Perfect fudgy brownies get a major upgrade in this Cream Cheese Brownies recipe! An easy dessert loaded with cheesecake and chocolate.
Dark, Decadent Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl!
Brownies are, no lie, one of my very favorite desserts. Sure, there are fancier things out there than a simple pan of brownies, but when it comes to pure, fudgy, chocolatey goodness, a real homemade brownie is hard to beat. Done right, brownies are a pure indulgent treat with a swoon-worthy texture and taste.
Cheesecake is another perfect dessert – slightly more tricky to get right, but so, so worth it. Good cheesecake is the ultimate creamy dessert!
That’s where these cream cheese brownies come in. A creamy, cheesecake-like swirl not only decorates the dark chocolate brownie layer, but it also adds the perfect contrast in flavor. The two velvety textures make one heavenly bite!
Nothing beats baking from scratch – the quality of a dessert made with real butter, chocolate, sugar, and eggs is unmatched. Those are the kinds of ingredients we’ll be using to make these fantastic cream cheese brownies.
For the Brownies
- Butter: Unsalted butter, at room temperature.
- Chocolate: Bittersweet chocolate, chopped.
- Sea Salt
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract, or you could use vanilla bean paste.
- Sugar: Using both granulated sugar and light brown sugar gives the brownie mixture a little added warmth.
- Cocoa Powder: Dark cocoa powder, or regular if you can’t find the dark cocoa.
- Eggs: Like the butter, have the eggs at room temperature before adding them to the batter.
- Flour: All-purpose flour.
For the Cream Cheese Swirl
- Cream Cheese: Softened to room temperature.
- Sugar: Plain granulated sugar.
- Egg: One large, whole egg.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract.
- Chocolate Chips: For sprinkling over the top of the brownies.
Do Brownies Taste Better with Butter or Oil?
While oil is great for adding moisture to baked goods without weighing them down, butter is hands-down the more flavorful choice, and in this recipe, it is basically indispensable. You’ll love the way the butter adds a creamy depth to the chocolate brownie batter.
How to Make Cream Cheese Brownies from Scratch
This cooking method starts with melting the chocolate and butter together. You can do this in the microwave, but I find that it’s easier to do without overheating the chocolate if you use a double boiler, or a heatproof mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
- Prep the Oven and Baking Dish. Before you begin, make sure to preheat the oven to 350°F. Then line a 9×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and grease the baking pan and paper together. Set the pan aside.
- Melt the Butter and Chocolate. Place the softened butter and chopped chocolate in a large heat-resistant bowl, and melt them together over a simmering saucepan of water. Stir the butter and chocolate together until smooth and fully melted, but do not overcook or the chocolate will be grainy.
- Add the Rest of the Wet Ingredients. Remove the bowl with the melted chocolate from the heat. Next, stir in the salt and vanilla, followed by the white sugar and brown sugar, and then the eggs. It’s important to add the eggs last so that the mixture has a chance to cool down before you add them – you don’t want scrambled eggs. Whisk the liquid ingredients well to make a smooth mixture.
- Add the Flour. Gradually stir the all-purpose flour into the wet ingredients, mixing until well combined with a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Pour into the Pan. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Set aside.
- Make the Cream Cheese Mixture. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. A hand mixer is great for this.
- Swirl the Cream Cheese into the Brownie Batter. Drop small spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter. Then swirl the two mixtures together, using a skewer or butter knife.
- Bake. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the brownies, and slide the pan into the oven to bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Enjoy! Let the brownies cool in the pan for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Tips for Success
As always, I have a few tips to share for making the most of this easy recipe. Your cream cheese brownies will turn out even more perfect if you keep these helpful hints in mind.
- Swirling: To create the prettiest pattern, don’t over-swirl the brownie and cream cheese mixtures. Try to imagine a grid over the brownie pan and make sure each brownie gets its fair share, but don’t overdo it. Over-mixing will make the brownies look less appealing.
- Cut the Brownies Cleanly: To prevent crumbs from sticking to your knife and making the cutting process difficult, just have a paper towel and some warm water handy. Dunk the paper towel in the warm water, and use it to wipe your knife in between cuts.
- The Parchment Trick: I don’t like cutting brownies in my baking pan – it can dull the knife and scratch the finish of the pan. Instead, line the bake pan with a long sheet of parchment that hangs over the edges a bit. Once the brownies have cooled, you can use those overhanging edges to lift the whole square of brownies out of the pan, and onto a clean cutting board (for food safety, don’t use the same board you use for preparing raw meats). Cut and serve!
Should you stir in extra ingredients? Should you tweak the amount of cream cheese or chocolate? Basically, should you turn these into the dessert of your dreams? Yes, and yes, and yes! Here are a few variations on this recipe that you should totally try:
- Adding Nuts: For some people, chopped nuts in brownies just interrupt that soft, fudgy goodness with an unwelcome crunch. Fair enough! But if you’re the kind of person who welcomes a little texture, definitely sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans into the brownie batter, or on top of the brownies while they bake.
- Strawberry Cheesecake Brownies: Strawberries, chocolate, cheesecake… I think you see where I’m going here. To add strawberries to this recipe easily and quickly, just add a drizzle of strawberry sauce (the kind you use for ice cream) right over the top of your brownie just before you serve it. A little whipped cream wouldn’t hurt, either!
- Frosting: A thin layer of fudgy frosting on top of these brownies would really set them over the top.
- Ice Cream: When all else fails, brownies a la mode is a simple way to jazz up any brownie recipe. So good! 😊
Do Brownies with Cream Cheese Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, since they have a cheesecake swirl it’s best to refrigerate these brownies (plus, they’re amazing chilled!). Pop them into a zip-top bag or airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one week.
Can I Freeze These?
- Sure! In fact, this is a great recipe to double so that you can freeze a batch for later.
- Just cool the brownies down first so that you don’t invite freezer burn to the party, and bag them up in freezer bags (press out as much air as possible before sealing).
- They should keep in the freezer for at least three months.
Cream Cheese Brownies
Cream Cheese Swirl
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup chocolate chips, for sprinkling over the top of the brownies
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a 9×9-inch baking pan with a parchment paper and grease the baking pan. Set aside.
- Place softened butter and chopped chocolate in a large heat-resistant bowl, and melt them in a water bath, stirring together until smooth.
- Remove the bowl with the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla extract.
- Mix the white and brown sugars into the melted chocolate, then add the eggs and whisk well until mixture becomes smooth.
- Gradually stir in the all-purpose flour and mix until well combined by using a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter. Use a skewer or knife to swirl the cream cheese mixture into the brownie batter.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the brownies.
- Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove the brownies from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Use good quality chocolate: Choose chocolate with high cocoa content for the best flavor.
- Use quality cocoa powder: Cocoa powder will give the brownies a rich chocolate flavor and a fudgy texture.
- Don’t overmix the batter: Overmixing the batter can result in cakey brownies. Mix the batter just until the ingredients are combined.
- Don’t overbake the brownies: Brownies should be removed from the oven when they are just set in the center. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Let the brownies cool completely before cutting: This will help the brownies to set and cut neatly.
- Add-ins: Add a tablespoon or two of brewed coffee or brewed espresso to enhance the chocolate flavor. Also, try adding chopped nuts, jam, chocolate chips, or a swirl of peanut butter to the batter for added flavor and texture.
- Butter: You will need to use 2/3-cup softened unsalted butter. That’s about 10.5 tablespoons or 151 grams.