You'll love this vintage no bake dessert with its simple graham cracker crust. It's SO easy to make at home! Get out your mixer - we're about to make some memories!
You'll fine even more recipes in this Cheesecake Collection!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- No baking
- Tangy lemon flavor
- Tried and true vintage recipe
Easy no bake lemon cheesecake is the perfect summer dessert! It's light and creamy -- not dense and rich like a baked lemon cheesecake filling.
This light lemon dessert is definitely on my favorite recipe list because it's the perfect addition to summer get-togethers! Best of all you can make it ahead of time and freeze it for up to three months!
Nothing unusual here! You could try using 'Nilla Wafers instead of the graham crackers. Be sure you're using evaporated milk and not sweetened condensed milk.
Note: This is an overview of the instructions. The full instructions are in the green recipe card below.
This no bake lemon cheesecake recipe is one of the easiest desserts you'll ever make but you will need to start a day ahead of time. Make sure the evaporated milk, large mixing bowl, and beaters have a chance to get really cold before you use them - or the milk won't get fluffy.
- Add lemon Jello to a medium size bowl
- Stir boiling water into Lemon Jello, stirring until it's dissolved.
- Refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
- Chill a large bowl and the beaters of a hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Pour chilled evaporated milk into the bowl and beat until fluffy - stiff peaks won't form but it will be like soft, whipped cream. I can't stress this enough - the evaporated milk must be freezing cold or it won't whip.
- Blend the softened cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth.
- Stir in the thickened gelatin.
- Beat on low speed until smooth.
- Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped evaporated milk very gently.
- Line bottom of 13x9 inch pan with graham cracker crumbs or other cookie crumbs. Add lemon zest to the crumbs for even more lemon flavor.
- Spoon in the lemon cheesecake mixture.
- Top with more graham cracker crumbs and lemon zest, cover, and chill overnight.
You'll need the following items to make this recipe successfully.
- Seriously y'all, this Turquoise 13x9 inch pan is THE perfect way to make this lemon cheesecake for the full, 1960s ambiance!
- Large mixing bowl
- Medium mixing bowl
- Stand mixer (or hand mixer)
- Rubber spatula
This is a great make-ahead recipe!
You can safely store the cheesecake in the refrigerator in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap for up to 4 days.
Just make sure it's tightly covered and you aren't storing fish or onions in the same space.
You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Make sure it's well covered. When you're ready to serve let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 to 20 minutes before eating it.
But can you freeze cheesecake slices?
Yes!! You can slice this cake into servings. It makes it easy to have some whenever you want - and that's probably going to be often.
Add parchment paper strips between the squares to make it a snap to remove one without disturbing the others.
💭 Tips for success
My favorite item on the Woolworth's menu was this icebox cheesecake, cut in thick, yellow squares with a graham cracker crust and more graham crackers crumbled on the top.
Each bite was decadently creamy and mouth-puckeringly tart.
Here are some tips to ensure you get that same texture and flavor in your own version of this no bake lemon cheesecake recipe!
- You'll need to start this at least a day ahead of time. The gelatin needs time to start to thicken which can take an hour... and the cheesecake needs to chill overnight.
- Use lemon Jello. It's how they did it at Woolworths and making it any other way just won't be the same.
- Use room temperature, full fat cream cheese.
- Make sure you are getting evaporated milk, not condensed milk.
- The evaporated milk, beaters, and bowl have to be VERY cold to whip up right.
- Don't whip the filling! Fold in by hand with a rubber spatula.
- 8 ounces of graham crackers is about 1-½ packs, 2 cups of crumbs.
- Freeze the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of the dish before adding the filling.
- Chill overnight and don't hurry the chilling process.
- The cheesecake should be shiny and firm to the touch when you're ready to serve.
- You can freeze this lemon cheesecake for later once it's chilled overnight and set. Wrap the whole pan in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
👩🏻🍳 Frequently asked questions
Here are the questions I am most frequently asked about this recipe.
This no bake lemon cheesecake doesn't have eggs but it uses gelatin, in the form of lemon Jello, to keep it firm.
There's aren't any eggs in a no-bake cheesecake but it thickens up in the refrigerator. A baked cheesecake has eggs and the texture is more dense.
I remember this cheesecake as having just a crumbly, classic graham cracker crust but someone I was talking to the other day swears that it was a firm graham cracker crust.
If you'd like the firm graham cracker crust then follow these directions:
Mix 3 cups graham cracker crumbs with ¾ cup powdered sugar and 8 tablespoons melted butter. Press into the bottom of the 13x9 inch pan and freeze before filling with the lemon cheesecake.
- Use a vanilla wafer crust.
- Use shortbread cookies for the crust.
- Try lemon cookies for a lemon cheesecake your lemon lovers won't be able to resist.
- Add ½ teaspoon lemon extract for more lemony flavor.
- Add ½ teaspoon vanilla extract to soften the lemon flavor.
- Add some lemon zest in with the graham crackers for the topping.
- Switch it up and use lime Jello and lime juice.
📚 Related recipes
- Grandma's Lemon Ice Box Pie is a tangy and creamy, lemony dessert. You can serve it frozen or just chilled and it's so handy to have in the freezer for unexpected company!
- Banana Pudding is a southern classic that's chock full of ripe bananas, Nilla wafers and a splash of good Kentucky bourbon.
- Mexican Chocolate Cobbler is rich chocolate cake with a creamy, fudgy sauce, kicked up with just the right amount of spice. Best of all? You can make it in the microwave in minutes.
Classic Cheesecake Recipes
📞 The last word
Here's my experience...
- Make sure the evaporated milk is super cold and the cream cheese is room temperature. The first time I made this I had trouble getting the milk to whip because it wasn't cold enough.
- My family liked this plain but you could put a little whipped cream or Cool Whip on top.
- I have accidentally let the Jello get too thick before I added it. If that happens to you just carefully mix until all the Jello is broken up. There may be little shreds of Jello in the filling but it will taste fine.
Back when I was little you dressed up to go shopping - even if it was just to Woolworth's for some hair curlers!
Gloves, dress, frilly ankle socks, and white patent leather shoes were always ready in the closet for those well planned "errand days". Women in the 1960s lived by the calendar and the clock - and ran their households with military precision.
The best thing about those trips to the store were the lunches -- sitting on the twirly, red vinyl topped chrome stools at the counter.
Try as I might to sit still (my little hands grasping the edge of the counter to keep them still and willing the rest of my body to follow suit) my lower body invariably began to twist one way then the other.
Until I got the look.
You can bet I settled down pretty fast because I knew dessert depended on it!
No Bake Lemon Cheesecake
- 3 ounces lemon Jello, unprepared - just the powder.
- 1 cup water, boiling
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice
- 12 ounces evaporated milk, well chilled
- 8 ounces graham crackers, crushed
- Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
- Let cool until it starts to thicken, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice on low until smooth.
- Add thickened gelatin; beat until well blended.
- In another bowl, beat chilled evaporated milk until fluffy.
- Carefully fold in the cream cheese mixture and blend well with a rubber spatula.
- Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with crushed graham crackers.
- Spoon the filling into pan gently, spreading evenly with a spoon.
- Top with more crushed graham crackers, cover, and chill overnight.
- Cut in squares to serve.
- Use lemon Jello. It’s how they did it at Woolworths and making it any other way just won’t be the same.
- The evaporated milk needs to be really cold to whip up properly.
- Use room temperature cream cheese.
- Don’t whip the filling! Mix everything in on low speed or fold in by hand.
- Freeze the graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of the dish before adding the filling.
- Chill overnight and don’t hurry the chilling process.
- The cheesecake should be shiny and firm to the touch when you’re ready to serve.
- You can freeze the cheesecake for later once it’s chilled overnight and set. Wrap the whole pan in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
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Originally published February 25, 2020. Last updated June 24, 2021 for minor grammar edits.