My dad’s and fiancé’s favorite dessert is NY-style cheesecake. So it was my special mission to make the best vegan cheesecake for the 2 most important guys in my life. I am from New York (Long Island) and somehow never had cheesecake growing up before I was vegan. I didn’t like it — give me ice cream or brownies or cannoli plz. I think cheesecake is something you like as you get older? Do kids ever like it?
Over 16 years of being vegan, I tried different vegan cheesecakes from plant-based restaurants (huge shout out to Darbster’s in South Florida for their insanely delicious non-dairy cheesecake). And learned what makes a cheesecake so delicious — a buttery graham cracker crust, a creamy, light and perfectly sweetened cake and a fresh topping to finish it off. So this Valentine’s Day I decided to go ahead and make an awesome cheesecake. And my fiancé said it was the best cheesecake he has ever had!!
- Vegan Cream Cheese. The key ingredient in cheesecake? Cream cheese! And luckily, vegan cream cheese is available everywhere (in the US) now. If you don’t typically make vegan desserts or purchase vegan products, don’t be intimidated, trust me you can find it. If you go to Trader Joe’s, there is a green and blue packaging for their store-brand vegan cream cheese. At Whole Foods or your local supermarket, you can find Tofutti or Kite Hill brand. I used the Trader Joe’s cream cheese and had incredible success. I would suggest one of these 3 brands for best results: 1. Trader Joe’s 2. Tofutti 3. Kite Hill (Original). I can’t vouch for other brands.
- Coconut Cream. Be sure to ideally get a can of coconut cream, or if you really can’t find it you can get a can of full-fat coconut milk. Just please be sure to avoid light coconut milk. Again, Trader Joe’s is an easy spot to find this. They have a great canned coconut cream. You can also find coconut cream at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and most any other natural-leaning grocery store. You may be able to find it in a typical supermarket, though it may be trickier (it’s not available in my local Von’s, for example).
- Vegan Graham Crackers. Most graham crackers contain honey (including the ones at Trader Joe’s). If you’re vegan, this is an issue! However, Nabisco Original Graham Crackers do not contain honey. Luckily, these are pretty easy to find at any standard grocery store. If you prefer a chocolatey finish, you can use Oreos. If you want to make it gluten-free, use your favorite gluten free graham cracker or ginger cookie. I used the Nabisco Graham Crackers.
- Vegan Butter. Again, available literally everywhere. I used Earth Balance for this and this is probably the one you’ll find too because this is the most common vegan butter brand out today. If you can find it, that would be my pick. Alternatively, you can use coconut oil if you prefer.
The rest of the ingredients are super standard that you probably already have in your home, so no need to offer tips on how to find them.
Best Vegan Cheesecake Recipe
This NY-style cheesecake is so good you would never know it’s vegan. It’s every bit as good as dairy cheesecake, but without the cholesterol or animal products. You are 1 step away from making the best vegan cheesecake for your loved ones (or just yourself, no judgment here). Best prepared the day before so it can chill overnight.
- Prep time: 20 minutes
- Cook time: 1 hour
- Chill time: 6 hours to overnight
- Servings: 8 slices
- Hand mixer or fork/whisk
- 9-inch spring-form pan
- Mixing bowl
- 1 2/3 cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
- 7 tablespoons melted vegan butter (or melted coconut oil)
- 1/4 cup white sugar (for the crust, I used coconut sugar to bring down the glycemic index a bit)
- (4) 8-ounce containers of vegan cream cheese (48 ounces). Trader Joe’s brand works great, but you may use Tofutti or Kite Hill as well.
- (1) 13.5 ounce can of coconut cream
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Lightly grease the bottoms and sides of your 9-inch springform with vegan butter, coconut oil or baking spray.
- Wrap the outside (outside bottom and outside sides) of the springform snugly with tin foil to prevent leakage.
- Crumble your graham crackers until you have 1 2/3 cup. I did this by hand for that homemade touch, but you can use a food processor if you prefer.
- Stir in melted butter and sugar until incorporated.
- Press your mixture onto the bottom and a bit up the sides of your prepared, greased 9-inch springform pan.
- The crust will be pretty crumbly and not overly moist. That is fine, don’t worry, it will hold together in the end.
- Whisk all cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth. I started with a fork then switched to handheld whisk. It took a bit of strength so yay for exercise. If you have an electric mixer with whisk or hand beaters you can use those.
- Mix until uniform and creamy.
- Add remaining ingredients (coconut cream, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and lemon juice)
- Continue whisking until uniform, fluffy and totally smooth. Don’t overmix.
- Pour your cheesecake filling evenly over the crust in the springform.
- Make sure it is level.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes. Do not open the oven during this time.
- When ready, it should be slightly golden on top.
- When finished baking, turn off oven heat and let sit in the hot oven for 10 more minutes.
- Carefully remove from oven. It will be slightly jiggly on top, that is normal. It will continue to set in the fridge.
- First leave the cheesecake out on the counter to cool for 20 minutes, then transfer to fridge for at least 6 hours.
- I recommend whipping this dessert up the day before and letting it chill overnight in the fridge. I placed a clean dish towel over the top while it was chilling
- The most fun part is taking off the springform and slicing into this beautiful cheesecake.
- Slice a generous portion, top with your favorite topping and serve.
- It can stay out on the counter for up to an hour, after which you should put it back in the fridge to chill.
Fresh Strawberry Topping
Slice a half-cup of fresh strawberries and set aside. Place another 2 cups strawberries, quarter lemon of fresh squeeze lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or sugar) in a food processor and process until smooth. Mix fresh strawberry slices in to the puree and let chill in fridge an hour or 2 before serving.
Chocolate Drizzle Topping
Mix 1 cup canned coconut milk, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup agave nectar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer in pot over medium heat. Remove from heat. Mix in 1/4 cup of (vegan) semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted and smooth.
Fresh Blueberry Topping
Set aside half cup of fresh blueberries. Place another 2 cups of blueberries, quarter lemon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or sugar) in a food processor and process until smooth. Mix fresh blueberries into the puree and let chill in fridge an hour or 2 before serving.
It’s also nice to just have these toppings on the side in cute bowls with cute lil spoons and let your guests choose which they want to put on top.
And that’s it! It takes a little bit of time but nothing says special occasion like an absolutely delicious homemade cheesecake. I’m so excited to make this for my next family event. I hope you enjoy the best vegan cheesecake, and please be sure to share your experience!