Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

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.

peanut butter cheesecake bars with chocolate ganache

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
  • Portable
  • 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.

Philadelphia cream cheese bricks

How to Make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cool bars at room temperature.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

chocolate sandwich cookie crust

peanut butter cheesecake batter

peanut butter cheesecake batter in baking pan

chocolate ganache for peanut butter cheesecake bars

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

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars

More Cheesecake Recipes

Celebrating cheesecake using beloved PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese doesn’t end here! If you need more recipe inspiration, here are plenty of cheesecake recipes to try next:

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peanut butter cheesecake bars with chocolate ganache

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 36 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours, 5 minutes (includes chilling)
  • Yield: 24 squares
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Crust

  • 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

Chocolate Topping

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter
  • 1 heaping cup (around 200g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Cover and store leftover cheesecake bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

94 Comments

  1. Hello! I was going to make this today but am out of white sugar! Trying to avoid the grocery store… any idea if brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup would cut it? If I used a liquid sweetener, should I reduce liquid elsewhere? Thanks for your help!! This looks amazing!!

    1. You can try brown sugar. I would avoid liquid sweeteners.

  2. Julie Davis says:

    can you make this recipe as a full cheesecake in a nine inch springform pan?

    1. Sure can! See recipe note.

  3. These are really good. I used foil instead of parchment paper and an oval pan equivalent to an 8×8. They came out fine. Really easy just need time as they are not ready immediately. Super delicious and great for a party ! Thanks Sally!

  4. Hey Sally!! Major fan of yours. Trying to save a trip to the grocery store. I have EVERYTHING in stock with the exception of the cookies for the crust. Was debating using the crust from your lemon bars, but not sure if that’ll give enough chocolate to this recipe. Any other ideas? I have some cooking chocolate in my cupboard as well as chocolate chips. Really want to make this recipe asap! Major props to you, your recipes are absolutely amazing. <3

    1. I should mention–I also don’t have graham crackers. 🙁 Might be worth a trip to the store soon!

    2. Hi Natalie, any dry type cracker ground up should work. Even pretzels to make a delicious pretzel crust.

  5. My 26 year old son made these for Mother’s Day. They were fabulous!! The texture was perfect. The flavors were all complimentary. Wow!

  6. For the adapted recipe for the 8-inch square pan, you use 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. Is this in addition to the 3 large eggs, so 4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk total?

    1. Hi Jeremy, simply use 1 egg + 1 egg yolk total.

  7. Hi! This looks great! For the sandwich cookies- do you mean like regular Oreos? Or something with chocolate cream centre?
    Thanks!

    1. Yes, Oreos are probably the most well known brand

  8. This was absolutely amazing! I made it for the first time last week and it was gone in a day. Everyone that tried it loved it and it was pretty easy to make. This was my first time baking and it was still easy enough for me to make! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. What kind / brandof peanut butter do you prefer?

    1. Hi Suzanne, For baking I usually prefer brands such as Jif or Skippy.

  10. Thanks – they are not my normal peanut butter so I am glad I asked. (we are Trader Joe’s natural peanut butter lovers) My son wants a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for his 20th birthday and your recipe looks perfect! I will let you know what he says.

  11. Terri McDonald says:

    I I absolutely love this recipe as do the people I have made it for. I have made it twice now within a weeks time. The first one I used ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate for the topping and it turned out so yummy. The second one I used ghirardelli white chocolate. Also as yummy. I do have a question though. When I cut this into squares, why does the topping crack and break? Definitely does not effect the taste, just not very aesthetically pleasing. Thank you for your wonderful recipes!! I enjoy them.

    1. Hi Terri! I’m so glad that you enjoy these cheesecake bars. The chocolate topping can crack and break if it’s a little too hard and cold. Obviously we want it cold since these cheesecake bars are chilled, but what help for next time– to soften it up– is to add 2 Tbsp of creamy peanut butter to the butter/chocolate topping. Simply add it, then melt everything together. The topping will be softer and shouldn’t really crack.

      1. Terri McDonald says:

        Thank you for the tip. I will definitely do this next time

  12. Why would you not use natural peanut butter? That is the only kind I buy.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, 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. You could use natural peanut butter in these peanut butter trail mix bars!

      1. Thanks, but I am working on using up some messed up cream cheese icing and want to turn it into cheesecake squares and I use as natural products as I can, I don’t like the add palm oil, etc in the other peanut butters. I seem to be able to use the natural peanut butter in all of my products so I will give it a try, maybe I’ll try those trail mix bars out sometime too!

  13. Sandi Marson says:

    What is the best way to cut these without breaking the chocolate? Thanks in advance!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sandi, To slice, lift the bars out of the pan as a whole using the parchment overhang on the sides. Cut into squares with a very sharp knife. For extra neat squares, wipe the knife clean between each cut. You can even run your knife under hot water (and wipe dry) to warm it up if it needs help slicing through the chocolate.

  14. Lisa MANVILLE says:

    During this quarantine I have been doing a lot of baking but since it is just 2 of us I worry these cheesecake bars will not last until we eat them. They are so rich we only eat a very small piece. Can they be frozen?

    Also I know it is always recommended to use full fat cream cheese for cheesecake recipes but I used 1/3 fat and they are delish!.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa, To freeze these bars– 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. So glad you enjoyed them!

  15. Hello Sally. I love this recipe but I’d like to make a smaller batch. Can I halve the recipe and still get quality cheesecake bars? Also, I don’t have PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese. Can I substitute with plain cream cheese?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can easily halve the recipe for an 8-inch square baking pan. See the recipe notes for full instructions. You can use a different brand of cream cheese, just be sure it’s a full fat block of cream cheese (not the cream cheese spread sold in a tub).

      1. Thanks for the quick response Stephanie! I’ll let you know how it comes out.

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