These Mini Turtle Cheesecakes have a buttery graham cracker crust and a creamy vanilla cheesecake filling. These mini cheesecakes are finished off with rich caramel sauce and chocolate ganache.
Cheesecake is the ultimate dessert, in my opinion. And, it’s the ultimate comfort food.
For many, comfort food is often savory (of course, I’ve got my favorite savory comfort foods I just have to have when nothing else will do), but for me, when I’m craving something comforting, it’s usually for something sweet.
Typically, when I need something homey and soul soothing, it’s either chocolate chip cookies or a slice of creamy cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust. (Note to self—try to put those two things together. 😍)
Today, while we’re not going the cookie route, we are going the chocolate route with the cutest (and simplest) little mini turtle cheesecakes.
Reasons To Love This Recipe:
- These mini cheesecakes are based off of my favorite Easy Cheesecake Recipe. The recipe is the one I grew up with, and it’s perfect every single time.
- No water bath!
- No mini cheesecake pan—use a muffin tin!
- It’s a versatile recipe:
- Instead of a graham cracker crust, make this a mini turtle cheesecake with an oreo crust. Or, use vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, pretzels, or even chocolate graham crackers.
- I opt for jarred caramel sauce because it’s easy. But use homemade if you prefer.
- The homemade ganache is a combination of semi-sweet chocolate and cream, but you could use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or even bittersweet.
- Or, skip the muffin tin and use a 9×9 pan to make turtle cheesecake bars instead.
What Is Turtle Cheesecake Made Of?
- A turtle dessert is a combination of chocolate, caramel, and pecans. Thus, a Turtle Cheesecake is a combination of a turtle dessert and a classic cheesecake.
- unsalted butter: using unsalted butter allows you to control the salt content
- graham cracker crumbs: I suggest using Honey Maid or a brand you really love. Often store brand ones are flavorless.
- vanilla extract
- granulated sugar
- cream cheese: use Philadelphia or a brand you really love. Like the graham crackers, quality ingredients make all of the difference in cheesecake. Philadelphia is very rich and very flavorful with a hint of tang.
- granulated sugar
- vanilla extract
- semi-sweet chocolate: you can use chocolate chips or baking chocolate; also, you can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or bittersweet if you prefer (dark and bittersweet chocolate won’t be as sweet as semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
- heavy whipping cream
- caramel sauce: I use jarred caramel sauce because it’s easy, but you can use homemade if you would prefer
- pecans: pecans are the traditional nut used in turtle desserts, but you can use walnuts or almonds or peanuts if you don’t like pecans
- sea salt: a little sprinkle of sea salt brings out the flavor of the caramel and the chocolate, but it’s optional
How to Make the Perfect Mini Turtle Cheesecakes
- If you want all of the details for how to make a perfect cheesecake recipe and why, my Easy Cheesecake is full of all sorts of tips and techniques.
- A quick synopsis is that with the ingredients used in this recipe, the baking temperature, and the cool down method, these turtle cheesecakes are going to be rich and creamy with no cracks (and there’s no water bath so these are EASY).
- Again, I go into significantly more detail in my Easy Cheesecake Recipe post, but all you need to know here is that these turtle cheesecakes bake up perfectly every single time.
- As mentioned earlier, high quality ingredients make for the best cheesecake in terms of flavor and texture.
- Most of the time, store brands can be used interchangeably with brand names. With cheesecake, I highly suggest opting for Honey Maid graham crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, a quality chocolate for the ganache (Ghirardelli, Bakers, Godiva, etc.), and a really good jarred caramel sauce.
Don’t Over Bake:
- Cheesecake is done when it’s no longer wet in the center, and it jiggles just slightly in the center. (Think pumpkin pie—it should be firm on the edges with just a slight jiggle in the center when gently shaken.)
- Mini cheesecakes are the same way—when you gently shake the muffin pan, the centers of each mini cheesecake should jiggle just slightly.
- Over baking can lead to your cheesecake cracking, pulling away from the crust, and generally having a tough texture instead of a creamy texture.
Let’s Talk Turtle Cheesecake Substitutions:
- Instead of honey graham cracker crumbs:
- cinnamon graham crackers
- chocolate graham crackers
- oreos or golden oreos
- vanilla wafers
- Instead of semi-sweet chocolate for the ganache:
- milk chocolate: milk chocolate is milder in flavor than semi-sweet chocolate, but it’s sweet and pairs well with caramel.
- dark chocolate: richer than semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate has a very deep chocolate flavor. It’s not as sweet as semi-sweet chocolate, but still sweet.
- bittersweet chocolate: for those who really love an intense chocolate flavor without a lot of sweetness, bittersweet is a good choice. However, the ganache will not be very sweet and instead will be extremely rich.
Why are my mini cheesecakes falling in?
- The centers of cheesecakes do tend to sink just a little bit as they cool—it’s entirely normal. But if they sink a lot, something might have gone wrong:
- It might be underdone: if the center isn’t baked all the way, it will sink.
- Didn’t cool properly: it’s best to slowly cool cheesecake. After it’s done baking, leave the cheesecake (in this case, the mini cheesecakes) in the oven with the door cracked open.
- this helps to bring the temperature down gradually, which helps keep cheesecake from both sinking too much and cracking.
How to store:
- These Mini Turtle Cheesecakes need to be stored in the fridge.
- Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
How to serve:
- After baking, the cheesecakes need to come to room temperature and chill in the fridge before adding the toppings.
- Then, spread a dollop of caramel on top of the cheesecake.
- Cover the caramel with ganache.
- Top with a pecan.
- Chill the cheesecakes in the fridge for at least 30 minutes just to help the ganache set up a bit before serving.
- Alternatively, you can first cool the cheesecakes to room temperature, then add the toppings, and chill all of it together for at least 4 hours, if not longer.
Recipe Pros and Cons:
- for cheesecake, this is a very simple recipe that uses simple ingredients.
- it’s extremely decadent and looks beautiful, yet it’s not a difficult recipe.
- it’s versatile and you can change up the crust and chocolate in the recipe (as mentioned above)
- it makes 12 mini turtle cheesecakes, so it can feed a lot of people.
- on the other hand, it’s easy to cut the recipe in half and make only 6 mini cheesecakes
- you need to cool the mini cheesecakes to room temperature and chill before serving, and before adding the caramel and ganache.
- they need to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours (but I suggest chilling overnight)
- it’s not a hard or difficult recipe, but it does require a little bit of time in between steps
- it’s difficult to stop at just one 😉
Final Thoughts (If you read nothing else, read this)
- allow ingredients to come to room temperature (makes for smooth and creamy cheesecake)
- don’t over bake (cheesecakes are done when the center jiggles just slightly)
- allow the cheesecakes to slowly come to room temperature by leaving them in the oven (turned off) with the door open
- cheesecakes must cool to room temperature before adding the toppings (caramel and ganache)
- cheesecakes must chill before serving
Other Recipes To Try Next
- Caramel Cheesecake
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake
- No Bake Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake
- No Bake Strawberry Marshmallow Pie
- Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10-12 graham cracker sheets)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 8oz cream cheese bricks, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
- 6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
- Caramel Sauce (or homemade)
- Sea Salt, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Add in melted butter and vanilla extract, then mix until combined.
- Add 1-2 Tbsp of graham cracker crumbs to each muffin cup. Using the back of a Tbsp or your hands, press the crust into an even layer in each cup. (I like a thick graham cracker crust, so I used about 2 Tbsp in each muffin cup.) Set aside.
- With a standing mixer or a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until light, fluffy, and smooth.
- Add in the sugar and mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Next, add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add in vanilla extract and mix until everything is combined and the cheesecake mixture is silky smooth (remember to scrape down the sides as needed).
- Divide the cheesecake batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 - 3/4 of the way full.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the centers of each mini cheesecake jiggles just slightly when the pan is gently moved.
- Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door, and let the cheesecakes slowly cool in the oven for 45-60 minutes (this helps prevent each cheesecake from cracking).
- Continue to let the cheesecakes cool to room temperature on the counter.
- Then, chill in the fridge at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.*
- About 1 hour before serving your cheesecakes, make the ganache.
Place chopped chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Set aside.
Heat heavy whipping cream in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl until it is hot, but not boiling.
- Pour heavy whipping cream over the chopped chocolate and cover with a towel. Let the mixture sit 2-3 minutes. (The towel traps the heat inside, which helps melt the chocolate.)
- Then, whisk the mixture together until the ganache is completely smooth.
Add a dollop of caramel sauce on top of each cooled cheesecake.
- Next, add a dollop of ganache on top of the caramel. Carefully spread the ganache over the caramel so it’s almost completely covered.
- Press a pecan in the center of the ganache on each cheesecake.
- Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
- Chill cheesecakes for 30 minutes or so before serving (this helps the ganache set up quicker).
- Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
*Alternatively, once the cheesecakes have cooled to room temperature, you can top with caramel, ganache, and pecans. Then, you can chill the whole thing for at least 4 hours before serving.
*Just note that the caramel and ganache will be firmer/harder if you do it this way.
Here are some other recipes to try next: