It’s been hot here lately. August here is usually the best month out of our whole summer, filled with lots of sunshine and warmer temps. There are so many ways to cool off here on a hot day, but I pretty much spent my summer making popsicles to deal with that. But if I had to choose something different, it would probably be these no-bake strawberry cheesecake bars. Yep, I said it! NO-BAKING. So go ahead and turn that oven off, you won’t be needing it.
I took one bite of these the first time I made them, and immediately had to have more. I couldn’t stop myself! Not only did I think they were a winner, but my family did too. And you know you are on to something when your little brother takes a bite and mumbles, “oh wow, this is really good.” And then eats the whole thing. Mission accomplished.
These bars are gluten free and easy to make, but they don’t have all your typical no-bake ingredients. You see, I see all these beautiful photos and recipes of no-bake cheesecakes that either have cashew cream as the base, or they use gelatin to help it set up. Gelatin isn’t something I have on hand at any time, so this recipe doesn’t use any! I also don’t always have nuts on hand, and sometimes my stomach just can’t handle that many cashews… I also know many people are allergic or can’t stomach that amount of nuts either. So no nuts here!
This crust is something I love more than any other crust I have tried making. Generally, there are two main ways of making no-bake crust: either a graham cracker and butter base, or a date and nut base. You can absolutely make a different crust with these bars if you want! But for me, I don’t always want to buy gluten free graham crackers or a bunch of dates just for one recipe (although dates are just so delicious). So I used what I have on hand – oats!
Just take gluten free rolled oats and blend them in your blender for just a few seconds to make oat flour (I just use my Nutribullet, and I have flour within seconds). Pour this into a small mixing bowl with some brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and liquid coconut oil. Mix this around until everything is evenly distributed and coated, it should look like course crumbs. Then add just 1 tablespoon of water at a time, mixing with your hands or a rubber spatula until the crust starts to come together. It should take about 2-4 Tbsp, but only add enough to be able to press it out into the pan with it still sticking together… adding too much water can make the crust pretty chewy (personal opinion here). When you have the crust all pressed out in your pan, place it into the fridge until ready to fill.
Now for the filling. This base gets its cheesecake tang from not only cream cheese, but from a little plain greek yogurt as well. It’s sweetened up with a little confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, and of course fresh strawberry puree. As I said before, this dessert is not made with cashews or gelatin. So what helps this cheesecake set up? COCONUT CREAM. Yes, you could very well use regular heavy cream if you wish, but I find that whipped coconut cream is much thicker and seems to stabilize better when refrigerated (while using a little less than you would with normal whipped cream). This also helps it to set a little better if you don’t want to freeze the bars. And don’t worry, you don’t taste coconut at all.
You will start by whipping the coconut cream. Just take your refrigerated can of coconut milk and scoop out the solid cream on top into your mixing bowl (save the liquid for a smoothie or later use). We are looking for 1 cup of cream here, which should just be from one can of full-fat coconut milk. In case you need some more, it’s a good idea to keep a second can ready. You can also use one full can of coconut cream instead – the solid cream in there may be a little more than a cup, and that’s just fine! It will just help stabilize the cheesecake a little bit more. Once you have your cream, just whip away for a few minutes with your hand beaters. It doesn’t take that long before it turns smooth and very thick. Once done, pour this out into a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Using the same mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese for a minute or two until it becomes smooth. Then add in the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla, and beat with your hand beaters or stand mixer until combined and smooth. But let’s not forget those beautiful strawberries! Beat in all of that puree until you have a nice creamy mixture. Finally, gently fold in that coconut cream until it’s totally distributed and you have a super creamy and dreamy cheesecake… it will look like a light and fluffy strawberry mousse. Seriously, my mouth always waters when I finish this step!
Pour your filling over the crust, and place into the fridge overnight (I find at least 8-10 hours is best). If you want, you can also cover these with some foil and place them into the freezer to firm up faster, then just let them sit at room temperature for about 10-20 minutes before slicing. I prefer mine refrigerated for two reasons: sometimes while defrosting, the crust ends up a little soggy. It still holds together and tastes just as great! It’s just not as firm. You could always slice them frozen and eat it that way if you wish, but this brings me to my second reason – frozen strawberries just don’t have as much flavor as fresh. I have frozen batches before, only to find I can barely taste the strawberries. However you choose though, both ways are super delicious!
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