Is there gluten in cheesecake?

Quick Answer

Traditional cheesecake recipes do not contain gluten. The main ingredients in cheesecake are cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract – none of which contain gluten. However, cheesecake crust and toppings may contain gluten. Graham cracker crust, common in New York style cheesecakes, contains gluten from graham flour. Other crusts made with cookies, cereals, breadcrumbs or flour would also contain gluten. Toppings like fruit sauce or chocolate may be thickened with flour. So while plain cheesecake filling is gluten free, the entire dessert may not be if it has a crust or sauce. Always check the ingredients if you need to avoid gluten.

What is Cheesecake?

Cheesecake is a rich, creamy dessert consisting of a thick filling made primarily of cream cheese, eggs, and sugar baked in a pastry or graham cracker crust. The soft custard-like texture comes from whipping cream cheese or other soft cheeses into a smooth mixture before baking. There are many variations, but classic cheesecake has just a few main ingredients:

  • Cream cheese – The base of the filling. Provides the signature tangy flavor and smooth texture.
  • Eggs – Used to help set the filling. Also adds moisture, richness and structure.
  • Sugar – Sweetens the filling and balances the tartness of the cream cheese.
  • Vanilla extract – Enhances flavor with its warm, aromatic vanilla notes.

In addition to these simple components, cheesecake recipes often include:

  • A crust – Made from cookies, graham crackers, flour, etc. Provides texture contrast and support for the soft filling.
  • Flavorings – Such as lemon, chocolate, fruit purees or jam swirled into the batter.
  • Toppings – Fruit, chocolate, caramel or other decorative garnishes.

The filling ingredients are blended together, poured into a springform pan lined with a crust, and baked in the oven until just set. The gentle heat makes the proteins in the eggs coagulate to give cheesecake its lush texture.

Does Cheesecake Typically Contain Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. The main ingredients used to make the traditional creamy cheesecake filling – cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla – are naturally gluten free. So plain cheesecake without any crust or swirled toppings does not contain gluten.

However, many cheesecake recipes call for a grain-based crust made with graham crackers or flour. These crust ingredients do contain gluten:

  • Graham crackers – Contain graham flour, which is made from whole wheat grains.
  • All-purpose flour – Made from wheat grains, which contain gluten.
  • Cereals or breadcrumbs – Often made with gluten-containing grains.

Any crust or base made using Graham crackers, flour, breadcrumbs or other grains would not be gluten-free.

The recipes for flavored cheesecakes may also include gluten-containing ingredients. For example:

  • Chocolate – Cocoa powder doesn’t contain gluten but milk chocolate likely has barley malt added.
  • Fruit swirls or sauces – Can be thickened with flour to help them set.
  • Cookie crumbles – Cookies are often made with wheat flour.

So while the creamy filling itself can be prepared gluten-free, entire cheesecake recipes may contain sources of gluten in the crust, mix-ins, or toppings.

Common Cheesecake Types

There are many different regional and style variations when it comes to cheesecake. Here are some of the most popular types and whether they typically contain gluten:

New York Style

This classic version has a flat top and dense, rich filling. The crust is made from Graham cracker crumbs and contains gluten. The filling does not contain gluten.

Philadelphia Style

Has a lighter, fluffier texture but is otherwise similar to New York style cheesecake. Uses a Graham cracker crust with gluten.

Chicago Style

Much taller than New York style with an almost soufflé-like filling. Graham cracker crust contains gluten.

European Baked

A very dense, heavy cheesecake with a lightly browned top. Often uses a gluten-containing flour pastry crust.

No Bake Cheesecake

The filling sets from gelatin instead of baking, so it has a smooth mousse-like texture. Graham cracker crust contains gluten.

Japanese Style

Light and jiggly, sometimes baked in a water bath. May use glutenous panko breadcrumbs in crust.

Cheesecake Type Description Gluten-Free?
New York Style Dense, flat top filling with graham cracker crust No – contains gluten
Philadelphia Style Light and fluffy filling with graham cracker crust No – contains gluten
Chicago Style Tall, soufflé-like filling with graham cracker crust No – contains gluten
European Baked Very dense, heavy cheesecake with flour pastry crust No – contains gluten
No Bake Smooth, mousse-like set filling with graham cracker crust No – contains gluten
Japanese Style Light and jiggly, panko breadcrumb crust No – contains gluten

As shown in the table, most traditional cheesecake recipes contain gluten in the crust at a minimum. Only the plain cheesecake filling itself can be considered gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Cheesecake Options

There are a few easy ways to enjoy cheesecake while avoiding gluten:

Make crustless cheesecake

Simply prepare the recipe without any crust or base. This allows the delicious filling to shine without any added grains.

Use a gluten-free crust

Swap traditional crusts for gluten-free options made with nuts, cookie crumbles, or simply pressed into the pan:

  • Graham crackers – Use certified gluten-free brands
  • Oreo cookie crumbs – Look for gluten-free Oreos
  • Almond meal or ground nuts – Provides crunch without gluten
  • Crushed gluten-free cookies or cereal

Buy gluten-free cheesecake

Many grocery stores stock pre-made gluten-free cheesecakes or cheesecake mixes complete with gluten-free crusts. Be sure to check labels.

Order from a bakery specializing in gluten-free

Several bakeries offer online ordering for gluten-free cheesecakes made without wheat, barley or rye. A great option if you don’t want to bake from scratch.

With a few simple tweaks, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can still enjoy the classic richness of cheesecake. Thankfully the creamy filling itself is naturally gluten-free, so avoiding gluten is just a matter of swapping the crust and toppings. Be sure to check labels and ingredients carefully if you need to steer clear of wheat.

Making Your Own Gluten-Free Cheesecake

If you want to bake a gluten-free cheesecake at home, follow these tips for success:

Choose the Right Crust

Pick a gluten-free base with lots of flavor so it stands up against the rich filling. Graham cracker crumbs, Oreo cookie crumbs, nuts, coconut flakes and gingersnaps all make excellent foundations.

Press the crumbs firmly into the bottom and at least 1 inch up the sides of a springform pan for support. Chill the crust before adding filling for best results.

Prepare a Light Filling

Avoid dense, heavy cheesecake fillings which rely more on the crust for texture. Go for a fluffier, airier texture with extra whipped egg whites or ricotta cheese mixed in.

This will prevent your gluten-free crust from getting soggy under a heavy, wet filling. Lighten up the consistency as much as possible.

Bake Low and Slow

High heat can cause thinner, gluten-free crusts to burn. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath at a low 300°F to evenly cook the filling without over-browning the edges.

Check for doneness at the very center, not just around the sides. The center should still jiggle slightly when done.

Chill Completely Before Serving

Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. This allows the filling to set up firmly for clean slices.

Take your time slicing, using a hot, dry knife to avoid dragging the crust. Enjoy your homemade gluten-free cheesecake!

Common Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cheesecake and gluten:

Is New York cheesecake gluten free?

No, New York style cheesecake is not gluten-free because it uses a crust made with Graham cracker crumbs that contain gluten. However, the cheesecake filling itself does not contain gluten.

What can I use instead of graham crackers for the crust?

Some gluten-free substitutes for graham cracker crusts include crushed gluten-free cookies, almond flour, coconut flakes, ground nuts or rice crackers.

Are there gluten free graham crackers I can use?

Yes, you can purchase gluten-free graham crackers from brands like Kinnikinnick Foods, Honey Maid, or Skeleton Creek to use for a gluten-free crust. Always check the label to confirm gluten-free status.

Is Philadelphia style cheesecake gluten free?

Traditional Philadelphia style cheesecake contains gluten because it uses a graham cracker crust. But the creamy cheese filling itself is gluten-free.

Can I just eat the filling and avoid the crust?

Absolutely, the filling of any cheesecake will be gluten-free. You can scrape or cut off the crust portion to enjoy just the creamy gluten-free cheesecake center.


Plain cheesecake made only with cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract is naturally gluten-free. However, cheesecake crusts and some toppings may contain sources of gluten like flour or graham crackers. Check the specific ingredients list of any baked cheesecake, as the entire dessert may not be gluten-free depending on the recipe.

Thankfully there are many ways to enjoy gluten-free cheesecake by using an alternative crust or no crust at all. When in doubt, stick to just the decadent filling or seek out gluten-free labeled cheesecake products to satisfy your craving without the gluten. With a few tweaks, cheesecake can be part of a gluten-free diet.

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