Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust


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I haven’t made cheesecake bars in over a year.

I’m so glad I remedied that with these.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

They combine so many of my favorite dessert elements in one including a buttery, brown sugar and graham cracker crust.

I adore graham cracker crusts, and it truly makes these bars.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

I used a trick for the crust that I discovered when I made The Best Lemon Bars and also used in the Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars, which is adding a tablespoon of cornstarch to the crust.

I think it prevents the crust from getting overly brittle or being prone to cracking or crumbling. I use cornstarch all the time in cookies because I prefer softer to snappy.

This crust is definitely crunchy, but it didn’t crumble or fall apart, which I find is often the case with graham cracker crusts.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

For the filling I got away with using light cream cheese. It’s a little counterproductive to use light cream cheese right along with a stick of butter and gobs of peanut butter, but hey, at least the recipe has been tested with light cream cheese and it works. Using light cream cheese can be a gamble, but you’re safe here.

Feel free to use full-fat if you prefer extra cardio.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

Everything is better with peanut butter swirls, from cake to brownies to cheesecake.

If you’re a cheesecake purist, you can omit the swirls, but I like the break up the visual monotony with swirls and of course, they taste so good. Or use your favorite jam or Nutella swirls.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

The beauty of these bars is that they can be made in one bowl, and there’s no need to wash it between the layers, which isn’t often the case with layered bars and there’s umpteen dirty bowls for one pan of bars.

Nor do you have to drag out a mixer, another time-saver.

Not having to mess around with making a real cheesecake, baking it in a water bath, or dealing with possible cracks, is even better. I just can’t be bothered with all that.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

The bars are fast and easy, just the way I like my desserts.

They’re also rich, decadent, and comforting. The graham cracker crust adds texture and crunch, a wonderful counterbalance to the smooth, dense, cheesecake layer.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

The cream cheese is tangy, the peanut butter is a tiny bit salty, and the crust is so buttery, with notes of caramel from the brown sugar that caramelizes while baking.

I won’t wait another year-plus before making more cheesecake bars after indulging in these.

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - The crust is the best part of these easy bars. Okay, no, the big peanut butter swirls are!

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy, One-Bowl, No-Mixer Recipe at

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Yield: one 8x8 pan, 9 to 12 generous squares

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust

Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust

Dense, rich, and indulgent, these fast and easy bars come together in one bowl, without dragging out your mixer. They’re rich, satisfying, and full of tangy flavor from the cream cheese. The peanut butter swirls add a touch of saltiness, while the very buttery, brown sugar and graham cracker crumb crust lends texture with notes of caramel flavor. The crust is so packed with flavor and texture, and just makes the bars. All the flavor of cheesecake, with none of the fussiness or work.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes



  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste


  • 1 large egg
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and very soft (light is okay)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • heaping 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, melted for swirling


  1. Preheat over to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Add all remaining crust ingredients and mix with a fork to combine.
  4. Turn loose crumbs out into prepared pan and using a spatula, pack mixture firmly into pan in an even, smooth, flat layer; set pan aside.
  5. In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it), combine all filling ingredients except peanut butter, and whisk until smooth and combined, or beat with an electric mixer if preferred. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier the filling comes together.
  6. Pour filling over crust; set pan aside.
  7. In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it), melt the peanut butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  8. Drizzle peanut butter over batter to create swirls. To create the marbled pattern shown, drizzle peanut butter over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, “draw” 5 evenly spaced lines through the peanut butter. You’re dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the marbling.
  9. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until center is set with very little jiggle; some looseness and a very slight jiggle is okay, but there should be not sloshing in the center. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for about 1 hour before lifting out with foil overhang and slicing; however, I prefer to serve these bars chilled. Cover the pan with foil to prevent fridge smells, and refrigerate mostly cooled bars for at least 2 hours, or overnight or until bars have chilled completely, before slicing and serving.
  10. Bars will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. I prefer to store them in the fridge and serve them slightly chilled.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 291Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 147mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 4g

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Thanks for the entries in the: Chinet Bakeware Giveaway, $250 Philips Airfryer Giveaway, 3-Piece Baking Set, and Gluten-Free Dough Giveaway

What’s your favorite cream cheese or cheesecake recipe?

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Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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  1. The Nanaimo Bar recipe I use is the official recipe from the City of Nanaimo website. In my opinion, Nanaimo bars aren’t Nanaimo bars made any other way. Easy for me to say, I’m Canadian and have access to Bird’s Eye Custard powder and it really has to be Bird’s Eye. I once ran out and used vanilla instant pudding instead and I’ll never do that again.

  2. My friends and family, when coming over to my place, usually ask “You got any of your Nanaimo Bars in the freezer?” I’ve made your Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake bars 3 times now and it’s gone over very well. Now they still ask for Nanaimo Bars but also if I have any of the “Peanut Butter Cheesecake Thingies”. LOL I have tweaked the recipes somewhat as I found the crust way too sweet so last time I used 2/3 c brown sugar as per your suggestion. Also, the last time I made the recipe I only had Xtra Chunky Peanut Butter on hand. My eldest son said he really liked the chopped peanuts in them and asked to have them made that way next time. Thanks again for your recipe ….. it’s a keeper.

    1. Thanks for trying the “Peanut Butter Cheesecake Thingies” so many times and I’m glad it’s a bit hit with everyone! This crust is pretty darn sweet, you’re right. Glad you were able to tweak things for your liking and thanks for trying the Nanaimo Bars as well!

  3. I made these yesterday, they were sinful. The whole plate is now gone and my belly is super happy :-) Thanks for a great recipe!

  4. Yum! I made these yesterday and ate them today. So simple, but so full of peanut butter and dairy deliciousness! I also love how you use the same bowl three times and assure us that we don’t need to bother washing it. Seriously. It’s wonderful.

    Also, I used yogurt-with-its-whey-squeezed-out instead of cream cheese (because . . . I don’t usually use cream cheese so I don’t have it in my fridge), and I thought it still tasted great! It must taste even better, then, with real cream cheese. ;)

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Wow how creative that you drained yogurt! And yes, I am sure it’s probably better with c.c. but you get major points for being creative! Glad you like the same bowl without washing trick. A nice time-saver :) Thanks for trying the recipe!

      1. Thanks! I live in a dorm and work with what I have. ;)

        You’re welcome!

        And thank you for replying to my comment. I know you get lots of comments, and it’s amazing that you’re willing to take the time to reply to all of them!

  5. OMG, these look seriously to die for!!! I LOVE PB & cheesecake, so I really need to make these for my next family get together (because I’ll eat them ALL otherwise!). Oh, & I won your book off of Tara’s site – so excited!! :)

    1. Thanks for LMK you were the winner! I just sent your address to my publisher and had no idea who you ‘were’ – thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

      And this cheesecake is so good – wish I had put it in my cookbook! Totally deserves to have been in the book but I didn’t get the idea til just recently :) Keep in touch and LMK if you make this or what you make from my book!

    1. It’s impossible to make cheesecake as most people know it without cream cheese.

      You could substitute a Neufantel type of soft cheese but this would require being a fairly good cook and knowing when and where to alter other ratios, like butter, sugar, flour, and baking time.

  6. Made these yesterday morning for my brother’s birthday and they were a hit! Even my husband who’s not much of a sweet tooth said that this was the kind of dessert he really likes :) And they were SO easy!! I will definitely be making these again…soon! Thank you Averie!! :)

  7. These look lovely. I’m definitely trying my next graham cracker crust with brown sugar. Why haven’t I done this yet? These sound awesome!

  8. I have such a weakness for cheesecake, but the older I get, the more I can’t handle a whole slice–it’s like, whoa, deliciousness overload. Bars are much more manageable. Especially when peanut butter is involved. :)

    1. I know. And with cheesecake, all you need is usually a piece (or just a few bites). Not a huge cake that serves like 14 people :)

  9. These look incredibly tasty. I also need to check out those coconut spice bars!

  10. Made these last night, and they were AMAZING! Husband and I ate them straight outta the pan when they came out of the oven, so our burnt mouths thank you :) I think I might double the cheesecake next time, to cut the sweetness of that crust. But we’re definitely making this again!

    1. Thanks for trying them! So glad you liked them so much! You could probably reduce the brown sugar amount in the crust down to about 2/3 cup and also if you wanted to omit some of the sugar in the cheesecake portion, maybe use 1/4 to 1/3 cup, you could. I didn’t find them overly sweet but if you like your cheesecake even less sweet, then those little tweaks would likely work. But sounds like they were good enough to be devoured straight out of the pan! :)

  11. You have me totally hooked on the cornstarch in my cookie batter trick, Averie, so I can’t wait to try it this way too! Love the texture of that crust!

  12. Wow! I love anything with peanut butter and anything with cheesecake! These look amazing…Drooling over here.

  13. Hah, “fast and easy” is my middle name! (hmmm…that doesn’t sound too good…). I have full fat cream cheese in my fridge right now and would it be bad of me to use it and NOT do the extra cardio (or any cardio at all?). Since I’m doing a terrible job of promoting myself I’ll just stop right here and say that these cheesecake bars look phenomenal! Yay for one-bowl recipes that don’t use the mixer!

    1. Along with fast and easy, you can add soft and moist to other adjectives I like. LOL

      If you try these, LMK. So easy and you’ll love them!

  14. Love using cornstarch in baked goods, the result is amazing every single time! As is this recipe which I am drooling over now.

  15. I love pb-cheesecake combo.
    I also love to go crazy on the crust.
    And I’m with you on not dragging out the mixer.
    Would you believe, I still do not have a kitchen aid mixer?
    Yep, it’s all by hand.
    Not very proud of it, but LOL, I deal.

    1. I honestly didnt have a stand mixer til maybe 2 yrs or so ago. I did everything by hand or with a handheld. It IS awesome for bread dough kneading and making cookies. But it’s a bigger production to clean, etc. So if you can resist it and have lived this long without one, keep on, keeping on!

  16. I’m so glad you made these…a year without some cheesecake bars is a long time! Pinning these for sure! And you know I’ll be having these on my baking list. (=

  17. You mentioned using corn starch in cookies to make them softer. How much and do you substitute it for something else in the recipe?

    1. When you are reading the post, all the words in that sentence are hyper-linked to various cookie recipes that use cornstarch. Roll your cursor over them to click on the links and open those posts where you will find the appropriate recipes. Enjoy!

  18. Oh my gawwwd! These look incredible! And same, lots of my favorite dessert elements in one. May have to make this for the weekend as I’m visiting with my boyfriend’s family for a quick trip. I’m sure these will impress!!

  19. Wow it has been over a year for me too since i cooked up bars like this! The first time I made them were some red velvet swirled cheesecake brownies; this post bring back good memories of that slice.

    I would love to recreate this at home using other nut butters. Lovely pics Averie!

    1. red velvet swirled cheesecake brownies sound wonderful. I reminds me of winter/holiday baking any time I think of red velvet!

  20. The crust is always my favorite part of cheesecake, and this one sounds especially delicious!

  21. You must be the dessert queen my dear, these and all your goodies always look so amazing!

  22. You know I love a good cheesecake bar! They are just so much less daunting than baking an entire cake. Your PB swirled version looks great, Averie. So many peanut butter recipes on AC lately and I love it. The brown sugar graham cracker crust pairs so wonderfully with the creamy, nutty filling. I would love to sink my teeth into a huge square this instant!

    1. I know you’re the cheesecake bar queen. I actually thought of that after I made these. Hopefully they’re different enough than anything you’ve made – I think they are! The crust, Sally, I am not even a crust person and this crust is to die for. I want to use it on every pie forever. lol

      And so many PB recipes. I know. It actually wasn’t planned (that’s sort of the problem) – I didn’t pre-think my content going into my trip as much as I should have, and by default, PB is easy to bake with and forgiving so many Aruba recipes are PB and others I had pre-done, were also PB. So it’s been one big PB fest. Even after writing a book about it, I still do not get sick of it!

  23. Cheesecake will always get me. Love it so much! These pb-swirled bars look fabulous, Averie! Pinning!

  24. I made some shortbread bars last week using Ree Drummond’s Shortbread Cookie Recipe and she calls for A TON of cornstarch!!! But they are soft and yummy — I loved them! Cornstarch is like the soft cookie magic trick. Anyway… let’s talk cheesecake and peanut butter. I mean… does it really get any better than that? I don’t think it does. These are GORGEOUS!!!

    1. I just went to her site and found the recipe b/c if you made them, I know they’ve gotta be good! I am normally not one for shortbread cookies b/c I find them brittle, boring, dry, etc. But those look super good. And yes, cornstarch is like a big magic trick :)

  25. Why would you ever want a plain cheesecake when there is a swirl option? Swirls all the way! You have so many tricks I need to start incorporating into my own baking. Love the recipe!

  26. Um, yes please! I think I could just eat the cheesecake/PB topping part all day long. What a great combo!

  27. Totally loving this crust, Averie. I’m drooling just looking at it and really wish I had some to crumble into my yogurt this morning!

    1. I never want to make any other kind of crust! It reminds me a bit of the Tosi crust she used in Crack Pie, but basically ZERO work, as opposed to hours and hours :) I didn’t even plan for that – it was just sort of a happy accident that that’s what it came out tasting like.

  28. There you go again with those beautiful peanut butter swirls! And I feel like I could probably just eat the brown sugar graham cracker crust on its own. Sounds delish :)

  29. SERIOUSLY!!! Those look delicious. Myhubby loves Cheesecake and PB. If I make him these I’ll be considered wife of the year! Plus I need a new watch. This recipe will definitely soften him up ;)
    Can’t wait to make them :)

  30. These cheesecake bars have me so happy this Tuesday morning! I love the peanut butter swirl on top–haven’t seen that before and am excited to try it out.

  31. Loving the cornstarch in crust idea! As for fave cheesecakes? I’m not actually a fan of the straight up cream cheese cheesecake (though the pb drizzle could reel me in:)) but I love a dark chocolate or pumpkin or pb flavored one…

  32. I’ve been craving for cheesecake for the past week and this is NOT helping! Should really make some soon. At least bars are less calorific compared to a full sized cheesecake, right? :-P

  33. I love one bowl recipes – saves so much time on washing! I also love graham cracker crusts. This looks like such a delicious treat!

    1. I wash my baking dishes by hand usually b/c I don’t trust my dishwasher with them so the less to wash, the better!

  34. I love cheesecake bars! These look so good with that PB swirl and you know I’m loving the brown sugar-graham crust!

  35. Beautiful cheesecake bars, Averie! Love the PB swirls, too. It’s a good thing this recipe is for an 8×8-inch pan…because I’d eat the entire batch!

    1. I always try to make 8×8 or 9×9 recipes. Because as a blogger, I dont need 4 pans of 9×13 EVERY week. 4 pans of 8×8 is more than enough :)

  36. I am SUCH a fan of cheesecake bars, but that crust – well, I would probably try to eat it all before I got the cheesecake batter on it!

  37. These look magical, Averie! I LOVE cheesecake, used to get it for my birthday every year when I was a kid. These look like a perfect way to enjoy it without making a commitment to a ginormous cake! :)

  38. I love the tip to use cornstarch in the crust. Some of my favorite cookies are made with cornstarch.

    These bars are exactly what I would choose to eat for dessert tonight or any other night for that matter! They look divine!!!

  39. I’m dying just looking at the pictures. These look like the jackpot Averie! How is it that they have all of my favorite things? I am a sucker for a graham cracker crust just like you and I find it necessary to cheesecake bars :) I bet these bars are super creamy! I can’t wait to try them.

  40. Such a good idea to use brown sugar in the crust. It makes total sense because it will add more flavor but I’ve never thought to do it before.

    1. SO much more flavor than granulated. It caramelized, and along with the graham cracker crumbs, totally just made the bars!

  41. Wow! What great cheesecake bars! I simply love it! I can only imagine how wonderful these must taste!!!

  42. I love graham cracker crust, and will have to try the cornstarch and see how it changes it up. I’m interested to see! These bars look fabulous. My son thinks he invented the peanut butter & cream cheese combo years ago, so he certainly will appreciate this!

    1. If he’s already a fan, then these will be RIGHT up his alley! LMK if you try the cornstarch tip. I wrote to Tieghan a couple comments above you more of my thoughts on it, too.

  43. Cheesecake bars are so much faster than a regular cheesecake–and that cornstarch in the crust tip is great (I know it does wonders for cookies). I can’t help but notice the wonderful golden caramelized edges–I’d eat all the corner pieces first!! Dense and indulgent sounds like a perfect description–just the way cheesecake should be (and you have an excellent mix of flavors as always)!!

    1. Normally Im not one for caramelized anything on my baked goods but the graham crackers/butter/brown sugar crust totally benefited from it. It was sort of a happy accident. I almost took them out at about 30-32 mins but ended up leaving them in for 35 mins and it all worked out :)

  44. Your swirls are gorgeous! How on earth do you do that?!? I cannot swirl anything for the life of me! Oh and your tip about using the cornstarch in the crust is genius. Mine always crack and crumble, so I cannot wait to try that out!

    I am not a huge cheesecake person, but these bars look incredible to me!

    1. I wrote about the swirling in the recipe section. It’s super easy and made with 5 parallel ‘lines’ of PB and a toothpick cutting thru them in a perpendicular direction. Like making a giant checkerboard.

      The cornstarch trick works AMAZING in shortbread-style bars, i.e. lemon bars or I have copycat Twix bar recipe and with that butter-white sugar-flour mixture, it’s so key I have found to keeping the crust softer. In this recipe, it wasn’t a huge difference I don’t think but in white sugar based bars, HUGE effect. Lmk if you try it one day!

  45. I love cheesecake bars so much better than regular cheesecake. Well, making them anyway. So much easier! And I love the low-fat cream cheese, it’s all I use. Gotta save where I can. :) These are fab, and of course I love that pb swirl!

    1. Gotta save where we can – yes! With so much already going on, may as well, right! Or have a bigger piece :)

  46. I am dying of shame over here! I have never made cheesecake bars. How is this even possible? How can I still be breathing? These cheesecake bars are, without a doubt, the recipe to cut my tooth on. My cheesecake bar sweet tooth that is!

    I love a thick, sweet, moist graham cracker crust. And I do prefer extra cardio with my sweets, thank you! ;-)

    1. Cheesecake bars are so much easier than cheesecake. You’ll be hooked. Lol to the extra cardio :)