This rich and creamy No-Bake Tangerine Cheesecake recipe with a spiced shortbread cookie crust is easy-to-make and stunning for a dinner party. And it's a beautiful way to take advantage of winter citrus.
Tangerine Cheesecake is incredibly delicious and especially pretty! The vibrant, sweet citrus offers a beautiful burst of sunlight in a winter dessert.
This cheesecake is made with Ojai Pixies, which are sun-sweetened, delicate, seedless fruit treasures. Their luscious tangerine flavor makes its way throughout the cheesecake. There's zest in the buttery cookie crust and in the silky-smooth filling, and of course the gorgeous slices decorating the top that create a stunning presentation.
(I often suggest brands I love and use — these are only suggestions and this is not a sponsored post.)
- tangerines - While I use the Pixie tangerines, you can use other varieties too. (See Substitutions below.)
- cream cheese - For this recipe, use the blocks of cream cheese, not whipped.
- sweetened condensed milk
- lemon juice - I use Meyer lemons over regular lemons when given the option. They're a touch less tart, a tad sweeter, and extremely juicy because their skin is thinner.
- pure vanilla extract - I like this one.
- shortbread cookies - These cookies work well. (Or you can make your own.)
- unsalted butter - I always bake (and cook) with unsalted butter so I can control exactly how much salt is in the recipe.
(See recipe card below for quantities.)
- If you love a graham cracker crust, you can swap them with the shortbread cookies, and add about 3 tablespoons of sugar.
- Gluten-free? Substitute regular shortbread cookies with a gluten-free cookie. When I do this, I use Tate's Gluten-Free Coconut Crisp Cookies.
- You can certainly use other tangerine varieties, just be sure you use one without seeds or very few.
- You can use this cheesecake recipe with any citrus you like. It's really fun to use blood oranges. It will look similar to this Upside Down Blood Orange Turmeric Cake.
How to Make it
- Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- Blend the cookies in a food processor until they're fine crumbs. Then add cardamom, cinnamon, salt, tangerine zest and melted butter and blend again until it’s evenly combined.
- Add softened cream cheese to a bowl and mix until it's very smooth without any lumps. Add sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, vanilla and tangerine zest, and stir until it's a creamy, smooth consistency.
- Peel about 5 of the zested tangerines and cut them horizontally into thin slices.
- Line the bottom of the springform pan, on top of the parchment paper, with the tangerine slices. Then sprinkle about ½ cup of the crust mixture on top of the slices and gently spread it out to cover them.
- Pour the filling on top and gently spread it out evenly. Then top it with the remaining crust mixture, spreading it out evenly as well.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (ideally overnight).
- When you're ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the pan by inverting it onto a very large plate or a serving platter.
- Be sure to wash and dry the tangerines before you zest them, and zest them before you slice.
- Do not change the lemon juice measurements. Your cake will not taste lemony, but it's the acid in the juice that works with the other ingredients to help no-bake cheesecakes solidify in the refrigerator.
- It's very important that the cream cheese be softened before you make the filling -- otherwise it will be lumpy. It's a good idea to set it out at room temperature a few hours before you're ready to make the recipe.
- Tangerine peel is easiest to zest with a microplane zester.
- When the cake is ready to be inverted to present and serve, it helps to gently press down on the bottom piece of the springform pan. This will gently push it onto the plate, then you can unlatch the spring.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the cake so the citrus slices are easy to cut through.
More Recipes with Tangerines
Making it Ahead and Storage
You can make a tangerine cheesecake ahead of time, and it's easy to store.
Refrigerator. You can store a no-bake cheesecake in the refrigerator for about 5 days, though I'd serve it only 1 or 2 days after it's made if possible.
It should be wrapped very tightly with plastic wrap if it's still in the pan. This is how I store it, to be sure it keeps its shape until I'm ready to serve.
Freezer. The cheesecake can be stored for up to about 2 months in the freezer if it's wrapped very well. Once frozen, thaw it at room temperature for a couple of hours, or place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Ojai Pixie tangerines are grown in the Ojai Valley in California. With sunshine and heat all day, and cool temperatures at night, it's the ideal spot for producing this citrus gem. It's this climate combination that helps develop their unmatched sweetness.
Pixies are very sweet and they're less acidic than most other tangerines. They are always seedless and incredibly juicy.
The Pixie tangerine season typically starts in March, and goes through May. It's a short season -- so get them while you can!
You can buy Ojai Pixie Tangerines at Certified Farmers Markets around Southern California, at retail outlets around the country (Whole Foods, Sprouts, Safeway, Gelson's and Wegmans to name a few), and Direct from Melissa's Produce.
You can learn more about Ojai Pixies here.
I hope you enjoy every last sweet, fresh bite of this upside down Tangerine Cheesecake.
Tangerine Cheesecake Recipe
For the crust
- 2¾ cups shortbread cookie crumbs (from about 12-ounces of cookies)
- 1¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cardamom
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons tangerine zest (from a about 3 tangerines)
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons tangerine zest (from 4 to 5 tangerines)
- about 5 tangerines (from the zested tangerines!)
- Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
For the crust
- Add the cookies to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend until you have fine crumbs. (Shortbread cookies crush very easily, so if you don't have a food processor, you can put them in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag, seal it, and roll over it with a rolling pin, or pound gently with the bottom of a small sauté pan.) Add the cardamom, cinnamon, salt, tangerine zest and melted butter and blend until everything is evenly combined. Set aside.
For the filling
- Add the softened cream cheese to a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix until it's very smooth without any lumps. Then mix in the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice vanilla and tangerine zest. Stir until it's a creamy, smooth consistency and set aside.
- Peel about 5 of the zested tangerines and cut them horizontally into thin slices, about ¼-inch thick.
- Line the bottom of the springform pan, on top of the parchment paper, with the tangerine slices. You can break some of the slices apart to fill in the smaller spaces.
- Sprinkle about ½ cup of the crust mixture on top of the slices and gently spread it out to cover them. (It might not cover the tangerine slices 100%, which is perfectly okay.)
- Pour the filling on top and gently spread it out evenly. Then top it with the remaining crust mixture, spreading it out evenly as well. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (ideally overnight).
- To remove the cheesecake from the pan, invert it onto a very large plate or a serving platter. Press gently on the bottom piece of the pan to slide the cake down, then unlatch the spring.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut the cake into slices.