Dad’s Cheesecake Bars Recipe

These cheesecake bars were inspired by Dad.

No, not my Dads (yes, I have two), but Dad. You know, the archetypal, everyman version of Dad. He’s that guy in ads manning the grill, fixing the car, and riding the lawn mower. You’ve seen him around, right?

In my mind, he’s a man’s man who can be gruff yet distinguished and he has a distinct habit, like smoking cigars or drinking whiskey neat. And, like most every other man I know, he loves cheesecake. So, this dessert is for him because it’s got all those flavors and I just know he’d approve. It’s a cheesecake bar made with all those Dad elements — a base of toasty pecan shortbread that gets topped with a whiskey caramel and a good dash of smoked sea salt.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times that guys don’t like dessert. Well, I can attest these will win over even the most adamant of dessert haters. I made these a few weeks ago for a family dinner and it was all the guys who were fighting over the last bite. It’s an official table turner!

So, in the spirit of the holiday ahead, give a nod to Dad and whip up a batch of these. But just make sure you keep them well hidden until they’re good and set — they have a tendency to disappear.


Dad’s Cheesecake Bars Recipe

  • Makes: 16 slabs or 32 squares
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes ( plus chilling)
  • Hands-On Time: 20 minutes


  • For the shortbread:
  • 2/3 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the cheesecake:
  • 2 pounds (4 [8-ounce] packages) cream cheese
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • For the caramel:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Smoked sea salt, for serving


  • For the shortbread:

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in middle. Line an 8-by 8-inch baking dish with parchment or aluminum foil, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side.

Combine the pecans, butter, flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is well combined and it resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared dish and bake until golden brown on the edges, about 25 minutes; meanwhile, make the filling.

  • For the cheesecake:

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in in bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the processor then add the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until blended.

Pour the mixture over the shortbread and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean and the center of the cheesecake is just set (it will look like custard), about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the cheesecake cool for 15 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Coat a butter knife with oil or butter (or run it under very hot water) and then run it around the perimeter of the cheesecake. Let the cheesecake cool completely, about 1 hour.

  • For the caramel:

Once the cheesecake is cool, make the caramel. Stir together the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened. Brush the insides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar granules then place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Without stirring but swirling the pan occasionally, let the sugar boil until it turns turns amber in color, about 5 minutes. Give the pan a few good swirls to make sure it’s evenly cooking, remove from heat, and carefully add the whiskey. (The caramel will seize but just keep swirling the pan until the alcohol smell is cooked off.) Immediately add the butter and cream, and swirl until the caramel is smooth and uniform in color. Set aside to cool to room temperature, at least out 15 minutes.

  • Assembly:

Pour the lukewarm caramel over the cooled cheesecake, then place in the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 2 hours. When ready to serve, cut into slabs or squares using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Garnish with sea salt and serve.

Desserts Recipes