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I Made This No-Bake Cheesecake with Pudding from 1972—It’s Delicious

This retro no-bake cheesecake stirs a surprising ingredient into the batter: pudding mix! Turns out, the addition is ingenious. Learn how to make this easy, customizable cheesecake.

The 1972 print ad for the Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake with Pudding says this recipe is “a perfect summer dessert, because you don’t have to bake it.” Now that I’ve tried it myself, I have to agree, with one caveat: it’d be a welcome dessert any time of the year.

Like most no-bake cheesecakes, it’s a cinch to make, but this recipe’s ingredient list stands out. The batter is mixed with cream cheese, sugar and one ingredient you might not expect: instant pudding mix. What’s up with that?

Taste Of Home Culinary Assistant Maggie Knoebel shares that besides adding flavor and extra sweetness to the dessert, instant pudding mix has another important role, thanks to cornstarch in the ingredients. She says, “Cornstarch does most of the work by helping stabilize a thicker batter, working with the other ingredients, so the cheesecake will stay firm without baking. It also helps in creating the soft, smooth texture.”

Sometimes, vintage desserts have the smartest tricks!

How To Make A No-Bake Cheesecake with Pudding

Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

The vintage recipe for the no-bake cheesecake recommends vanilla or lemon pudding mix; I went with lemon. It also suggests a square baking pan to make cheesecake squares. If you prefer, make the cheesecake in a 9-inch pie plate instead. It serves 8-9 people.

ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups of finely-crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 9 long graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 12 ounces very soft cream cheese (1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package (3-3/4-ounce) Jell-O Instant Lemon Pudding & Pie Filling (or any flavor you wish)
  • Optional garnishes: Whipped cream, fresh berries, canned fruit pie filling, chocolate curls

Tools You’ll Need

  • 8×8-inch Baking Pan: The straight sides and corners of this pan make uniform bars.
  • Parchment Paper: Lining the pan makes it easy to remove the set cheesecake.
  • mixer: Use a handheld or stand mixer to make the cheesecake filling.

Directions

Step 1: Make the crust

graham cracker crust in a square baking dish

Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup of sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. (If you used a food processor to make the graham crumbs, you can use it to blend in the sugar and butter, too.) Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the graham mixture in the pan and use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs into a firm, even layer. Put the bread in the fridge.

Step 2: Make the filling

a clear glass bowl with pudding mix

Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Blend the very soft cream cheese with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until it’s creamy and smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the cold milk and blend until combined. Pour in the rest of the milk, the 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla and the pudding mix. Beat everything together for two minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Editor’s Tip: It’s important that the cream cheese is at room temperature and soft for a successful cheesecake. Cold cream cheese will make the texture of the cheesecake look curdled and lumpy. Slice it into cubes to help it warm up more quickly.

Step 3: Put the filling in the crust

no back cheesecake bars in a square baking dish

Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Pour the cheesecake filling over the crust in the pan, and use a rubber spatula to smooth it into an even layer. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill the cheesecake for at least two hours until it’s set and very cold.

Step 4: Slice and garnish

No Bake Pudding Cheesecake bars topped with cream and raspberries

Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Use the ends of the parchment to carefully lift the cheesecake from the pan, and set it on a cutting board. Cut the cheesecake into 9 slices and place them on a serving platter or individual plates. Top each slice with garnishes like whipped cream, fresh blueberries or raspberries, strawberry or cherry pie filling, or curls of dark or white chocolate.

Store leftover cheesecake slices covered in the fridge for up to one week.

Here’s What I Thought

I mean seriously, what’s not to love here? This is the easiest dessert to pull together, and my family and I really enjoyed the flavor and smooth texture of this pudding cheesecake.

The soft citrus flavor of the lemon pudding mix was very refreshing. We added a handful of tart, fresh raspberries, which were a nice complement to the light sweetness of the cake. The classic graham cracker crust was the perfect base. The slices held up well in the fridge, so we got to enjoy them over several evenings. This is a great recipe to bookmark for a summer potluck dessert, and would be a fun one to make with kids, too.

The recipe is also flexible and easy to customize. Change up the flavor of instant pudding in the batter: there are lots of flavors available. Mix and match toppings, too, from fruit to whipped cream. Flavor ideas kept popping into my head for next time: maybe vanilla pudding mix with whipped cream and strawberries, banana cream pudding with chocolate sauce or chocolate with caramel and crushed Oreo cookies.

The hot days of summer are coming, so bookmark these no-bake dessert recipes now.

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