When is dessert ok? (+ coconut “cheesefake”)

Dessert is always a tricky topic for dietitians.  We know that the number one source of calories (this should SHOCK you) in the American diet is desserts and sugary drinks, and that refined grains and sugar raise cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels in unhealthy ways.  I personally think the biggest problem is that “indulgent” calories are more commonly eaten in place of a healthy diet, instead of in addition to (and often are not compensated for with exercise).  When I was a kid, we didn’t get dessert unless we ate our veggies, because if you’re not hungry for beans, you’re not hungry at all…right?

I try to match indulgent calories to activity for the day.  If it’s a day I don’t get out for a run or pop in TurboFire, it’s not a day for ice cream or pie.  And when I do eat something sweet, it’s a bonus if it actually has some nutritional value, too.

Enter my revamped cheesecake.  Most cheesecakes take several eggs, blocks of cream cheese, and hours to make from mixing to baking to cooling.  This one contains no cheese and will be ready to serve in 2 hours, beginning to plate.  It’s adapted from this recipe, which also makes the important point that it has a pretty good amount of fiber and protein for a dessert.  IT IS DELICIOUS.  You will swear there is cream cheese in it.  No baking, no oven, no heat required – perfect for spring and summer!



Photo courtesy of Evi @ Fifth Floor Kitchen


  • 16 dates
  • 2c slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil


  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c lowfat greek yogurt
  • 1.5 c shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 c coconut water
  • 2 packets plain gelatin
  • Juice from one lemon

Heat coconut water in a bowl in the microwave until hot; add lemon juice and gelatin; stir until dissolved.


In a blender or food processor, pulse all the crust ingredients until evenly mixed and finely chopped.  Press into a 9” pan (or springform) by using a sheet of waxed paper.


Add all the rest of the filling ingredients to the blender and puree; when combined, add the gelatin mixture and blend on high.  Pour on top of crust; refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight).  Add berries to serve.  Serves 12.



By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Vita Coco and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time or the product.

26 thoughts on “When is dessert ok? (+ coconut “cheesefake”)

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  2. I made this and it’s chilling in the refrigerator right now. Only thing: I used unsweetened coconut. I didn’t catch that it called for sweetened until after I filled the crust. So I sprinkled some brown sugar on the top. I’ll let you know how it comes out!

    • Ooh! Glad you did this; please do let me know what that flavor is like. I think compensating with sugar on the top should work…and I personally prefer less of a sweet dessert and more of a rich or nutty one, so if it works for you maybe I’ll switch over my recipe! Just couldn’t find any unsweetened coconut flakes at my less than fancy grocery.

  3. It came out delicious. It’s very delicate tasting. Do you think it will freeze well? I’d like to try to freeze some of it for someone else to taste in about two weeks.

    • That’s true…I think it definitely needs something to help it set up, so you could try agar-agar, or even chia (though of course you’d have black seed flecks), or apparently kosher gelatins are vegetarian (from what I read). Let me know how it turns out if you try any subs!

    • Victoria, here’s the vegetarian hack: use unsweetened dry flaked coconut (like what they sell in the bulk bins at Whole Foods) and a product called Pomona’s Pectin – that’s the only brand I’ve found that will work! Dissolve it just like the gelatin, and with the dry coconut flakes it absorbs enough moisture to make it set. You might have to add a bit more sugar to compensate for the unsweetened flakes, though!

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