Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits

Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits / loveandlemons.com

The other day, I had this intense craving for cheesecake. The timing was a little out of the blue since I eat cheesecake exactly once a year when my mom makes it at christmas time. She makes a family recipe – my Grandma Kissel’s infamous recipe – and no one but her and my Aunt Kathy have it. It’s amazingly creamy and light and perfect and it won’t be getting passed down to me anytime soon.

I wasn’t going to attempt to make sub-par cheesecake to satisfy my craving, so I made a lighter and altogether easier no-bake version.

Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits / loveandlemons.com

I’m not going to exactly call this healthy – but as far as cheesecake goes, it’s definitely a skinnier cousin. It has less overall cheese and less sugar (just a few tablespoons of maple syrup actually). It’s topped with my favorite dessert fruit – tart cherries – which have some major superfood properties. They’re a natural anti-inflammatory as well as a source of melatonin which helps regulate sleep. While this is not a famous family recipe, it’s creamy and delicious. The bright pop of tart cherries are really, well, the cherry on top.

Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits / loveandlemons.com Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits / loveandlemons.com

I use coconut cream along with mascarpone cheese, which makes for a light and smooth creamy filling. If you’re vegan, you can double the coconut cream. If you love cheese and want to make this thick and decedent, skip the coconut cream and double the mascarpone cheese.

If you live in an area where you can get Montmorency tart cherries, seek them out – or look for them frozen in your local retailer nationwide. I personally love them frozen because as they thaw their natural juices become a sweet tangy sauce.

Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits / loveandlemons.com

5.0 from 2 reviews

Tart Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits

Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 4 parfaits
  • 1 cup (8-ounces) mascarpone cheese or creme fraiche
  • ½ cup coconut solids, scooped from 1 can chilled full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon oil or lemon zest (optional, but delicious)
  • 6 graham crackers
  • ½ cup raw, unsalted walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon butter or hardened coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon water, more as needed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups frozen tart cherries
  1. In a food processor, blend together the mascarpone cheese, the thick solid part from the chilled can of coconut milk (reserve the watery part for another use), maple syrup and vanilla until smooth. Taste and decide if you would like your filling sweeter. Add more maple syrup if you like. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour, or until it thickens.
  2. If using frozen tart cherries, let them thaw in a bowl at room temperature, reserving their juices.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, walnuts and cinnamon together until crumbled. Add butter or coconut oil and pulse again. Add a little bit of water until the mixture starts to clump a little.
  4. Assemble parfaits with graham cracker crumble, creamy filling and top generously with tart cherries and their juices.
These can be made 1 day in advance, just leave off the tart cherries until you're ready to serve.

To make these vegan: double the coconut cream (or use vegan cream cheese), and skip the mascarpone cheese.

To make these gluten free: double the walnuts and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar in place of the graham crackers.

Make these thicker and more decadent: skip the coconut cream, double the mascarpone cheese, and increasing the maple syrup by 1-2 tablespoons.



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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Sofia

    Do you have an alternative for the tart cherries? I live in Mexico City and i can’t find any down here, but I’m craving so much this dessert idea.
    Thank you!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Sofia, you can top these with any fruit that you like (peaches would be great right now!)

  2. Verónica

    Me encantan sus recetas!!! Los sigo hace un buen tiempo y me encanta y a pesar de que no todos los ingredientes los encuentro fácilmente, igualmente me gusta mucho!!!
    Un saludo con cariño desde Chile!!!!

  3. I can’t wait to try these!! They look so yummy plus i looooove mascarpone!! xoxo

    NEW BLOG POST!! Today we are back with a RECIPE: “CHICKEN FRIED RICE WITH SOYA SAUCE AND VEGGIES” – the perfect healthy and delicious recipe to stay fit and healthy this summer!! Don’t miss it!


  4. Gemma from cinnamongirldelights.blogspot.com

    What an awesome recipe! 🙂
    These are the perfect dessert to serve when you have guests at home cause they don’t take up much time plus they look so beautiful and colorful.
    Gorgeous pictures too! I love the way you display ingredients.


  5. What a simple but still satisfying way to have cheesecake anytime. Love the idea of coconut cream and mascarpone.

  6. Well, I say we can indulge every once in a while, right? And why not end the week with a tart cherry cheesecake parfaits – and besides, it’s the skinnier version of cheesecake 😉

  7. Nicole from sweetspluseats.com

    These parfaits look delicious. I always struggle with the waiting part for cheesecake. This looks like a great alternative to waiting around. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing! Happy Fourth!

  8. I’ve been craving my mom’s old school cherry cheesecake lately too, it’s the kind that is light and made with a combination of cream cheese and (probably) cool whip. Not exactly healthy … I made a healthed up version though (; I love the idea of parfaits, they’re so cute!

  9. Mmm love your usage of cherries! Coconut cream along with mascarpone cheese sounds heavenly together, can’t wait to give it a try!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.