Need an easy, gluten-free dessert that you can make ahead of time? Try these decadent Cherry Almond Cheesecake Bars. A great dessert recipe for a crowd!
I’m a huge cherry and almond fan. There is something about that flavor combination that has always appealed to me (See exhibit A and exhibit B). So naturally I had to apply it to one of my favorite desserts – cheesecake!
These Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Cheesecake Bars are a tasty, make-ahead dessert recipe that looks super impressive but is actually pretty darn easy to make.
Frozen cherries make a gorgeous, garnet-hued topping to the almond cheesecake and freshly ground almonds infuse the crust with an extra layer of almond flavor.
How can this be a gluten-free cheesecake recipe? I thought all cheesecake recipes contained flour.
Cheesecake recipes often include a bit of flour to help them bake up nice and firm. Recipes made without flour – such as our Cherry Almond Cheesecake Bars – result in a creamier, smoother textured cheesecake. Both are tasty; it’s really a matter of preference.
OK, there is no flour in the cheesecake, but what about the crust? How do you make a gluten-free cheesecake crust?
Many cheesecake recipes are made with any number of cookie crusts – think Oreos, graham crackers or even vanilla wafers. But this recipe uses a crust made from 3 simple ingredients – almonds, brown sugar and butter.
Freshly ground almonds give this cheesecake crust a gorgeous, hearty texture. Since the only sweetener in the crust is the sugar you add to it, I opt for brown sugar instead of white sugar because it produces a richer, more caramelized flavor as it bakes. (But white sugar will work, too.)
The beauty of cheesecake bars is they can easily be made a few ahead of time, which is perfect for time-strapped hosts. The basic 4-step formula for making these cheesecake bars goes like this:
- Line the pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil. You’ll want overlap on the sides of the pan to use as “handles” to life the cheesecake out of the pan when you are ready to cut and serve the bars.
- Press your crust into the bottom of the pan using the bottom of a drinking glass or other flat-bottomed object to get the crust evenly distributed.
- Prepare and pour your cheesecake batter on top of the prepared crust and bake using a water bath.
- Make the cherry sauce while the cheesecake is baking and refrigerate until ready to use.
A water bath is essential to keep your cheesecake bars from cracking in the oven.
A water bath helps to keep the baking temperature as consistent as possible during the baking process. Even, moist heat ensures the cheesecake is bakes at the same pace (no hard edges and underdone middle pieces).
Using a water bath when baking cheesecake also minimizes the chance that your cheesecake will crack along the top and/or sink in the middle, both common issues with cheesecake recipes.
I like to place my larger pan in the oven first before nestling the baking pan inside it and adding the water. This is MUCH easier than trying to slide a pan nestled in another pan of water into the oven without getting water everywhere (including in your cheesecake batter).
Trust me on this one.
Cherries aren’t in season right now. Can I still make these Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Cheesecake Bars?
I live in Minnesota. Believe me when I say I know all about short growing seasons and limited availability for produce!
While you can certainly make this recipe using fresh cherries, I almost always use frozen cherries because they are readily available in the freezer section of the grocery store. I suggest doing a combination of sweet and tart cherries for the best flavor.
You can use all dark sweet cherries, too, but if you opt to only use tart cherries, I suggest adding a bit more sugar to your cherry topping. Tart cherries can be just that – tart!
Here’s what I used to make these Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Cheesecake Bars:
- A straight edge cake pan is necessary to get sharp, square corners on your cheesecake bars. USA Pans are my favorite. Durable, non-stick and easy to clean.
- My food processor makes quick work of creating the almond crust. Less than a minute from start to finish!
- It may sound like a bit of an overstatement, but my offset spreader is one of my favorite kitchen tools. Great for spreading and leveling batters and frostings.
Craving more cheesecake? Find your new favorite cheesecake bar flavor with any one of these delicious recipes:
Check out all of our dessert recipes HERE!
- 2 cups sliced almonds
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 5 tablespoons brown sugar
- 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons almond extract, divided
- 1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
- 1 cup frozen tart cherries, pitted
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 2 teaspoons water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
To make the crust:
- Place almonds in bowl of food processor and pulse until they resemble a coarse sand.
- Add butter and brown sugar to food processor and pulse until combined.
- Pour almond mixture into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
To make the cheesecake:
- Beat together cream cheese and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until incorporated. Mix in sour cream, vanilla extract and 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract. Pour batter over prepared crust and level using offset spreader.
- Place a larger pan (9 x 13 or larger) in the oven and set cheesecake pan inside it. Fill large pan with enough water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until cheesecake is just set. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon and allow to cool for another hour.
- Remove bars from water bath and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, lift cheesecake from pan using overlapping paper or foil. Cut cleanly into bars by using a sharp knife run under hot water and dried after each cut. Spoon cherry topping over each bar.
To make the cherry topping:
- Place cherries and remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Whisk together corn starch and water and pour mixture into saucepan with cherries. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or to desired consistency. (I don't like my sauce super thick, so I usually opt for the lower cooking time.)
- Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use.
Additional time includes cooling overnight in the refrigerator.
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Serving Size:1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 543 Total Fat: 46g Saturated Fat: 20g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 21g Cholesterol: 135mg Sodium: 298mg Carbohydrates: 25g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 18g Protein: 12g