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

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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 averiecooks.com

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

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.

Did you make this recipe?

Ingredients:

Crust
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

Filling
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

Directions:

  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.

Recipe from Averie Cooks. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.

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What’s your favorite cream cheese or cheesecake recipe?

112 comments on “Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust”

  1. 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! ;-)

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

    • 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!

  4. 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)!!

    • 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 :)

  5. 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!

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

  7. This looks seriously yummy! I love that it’s one-bowl and no mixer needed – awesome!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!!!

  11. 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! :)

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

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

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

  16. 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

  17. 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…

  18. PB swirls make ANYTHING better!

  19. 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.

  20. 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 :)

  21. 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 :)

  22. Yes, please! Peanut butter and cheesecake are my jam!

  23. I don’t think I’ve EVER made cheesecake bars. Clearly I need to remedy that! :)

  24. I’m on a bit of a cheesecake kick lately. These are perfect!

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