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Mexican Cheesecake Recipe with lechera (aka pay de queso)

Growing up in Mexico, I was surrounded by delicious flavors that still inspire my cooking today. This Mexican cheesecake recipe with lechera (aka pay de queso) combines these familiar tastes with the rich creaminess of sweetened condensed milk. 

Mexican cheesecake recipe with lechera (aka pay de queso)

Made with typical Mexican ingredients like Maria Cookies, Mexican vanilla extract, and cinnamon, and topped with dulce de leche, this creamy cheesecake is a tasty way to relive those nostalgic flavors from my childhood. 

You might be thinking, “What if I can’t get those ingredients?” Worry not! I’ll provide a list of swaps. Whether you stick to tradition or get creative, this cheesecake will be a hit!

​Ingredients you’ll need for this Mexican Cheesecake

You’ll need a few ingredients for this recipe. You can find almost all of them in any big grocery store, but I’ll provide substitutions in the section below this one in case you’re unable to.

  • Maria Cookies: These cookies get crushed to make the crust, giving it a sweet vanilla flavor that pairs well with the cheesecake filling.
  • Butter: Melted butter is mixed with the crushed cookies and chopped walnuts to create a buttery crust. Make sure to mix everything evenly for a consistent texture.
  • Ground Cinnamon: Adding ground cinnamon to the crust mix brings a warm flavor that complements the sweetness of the cookies and adds to the Mexican taste.
  • Brown Sugar: Mixing brown sugar into the crust enhances its richness, giving it a hint of caramel sweetness.
  • Walnuts: Finely chopped walnuts add a nice crunch and nutty taste to the crust.
  • Cream Cheese: Use full-fat cream cheese for a creamy texture in the filling. Room-temperature cream cheese is crucial before mixing, to make it easier to blend with other ingredients.
  • Mexican Vanilla Extract: Mexican vanilla extract adds a rich vanilla flavor to the cheesecake. Pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste can be used as alternatives.
  • Salt: A pinch of salt in the filling balances the sweetness and enhances the overall flavor. Use kosher or sea salt for best results.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk: Sweetened condensed milk adds creaminess and a sweet flavor to the filling, making it smooth and velvety. 
  • Sour Cream: Adding sour cream to the filling gives it a tangy flavor and helps achieve a smooth texture. Use full-fat sour cream for a creamy consistency.
  • Eggs: Eggs bind everything together in the filling, giving the cheesecake structure as it bakes. Let the eggs come to room temperature before using them for better incorporation into the mixture. 
  • Dulce de Leche: I used dulce de leche to top the cheesecake for a rich caramel finish. You can either use store-bought or make your own! it’s a super simple Homemade Dulce de Leche made in a can and with only 1 ingredient!

Take a look at the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe.

Mexican cheesecake recipe with La Lechera® (aka pay de queso)

Add-ons and Substitutions

Here are some add-ons and substitutions for this Mexican Cheesecake recipe with La Lechera:

Add-ons:

  1. Chocolate Drizzle: Drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the cheesecake along with the dulce de leche for an indulgent touch.
  2. Chopped Nuts: Garnish the cheesecake with additional chopped nuts like pecans or almonds for extra crunch.
  3. Whipped Cream: Serve each slice with a dollop of freshly whipped cream for added creaminess.

Substitutions:

  1. Maria Cookies: If you can’t find this type of cookie, substitute with vanilla wafers or graham crackers for a graham cracker crust. Both options provide a similar sweet and crunchy texture.
  2. Mexican Vanilla Extract: Replace with pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for the same rich vanilla flavor in the cheesecake filling. Adjust the quantity according to your preference.
  3. Dulce de Leche: replace the dulce de leche with thick caramel sauce, whipped cream and strawberries, or chocolate spread.

How to make this “Pay de Queso”

Bottom crust:

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Remove the pan’s rim, place the parchment paper on the bottom, then secure the rim back. Pull the parchment paper slightly outwards and trim any excess hanging from the sides. Don’t cut it too short! Spray the pan’s side with cooking spray and set it aside.

Next, place cookies, melted butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, and mix until you get fine crumbs. Transfer cookie mixture and press firmly into the bottom and up to the sides of your springform pan using the back of a measuring cup, a glass, or your fingers. Bake for 10 minutes, then set it aside. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Filling:

In a large bowl with a stand mixer and paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt on medium speed for about 1.5 minutes. Avoid using high speed to prevent adding extra air into the batter.

Add the sour cream and sweetened condensed milk and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared baking pan with cookie crust. Tap the pan on the counter 4-5 times to release any air bubbles. Now, prepare the water bath (more information below).

Place your cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 70-80 minutes. It’s done when the edges are set and the middle is slightly jiggly, or when it turns golden brown.

Turn off the oven, prop open the door slightly with a wooden spoon, and let the cheesecake cool inside for 1 hour. Remove it from the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and run a knife around the rim to loosen it (leave the rim on). Let it cool completely, then cover it with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Carefully remove the rim of the spring form pan and spread the dulce de leche on top of the chilled cheesecake. Enjoy it cold!

Expert tips on how to make a Water bath for Cheesecakes

Even though you might be thinking of skipping this step, it’s actually super important for your final result! 

A water bath creates a moist environment that helps prevent those pesky cracks in your cheesecake. It also ensures that your cheesecake bakes evenly and stops the edges from getting too brown too quickly.

There are two easy ways to do this: 

1. Place your springform pan inside a larger cake pan, then both into a bigger roasting pan or casserole dish filled halfway with hot water. 

2. Alternatively, wrap your pan tightly with aluminum foil (double-layered) to keep water out, then place it in a roasting pan filled halfway with hot water.

I prefer to use the first method since it keeps the crust from getting soggy. And if you do end up with cracks, no worries! We’ll cover them up with dulce de leche later on.

Expert tips for baking a cheesecake without cracks

  • Use a water bath to keep your cheesecake moist and prevent cracks. You can find more details above!
  • Avoid overmixing your cheesecake batter. Mixing too much adds air, causing the cheesecake to rise and then collapse during baking, creating the dreaded cheesecake cracks.
  • Before baking, make sure to remove any air bubbles from your cheesecake. Simply tap the cheesecake on the counter a few times to release trapped air. This step helps prevent cracks if too much air was mixed in.
  • Sudden temperature changes can also lead to cracks in your cheesecake. After baking, let your cheesecake sit in the oven for 30 minutes to gradually cool down and minimize cracks. Also, resist the temptation of opening your oven door too frequently, to avoid any temperature changes.
  • Bake your cheesecake at a lower temperature for a longer time. This is why the temperature is reduced to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and the cheesecake is baked for an extended period.
Mexican cheesecake recipe with La Lechera® (aka pay de queso)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mexican Cheesecake made of?

Mexican cheesecake, also called pay de queso, has a Mexican twist on the classic cheesecake. It can be made with either sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk, sometimes both.

It includes some Mexican-inspired ingredients like Maria cookies, Mexican vanilla extract, cinnamon, and dulce de leche, along with basic ingredients from a regular cheesecake, like cream cheese and sour cream.

This cheesecake is soft and creamy, with hints of cinnamon, Mexican vanilla, and dulce de leche adding to its delicious flavor.

How do I store any leftover Mexican Cheesecake?

Store your cheesecake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Can I freeze my cheesecake?

Sure you can! To freeze it, simply place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 30 days.

Alternatively, you can slice it and wrap each slice in plastic wrap. When needed, defrost one slice at a time.

Below are a few Mexican desserts that you might like, or take a look at this link for more cheesecake recipes.

If you make this recipe, please be sure to give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sweetfixbaker to see all the recipes you make!

Mexican cheesecake recipe with lechera (aka pay de queso)
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5 from 2 votes

Mexican Cheesecake Recipe with Lechera (aka pay de queso)

Growing up in Mexico, I was surrounded by delicious flavors that still inspire my cooking today. This Mexican cheesecake recipe with lechera, aka pay de queso, combines these familiar tastes with the rich creaminess of sweetened condensed milk. 
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 10 minutes
Refrigeration time4 hours
Total Time6 hours 45 minutes
Course: Chessecakes and Jars
Cuisine: American
Keyword: mexican cheesecake recipe with lechera
Servings: 10 people
Author: Maria Corcuera

Equipment

  • 1 Electric mixer
  • 1 9-inch springform pan
  • 1 sheet pachment paper

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups Maria cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnuts

Filling

  • 3 8-ounce full-fat cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract or pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream room temperature
  • 14 ounce sweetened condensed milk 1 can
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 14 ounce dulce de leche 1 can

Instructions

Crust

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
    Remove the pan's rim, place the parchment paper on the bottom, then secure the rim back. Pull the parchment paper slightly outwards and trim any excess hanging from the sides.
    Don't cut it too short! Spray the pan's side with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • Place cookies, melted butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and walnuts in a food processor, and mix until you get fine crumbs.
    2 cups Maria cookie crumbs, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/3 cup walnuts
  • Transfer the cookie mixture and press firmly into the bottom and up to the sides of your springform pan using the back of a measuring cup, a glass, or your fingers.
    Bake for 10 minutes, then set it aside. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cheesecake filling

  • In a large bowl with a stand mixer and paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt on medium speed for about 1.5 minutes. Avoid using high speed to prevent adding extra air into the batter.
    3 8-ounce full-fat cream cheese, 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Add the sour cream and sweetened condensed milk and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
    1/2 cup sour cream, 14 ounce sweetened condensed milk, 4 large eggs
  • Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared baking pan with cookie crust. Tap the pan on the counter 4-5 times to release any air bubbles. Now, prepare the water bath (more information below).
  • Place your cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 70-80 minutes. It's done when the edges are set and the middle is slightly jiggly, or when it turns golden brown.
  • Turn off the oven, prop open the door slightly with a wooden spoon, and let the cheesecake cool inside for 1 hour.
    Remove it from the oven, place it on a cooling rack, and run a knife around the rim to loosen it (leave the rim on). Let it cool completely, then cover it with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Carefully remove the rim of the spring form pan and spread the dulce de leche on top of the chilled cheesecake. Enjoy it cold!
    14 ounce dulce de leche

Notes

Expert tips on how to make a Water bath for Cheesecakes

Even though you might be thinking of skipping this step, it’s actually super important for your final result! 
A water bath creates a moist environment that helps prevent those pesky cracks in your cheesecake. It also ensures that your cheesecake bakes evenly and stops the edges from getting too brown too quickly.
There are two easy ways to do this: 
1. Place your springform pan inside a larger cake pan, then both into a bigger roasting pan or casserole dish filled halfway with hot water. 
2. Alternatively, wrap your pan tightly with aluminum foil (double-layered) to keep water out, then place it in a roasting pan filled halfway with hot water.
I prefer to use the first method since it keeps the crust from getting soggy. And if you do end up with cracks, no worries! We’ll cover them up with dulce de leche later on.

Expert tips for baking a cheesecake without cracks

  • Use a water bath to keep your cheesecake moist and prevent cracks. You can find more details above!
  • Avoid overmixing your cheesecake batter. Mixing too much adds air, causing the cheesecake to rise and then collapse during baking, creating the dreaded cheesecake cracks.
  • Before baking, make sure to remove any air bubbles from your cheesecake. Simply tap the cheesecake on the counter a few times to release trapped air. This step helps prevent cracks if too much air was mixed in.
  • Sudden temperature changes can also lead to cracks in your cheesecake. After baking, let your cheesecake sit in the oven for 30 minutes to gradually cool down and minimize cracks. Also, resist the temptation of opening your oven door too frequently, to avoid any temperature changes.
  • Bake your cheesecake at a lower temperature for a longer time. This is why the temperature is reduced to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and the cheesecake is baked for an extended period.

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