Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars

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Enjoy a virtual tropical vacation with these Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars! The crust is made with macadamia nuts, coconut and gingersnaps, and the cheesecake filling is sweet yet a little tart, creamy and decadent but 100% vegan.
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 1 hour 30 minutes
Total 2 hours
5 from 13 votes

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on vacation. In fact, this past Sunday was the first day I’ve taken off work in 2020! I don’t applaud this decision and don’t recommend going this long a period without a vacation. I did have a weeklong vacation scheduled for late March and a long weekend trip scheduled for May, but obviously those didn’t happen.

And with everyone on lockdown and nowhere to go but my one-bedroom apartment, “taking time off” has not seemed very alluring. For one, I don’t sleep in, and two, I don’t enjoy watching TV in the middle of the day (I’ve been called a robot, I’m fine with that). Given these stay-at-home circumstances, “taking a vacation” would’ve involved me reading books for 10 hours a day on my couch. No, thanks. I’d rather keep working!

If you are in a similar position where (i.e., itching for a tropical vacation but can’t take one right now), these Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars are the next best thing! They’re a mashup of everyone’s favorite adult tropical beverage and cheesecake. These bars are creamy and rich yet cooling and refreshing, sweet yet a little tangy, and perfect for summer!

Table of Contents:
1. Why you’re going to love this recipe
2. Ingredient notes
3. Step-by-step instructions
4. Tips for making this recipe
5. Frequently Asked Questions
6. Recipe card with notes

One cheesecake bar on parchment paper in front of the others.

Why you’re going to love this recipe

Tropical delight. Let these Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars transport you to a tropical oasis! They’ve got a rich, creamy cheesecake filling infused with pineapple and coconut cream and a crust made with macadamia nuts and coconut. If you love pineapple and coconut together, these are a must make!

Healthy yet decadent. Eating cheesecake always feels decadent, and these bars are certainly an indulgent treat. But compared to classic cheesecake, they are quite healthy! Instead of dairy-based cream cheese, I use cashews, coconut cream, and vegan cream cheese. And there’s fruit in here, so there’s that.

Summer perfection. If summer has turned you into a sweaty mess, these cheesecake bars are the perfect way to cool down! For a seriously cooling treat, I freeze these bars for 30ish minutes before devouring. It is so refreshing, I can *almost* imagine myself poolside with a frozen piña colada in hand.

Piña colada cheesecake bars on parchment paper.

Ingredient Notes

Crust

Small bowls filled with the crust ingredients on a grey table.

Gingersnap cookies. I love using gingersnap cookies in my vegan cheesecake crusts because many store-bought varieties are naturally vegan, whereas the more traditional option for cheesecake crust—graham crackers—almost always have honey. Plus, I love the zingy flavor from ginger. I think it brings more flavor to the crust than graham crackers.

This is the brand of ginger snap cookies I use. I have also used the Whole Foods 365 brand, and another option are the ginger snaps from Nabisco (affiliate links). All varieties are vegan-friendly.

Raw macadamia nuts and shredded coconut. To add a tropical flair, I also use raw macadamia nuts and shredded coconut. I typically use pecans or walnuts in my crusts, but macadamia nuts pair SO beautifully with pineapple and coconut, it felt like a no-brainer. That said, macadamias are pricy and not as widely available, so if you don’t have them, feel free to substitute with pecans.

Melted coconut oil and maple syrup. To bring the crust together, stream in some melted coconut oil and a tiny bit of maple syrup. I use refined coconut oil (which is fairly neutral in taste compared to unrefined/virgin coconut oil) since we’re already getting the coconut flavor from the shredded coconut. I add a pinch of salt to the crust to bring out the sweetness, but you might want to omit it if your macadamia nuts are salted (many macadamia nuts are sold as roasted/salted).

Cheesecake Filling

I’ve done a fair share of cheesecake recipe testing over the years, and my go-to filling consists of three main ingredients: raw soaked cashews, coconut cream, and store-bought vegan cream cheese.

Raw Cashews. These babies need to be soaked in order to soften them up and make them all creamy. When I soak cashews, I often give the option to soak them overnight in cool water, or for just 1 hour in boiling water. But since there’s not enough liquid in the cheesecake to use my high-powered Vitamix (which could easily pulverize these babies even with a quick 1-hour soak), I prefer to soak the cashews overnight.

Coconut Cream. This is the thick white cream from a can of full-fat coconut milk. You want the cream to be solidified, and in order to do that, I recommend storing your coconut milk in the fridge for 24 hours – this will give it ample time to solidify.

Note: This recipe calls for 3/4 cup of coconut cream. Some brands of coconut milk have 3/4 cup cream, but some only have about 1/2 cup cream. You can avoid this possibility by buying canned coconut cream (affiliate link), as there will be a greater quantity of cream than in a can of coconut milk.

Vegan Cream Cheese. When I make cheesecake, the brand of cream cheese I love using is Tofutti (affiliate link). It tastes just like traditional cream cheese, which helps this cheesecake taste just like traditional dairy-based cheesecake!

If you can’t find vegan cream cheese, take a look at the FAQ substitution below for a substitution.

Lemon Juice. Along with the vegan cream cheese, this brings the tart, tangy flavor you associate with cheesecake. The lemon juice also helps mask the taste of cashews. Be sure to use freshly squeezed lemon juice, as it will notably affect the taste if you use those plastic bottles of lemon juice.

Orange Zest. The orange juice brings the most perfect sweet, bright flavor.

Crushed Pineapple. This is a piña colada cheesecake, so obviously we have to use pineapple! You can use canned crushed pineapple to keep it simple, or fresh pineapple (see the “Tips” section below).

Coconut rum. This ingredient is totally optional, but if you have happen to have Malibu rum or another coconut rum or even white rum, add a few spoons for that authentic piña colada flavor!

Step-by-step instructions

Make the crust. In a food processor, blend the gingersnaps and macadamia nuts until they are finely ground.

Then add the coconut flakes, salt, and melted coconut oil. Blend until the crust comes together and can be pressed between your fingers. If the mixture is not sticky enough, add a splash more of coconut oil (or maple syrup, if you’d like more sweetness).

Once you have a slightly sticky crust, you’ll press it into the bottom of a square baking pan (lined with parchment paper). I use a flat bottomed glass to press the crust down evenly around the pan. Pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set while you make the filling.

macadamia nut crust pressed into pan.

Make the cheesecake filling. Add the soaked and drained cashews and coconut cream to the food processor. Blend until the mixture resembles ricotta cheese. Add the cream cheese, coconut oil, lemon juice, sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. 

Add the orange zest, vanilla, rum (if using), and 4 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple juice. Blend briefly to incorporate. Remove the food processor blade and gently fold in the crushed pineapple with a spoon or spatula. 

Bake the cheesecake. Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the refrigerated crust and smooth out the top with a silicone spatula. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 35-45 minutes. Let the cheesecake rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Before serving, top with fresh diced pineapple and toasted coconut flakes and slice into bars.

pineapple added to full cooled cheesecake on parchment paper.

Tips for making this recipe

Advanced planning. You will need to do some advance planning, primarily by refrigerating the can of coconut cream/milk for 24 hours to solidify the coconut cream and soaking the cashews in water overnight. If you forget to soak the cashews overnight, you can soak them in boiling water for 1 hour, but as I mentioned above, I prefer the overnight soak to get a really smooth cheesecake batter.

Canned pineapple vs. fresh pineapple. Using canned crushed pineapple is obviously easiest, but if you have fresh pineapple on hand (it is in season right now!), you’ll get even more tropical fruity goodness and authentic piña colada flavor.

To crush fresh pineapple, add pineapple chunks to a food processor and pulse a few times until the pineapple is in small pieces. Approximately 2/3 – 3/4 cup pineapple chunks is equal to the amount in an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple. To get pineapple juice, add more pineapple chunks to a food processor with some water (1/4 cup water for 2 cups pineapple), blend until you have a smooth puree, and then strain over a fine mesh sieve.

Go slowly with the rum. If you are using the optional rum, start with the smallest amount, taste the batter, and adjust accordingly. Also, keep in mind, that once you bake the cheesecake, the alcohol will get cooked.

Close up of vegan piña colada cheesecake bars.

Frequently Asked Questions

What vegan cream cheese do you recommend? Can I substitute the vegan cream cheese with something else?

I like Tofutti vegan cream cheese because it really tastes like classic cream cheese.

If you can’t find vegan cream cheese, you can omit it and use more cashews and coconut cream. You will need to increase the amount of each of those ingredients: use 2 1/4 cups/305-315g raw cashews (instead of 1 1/2 cup) and use 1 cup (240g) coconut cream (instead of 3/4 cup), along with an additional tablespoon of lemon juice.

Can I substitute the Macadamia nuts with something else?

Macadamia nuts are exquisite in this recipe (imagine you’re in Hawaii sipping a piña colada by the pool with a bowl of macadamia nuts to snack on!).

But, I know they are pricy and not as widely available, so if you don’t have them, you can substitute with pecans.

Is there a substitute for arrowroot powder?

The arrowroot powder helps to thicken and set the cheesecake filling. You can use cornstarch if you don’t have arrowroot powder.

macro shot of vegan pina colada cheese cake bars on parchment paper.

That’s all you need to know about these tropical Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars! I hope you give them a try, and if you do, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and leave a comment below!

Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars

5 from 13 votes
Enjoy a virtual tropical vacation with these Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars! The crust is made with macadamia nuts, coconut and gingersnaps, and the cheesecake filling is sweet yet a little tart, creamy and decadent but 100% vegan.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 16 cheesecake bars

Ingredients

Crust

  • 5 ounces vegan gingersnap cookies
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (can sub coconut flakes)
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (can substitute with pecans)
  • 1 pinch sea salt (if your macadamia nuts are salted, be very sparing with salt)
  • 4 tbsp refined coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

Cheesecake Filling

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 8 hours or overnight
  • 3/4 cup refrigerated coconut cream (I used canned coconut cream, but you can also scoop out the thick white portion from a refrigerated can of coconut milk)
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp refined coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (70-75g) organic cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 medium orange, zested
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp Malibu, or other coconut rum (optional)
  • 8 oz can crushed pineapple or freshly crushed pineapple, juice reserved

Topping

  • 1 small fresh pineapple, diced (or pre-chopped fresh pineapple)
  • coconut flakes, toasted

Instructions

Preparation

  • Make sure you’ve refrigerated your canned coconut milk or canned coconut cream for 24 hours so that it is solidified.
  • Soak your cashews in cold water for 8 hours. Drain the cashews and rinse.
  • Prepare the pan. Set a rack in the lower middle position. Line an 8×8-inch (20×20 cm) square pan or 9×9-inch (23×23 cm) square pan with parchment paper.

Make the crust

  • In a food processor, blend the gingersnaps and macadamia nuts until they are finely ground. Then add the coconut flakes, salt, and melted coconut oil. Blend until the crust comes together and can be pressed between your fingers. If the mixture is not sticky enough, add a splash more of coconut oil (or maple syrup, if you’d like more sweetness).
    1/2 cup macadamia nuts
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C and wipe out the food processor bowl. 
  • Press the crust into the bottom of the lined baking pan and press it down evenly on the bottom of the pan (I use a flat-bottomed measuring cup to get the crust even). Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set while you make the filling

Make the cheesecake filling

  • Add the soaked and drained cashews and coconut cream to the food processor. Blend until the mixture resembles ricotta cheese. Add the cream cheese, coconut oil, lemon juice, sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. 
  • Add the orange zest, vanilla, rum (if using), and 4 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple juice. Blend briefly to incorporate. Remove the food processor blade and gently fold in the crushed pineapple with a spoon or spatula. 

Bake the cheesecake

  • Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the refrigerated crust and smooth out the top with a silicone spatula. 
    NOTE: if using an 8×8-inch pan, you will likely have a bit of extra batter leftover.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the edges look very slightly dry and the center appears just a little jiggly but not wiggly. Mine took exactly 40 minutes.
  • Let the bars rest for 15 minutes at room temperature, then transfer the pan to the refrigerator. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  • Before serving, top with fresh diced pineapple and toasted coconut flakes. Slice into bars. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Notes

* To solidify the coconut cream, refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk for 24 hours or more. Most cans will yield 1/2-3/4 cup of solid coconut cream. You can also buy canned coconut cream separately
** Using canned pineapple is easiest, but if you have fresh pineapple, you’ll get even more tropical fruity flavor. To crush fresh pineapple, add pineapple chunks to a food processor and pulse a few times until the pineapple is in small pieces (about 2/3 cup). To get pineapple juice, add more pineapple chunks to a food processor with some water (1/4 cup water for 2 cups pineapple), blend until you have a smooth puree, and then strain over a fine mesh sieve.

Calories: 338kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 142mg | Potassium: 264mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 43IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 2mg

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22 comments on Vegan Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars

  1. Jan

    Where do you find vegan gingersnaps?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Jan, this answer can be found in the ingredient notes section, but I’ll paste it here for your convenience:

      “This is the brand of ginger snap cookies I use. I have also used the Whole Foods 365 brand, and another option are the ginger snaps from Nabisco (affiliate links). All varieties are vegan-friendly.”

  2. Julia

    5 stars
    Omg, I made this for a close friend’s birthday and it was a huge hit! When my husband came home from work, he said “the whole house smells like roasted pineapple.” And everyone also remarked about the wonderful smells when I took the saran wrap off.
    I’m in France, so I ended up replacing the gingersnaps with speculoos, and you can’t find tofutti here, but the violife cream cheese did a good job.
    I bought a huge, beautiful pineapple for the topping, so I also used that for the cheesecake too, and I definitely think that was worth it. I actually blitzed the pineapple in my food processor for a couple seconds after having already mixed up the cheesecake filling, and the nice bonus is it helped me get the rest out of it.
    Overall fantastic recipe, would definitely make again!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Your review made our day, Julia! We’re delighted the recipe was well-loved.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for trying out the recipe.

  3. Zhaz

    This is another question

  4. George

    can i substitute gingersnaps for oreos?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi George, I think this qualifies as a “whatever floats your boat” kind of moment. If you think oreos sound like a good combination here, you can try it! I think gingersnap fits the tropical fruity flavor profile more appropriately, but you can make the final call. Have fun and enjoy!

  5. Mikael

    5 stars
    Loved these cheesecake bars. They’re so good and easy even for a clumsy, kitchen-deficient guy like me!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so glad to hear they turned out well for you, Mikael! :)

  6. Suzanne

    As smart as you are, I wish you would consider recipe conversions/substitutes for those of us who have to be gluten free. Thanks

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Suzanne, this is an older recipe but these days most (if not all) recipes that aren’t GF have a note regarding how/if you can make a recipe gluten-free in the blog post. Unfortunately, some of our recipes cannot be made GF and we don’t always test a GF version because we are not a gluten-free blog.

      That said, we do try to help out our readers out when they ask about a substitution on a blog comment. In this case, it seems the only ingredient containing gluten are the gingersnap cookies, which would need to be substituted for a GF version. I just did a google search and it seems there’s a brand sold at Vons called “Partake” that sells vegan & GF gingersnap cookies.

      We hope you get a chance to try out the recipe!

  7. Eve

    5 stars
    Wow! Thank you for this amazing recipe! I made this for my birthday party and everyone loved it!
    Greetings from France,
    Eve

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aw, thanks for letting us know Eve! We are honored you made one of the Rainbow Plant Life recipes for your birthday. Also, happy belated!

  8. Marylyn

    5 stars
    Such a delicious recipe! I made the crust with a home made nuts and seeds crumble and some maple pecan cookies and added some creamy coconut yoghurt in addition to the filling it turned out amazing. Thank you so much for the great recipe, it is creamy, sweet, fresh and overall very well balanced. Have a great weekend Nisha!

    Greeting from Belgium,
    Marylyn ;)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Marylyn. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  9. Lisa

    Would silken tofu work as a replacement for the cream cheese?

  10. Ellen Morell

    Is there something I can substitute for the oil?

  11. Stella

    What if you have a sensitivity to cashews, what other nut could be substituted in this recipe? Thank you!

    1. Nisha

      I would go with more macadamia nuts!

  12. sarmishta

    5 stars
    This was a lovely tropical combination and especially paired well with the gingersnap macadamia nut base! Turned out just as pictured.

  13. Laura

    I don’t see how long to refrigerate the crust in the recipe- is it 30 minutes like in the Ginger-Orange recipe?

    1. Nisha Vora

      Whoops, just updated the instructions – yes, it is 30 minutes!

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