Finding a passable vegan cheesecake recipe is harder than it seems. Many versions result in a too soft, tofu-y creation that never fully earns the title of "cheesecake." This vegan and gluten-free cheesecake has passed the taste tests of my family's discerning palate and has become a beloved holiday dessert. Topped with vegan whipped cream and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, this cheesecake has a convincing texture and a mellow, yet luscious flavor. You can use a pre-made graham cracker crust or pair the filling with your own homemade crust. I made mine from a base of ground rice cereal and oats (see recipe for specifics)! The cheesecake filling is the main event, so use whatever crust you like or have on hand. Whether you are vegan yourself or will be entertaining a vegan guest during the holidays this year, we think you'll find zero objections (and probably several recipe requests) when this creamy confection hits the dessert table. Read on for a vegan and gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake that will have you dreaming of holiday flavors all year long.
1. Gather the ingredients
For the crust:
- 1 1/4 cup rice cereal
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 1/2 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine, such as Earth Balance, plus a small amount for greasing the pie pan
- 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
For the cheesecake filling:
- 2 1/2 packages (8 oz each) of vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti brand)
- 1 cup sugar or coconut sugar, plus more as desired
- 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
- 2 1/2 Tbsp egg replacer, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp molasses
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- Vegan whipped cream, for topping
2. Make the crust.
If you are making your own crust, do so now. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, blend the rice cereal, oats, and sugar, then add in the butter. Pulse until well-combined and the texture of wet sand. Grease a pie pan and cover the bottom of the pan with the crust, pressing down slightly. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the crust from the oven and let cool. I baked my crust the night before and, after cooling, covered it and kept it in the fridge until the next morning.
3. Make the hot water bath.
A hot water bath prevents the cheesecake from cracking, so I would highly recommend following this step. In a large roasting pan or other pan large enough to place your pie pan, add water. You want the water to go about half way up the pie pan, so place your pie pan in the larger pan to make sure there is enough water (once you have made sure the water level is correct, remove the pie pan so that it can be filled with the cheesecake). Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and place the water bath pan in the oven while the oven is heating up. As an alternative, you can heat water (perhaps in a teapot) and then add it to the larger pan after the cheesecake has been assembled and placed in it. Just don’t surround the cheesecake with cold water.
4. Make the egg replacer slurry.
In a small bowl, mix the water and egg replacer rapidly until it becomes thicker and more dense. Set aside momentarily.
5. Make the cheesecake filling.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the egg replacer slurry and pumpkin and beat well again. Add the molasses, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves and beat well. At this point you can taste the filling and decide if you want any more sugar (I didn’t). I would caution against using more maple syrup as it will change the texture of the cheesecake.
6. Bake the cheesecake.
Scrape the cheesecake filling into the greased pie pan — it will be almost full. If heating the water for the hot water bath in the oven, gently take out the larger pan and place the cheesecake-filled pie pan in it. Carefully, put this back in the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes – 1 hour and 15 minutes. I cooked mine for 1 hour and 5 minutes, and although most of it was a firm, cheesecake texture, I think it would have been better with another ten minutes in the oven. In any case, the middle of the cheesecake should be set and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and the hot water bath and let cool on a wire rack or the counter for about 1/2 hour.
7. Refrigerate and serve.
Once cooled almost to room temperature, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours, but even longer is recommended to allow the cheesecake to firm up. Cut into slices and serve, topped with plenty of vegan whipped cream and another dusting of cinnamon. Enjoy and happy holidays!