Starting with a brown sugar shortbread crust, these Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars cradle an easy to make velvety, cheesecake layer. On top, a crunchy layer of apples is crowned with a buttery streusel topping and ribbons of caramel. It’s the all-occasion fall dessert bar to make this season.
Fall-Inspired Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars Recipe
Whether you’re planning a cozy family gathering, a festive dinner party, or simply craving a slice of autumn on a plate, these Apple Caramel Cheesecake Bars are ready to be put in your baking queue and enjoyed.
Related: Caramel Apple Cupcakes
With fall and apples being inseparable companions, this seasonally-inspired treat marries the flavors of these apple-filled cheesecake bars into the perfect squares of tastes and textures: a shortbread crust (that gets caramel-y and slightly chewy from the molasses in the sugar), a creamy cheesecake layer, and a crown of caramel-drenched apples covered in streusel. It doesn’t get better than this!
Seven Perfect Occasions for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars to Shine
- Fall Birthday Party: If you or a loved one has a fall birthday, these bars can serve as the centerpiece of your dessert table.
- Book Club Meeting: If you’re part of a book club, bring these bars to your fall-themed book discussion for a tasty literary treat.
- Autumn Potluck: Impress your friends and coworkers at an autumn-themed potluck with these bars, which are easily a crowd-pleaser.
- Fall Brunch: These bars are a great addition to a fall-themed brunch, especially when paired with apple cider or pumpkin spice lattes.
- Fall Picnic: Pack these bars along with a thermos of hot apple cider for a cozy fall picnic in the park.
- Halloween Party: Serve these bars as a sweet treat at your Halloween party, adding a touch of elegance to your spooky festivities.
- Thanksgiving Dinner: These bars are a no-brainer addition to your Thanksgiving dessert spread. You might want to make a double batch.
Why Granny Smith Apples Are the Best Choice for These Bars
The number one reason to use Granny Smith apples in this recipe is because of their tart and slightly sour flavor. It’s the best contrast to the sweetness of the caramel and cheesecake layers. The tartness adds the complexity you want to experience in this dessert.
Granny Smith’s are firm and hold their shape well when baked. This guarantees the apple layer in your bars retain a pleasant texture rather than becoming mushy.
The tartness also balances the overall sweetness of the dessert, preventing it from becoming overly cloying.
They have the best aroma while baking, your house is going to smell amazing.
These ingredients come together and make the layers and flavors that make Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars the perfect fall dessert. Full, printable recipe can be found at the end of the post.
- Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust: The sweet and crumbly foundation that supports the layers above.
- Cream Cheese: Makes the creamy and tangy cheesecake layer that’s both rich and velvety.
- Granulated Sugar: Sweetens the cheesecake layer and adds a balanced sweetness.
- Eggs: Binds and sets the cheesecake layer, creating its creamy texture.
- Vanilla Extract: Infuses a vanilla aroma and flavor into the cheesecake.
- Apples: The fruity goodness and a hint of tartness.
- Cinnamon and Nutmeg: Spices that complement the apples, adding warmth and depth.
- Streusel Topping: A buttery mixture of brown sugar, flour, and oats that tops the bars, providing a crispy, sweet contrast.
- Caramel Sauce: Drizzled over the top, it adds a decadent finishing touch and enhances the overall sweetness.
How To Make These Bars Gluten Free and Vegan
To make Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars gluten-free and vegan, you can substitute the following ingredients:
- Gluten-Free Crust: Use a gluten-free flour blend or almond flour for the crust instead of traditional wheat flour. You can also consider gluten-free graham crackers or gluten-free oat flour.
- Vegan Cream Cheese: Opt for a vegan cream cheese alternative made from ingredients like cashews, almonds, or soy, which are dairy-free.
- Vegan Sugar: Ensure the sugar used is vegan-friendly, as some sugars are processed using bone char. Look for organic or vegan-certified granulated sugar.
- Egg Replacer: Replace eggs with a suitable egg replacer such as flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg), applesauce, mashed banana, or commercial egg replacers.
- Vegan Caramel Sauce: Choose a vegan caramel sauce made with dairy-free ingredients. You can make one using coconut milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, or purchase a pre-made vegan caramel sauce.
- Vegan Butter: Substitute dairy butter with a vegan butter or margarine alternative.
Make sure all your chosen ingredients are labeled as gluten-free and vegan to accommodate dietary restrictions while maintaining the deliciousness.
How To Make These Cheesecake Bars Dairy-Free
To make Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars dairy-free, you can substitute the following ingredients:
- Crust: Instead of using dairy butter, use a dairy-free butter substitute such as margarine or a plant-based butter spread.
- Cream Cheese Filling: Replace the regular cream cheese with a dairy-free cream cheese alternative. There are various brands available made from ingredients like cashews, almonds, or soy.
- Streusel: Substitute dairy butter with a dairy-free butter alternative like coconut oil or a dairy-free margarine.
- Caramel Sauce: There are dairy-free caramel options available or you can prepare your own using dairy-free ingredients like coconut milk and dairy-free butter.
How To Make A Healthier Version of These Cheesecake Bars
They surely won’t taste the same, but here are some ideas that might help with any of your dietary needs.
- Use a whole grain flour or almond flour for a portion or all of the flour in the crust to increase fiber and reduce refined carbohydrates.
- Replace some or all of the butter with unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas for a lower fat content, but this will result in a soggier crust.
- Cream Cheese Filling:
- Opt for reduced-fat or light cream cheese to reduce the overall fat content.
- Consider using a Greek yogurt or cottage cheese-based filling for added protein and reduced fat.
- Reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by using a sugar substitute like erythritol, stevia, or a blend of both.
- Use natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey in moderation as alternatives to refined sugar.
- Egg Replacer:
- Use flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg) or unsweetened applesauce instead of whole eggs to lower cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Keep the apples as is; they contribute vitamins and fiber.
- Streusel Topping:
- Replace some or all of the butter in the streusel with a healthier fat option like coconut oil.
- Use whole grain flour or almond meal instead of regular flour for added nutrition.
- Caramel Drizzle:
- Consider a lighter caramel sauce made from reduced-fat coconut milk or almond milk and a natural sweetener.
- Use a moderate amount of caramel or skip it altogether to reduce sugar content.
- Serving Size:
- Cut smaller portions to control calorie intake.
Step By Step Instructions for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Here is a condensed version of the steps needed to get these bars made. Full instructions can be found at the end of this post.
- Prepare the Base:
- Create a crumbly crust mixture.
- Press it into a lined and greased baking pan.
- Bake until lightly browned.
- Make the Cheesecake Layer:
- Blend cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
- Add eggs and vanilla while ensuring a lump-free mixture.
- Pour this creamy layer over the baked crust.
- Add Apples and Streusel:
- Toss chopped apples with spices and sugar.
- Spread the apple mixture evenly over the cream cheese layer.
- Sprinkle a streusel topping on top.
- Bake, Cool, and Serve:
- Bake until the filling is set.
- Allow it to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.
- Drizzle with caramel sauce before serving.
Tips For Success
- Read the recipe thoroughly before starting.
- Prepare all ingredients in advance.
- Use room temperature dairy ingredients, this ensures a smoother and creamier cheesecake filling.
- Line the baking pan with parchment paper, this makes it easier to lift the bars out for slicing.
- Prebake the crust to prevent sogginess.
- Avoid overmixing the cheesecake filling.
- Layer ingredients carefully and evenly.
- Test for doneness with a toothpick or knife.
- Allow bars to cool on a cooling rack.
- Chill bars thoroughly before cutting.
- Drizzle caramel sauce just before serving to avoid being too gooey.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they can be served chilled or room temperature.
- Feel free to customize the recipe to your liking by adding nuts, spices, or other favorite ingredients.
- Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for extra indulgence.
More Delicious Apple-Inspired Fall Recipes
If you’re trying to resist the temptation of seasonal apple recipes, no need to hold back – indulge to your heart’s content!
- Treat yourself to the perfect marriage of creamy and crunchy with this Cream Cheese Apple Crisp recipe.
- Invite the flavor of caramel apples right into your kitchen by enjoying a generous serving of this Butterscotch Apple Crisp.
- With golden raisins, walnuts, and a hint of spice reminiscent of classic apple pie, these Fresh Apple Bars are such a treat!
- Caramel Apple Cake infuses caramel into each layer of this cake, which makes you think you’re tasting a candied apple.
- German Apple Cake has an uncomplicated batter that envelops thinly sliced, fanned-out apples and looks as beautiful as it tastes.
- Don’t stress about needing advanced pie-making skills for these charming Mini Apple Crumble Pies. They’re perfectly portioned for a post-meal treat.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Cravings Away, Especially When It’s in Cheesecake Form
There’s no denying that cheesecake just got a sweet autumn upgrade with this apple caramel twist. When you decide to make a batch, don’t forget to capture a photo and mention @NOBLEPIG and #noblepig on INSTAGRAM. Every bite is pure bliss.
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If you’re serving these for a special occasion and want to splurge, use my absolute favorite store-bought caramel sauce for the drizzle, with some flecks of Maldon salt sprinkled on top. Worth every penny.
Apple Caramel Cheesecake Bars
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup butter room temperature
- 3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup caramel sauce to drizzle
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9x13 baking pan by lining it with parchment paper (leave an overhang for easy removal) and coated with coking spray.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, food processor, or two forks, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes crumbly. Press this crumbly mixture evenly into the baking pan.2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 cup butter
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until it turns lightly browned.
Prepare the Cheesecake Filling:
- In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer at medium speed to beat together the cream cheese and sugar until the mixture becomes smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla extract, ensuring you scrape the bowl to prevent any lumps. Pour this creamy mixture over the warm crust.3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 tsps. vanilla extract
Prepare the Apples:
- In another medium-sized bowl, stir together the chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon this apple mixture evenly over the cream cheese layer.3 Granny Smith apples, 2 tbsps. granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Prepare the Streusel Topping:
- In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together the brown sugar, flour, oats, and butter using a spoon. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the apple layer.1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats*, 1/2 cup butter
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the filling is set.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack until room temperature, then chill for at least 1 hour. Chill longer if you want those perfect, clean slices.
Finish with Caramel Sauce:
- Prior to serving, drizzle the cheesecake bars with caramel sauce. These bars can be served with whipped cream or ice cream for added indulgence.1/2 cup caramel sauce to drizzle
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