These easy Ube Cheesecake Bars are sure to be the star at your next party! It has a buttery graham cracker crust, an ultra-creamy cheesecake filling, and a vibrant ube swirl topping.
What Is Ube?
Ube (OOH-bay) is a purple yam that's native to the Philippines. It's predominantly used in sweet breads and desserts because of its creamy texture and mildly sweet, earthy flavor. I like to describe the flavor as starchy with a light hint of vanilla and coconut. It's a unique ingredient and has become one of my favorites due to its incomparable color and taste!
Ube works amazing in this dessert because it's the perfect pairing to the dense, creamy, and rich cheesecake filling. And the crispy yet buttery graham cracker crust is a great textural contrast. These luscious Ube Cheesecake Bars are a must-have at your next holiday party, gathering, family dinner, or bake sale!
Why You'll Love It
- Crowd pleasing: These cheesecake squares are the perfect size for a party or potluck. Plus, the pretty purple swirl is a showstopper at holidays!
- Easy: You don't have to worry about a water bath with these bars. This recipe is low maintenance and simple.
- Fun twist: Cheesecake is an all-time classic. But add in a traditional Filipino ingredient like ube to switch things up!
- Graham crackers: The classic choice for a cheesecake crust but feel free to mix it up with your favorite cookies.
- Butter: Melted butter helps the crust stick together and prevents it from being too crumbly.
- Sugar: For both the crust and the filling.
- Salt: A touch in the crust to bring out the flavors.
- Cream cheese: Full-fat, high-quality blocks of cream cheese are important here! Low-fat, whipped, or generic versions will have more water and preservatives. Also make sure to use room temperature cream cheese.
- Sour cream: Adds the perfect amount of tanginess.
- Eggs: To create a smooth, custard-y texture.
- Vanilla extract: Imparts a warm and delicious flavor. It also enhances the ube flavor.
- Ube jam (halaya): A thick paste of sweetened mashed ube. You can make your own or purchase it at Asian grocery stores, Weee (an online Asian market and where I purchase mine), or Amazon. Make sure to keep yours stored in the fridge.
- Ube extract: You really need both the jam and extract to get enough ube flavor. You can also find it in Asian grocery stores, Weee, or Amazon.
How To Make It
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line an 8x8 with foil. Start on the crust by pulsing graham crackers in a food processor until you get crumbs. Then add melted butter, sugar, and salt. Lightly pulse together.
- Pour crumb mixture into the baking dish and firmly press onto bottom and a little up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside and turn the oven down to 325ºF.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar for a full 1-2 minutes until smooth, aerated, and creamy. I recommend setting a timer.
- Add sour cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix until it looks fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- Add the 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat until just barely incorporated. Make sure to not beat the eggs too much! Set aside batter for now.
- In a small bowl, whisk ube jam and hot water until smooth. Add ⅔ cup cheesecake batter and ube extract. Whisk until completely mixed together.
- Pour white cheesecake batter into baking dish. Lightly tap against the counter to remove air bubbles. Then place large dollops of purple batter on top, leaving some white batter between each one. Use a butter knife or chopstick to create swirls.
- Bake the mini cheesecake for 40-50 minutes. At this point, the edges should be a little puffy with a very jiggly center. Turn off the oven and let sit in the oven for an additional 20 minutes. Then place on the counter to cool to room temperature for 1 hour. Next, refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours but best if overnight. Cut into bars and serve cool.
- Make sure to use room temperature ingredients, especially the cream cheese. This allows the ingredients to incorporate fully for a smoother texture.
- Mix in the eggs one at a time and beat until it's just barely incorporated. Overbeating will result in a sunken center with more cracks.
- Ube jam, or halaya, can be very firm, grainy, and stiff. Add a splash of hot water to loosen it up to a smooth consistency before mixing it into the cheesecake batter. This will help prevent lumps.
- Drastic temperature changes are a cheesecake's worst enemy. Let it cool gradually in the hot oven, then let it sit in on the counter for at least an hour to reach room temperature. Next, place it in the fridge for 4 hours to fully set.
Substitutions & Variations
- Have fun with the crust. Instead of graham crackers, use Oreos (without the cream filling), vanilla wafers, ginger snap cookies, sugar cones, or your favorite cookies.
- For more sweetness, try sprinkling mini white chocolate chips on top of the cheesecake batter before baking.
- Ube and coconut are a classic pairing! Add graham crackers and shredded coconut into the food processor and pulse together for the crust.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: After the Ube Cheesecake Bars have been cut, store them in an air-tight container or large zip-top bag. I try not to stack them. Store them in the fridge for 1 week. Serve cold or cool.
Freezing: Wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and place into a large zip-top bag with as much air squeeze out as possible. Store in the freezer for 2-3 months. Let thaw in the fridge overnight.
Make It In Advance: Make these cheesecake squares up to 1-2 days in advance.
You can tell the cheesecake is done baking when the edges are lightly golden and puffy. The center should still be soft and jiggly, but not liquid-y. As the bars cool, the middle will continue to bake and then fully set as it cools.
The texture of the filling with be very dry and gritty, causing cracks throughout the surface as it cools. To prevent this, make sure to turn off the oven when the middle is still very jiggly. It's better to underbake a cheesecake than to overbake it.
It has a similar texture to orange sweet potatoes but feels lighter and creamier. The taste is also more mellow compared to its orange relatives. It doesn't have as prominent of a yam flavor and is mildly sweet with a little hint of vanilla, coconut, and pandan.
Make sure to use room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs. Cream the cream cheese and sugar very well to aerate it. Plus, continuously scrape the sides of the bowl when you're making the filling.
Looking For More?
For more show-stopping desserts, try:
- Strawberry Lemon Cookies
- Healthy Almond Cupcakes
- Healthy Banana Cake
- Hot Cocoa Cookies
- Orange Candied Almonds
Ube Cheesecake Bars
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8x8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
- Place graham crackers in a zip-top bag with as much air squeezed out as possible. Use a mallet, rolling pin, or pan to crush crackers into size of breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place crackers in food processor and pulse until crushed. Measure out 1 cup crumbs.
- To a food processor, add cracker crumbs, melted butter, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Pulse until well-combined and mixture resembles wet sand. Pour into lined baking dish and press firmly onto the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool. Turn oven temperature down to 325°F.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and 1 cup white sugar for 1-2 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. The mixture should be smooth and creamy.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Mix until fully combined. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating until just barely incorporated. Make sure to not overmix the batter. Set aside for now.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together ube jam and hot water until smooth. Add ube extract and ⅔ cup of the cheesecake batter. Mix to fully incorporate.
- Pour the white cheesecake batter into the crust. Lightly tap against the counter to make sure it's even. Then use a spoon to place dollops of the purple batter on top, leaving a little space of white between each purple dollop. Use a chopstick or butter knife to make swirls, cleaning the edge once in a while for clean swirls.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the edges are set but the center is still soft and wobbly. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 20 more minutes. Then remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
- Carefully remove the bars out of the pan. Cut into 16 squares, cleaning the knife between each cut for clean slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Ube jam, or halaya, is a thick past of sweetened mashed ube. You can make your own or purchase it at Asian grocery stores, Weee (an online Asian market and where I purchase mine), or Amazon. Make sure to keep yours stored in the fridge.
- You really need both the ube jam and extract to get enough flavor. You can also find ube extract in Asian grocery stores, Weee, or Amazon.
- Store Ube Cheesecake Bars in an air-tight container or zip-tip bag in the fridge for 1 week.
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