November 15, 2021

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake

Vanilla bean cheesecake made even more wonderful by adding nutty, toasty brown butter to both the crust and filling. 

Yield: 10
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Vanilla bean cheesecake made even more wonderful by adding nutty, toasty brown butter to both the crust and filling. 

 

Do you ever feel like you’ll only scrape a vanilla bean for an occasion? For a really special dish? I won’t do it unless I know I’ll get to see those pretty specks in my final dish. A chocolate cake will never get a vanilla bean. A cheesecake? Will ONLY get a vanilla bean; they just show off so well, speckling that wonderfully creamy inside. 

And this cheesecake? Oh this cheesecake… The idea was born after I saw a photo of a ‘butter pecan’ cheesecake (which is how pecans made it into the crust) but of course I had to take it a few steps further with a vanilla bean, brown butter and brown sugar. And these might be seen as your everyday baking ingredients but oh my do they come together to make something truly wonderful here. 

How to make Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake 

Let’s be real. Cheesecakes are deceptively easy looking cakes that almost always turn out less-than-perfect. I’m going to give you a quick run-down of how to do this simply but, and I stress, but, follow the directions closely so you have a perfectly smooth and creamy cheesecake. 

  1. Brown the butter 
  2. Grind the cookies & pecans to crumbs 
  3. Press in the crust, bake 
  4. Beat together the filling 
  5. Bake & cool, slowly 

 

brown butter cheesecake

Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake

Butter: Unsalted, in a delicate recipe such as this we really want to control how much salt is going in. 

Cookie crumbs: You can use digestive cookies (my personal favorite), golden oreos (but remove the cream), or graham crackers. Any cookie that’s crispy and dry will do. 

Cream cheese: Philadelphia is my go to brand, it’s thick and creamy and makes a really good cheesecake. Use the bricks, not the ones in the tubs. And most importantly, it should be full fat and at room temperature before you begin baking. 

Sour cream: full fat sour cream. You can sub with labneh if you have that instead (I often do this). 

Eggs: Large. They should be at room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water if they are cold when you begin making the cheesecake. 

Vanilla bean: you can sub this with pure vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons will do it. Or, if you have vanilla paste use 2 teaspoons of that (it’ll also give you the pretty specks). 

Brown sugar: light or dark, but be sure it’s soft and fresh! 

How to scrape a vanilla bean 

A fresh vanilla bean should be quite soft. This won’t work as well if you bean hasn’t been kept in an airtight container and has gotten stiff. 

Lay the vanilla bean on the counter with the seam side up. Use a paring knife (or any small, sharp knife you have) to slice through the first layer. Use your fingers to slightly open the top of the bean. Position the knife sharp side up (so the blunt side is on the bean) and scrape downwards, getting most of the flesh out of the bean. Scrape it onto the bowl where you’ll make the filling, or preferably, straight onto the cream cheese so none of the flesh is lost. 

 

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Tips for a perfect cheesecake 

  1. Room temperature ingredients 
  2. Avoid overbeating the batter once the eggs are in 
  3. Use a waterbath 
  4. Bake long and low 
  5. Cool slowly 

 

A secret but wonderful way to make Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake

Once you have your vanilla bean scraped you may feel like you don’t want to waste the shell as there is still (inaccessible!) seedy goodness. You can add the shell to the brown butter to further extract the wonderful vanilla and infuse it into the brown butter. When you are done browning, simply remove it. A lot of the flavor will now be part of the browned butter. 

 

brown butter cheesecake

Troubleshooting Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake

  • My cheesecake sank 

The filling was over-beaten, the cheesecake baked too quickly or cooled too quickly. To avoid this, be sure to beat as little as possible once the eggs are in and bake low and slow, and cool slowly as well. 

  • My cheesecake has brown spots on the top 

It might be overbaked. I had a couple in mine as well, but it’s fine if it’s just a few and they are small and scattered. 

  • My crust is too soft/too crumbly/underbaked 

It might not have been pressed in an even layer on the bottom and up the sides. 

  • My cheesecake seems underdone in the center 

It might not have baked enough. The cheesecake will be soft and creamy in the center but it should not be runny. 

FAQ on Brown Butter Pecan Cheesecake 

  • Can I make this ahead of time? 

You have to make it the day before but you can make it up to 2 days before serving day. 

  • I need to make this nut-free, what can I use instead of pecans? 

I would just up the cookie crumbs to 2 ½ cups instead. 

  • I spy pecans on the bottom of yours, should I do that too? 

Actually don’t!  As soon as I put this in the oven I knew it was a bad idea but there you go. The nuts turned out kind of gummy as they had baked in a very wet filling. There’s enough pecan flavor in the crust for it to come through.

 

Want to see this made step by step? Here’s a an IG story tutorial. In the video I made bars and topped the cheesecake with pecan praline. Here’s the recipe: 

Pecan Praline Recipe

  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed to touch 
  • 3 tablespoons butter (if you have leftover brown butter from making the cheesecake use that) 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if you scraped a vanilla bean for the cheesecake, use the bean) 
  • pinch fine sea salt 
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped 

In a medium sized pot, stir together the sugar and lemon juice. Set it over medium heat and cook, stirring and pressing any lumps as the sugar caramelizes. Once it’s all liquid and turns brown (might smoke a bit), slowly add the heavy cream stirring as you pour. It will bubble up, use a long wooden spoon to stir. Add the butter and stir until melted. Turn the heat off and add the vanilla and salt. Once the caramel is cool, add the pecans. Spread it over the cheesecake once the cheesecake is cooled. You might need to rewarm the caramel slightly so it’s spreadable. 

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake Recipe

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cheesecake

Vanilla bean cheesecake made even more wonderful with added brown butter to the crust and filling.
Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Yields: 10
5 from 13 votes

Ingredients

Brown Butter

  • 1 cup butter

Brown Butter Crust

  • 2 cups graham digestive or golden oreo cookie crumbs, 240g (if oreo, cream should be removed)
  • 1 cup pecans ground, 115g
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon browned butter 120g
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Brown Butter Cheesecake Filling

  • 2 packages cream cheese 452g (at room temperature, soft)
  • ¼ cup brown butter 57g (try to get mostly the bottom brown bits, less of the yellow liquid)
  • ½ cup labne or sour cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar 210g
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Two large eggs

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract can use a vanilla bean scrapings too

Method

  • Brown the butter: Have a heatproof bowl ready and a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Set the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat on to medium. Once the butter is melted turn the heat to medium high and cook as it sputters and spits, then foams, then goes nearly quiet. You’ll see brown bits on the bottom and it will smell nutty. Immediately pour it into the bowl, scraping the pan to get all the little brown bits. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Make the crust: preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and line a tall 8 or 9” cake pan with parchment paper. It’s okay if the paper crinkles on the sides, use metal clips to hold it in place as pictured.
  • In a bowl, stir together the ground pecans, cookie crumbs, powdered sugar and 1/2 cup plus 1 TB of the yellow liquid of the browned butter (reserve most of the browned bits for the filling). Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Try to get an even layer of crumbs on the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 F.
  • Make the filling: Beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt, 3-4 TB of the bits of browned butter you reserved, and vanilla bean scrapings until smooth and no lumps remain (you may have to scrape down the bowl a few times). Add the sour cream and beat until smooth, scraping down as needed. Add the eggs and beat to just combine. If there's still lumps, pour the filling into the cooled crust through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits.
  • Bake the cheesecake: Fill a 13×9” cake pan halfway with warm water and set the cheesecake in the center. Place the cheesecake in its water bath in the oven and bake for at least an hour but probably closer to 1 hour 15 minutes. It’s done when it’s no longer jiggly in the center and the top looks a bit matte. Shut off the oven but leave the cheesecake inside, prop open the oven with a wooden spoon and let it cool for at least 30 minutes. When you take it out, it should be cool enough to do so without oven mitts. Leave it on the counter for another half hour then refrigerate. Cheesecake should chill for 8 hours minimum.
  • For the whipped cream: in a food processor, process the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and sugar for a minute or two, until the cream is thick enough to scoop but not overwhipped. Top on the cheesecake and serve.
  • Store the cheesecake in the fridge. It’ll keep for about a week.

Video

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    I never write reviews. Ever. That being said: I made this for a family gathering this weekend and now I’m tasked with bringing this to every gathering til the end of time. I will never make another cheesecake again! Thank you so much for this!

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this!! I made this for thanksgiving and this was the first cheesecake I’ve ever made. Now I have to bring it every year! Flavors were great, instructions were easy to follow. I used KerryGold butter for some extra richness. The only thing I wish I changed was I added more butter to the crust mixture than the recipe because I thought it looked to crumbly, so the crust was a little more dense than it would have been. I look forward to making it again, as well as trying more of Sam’s recipes.

  3. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! I made it for my family this Thanksgiving without the nuts due to an allergy. The recipe is easy to follow and turned out perfect. I wish I would have taken a picture before we ate it all. I’ve made multiple recipes by Sam and every single one has been amazing.

  4. I cannot wait to taste this! I made it last night, may have snuck some filling before it when in the oven HEAVEN! –When you make the praline pecan topping, do you place on right before you serve? Does it get too hard to cut if stored in fridge??
    Thank you so much!!! 🙂

    • Hi Amanda! I usually have the cheesecake chilled and the praline warm when I put it on. You can let it firm up in the fridge for a bit but if it was left for long time it will get quite stiff.

  5. 5 stars
    I never leave reviews, and I mean NEVER. I made this cheesecake for Thanksgiving coming up (I had to make it slightly in advance). I had leftovers that I cooked in a muffin pan to taste test the recipe with a few family members, and WOW. This cake is incredible. The BEST cheesecake I have ever had!!

  6. The recipe calls for 1c of butter but only 1/4+tbs in the crust and 3-4tbs in the filling. I have a ton of leftover butter! Did I miss a step? This is currently in the oven – hoping it will be a 5-star!

    • Hi! It’s actually 1/2 cup plus 1 TB in the crust, not 1/4. I ask you to brown a full cup because a lot is lost after browning and I want to make sure you have enough for both parts (there is usually some leftover). If you brown 113g butter for example, you’ll end up with roughly 95g after browning. Hoping it’ll turn out great for you!

  7. Hi! This looks so yummy! Does the homemade whip cream need to be put on the day the cheesecake is served or can it be done ahead of time? I am making it a few days ahead of serving and don’t want it to weep. Thanks!

  8. On the whipping cream topping.. does it need to be put on the day the cheesecake is served or can it be put on ahead of time? I know sometimes homemade whip cream can weep/run off the cake. Thanks!

  9. Hi there! This recipe looks great. Would baking it in a disposable aluminum pan affect the outcome of the cheesecake?

    • It could work, you’ll need a pan that’s 3″ deep (so you can still get a water bath). You could skip the parchment paper for it and I’d say you might want to adjust for baking time as it’s a thinner material than the usual pan so might bake quicker.

  10. 5 stars
    Hands down the BEST cheese cake I have ever had. And so easy to make! Thank you so much for sharing all your amazing recipes!

  11. I’m here from the TikTok video and Susana’s comment. I saw how you separated it in the TikTok, but I don’t see the explanation in the recipe directions! I want to save this recipe and try it, but I’m afraid I won’t remember the process from the video. Thank you!

  12. I’m so excited to make this. I love fruit on my cheesecake, is there any fruit you would recommend, or is this better without fruit?

    • Hmmm great question! I can’t see it being bad with raspberries or blueberries. There’s no lemon in the cheesecake so I’d rule out a fruit that’s overly sweet. Oh and I think this would also be good with some cooked apples cooked in a salted caramel!

  13. 5 stars
    Absolutely exceptional!! I’m a part of a vanilla bean purchasing co-op and this was a great way to utilize my bourbon bean paste. I made the recipe 1.5x and divided into two 6” pans. Took about 1.5hrs in the oven, and left in for another hr. before finishing in the fridge. One was sliced after 4ish hrs of fridge time and was great, the other has been chilling overnight and I can’t wait to see the difference in flavor depth. This will for sure be a forever recipe favorite! Thank you!! (I also used biscoff for the cookie crust — buttery deliciousness!!)

  14. Hello, I would like to make this cheesecake and was wondering if the 8 hour chill time was really necessary. Is there any way to speed this up? Could I put the cake in the freezer? Thanks!

    • Most cheesecakes chill overnight. You want it to cool mostly slowly until it’s firm. At the very least let it come to room temperature and maybe even chill it for an hour after that in the fridge. Then you can try speeding up the rest of the chill time in the freezer. Don’t let it freeze though – you’d want it as cool and firm as if it were in the fridge.

  15. It would be nice to have clearer instructions on the brown butter. I ended up making 2 batches of browned butter because it says 1 cup of butter and in the instructions says to add all these ingredients into the butter. It was only after my crust had cooked that I realized the butter needed to be divided, part of it going into the crust and part into the filling. I’m hoping the double amount of butter I ended up adding into the crust isn’t going to kill the whole recipe

    • oh no susana, im sorry to hear it! Double the butter into the crust will probably not set well. I’ll add the words ‘to be divided’ next to the brown butter, for future readers

  16. 5 stars
    Made this for my Christmas treat boxes, and they were a huge hit. Everyone wanted the recipe. The flavor is rich, nutty (even without the nuts), and creamy. This was only my second time making a cheesecake, and it was a much better endeavor (thanks for all the detailed instructions). I had only the teeniest little crack, otherwise it was smooth. Can’t wait to make this/eat this again!

  17. 5 stars
    My family loves cheesecake and I made this for our Christmas Day dessert. It was absolutely delicious! The brown butter and pecan made a great accompaniment to the vanilla bean – not too sweet. Will definitely be making this again!

  18. 5 stars
    Wow – best cheesecake!! Best use of brown butter, the flavour it adds is delicious, and the filling is so creamy and perfect, with vanilla bean…everyone loved it. Thank you!

  19. 5 stars
    I made this for a friends Christmas party and it was a huge success. Not a fan of pecans so I left them out and used half biscoff cookies and half graham for the crust. Turned our amazing. Probably the best cheesecake I’ve ever made.

  20. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe. The crust is one of the best crusts I’ve ever had and I highly recommend you add the pecan praline topping. Even the nut hater in my family loves this cheesecake. Thanks for the amazing recipe!

  21. 5 stars
    Amazing recipe!!
    Came together quickly and because of your tips in the post it didn’t crack!
    Also made some salted caramel sauce and candied pecans for toppings.
    Obviously zero leftovers came home with me 🙂

    • 5 stars
      For someone that has always been too intimated to work with vanilla bean or browned butter, I knew I needed to get over it when I saw thos recipe.
      So worth it!!! I made this recipe for Christmas, and everyone loved it. I’ll definitely make it again!