Filed under: Brownies & Blondies
November 18, 2022

Brownie Batter Cheesecake Bars

Creamy vanilla bean cheesecake bars swirled with brownie batter! The batter stays ‘batter’ like so it’s just as smooth as the cheesecake. This is the brownie cheesecake mashup dream.

5 from 3 votes
Yield: 16 bars
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Recipe Overview 

The first time I made this was a few years ago and I couldn’t tell you exactly what prompted it, but I believe I made it for my husband on one of our anniversaries (or his birthday? I really don’t remember). I seem to have gotten it in my head that cheesecake would be so much better if it had swirls of brownie in it, unbaked brownie at that and we both delighted in it – enough that I kept my notes! 


In its firstborn form it was a round, tall cheesecake but when I tried remaking it like that recently I struggled to get it to bake fully without browning on top (I’m a water bath girl now, we’ll talk more about that in a min). Bars are generally more approachable anyway and, given I am publishing this with Thanksgiving right around the corner, serve a party well. 


Fair warning: these are so damn delicious and will be fought and sought after so bookmark this page for all the holidays! 


Key Recipe Ingredients 


Cookie crumbs: I use chocolate sandwich cookies (the whole foods ones that are like oreos) but I scrape off the cream because we don’t need the added fat and sugar for the crust (it’ll mess up the ratios in the recipe below). 


If you want to keep the cream and don’t mind a very sweet crust, use less butter. Whatever cookie you choose, grind it up well in a food processor then measure. 


Cream Cheese: Firm cream cheese, not whipped, not spreadable, not anything in a tub. They should be in bricks. If the brand you usually use is quite soft, swap it for Philadelphia which is nice and firm. 


Sour Cream: Full fat. You may also use labneh here if you have that on hand more often, it gives a bit more tang to the cheesecake. 


Flour: All purpose. If you want to make this gluten free (and are using gluten free cookie crumbs) you can easily sub with a 1 to 1 flour swap. 


Chocolate hazelnut spread: One thing I do remember clearly was purposely choosing to add ‘nutella’ to the brownie batter so that it would not bake into a typical brownie. This helps keep it like a thick custard. If you need to avoid hazelnuts, use another chocolate nut or seed butter (peanut butter, sunflower butter, a chocolate tahini spread could also work). It doesn’t have to be a chocolate spread per se, but it’s better if it is. 


The importance of room temperature cream cheese, sour cream and eggs. But mostly cream cheese 


You’ll see me instruct you to have room temperature sour cream but honestly I never remember to take it out (plus it’s a big tub and I only need a bit?). The cream cheese though, you absolutely must have it as properly soft and almost ‘warm’ as you can. 


Take the cream cheese out at least a few hours before you begin, if your kitchen is particularly warm and you’re concerned about it melting, you might just need an hour. 


To hasten things along, remove the cardboard packaging and let it sit on the counter in just the foil wrapping. 

Baking cheesecake bars in a water bath: do I have to? 


100% yes. This is one of those things that when you start doing it, you can’t possibly imagine not doing it. The water bath is a protective shield against the heat; the water warms and creates a barrier around the custard so that it heats, and bakes slowly and evenly. 


We are making these as bars so you’re using a cake pan which will sit nicely in a larger cake pan, no need to wrap anything or worry over water leaking in, filled just halfway with hot water. 

Can I double this brownie swirled cheesecake bar recipe? If so, how do I manage the water bath? 


If you are doubling the recipe you’ll be baking it in a 9×13” cake pan and well, likely not have a bigger pan to make a water bath out of. In this case I’d use another 9×13” cake pan, fill it with hot boiling water, and place it on the rack underneath the cheesecake. It won’t surround it in the same way but the added moisture to the oven will help it bake evenly. 


Baking time may need to increase a bit, add about 10-15 minutes overall. 


Could I halve this recipe? 


Yep, halve everything and bake it in a loaf pan. Loaf pan can sit in a square or 13×9” cake pan. It’ll likely bake a bit quicker, check it at 30 minutes. You’re looking for set edges. 


Brownie Batter Cheesecake Bars

Creamy vanilla bean cheesecake bars swirled with brownie batter! The batter stays ‘batter’ like so it’s just as smooth as the cheesecake. This is the brownie cheesecake mashup dream.
Prep Time: 26 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 16 bars
5 from 3 votes


Cookie Crust

  • 190g or 1 ½ cups g cookie crumbs oreo (cream removed), digestives or graham crackers
  • 76g or ⅓ cup g butter unsalted

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

  • 452 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 134g or ⅔ cup g sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 120g or ½ cup g sour cream at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Brownie Batter

  • 55g or ¼ cup butter
  • 105g or ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & vanilla
  • 25g or ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread can sub with another nut butter or seed butter
  • 1 tablespoons flour


Prepare the crust

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8x8” square baking pan with parchment paper on all sides (two overlapping sheets to make a + )
  • Melt the butter and mix with the cookie crumbs. Press into one layer into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool, and lower the oven temperature to 325 F.

Make the cheesecake filling

  • The cream cheese should have been out on the counter for at least a couple of hours, be very soft and at room temperature. Place it into a bowl along with the vanilla, salt and sugar. Beat with a hand mixer (you could also do this in a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment) until very smooth, and there’s no lumps. Add the sour cream and beat well.
  • Add the eggs and flour and beat to just combine.
  • Make the brownie batter
  • Melt the butter in the microwave until almost but not fully melted. Add the sugar and heat again, for about 30 seconds. Whisk vigorously for a full 30 seconds. Crack in the egg and whisk very well.
  • Add the cocoa, flour and chocolate hazelnut spread and whisk.

Bake the bars

  • Onto the crust, pour half of the cheesecake batter. Dollop the brownie batter into the cheesecake, in 3-4 areas, using only half of the brownie batter. Use an offset spatula or butterknife to swirl the brownie batter in.
  • Pour the rest of the cheesecake batter over and gently smooth to create an even layer. Dollop the rest of the brownie batter in 3 big circles. Swirl again.
  • Place the pan in a 9x13” cake sheet pan. Fill just half the way with hot water.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and prop open the oven door to cool for about 15 minutes. Let cool on the counter for another 15 minutes then set in the fridge for at least six hours to chill. Serve cold.

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Recipe Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Amazing as usual! I actually skipped the cookie crust and added a dark chocolate ganache to the top and it worked out perfectly! Everyone loved these.

  2. 5 stars
    These are dangerously good! Like all of Sam’s recipes, this recipe is much more special than your run-of-the-mill cheesecake. The addition of the nut butter keeps the brownie so perfectly ooey gooey after baking while the cheesecake texture remains perfectly firm.

  3. 5 stars
    K, I absolutely do NOT like chocolate and cheesecake together, so I have no idea why I even clicked on this, but OMG am I ever glad I did!!! Had a bit of a struggle with the brownie batter thickening and not swirling through very well, but pretty sure it was operator error. I’m bound and determined to get it right, so will just keep trying and trying lol! This even replaced a very fussy BIL’s dessert favorite… tyvm!!! You are my hero!

    • Ahhhh I’m so glad you loved it!!! The brownie batter has been thick for me too, I’ve found it happens when the butter has cooled. I don’t think you did anything wrong, I’d say just try to be more aggressive in your swirling.