Jello Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Announcements, Blog, Cheesecake, Family Favorites, Travel & Local Adventures | 39 comments



I love cheesecake.

Cheesecake loves me.

I love ANYTHING cheesecake, let me count the ways…

There is my favorite childhood blueberry cheesecake cups, Cheesecake Factory’s pumpkin cheesecake and vanilla bean cheesecake, Japanese rare cheesecake from any type of Asian bakery, anything cheesecake (including cream cheese filled pastries) from Amandine Patisserie in Santa Monica, 85 Degree Bakery’s mango cheesecake, Marie Callender’s Kalua cream cheese pie, lemon cream cheese pie, and their caramel apple New York cheesecake is yummy too, and all types of New York style cheesecake. I’m especially lovin’ Junior’s cheesecake. I’ve even tried Yogurtland’s cheesecake flavored frozen yogurt and I didn’t love it, but I had to try it just because.

Then there is my mom’s Jello cheesecake. :) Mmmmmm, mmmmm yummy! This is definitely one of my all time favorite childhood desserts. However, before we get to the recipe I thought I would share a little bit of what’s been going on outside of our kitchen!

The zoo animals below have absolutely nothing to do with jello cheesecake, but I wanted to share a bit of our 4th of July weekend. Over  the holiday we spent a day at the San Diego Zoo. It was Bebe E’s first trip to the zoo. She knows many of the animals either by name or by the animal sound they make (lion = “roar”, snake = “sss” etc.), thanks to Dada, Mama and our animal magnets on the fridge and a few favorite books, but she’d never seen real live zoo animals. Bebe Dada and I felt she’s the perfect age to enjoy the animals she’s learned and we were very excited to take her to the zoo for her very first time. As you might have imagined, she had a fantastic time! As parents, it was such a joy to watch her amazement, smiles and pure happiness as she “met” each animal.

Some of Bebe E’s favorite zoo animals are featured above: panda, koala, polar bear, giraffe and elephant. She also really liked the monkeys, big snapping turtle and snakes (of all things) but I didn’t take photos of the latter two. We’ll be back for a visit again very soon. I’m not sure whose more excited about our next trip to the zoo – Bebe or mama.  :) By the way, I’m not sure what Bebe E is “contemplating” in the photo but I have a feeling it has something to do with trying to figure out how she could get closer to the elephant because afterwards she kept playing with the fencing and trying to stick her foot through the slats. 

Ok, on to the recipe!

Quite a while ago I asked my Mom for her Jello cheesecake recipe and she told me that she would let me look at it the next time I was over. When I arrived at my parent’s house my Mom handed me a faded college-ruled sheet of notebook paper with faded blue ink that’s turned grey. The funny thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t make sense to either of us. It’s written in Japanese and for some reason we can’t decipher the order of the recipe and we don’t understand the need for two packages of gelatin.

Rather than Google the recipe, I email my girlfriend, M. She’s been known to make the same Jello cheesecake for our friends at our potlucks and I was certain she or her mom had the same recipe as my Mom. Sure enough, she had it. Yay!

Here’s a weird question for you: Does anyone know if jello cheesecake is Hawaiian in origin?  I ask because every time I’m in Hawaii I find jello cheesecake at odd places – Zippy’s restaurant for one. Why is this? I never find jello cheesecake at any restaurant establishments here in Southern California. I’ve only seen it at my childhood family potlucks, and in my adulthood, again, at potlucks.

No matter where it came from, I just love it. It’s also a favorite dessert of Big Onechan and Bebe Dada and we are quickly discovering that Bebe E has a similar love for desserts – just like her mama. It’s definitely a favorite among kids, but I admit I make this occasionally at home to satisfy my jello cheesecake craving – – – and my inner kid.

This nutty, slightly salty and sweet crust is absolutely my favorite! It compliments the sweetness of the cheesecake filling and jello perfectly!


The lemon flavored gelatin is incorporated into the cream cheese mixture.

Once the cream cheese “cheesecake” filling has set, the key is to gently spoon the top layer of jello over the filling. As tempting as it might be, don’t pour the jello over the filling. 


By the way, I finally assembled a page titled “Recipes” which is a comprehensive directory of all the recipes, by category, that I’ve posted on my blog so far. I thought this was an easier way to see the big picture of all that I’ve been cooking. I hope you find it helpful!

Click here to get to the Recipes page.

I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!


Judy | bebe mama


5.0 from 6 reviews
Jello Cheesecake with Walnut Crust
A great, time-tested recipe shared among the moms of my childhood friends.
  • ½ cup salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted walnuts, chopped (substitute with graham cracker crumbs for nut allergies)
  • 1 package (3 oz.) lemon flavored gelatin/jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip (8 oz. container of Cool Whip can be substituted)
  • 1 package (6 oz.) cherry flavored jello (any flavor may be used, I also love lime)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together butter, flour, brown sugar and nuts in a stand mixer. Press into a 13 X 9 inch pan; Bake for 15 minutes. Let this cool completely.
  2. Mix the lemon-flavored gelatin with 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside to cool.
  3. Mix together cream cheese, sugar and Cool Whip; add cooled lemon gelatin mixture to the cream cheese mix. Pour this over the crust; refrigerate for 1 hour. NOTE: The cream cheese filling will be light and soft. It will not be as firm as you might expect it to be.
  4. Combine cherry gelatin (or your gelatin flavor of choice) and 2 cups of boiling water; cool.
  5. Gently spoon the jello over the cold cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until cherry gelatin is firm (overnight or up to 4 hours).
  6. Slice jello cheesecake into generous squares and serve!
Recipe updated with substitutions 03.19.2014


  1. avatar

    hee hee…I used to make this too, way back when. it is always yummy.
    we are going to the san diego zoo this saturday if you want to go again so soon!

    • avatar

      Aw, I would love to go again this Sat! I know the baby would too. It might just be me and the baby b/c the big kid has swim obligations. I will let you know. :) xoxo

  2. avatar

    Oh my gosh, I don’t remember ever eating this kind of cheesecake, but it gives me a “natsukashii” feeling… Maybe I had it in Hawaii as a kid, who knows? It reminds me of these multicolored jello stacks my mom used to make to take to potlucks with the other Hawaiians of her generation who had relocated to California. The cream layer was made with gelatin and condensed milk. Have you ever had it?
    This cheese cake looks wonderful!! I’m going to have to make this some day….

    Bebe E looks SO cute. Can’t believe how big she is now! I’ve lived in California from birth to my late 20s, and I’ve never been to the San Diego Zoo!! Doh! I know it’s great. Glad you guys had a wonderful day. :)


    • avatar


      Do you have a recipe using condensed milk??


      • avatar

        Hi Debbie, Unfortunately, for jello cheesecake I do not have a recipe that uses condensed milk, however, this jello cheesecake recipe on Yummly includes condensed milk. I hope this helps!

        • avatar

          I know what recipe thehungryartist is talking about. It’s called Rainbow Jello. It’s a favorite dish at island gatherings for kids and I’ve seen some adults sneak it on their dessert plate too. Hehe. It’s an easy recipe, just time consuming. You layer 4 different Jello favors. The typical flavors are Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, and Lime. In between each layer is a layer of the condensed milk. Take 1 can of condensed milk, and mix with 2 packets of unflavored gelatin and 2 cups of hot water. So basically, in a Pyrex dish put the Lime flavor Jello and chill till firm, then add a layer of the condensed milk, and chill. Then repeat with Lemon, condensed milk, Orange, condensed milk, and lastly Strawberry. ** Note: when making the flavored Jello, and 1 packet of unflavored gelatin and only 1 cup of hot water… Not 2 cups like the box says.

          Should take about 2 hours to do… Easy, but time consuming.

  3. avatar

    this looks delicious, never heard of it but planning on making it for my daughter’s bday – she doesn’t like traditional cake so this is right up her alley. however, is there a way to make the crust w/o nuts since there are friends w/nut allergies?

    also – not sure where in oc you live but just saw an article online that they’re building a mitsuwa in irvine, off of culver/walnut which is closer to me than the costa mesa one, yahoooo!

    • avatar

      You can use graham cracker crumbs in place of the chopped walnuts and it will taste great!

      Wow! I wasn’t aware that there would be a new Mitsuwa in OC but I will definitely need to keep an eye out for the grand opening! Thank you for the information, and thank you so much for stopping by. Happy Birthday to your daughter! Cheers!

  4. avatar

    thanks for the tip for using graham cracker crusts! i hope you get this msg but i’m making this right now – the normal sized cool whip container is 8 oz. and the bigger double sized one is 16 oz. should i use 8 oz or 12 oz cool whip?

    • avatar

      I usually check my blog – or am working on a post – a few times a day unless we’re on a serious outing. You caught me on one of my regular nights at home – where I’m on my blog. :) I think the last time I made this I bought the bigger 16 oz but I didn’t use the entire container. I guesstimated 12 oz. I definitely don’t recommend using all of the 16 oz because your cheesecake layer is going to be really loose and it’s already a very soft layer. If you do use the full 16 oz you’ll need to compensate with more lemon gelatin to hold it together. If you go with just 8 oz, I’m sure it will work, but I have a feeling your cheesecake layer is going to be tight – more springy in texture. But, I’ve never tried it with only 8 oz so it might actually be to your liking. Let me know if you go this route. I like the 12 oz because the cheesecake layer is soft and marshmallowy in texture. Oooh, just thinking about it makes me want to make a batch of Jello cheesecake. Whatever you decide to go with, please leave me a comment if you have time to let me know how it went. :)

  5. avatar

    thank you! turned out great, i used 12 oz. and eyeballed it. i think maybe i used a little too much because it was hard to taste the lemon in the cheesecake layer (my husband said, this was good but it would’ve been even better if the cheesecake was lemon flavored, haha). maybe next time i’ll have to squeeze just a tiny bit of lemon juice to kick up the flavor and make sure i don’t put too much cool whip in. thanks again for a great recipe!

    • avatar

      I agree, the cheesecake layer is more cheesy-tasting versus lemony-tasting. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Cheers!

  6. avatar

    Hi Judy, thank you for all of your wonderful recipes! I was thinking what if you put a layer of blue jello on the walnut crust first, then follow with the cheesecake and the red jello for a 4th of July dessert? Do you think the jello will set on the crust with no problems?

    • avatar

      Hi Susan, Thanks so much for your kind words. You’re so welcome! What a great idea for a 4th of July! I’d love to feature your idea with your name as credit for a 4th post! :) It shouldn’t be a problem at all if you layered jello on top of the crust, before the filling.

  7. avatar

    Yes, this Jello Cheesecake recipe is from Hawaii where I used to live. I loved it and made it frequently and was so sorry that when I moved to the mainland, I lost it, but now I have found it!!!!!! Thank you so very much, Judy, because I have been looking through oriental cookbooks for years for this recipe to no avail.
    Best regards, Sharon Tomme

    • avatar

      Hi Sharon, I’m so glad I could share this recipe with you. This dessert has great sentimental value to me as well and it really is a sweet treat! Thank you for leaving a comment. Enjoy your dessert. :)

  8. avatar

    I grew up on the island of Oahu. Our neighbor and family friend made this all the time….lucky for me no one else in my family liked cheesecake.
    One exception….Sadie liked using macadamia nuts in place of walnuts!
    Thank you , my search is over for this recipe.

    • avatar

      To this day, this dessert is still one of my favorites and likely because it’s so nostalgic too. The macadamia substitution sounds divine! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

  9. avatar

    I love this recipe! I had an old recipe with parts missing passed down from my step mother and it took me many tries to get it right. Do you let your lemon jello completely set or just “cool” as it says ? I kept letting it set because my recipe said that but it just wasn’t working-turned into a watery mess with the cherry jello not setting right.

  10. avatar

    Hi, today being Bodhi Day! Our Temple had a Special Lunch, This was one of the desserts, so I googled and your recepe came up, Do you think Regular Wipped cream would work in place of the Cool Whip? Thank You, , great Blog…
    Anna of Berkeley

    • avatar

      Hi Anna, Thank you! Honestly, I’ve never tried using regular whipped cream, but it would definitely cut the amount of the sugar in the recipe which could be a good thing. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work, but after combining it with the lemon jello, I would check for texture because you need the whipped cream/jello mixture to hold up enough to tolerate the next layer of solid jello. One thing about the cool whip is that it’s texture is so thick that when it’s combined with the lemon jello mix (which is watery), it still retains some of its density. Regular whipped cream on the other hand is not as dense and much thinner, so I would worry about its ability to solidify AND hold-up the next layer. If you give it a try, please let me know how it turns out as I’ve never tried it myself. – Judy

  11. avatar

    Judy, mahalo nui loa for posting this recipe. I’ve been searching for years to find it! And yes, this must have been created in Hawaii or adopted by Hawaiians soon after. Growing up on Maui in the 80’s, and spending my summers in Papakolea on O’ahu with my grandma, I remember my tutu (grandma) making us this dessert all the time. When we had potlucks, she would make 2 large casserole dishes and it would always disappear quickly, luckily she would hide a few pieces for me :). When she passed away years ago the recipe was lost. I’ve tried to follow other recipes on the web, some even using pretzel crusts, but none of them were what I was looking for. Now thanks to you I can have a little piece of my childhood back!

    btw, in reference to the question about a blue Jello layer under the cream cheese. Instead of that, you can make several colors of Jello. My grandma would sometimes make two colors of jello on the top by refrigerating between jello layers. I know it wont be red, white, and blue in order but it’s close.

    • avatar

      Hello! You’re so welcome! This dessert is very nostalgic for me too and I’m happy I am able to share it with others. :)
      Thank you for the tip regarding the multi-layers of jello, it definitely would be worth trying and I can see how easily the multi-layers of colors would definitely impress!

  12. avatar

    Oh, I hope you read this! I stumbled across this recipe and was hoping to make it in cupcake liners instead of one big pan. Would you have any advice on anything I should do differently to accommodate this?? Please and thanks in advance…LOVE YOUR RECIPES btw <3

    • avatar

      Hi Jenn,
      I think you could definitely make this in individual cups, only it will take more time and effort, i.e. scooping the crust ingredients into multiple liners as well as the filling and jello. As far as the portion, I’m not certain whether you’ll need one or two cupcake pans (to make 12 or 24) as I’ve never tried to do so. I would simply use your best judgement as far as the thickness for the crust (keep it on the thin side – maybe 1/4 inch?), and the same for the cheesecake filling and jello. Sorry I can’t provide any more guidance than this but now that you’ve brought it up it might be fun to give it a try. Please let me know how it turns out if you get a chance.
      Thanks for the compliment! :) – – – Judy

  13. avatar

    Mahalo so much for posting this long lost cheesecake recipe that I’ve been searching for. My sister used to bake all kinds of desserts and this was one of our favorite, but after she passed away all her good recipes was lost and I’ve been searching for it ever since. I AM VERY HAPPY That I have come across your web site …..I Love all your recipes! Aloha

    • avatar

      I’m so happy that I could share this recipe for you to enjoy. Thank you for leaving a comment. :)

  14. avatar

    hello Judy, how can i make the cheese filling thicker so its not so soft? my family like the cheese cake part thick with the jello on top. I also use maccadamon nuts as my crust. it’s a hit with my samoan family.just the part about the filling too soft.
    thank you PattyAnn

    • avatar

      Hi PattyAnn, I recommend adding Knox Gelatin to help make the filling more firm. I’ve never tried doing so, I imagine 1 or 2 packets of Knox dissolved in water and then added to the filling will help firm it up. I hope this helps!
      The macadamia nut crust sounds absolutely yummy! – Judy

  15. avatar

    Wondering if I could sub macadamia nuts? Any suggestions?

    • avatar

      I don’t see why you couldn’t! That actually sounds very yummy!

  16. avatar

    Hello Judy- I am in the process of making this as we speak…..I was wondering if the crust is supposed to taste a little bitter? This is my first time making it on my own…Growing up in Hawaii this was at EVERY party that I went to. I wast to share this treat with my mainland friends but not if the crust isnt supposed to taste like that, Sweet and then a bitter after taste. Mahalo,


    • avatar

      I think the walnuts may add a slightly bitter taste. I think the bitterness may also be a result from over baking the walnuts.

  17. avatar

    Bless you!! I was born in Hawaii and my mom recently passed away. We have been trying to find this recipe and I think this is it!! I am so happy. thank you SO MUCH for sharing it. I will try to make it soon. Our family was very sad that an old favorite family recipe had been lost. Based on the history you share I am just sure this is it. Mom used to make hers every time wiht lemon jello on top. I knew it had a different, “nutty,” crust. When I saw the walnuts I just knew this must be it. Thank you again.

  18. avatar

    This was wonderful and easy! I made this almost exactly as you described, however I didn’t have enough walnuts so I ended up using half walnuts and half graham crackers. The crust turned out amazing! This is a surprisingly addictive dessert. Thanks for sharing!

  19. avatar

    Can you please tell me what I did wrong…. everything was going great I followed the recipe to the tee only difference was the pan. I used a foliage pan because we were going to the beach. My jello ended up sinking to the. Ottoman of the pan

    • avatar

      Hi Crystal, I’m so sorry to hear this! I have no idea what happened. :( The only thing I know is that heat and jello never mix. It almost sounds as if the jello simply melted? I’m not sure the circumstances under which the jello sank/melted, but it definitely needs to remain fully refrigerated in order to hold it’s shape, and the crust should be completely cooled before adding the jello layers. I’m sorry I can’t be of further help. :(

  20. avatar

    Like so many others who are from Hawaii or lived in Hawaii, I’ve been searching for this recipe forever! Like Nikos, my sister also used to make this all the time. She passed a few years ago and we were unable to find the recipe. But I stumbled across your site to look at your seafood dynamite recipe and find this! Amazing! This brings back so many memories! Thank you so much! I also like a lot of your other recipes so I’ll be a regular visitor! Mahalo & arigato gozaimashita!

    • avatar

      So happy to hear you stumbled on a recipe similar to your late sister. Thanks for visiting and for leaving a thoughtful comment.

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