Naturally Rainbow Cheesecake Bars (Dye-Free) Recipe

Rainbow cheesecake is a vibrant, festive way to celebrate a variety of occasions, from birthday parties to family gatherings, holidays, Pride events, and more. But recipe developer Katie Rosenhouse just isn't a fan of the traditional version. "I use gel food coloring for all kinds of desserts, from French macarons to cake frostings and more — especially if I'm creating something with a specific theme or color scheme in mind. But when I'm making a dessert to serve the whole family, I always think twice about grabbing those bottles of food coloring, particularly when kids are involved." 

This beautiful naturally rainbow cheesecake is made completely dye-free. Instead of artificial food coloring, a vibrant assortment of jams, lemon curd, and matcha green tea powder are used to create a patterned topping over traditional cheesecake bars. More than just an eye-catching pattern, these toppings also offer a fruity mix of flavors that will have everyone arguing over which color they like the best. A final flourish of whipped cream and fresh blueberries adds that pop of blue to complete the rainbow color scheme. 

Gather the ingredients for naturally rainbow cheesecake bars

Naturally rainbow cheesecake bars start with a classic graham cracker crust. Graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and melted unsalted butter come together for a crisp base that makes these bars easy to grab. Feel free to swap the graham cracker crumbs with any crisp cookie crumbs you prefer, from crushed chocolate wafers to lemon shortbread cookies. Cream cheese and granulated sugar are beaten for a creamy cheesecake base, while eggs are added to bind the mixture and add structure. Sour cream adds a creamy texture and tangy flavor for the most luscious result, and vanilla extract and kosher salt add depth and enhance the overall flavor of the bars. 

The toppings are where these cheesecake bars shine. Feel free to choose any jams or pipeable toppings you love for this purpose. Rosenhouse opted for raspberry, apricot, and blueberry jam, along with matcha green tea powder and store-bought lemon curd to represent the colors of the rainbow. Fresh blueberries placed over a rosette of fresh whipped cream add a pop of blue, but you can also achieve this by mixing some cheesecake batter with spirulina or blue butterfly pea powder for a natural blue dye.

Step 1: Prepare the baking dish

Spray to coat an 8- or 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Set aside.

Step 2: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 3: Prepare the graham cracker crust

In a medium bowl, stir to combine the graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and the melted butter.

Step 4: Press the crust into the baking dish

Pour into the prepared baking dish and press evenly to coat the bottom (use a small measuring cup to press for perfectly even results).

Step 5: Bake the crust

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until set. Set aside.

Step 6: Beat the cream cheese and sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat to combine the cream cheese and ⅔ cup granulated sugar until smooth.

Step 7: Add the eggs

Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine until smooth after each addition. Scrape down with a rubber spatula as needed to ensure a smooth mix.

Step 8: Beat in sour cream, vanilla, and salt

Beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Step 9: Prepare the matcha batter

Portion ¼ cup of the cheesecake batter into a small bowl. Mix to combine with the matcha powder and 1 teaspoon water until smooth.

Step 10: Transfer toppings to piping bags

Transfer the matcha mixture, jams, and curd each into their own piping bag or sandwich bag.

Step 11: Pour the batter over the crust

Pour cheesecake batter evenly over the prepared crust.

Step 12: Pipe lines of jam and curd

Cut a small hole in each of the piping or sandwich bags and pipe even lines of color (in rainbow order) over the cheesecake batter.

Step 13: Create a pattern

Use a small knife to pull the batter back and forth to create a patterned design.

Step 14: Bake the cheesecake

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cheesecake is very slightly jiggly in the center. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then chill for at least 2 hours.

Step 15: Transfer the cake to a cutting board

Lift the cheesecake out of the pan using parchment paper and transfer it to a cutting board. Remove the parchment.

Step 16: Trim and slice the cheesecake

Trim the edges if desired, then cut into 16 squares.

Step 17: Serve the cheesecake

If desired, top with whipped cream and blueberries before serving. Serve chilled.

What's the best way to cleanly cut cheesecake bars?

It can be surprisingly tricky to achieve that perfectly clean cut for your cheesecake bars, but there are a few tips to keep in mind that help to make it work. Arguably the most important — not just for clean slices but for the best texture for serving — is giving the cheesecake time to chill until set. After the cheesecake rests in the refrigerator for at least two hours, it will be easy to lift the bars out of the baking dish and remove the parchment paper. They'll also be firm enough to slice cleanly. 

When you're ready to cut the bars, fill a large drinking glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife into the water for a few seconds, then wipe the water off with a clean kitchen towel. Use the warm knife to slice the bars, dipping it back into the water and wiping it off after each cut. The heat of the water helps keep the knife clean and also melts the cheesecake slightly with each slice for the cleanest results. Chill the cheesecake bars after cutting, and keep them cold until you're ready to serve them.

Can I make rainbow cheesecake bars ahead?

These showstopping cheesecake bars aren't as complicated to make as they look, but they do require a few steps and time to chill. If you're serving them for a celebration or gathering, these rainbow cheesecake bars can be made in advance to help you get ahead of your party prep. Prepare and bake the bars as directed, then cool completely to room temperature. At this point, you can wrap the entire baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days. You can also freeze them (make sure your baking dish is freezer-safe) for up to one month. 

You can also chill and cut the bars as directed and transfer them to an airtight container, stacking them between layers of parchment paper if needed. The cut bars can be stored in the refrigerator for two days for the freshest flavor before serving, or frozen for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, if frozen. Garnish with whipped cream and blueberries right before serving. If you happen to have any leftover cheesecake bars, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, or frozen for up to two months. 

What other ingredients can I use to color the cheesecake bars?

When deciding on the flavors for these naturally rainbow cheesecake bars, Rosenhouse opted for raspberry jam for red, apricot preserves for orange, store-bought lemon curd for yellow, and blueberry jam for purple. She mixed matcha green tea powder with cheesecake batter to create green, and fresh blueberries took care of the blue. With this idea in mind, you can choose any flavors of jam or toppings you love to create your swirl pattern. For vibrant options, strawberry, cherry, or blackberry jam, orange marmalade, grape jelly, or lime curd would all work well. 

You can also opt for natural food-dye powders. In the same way that we mixed matcha green tea powder with cheesecake batter, you can use beetroot, spirulina, chlorophyll, annatto, hibiscus, and carrot powders to incorporate bright colors. They often require very small amounts to add deep color, so they don't add too much flavor into the mix. If you want to add a chocolate twist, you can also pipe Nutella onto the bars.

If you love this method of creating a natural rainbow pattern, you can experiment with using it for other desserts as well. Try piping toppings in the same way over blondie, brownie, or cake batter, or use to garnish classic sugar cookies, and more.

Naturally Rainbow Cheesecake Bars (Dye-Free) Recipe
5 from 24 ratings
The showstopping rainbow pattern on these cheesecake bars is completely natural, made from jam, lemon curd, and matcha powder, and not artificial food coloring.
Prep Time
2.5
hours
Cook Time
42
minutes
Servings
16
Servings
Naturally rainbow cheesecake bars
Total time: 3 hours, 12 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 8 graham crackers)
  • ⅔ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • ½ tablespoon matcha green tea powder
  • ¼ cup each raspberry, apricot, and blueberry jam
  • ¼ cup lemon curd
Optional Ingredients
  • Whipped cream
  • Fresh blueberries
Directions
  1. Spray to coat an 8- or 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir to combine the graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and the melted butter.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and press evenly to coat the bottom (use a small measuring cup to press for perfectly even results).
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until set. Set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat to combine the cream cheese and ⅔ cup granulated sugar until smooth.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine until smooth after each addition. Scrape down with a rubber spatula as needed to ensure a smooth mix.
  8. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt.
  9. Portion ¼ cup of the cheesecake batter into a small bowl. Mix to combine with the matcha powder and 1 teaspoon water until smooth.
  10. Transfer the matcha mixture, jams, and curd each into their own piping bag or sandwich bag.
  11. Pour cheesecake batter evenly over the prepared crust.
  12. Cut a small hole in each of the piping or sandwich bags and pipe even lines of color (in rainbow order) over the cheesecake batter.
  13. Use a small knife to pull the batter back and forth to create a patterned design.
  14. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cheesecake is very slightly jiggly in the center. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then chill for at least 2 hours.
  15. Lift the cheesecake out of the pan using parchment paper and transfer it to a cutting board. Remove the parchment.
  16. Trim the edges if desired, then cut into 16 squares.
  17. If desired, top with whipped cream and blueberries before serving. Serve chilled.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 299
Total Fat 23.1 g
Saturated Fat 12.9 g
Trans Fat 0.6 g
Cholesterol 97.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Total Sugars 14.8 g
Sodium 203.4 mg
Protein 4.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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