time smoothing out and you run the risk of a lumpy filling.
  • Bloom the gelatin. It might be tempting to mix all of the ingredients for the filling together and call it a day but, if you don’t bloom the gelatin first, your filling won’t thicken. Refer to the section above titled “How To Use Gelatin” to learn how it’s done.
  • Cold heavy cream. The heavy cream (for the filling and the whipped cream topping) needs to be cold. If it is too warm, it won’t whip up and hold volume properly. If it doesn’t whip up properly, your filling and your whipped cream topping will fall flat.
  • Fold gently. When folding the whipped cream into the filling, do so gently so as not to knock the volume out of the whipped cream and, thus, the filling.
  • Don’t skimp on chill time. After filling the crust, you really need to chill the cheesecake for at least 5 hours (probably longer) until it has fully set. Otherwise, when you remove it from the springform pan, it will fall apart.
A slice of no bake lemon cheesecake with a bite taken out of it.

Serving Suggestions

I love serving this no bake cheesecake with some fresh fruit. But if you’re feeling extra fruity, go ahead and drizzle my Strawberry Sauce, Raspberry Sauce or Blueberry Sauce over the top of your slice. This Lemon Curd would be a fun addition to the top of the cheesecake, as well.

How To Store No Bake Cheesecake

  • Refrigerator. Seal the fully set, chilled cheesecake in an airtight cake carrier or wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap (use toothpicks to prop the plastic away from the whipped cream topping). You can also arrange slices in a single layer in an airtight container. Store the leftover cheesecake in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer. Pop the cheesecake in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up before wrapping the whole thing in a double layer of plastic wrap. Otherwise, arrange individual slices in a single layer in an airtight container. This cheesecake will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before diving back in.
A slice of no bake lemon cheesecake on a plate.

More Lemon Desserts

Watch How To Make It

Read Transcript

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Side view of a slice of no bake lemon cheesecake on a plate.
Recipe

No Bake Lemon Cheesecake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Chill Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 slices
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This no bake lemon cheesecake is the perfect summer dessert. A smooth, creamy cheesecake filling loaded with real lemon flavor sits atop a sweet vanilla wafer crust. It’s super easy to make and you don’t even have to turn on the oven!


Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 1/4 cups (302g) vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 2 tbsp (26g) sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 tbsp (140g) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling

  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (34 lemons)
  • 0.25 oz package unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 24 oz (678g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (104g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (29g) sour cream
  • 2 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 cups (300ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup (86g) powdered sugar

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup (58g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the crust

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients and mix well to combine completely.
  2. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set in the fridge to chill.

To make the filling

  1. In a medium sized bowl, add the lemon juice, sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over it and let stand for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Heat the lemon juice and gelatin in the microwave for 10-20 seconds, until just warm and smooth.
  3. Stir the sweetened condensed milk into the lemon juice mixture, then set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
  4. In a large mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well combined and smooth.
  5. Add the sour cream and lemon zest and mix until well combined and smooth.
  6. Add the cooled lemon juice mixture and mix until well combined and smooth. Set mixture aside.
  7. In another large mixer bowl, add the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  8. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture in two parts until well combined.
  9. Add the filling to the crust and spread into an even layer.

To set and finish the cheesecake

  1. Refrigerate cheesecake until firm, 5-6 hours or overnight.
  2. Remove it from the springform pan and set on a plate or serving platter.
  3. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract for the whipped cream topping to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  4. Pipe swirls of whipped cream around the edge of the cheesecake. Top the cheesecake off with your desired toppings, such as fresh fruit. I used lemon slices, raspberries and mint leave.
  5. Refrigerate cheesecake until ready to serve. Cheesecake is best for 4-5 days.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 456
  • Sugar: 31 g
  • Sodium: 241.8 mg
  • Fat: 32.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37.6 g
  • Protein: 6.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 96 mg

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65 Comments
  1. Dolores Mercado

    Hi I made this cheesecake it was delicious. Everyone love it was light. I was wondering if you have a no bake khaua cheesecake recipe.






    1. Lindsay

      It should be fine to freeze it. I usually recommend thawing things in the fridge so you don’t end up with a whole bunch of condensation. How long it will take to thaw depends a little on your fridge settings. I would let it thaw overnight.

  2. Karen Phillips

    I was supposed to bring dessert to Easter dinner, but my oven is broken. This was the perfect solution. It came out great! It was a big hit. I’d definitely recommend letting it chill over night.






  3. Sue

    I have made this and I love the recipe. I do have a question. I had a request to make this and instead of lemon they requested cherry topping. What would you suggest I replace the lemon juice with?

    1. Lindsay

      So glad you enjoy it! You could just make my regular vanilla no bake cheesecake and add the cherry topping. The only difference is this lemon one has the lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk and gelatin, which are all related to adding the lemon juice. If you want to stick with using the SCM and gelatin, you can. You could probably just leave out the lemon juice. I don’t know that I’d add something like milk. The acidity from the lemon juice actually helps to thicken the filling, so another liquid might end up thinning it out too much. I hope that helps!

  4. Mary Lee

    Look perfect for Christmas dessert. I’d like to make this to serve 12 people. Can I use a 9×13 glass dish? By how much should I increase all ingredients?

    1. Lindsay

      You can use a 9×13 dish. You don’t need to change anything, just press the crumbs into the bottom, bake the crust, then add the filling on top.

  5. Frances Mendez

    Hi! I’ve tried some of your other No Bake recipes and they never disappoint! I’m wanting to try this one and add blueberries into it to make it more of a Lemon Blueberry cheesecake. Just want to make sure it wouldn’t ruin the recipe itself by throwing in a few blueberries in? Thanks!






  6. J

    Hi,
    Can I use Graham crackers in an equal amount? I find it tough to find vanilla wafers without my child’s allergen(egg) but we have some Graham cracker brands that are safe.

  7. Mayanka Khetarpal

    HI Lindsay,
    Please help How much is .25 oz package of gelatine in grams or teaspoons.

    Thank you,
    Mayanka

    1. Lindsay

      Not really. You could try leaving it out, but it does react with the lemon juice to thicken the cheesecake a bit. If you leave it out, it might be slightly less firm.

  8. Christina

    This cheesecake was amazing! It has a wonderfully smooth, light texture and soft lemon flavor. I piped cream rosettes around the to edge and filled the center with lemon curd.






      1. Zoë

        Omg what an amazing recipe! I used orange in place of lemon and topped it with cranberry sauce. The cheesecake tastes so so delicious. Thanks for all the detailed steps and instructions 






  9. Judy

    This is the first time I have ever commented on an online recipe but this cheesecake deserves a comment. I divided it in half and made it in two pie pans so I could share it with someone else. It is absolutely fantastic!!! I’m on the way out the door to share a piece with my 91 year old Mom who is still isolated. She loves lemon and this will be a great treat for her. Thanks for this recipe. I’ll make it again and again………………………






  10. Gloria

    I’ve been wanting to make a cheese cake for a while. I was waiting for the right inspiration, I suppose. Now I have it. 😁 If I cannot find sweetened condensed milk, what can I use instead? Thanks.

  11. Monalisa

    Ok I made it.  Taking it to potluck at church.  
    I took a photo but don’t know how to upload it.   I replaced raspberries with blackberry I even used the mint I grew in my garden.     






    1. Lindsay

      That should be fine. Just keep in mind that it’s a no bake cheesecake so it’s not as firm as a baked cheesecake. They will be fine, just keep that in mind.

  12. Suzie

    Tested the recipe for our Christmas Dinner party on my work friends & it was a hit. Thanks Lindsay. Easiest cheesecake I ever made. 






  13. Sandra

    My whipping cream has been in the refrigerator for a long time(not expired) so it’s cold, however, I have been whipping for the last half an hour and it’s not getting the stiff peaks. I threw away two batches already and don’t know what else to do. Can you tell me what I could be doing wrong?

    1. Lindsay

      It’s really hard to say. Whipped cream should whip. I would check to see if it was whipping cream or heavy whipping cream. Heavy whipping cream has a higher fat content and whips better.

  14. Jennifer

    Do you think you could use homemade lemon butter instead of the lemon juice, milk and gelatin combo. I only ask as I have just made a fresh batch and looking for mew recipes to incorporate it into.

    Thanks in Advance

    1. Lindsay

      I really don’t know without trying it. I have never used butter in a no bake cheesecake before and don’t know how it would affect it.

    1. Lindsay

      I personally use challenge cream cheese. It can sometimes be hard to find, but it is a great quality cream cheese.

  15. Johnna

    This cheesecake is delicious! It’s light and bursting with lemon. Will definitely make it again. Thank you for posting this recipe. 






  16. Mary

    I made this for a dinner party and it was divine! I served it with champagne cocktails and it was fabulous. I usually don’t make no bake desserts as I love to bake, but this is definitely a recipe I will make again. 






  17. Michelle

    I made this and it did not disappoint, it was delicious! I don’t have a spring pan so I foil lined  a 9” square pan and no issue. Will definitely make again.

    1. GlutenFreeKiwi

      Drink it! Eat it with a spoon! Hide it from the kids! The possibilities are endless. Or you could make more cheesecakes until you run out of condensed milk…

      I’ve made it tonight and I’m looking forward to my coffee in the morning 🙂 






Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29