Seriously indulgent and creamy, these chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars are like eating a peanut butter cup in cheesecake form. Quicker to bake and chill than a full cheesecake, these layered bars are the perfect choice when you need a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s also portable, easy to serve, and handheld.
I’m an author, food photographer, baker, and blogger. And as of today, I can add Cheesecake Ambassador to my list of professional titles too. 😉 This chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars recipe is sponsored by PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, whose products I’ve long admired and trusted in my baking. I’m thrilled to show off their quality cream cheese today and, as always, all opinions are 100% my own. (You know I never steer you wrong!)
Today I’m breaking down the barrier to making real cheesecake, showing you that it’s not only delicious, but approachable for all home bakers. A little more special than a batch of cookies and not nearly as overwhelming as a tall layer cake, cheesecake bars are the perfect solution when you need a crowd-pleasing dessert without complicated ingredients.
After testing the recipe, I made them for girls night the other week. I chose this recipe because they’re really easy to prep ahead of time and are extra convenient for serving. No fork needed! Each person literally said these are the best dessert they’ve ever had.
(And they’ve tasted many of my creations! Total win!)
These Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars Are:
- Indulgently rich and creamy
- Like a peanut butter cup in cheesecake form
- Sitting on a buttery chocolate cookie crust
- Topped with chocolate ganache (that sets!)
- Quicker to bake & chill than a full cheesecake
- Handheld individual servings (but you need that napkin!)
Plus, there’s no need for a water bath. Let me show you how to make them.
How to Make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars:
- Make the crust: You only need 2 ingredients for the crust: chocolate sandwich cookies and butter. Grind the cookies into a crumb (the cookie AND the filling), then mix with melted butter.
- Pre-bake the crust: Press the crust mixture into a lined 9×13 inch baking pan. Simply line with a piece of parchment paper. If you leave enough overhang on the sides, you can lift the chilled cheesecake bars out of the pan as a whole, which makes cutting squares REALLY easy. Pre-bake crust for 10 minutes.
- Make the peanut butter cheesecake filling: You need PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, sugar, sour cream (for a little extra creaminess), peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, and eggs. Good rule of thumb for any and all cheesecake baking: always add the eggs last. You can mix the other ingredients as much as you want, but as soon as you add the eggs, mix just until they’re combined. Over-mixing eggs results in overly dense cheesecake.
- Bake: Spread the filling over the warm crust. Bake until only slightly jiggly in the center. Each of my test batches took 35-37 minutes.
- Cool bars at room temperature.
- Chill: After cooling at room temperature, place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours until sufficiently chilled. Cold cheesecake bars not only taste better, but they cut much easier too.
- Make the ganache topping: We usually make chocolate ganache with chocolate and cream, right? Well, we want a sturdier ganache that will set, so use a fat that’s solid at room temperature: BUTTER! Melt the butter and chocolate together. You can use baking chocolate or chocolate chips. I usually use chocolate chips. This is exactly how I top my mint chocolate brownies, too!
- Let the topping set: Pour and spread the ganache over the chilled pan of cheesecake bars. Let it set completely in the refrigerator, at least 45-60 minutes.
- Cut into squares: Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang on the sides. For neat slices, wipe your sharp knife clean between each cut.
Different Size Pans
This recipe yields a 9×13 inch pan of cheesecake bars. If this is too big, you can easily halve the recipe for an 8-inch square baking pan. Want to bake a full cheesecake from this recipe? You definitely can. See my recipe notes below. I also give instructions for turning these into individual mini cheesecakes.
I’d obviously never deprive you of chocolate, peanut butter, and cheesecake. The possibilities are endless!!!
3 Success Tips for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
- Use Bricks of Cream Cheese: Cheesecake won’t set up properly if you’re not careful about the type of cream cheese you use. Make sure you use 8 ounce bricks of full fat PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese. Do not use low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread that’s sold in a tub. (Save that for bagels!)
- Use Creamy Peanut Butter: Unless otherwise noted, it’s best to use thick and creamy peanut butter in baking recipes– including cheesecake. Avoid natural style or oily peanut butters, which will change the texture of the baked cheesecake. Chunky peanut butter is usually a little drier and thicker, so I recommend avoiding that too.
- Chill the Cheesecake Bars: Like a full cheesecake, these bars must cool down and chill in the refrigerator before slicing. Unlike regular cheesecake though, you don’t need to cool them in the cooling oven. And since they’re thinner, they take about half the time to cool down as a full cheesecake. That’s always a nice bonus, especially if you’re serving these as dessert when you’re entertaining!
More Cheesecake Recipes
Quicker to bake and chill than a full cheesecake, these chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars are the perfect choice when you need a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s also portable, easy to serve, and handheld. For best results, follow the recipe as written including sufficiently cooling and chilling the bars.
- 36 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (regular or double filled)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, melted
Peanut Butter Filling
- three 8-ounce bricks (24 oz) full-fat PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (60g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 cup (250g) creamy peanut butter (not natural style)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter
- 1 heaping cup (around 200g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out (makes cutting easier!). Set aside.
- For the Crust: In a food processor or blender, pulse the whole sandwich cookie (cookie AND cream filling) into a fine crumb. You should have about 3 cups of crumbs. Stir the cookie crumbs and melted butter together in a large bowl. Press tightly into the bottom of the lined baking pan. Pre-bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave oven on.
- For the peanut butter cheesecake filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and beat until fully combined. Then add the peanut butter, vanilla extract, and salt and beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the 3rd egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. A few small lumps can remain. Whisk the filling a few times by hand to rid any large lumps at the bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the cheesecake filling onto the crust. It’s ok if the crust is still warm. Spread evenly on top with a rubber spatula or back of a spoon. (It will seem like a thick layer of cheesecake filling; that’s ok.)
- Bake for 35-38 minutes or until the cheesecake appears set on top and the edges are browned. The edges may slightly crack. (Mine do!) The bars will be puffy, but will sink slightly down as they cool. Place pan on a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours (and up to 1 day) before topping with chocolate. If you’re in a rush, place in the freezer for 2 hours (or until chilled throughout.) If you plan to chill the bars for longer than a few hours, loosely cover with aluminum foil after 3-4 hours of chilling.
- For the chocolate topping: Cut the butter into Tablespoon size pieces. Place into a heat-proof bowl. Pour chocolate chips on top. Place in the microwave and melt in 30 second increments until smooth, stopping and stirring after each. You can also melt together on the stove, stirring constantly until smooth. Let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes, then pour and spread evenly over chilled cheesecake bars. The cheesecake bars usually have a lip around the border since the center slightly sinks down, so it’s easy to spread the chocolate topping, stopping around the border/lip. If yours don’t have a raised lip around the edges, don’t worry and just spread the filling evenly all over the top.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 45-60 minutes or in the freezer for 30 minutes until the chocolate topping has set. If chilling for longer than 1 hour, loosely cover with aluminum foil after 1 hour of chilling. Chocolate topping must be completely set and solid on top of the cheesecake bars before slicing.
- To slice, lift the bars out of the pan as a whole using the parchment overhang on the sides. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. For extra neat squares, wipe the knife clean between each cut.
- Cover and store leftover cheesecake bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make-Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare recipe through step 4 up to 2 days in advance. Cover unbaked cheesecake bars and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Continue with step 5. Since they’re cold, bars will take a few extra minutes to bake. To freeze– cool, chill, and slice bars as instructed. Freeze bars between layers of parchment paper for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Chocolate Cookie Crust: You need 36 whole cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, which pulse down into about 3 cups of crumbs. If desired, you can substitute 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs, which is about 22-24 full-sheet graham crackers.
- Peanut Butter: Natural style peanut butter isn’t ideal for peanut butter cheesecake. The filling will be too dry, crumbly, and/or won’t set up properly. I do not recommend crunchy style peanut butter for that same reason. It’s too thick.
- Smaller Pan or Full Cheesecake: For an 8-inch square pan (9-inch is too big), follow the recipe as instructed, but halve the crust, filling, and topping. For the filling, use 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. Bake time is closer to 30 minutes. For a full cheesecake in a 9-inch springform pan, use the filling recipe as written. Halve the crust recipe (use 18 cookies and 1/4 cup (60g) butter) and chocolate topping recipe (1/4 cup (60g) butter and 1/2 cup (90g) chocolate chips). I recommend following the baking and cooling instructions, including using a water bath, as found in my regular cheesecake recipe. After the cheesecake has chilled completely, top with chocolate topping then chill for at least 45-60 minutes as instructed in this recipe (step 7) before slicing and serving.
- Mini Individual Cheesecakes: Use the baking and cooling instructions found in my mini cheesecakes and use this recipe as written. Recipe makes about 4 dozen cheesecakes in a muffin pan. Line 12-count muffin pans with liners. Firmly press 1.5 Tablespoons of crust mixture into each. Pre-bake for 5 minutes. Pour filling on top, about 1 Tbsp filling for each. Again, use the baking and cooling instructions found in my mini cheesecakes. Once chilled, top each with chocolate topping then chill in the refrigerator to set it before serving.
Keywords: peanut butter, chocolate, cheesecake, bars