Whether it’s on cheesecake or on bagels, your go-to cheese is cream cheese. Yes, it’s super creamy and delicious but it has some health risks. It can clog up the arteries in your body and affects the cardiovascular system (which includes your heart, too).
Cheese does pose a great deal of fat-related diseases but it can bring about good effects, too. There’s also a startling case of the incredible or almost miraculous effect of cheese. The Huffington Post reported of a mute 3-year-old girl regained her ability to speak because of her cream cheese diet. She consumed four containers of cream cheese per week!
You can weigh its pros and cons, but it’s way fun to have substitutes to cream cheese. But before we do that, let’s get to know cream cheese even more.
Americans are sure proud of their Philadelphia Cream Cheese. No wonder. Because Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese is an American invention that traces its roots back to 1872. It is now considered as the most popular brand of cream cheese in the world!
The University of Guelph defines cream cheese in a more scientific manner. And for the aluminized term, cream cheese comes from cow’s milk and should have 30% milk fat.
It’s called fresh or unripened, which means not aged. It also includes pasteurized nonfat milk and milkfat, cheese culture, whey protein concentrate, salt, stabilizers (xanthan and/or carob bean and/or guar gums).
If you’re up to the challenge, try this homemade cream cheese or even more, let’s get to know those cream cheese healthier options.
Just a little reminder: you might want to prepare your conversation table for ounces to grams to cups. This will make it easier for you to use it in different cream cheese recipes.
9 HEALTHIER CREAM CHEESE SUBSTITUTES
1. Plain Greek Yogurt
When you think of cream cheese’s softness, plain Greek yogurt is almost equivalent.
To make it even healthier to eat, drain your yogurt first before using it. You simply take it out of its packaging and place it in a dry, clean cheesecloth. Once the excess liquid is dried out, you place it over a large bowl. You can see here how it looks like.
To have a thicker Greek yogurt, you can leave it in the bowl overnight. You can also add some shallots, chopped onions, and bits of carrots to have your own garden cream cheese.
From your digestive tract to your bones, plain Greek yogurt is a much healthier option. It’s available on all grocery stores, so you can easily whip up this cream cheese substitute.
2. Soy-based Products
I know you have heard of tofu before. It is that semi-soft bean curd used in Asian dishes. It’s coagulating soy milk. When they are pressed to a strainer, the curds are cut into soft white blocks.
You can make your tofu cream cheese by mixing 3/4 cups of tofu, 1/4 cup margarine and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Your goal is to achieve a smooth paste. Then refrigerate the mixture to have an excellent cream cheese substitute. You can make a cup of cream cheese with this recipe.
If you bought the tofu blocks, you need to press them hard to get the paste texture. Or you can purchase the softer tofu for easier mixing. You can find tofu in Asian markets located in the refrigerated section or purchase online at any Asian ingredients online store.
If you want to skip the mixing, buy the soy cream cheese. It is available on special vegan markets or online stores.
3. Neufchâtel cheese
Neufchâtel [NOO/NYOO-shuh-tel] is a French soft cheese. Just like the cream cheese, it is also unripened cow’s milk. It has a sharper and overpowering taste like an aged cheese but is a perfect cream cheese option when young.
You may similarly compare it with low-fat cream cheese with its texture and taste, so it’s a great alternative when cooking. You can simply replace one cup of cream cheese with one cup of Neufchatel.
Oh, there’s no need to go to France to buy Neufchâtel! It may not be always available at the grocery store but you can search online or run down to your nearest specialty cheese shop.
4. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is as old as cream cheese. It was believed to have started in 1831. During that period, butter and cheese were made in cottages—hence, the name. Cottage cheese was the cheese from leftover milk from making butter.
An 8 oz cottage cheese contains almost 180 calories, but with zero saturated fat. It is loaded with essential vitamins, like Vitamin D, and minerals, like potassium, sodium, folate, calcium, and copper.
There are many ways to make cottage cheese as a cream cheese sub:
- You can puree and strain cottage cheese for perfect cream cheese.
- You can mix cottage cheese with equal parts of half-and-half or cream and a little butter. Drain the cottage cheese first, then whiz them up all in a blender.
- If you don’t like butter, use margarine. You can mix a 1/4 cup of margarine to 8 oz lower fat cottage cheese.
- You can also take 8.82oz of cottage cheese, then blend it and chill it at the freezer. This will also make the same amount of cream cheese. Simple!
Petit-Suisse is an old French cheese, which means “little Swiss”. Similar to cream cheese, petit-Suisse also comes from cow’s milk but is enriched with cream. That’s why is has 40% fat content, higher than cream cheese actually—use it occasionally, okay?
Petite-Suisse has a texture very similar to a thick yogurt rather than a typical cheese. It is unripened and unsalted, so usually, it is mixed with sugar or mustard to pack it with flavor.
This smooth and creamy cheese is a good cream cheese option because of its texture. A pack of 1oz of Petit-Suisse is equivalent to one cup of cream cheese. Just add some honey and whip it together to use it for your cream cheese dessert recipes.
The flavored petit-Suisse are available online but you can still visit your nearest specialty cheese shop to order one.
6. Kefir and Organic Chia Seeds
Kefir is a Turkish milk drink made from either cow, goat or sheep and is fermented with yeast or good bacteria. It also has calcium like milk. On the other hand, organic chia seeds have essential oils like omega-3, which is good for the heart. When combined, kefir and organic chia seeds can prevent various kinds of allergies, gastrointestinal problems, atherosclerosis, and candidiasis.
There’s also a very meaty discussion on whether or not you should munch on chia seeds or put it on everything you eat. The debate circled around the benefits of chia seeds in preventing diabetes, yet too much gives you other diseases.
In the end, it’s all about moderation. Just like we’re having right now–knowing other recipes to enjoy cream cheese-y goodness without having the actual cream cheese.
So, to make the cream cheese substitute, combine 1/4 cup of chia seeds in a bowl of kefir. This will be equal to a bowl of cream cheese. You can leave the mixture for a while until the seeds absorb all the water from the kefir. It may take from 30 minutes to one hour. But be patient and never stir the mixture.
This is a good and healthy substitute for all your cream cheese recipes. You must avoid it with recipes involving heat, though, or your dish will get ugly with curding.
You may find and buy kefir in any specialty grocery stores, while chia seeds are often at supermarkets or local markets in the grain section. You may always opt to stay at home and buy from the world wide web.
Hummus is an excellent cream cheese sub as a spread on your English muffins, bagels or toast. Because hummus is made from pinto beans and not milk, it contains more protein than fat. This healthy fat helps in preventing heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) has shown the decreasing level of vegetable intake of both American men and women. But they do have a high consumption of beans for their recommended dietary protein requirement.
There are pre-made hummus available in grocery stores or make your own with different recipes online.
If hummus is Indian, neufchâtel and petite-Suisse are both French, well it’s time for an Italian cheese—ricotta!
Ricotta, which translates to “recooked”, is lighter than cottage cheese yet sweeter and creamier. It comes from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey. Whey is the leftover milk curd from making cheese.
Speaking of ricotta cheese whey, Biomass and Bioenergy explain that whey from ricotta cheese is a good non-vegetable alternative source of energy. Now, that’s science!
You can just replace a cup of cream cheese with a cup of ricotta. You can also mix equal parts of ricotta and plain yogurt. The part-skim ricotta is also a very excellent cream cheese sub in your recipes.
Simply drain the ricotta and puree it in a blender. Make sure that the texture is really smooth. Refrigerate and it’s ready to use.
There’s a wide selection of ricotta cheese you can buy in your local grocery store or online stores.
9. Gervais Cheese
Gervais cheese is another French cream cheese substitute. It’s a soft, fully-flavored and very creamy kind of cheese.
Its sweet and tangy taste makes it a super cream cheese spread alternative. With 75% milkfat, you can count on it for your body’s daily energy requirement.
You can enjoy it with some crackers for a snack or with fruits and berries as a dessert.
You can buy it at a specialty grocery store. Gervais cheese is usually packed in small cylinders or flat squares.
I know it’s hard to let go of something you have been used to, especially with the cream cheese recipes you have mastered. So, treat these cream cheese substitutes as windows for experimentation on your new cream cheese recipes.
Plus, they are healthy substitutes! We don’t want to eat delicious food and have a guilty feeling, right?
It’s never too late to eat and think healthy. With these cream cheese substitutes, you will never sacrifice your health for a delicious indulgence of your favorite cheese spread or cheese desserts.
Share your own cream cheese substitute recipe in the comments section below. We can also exchange the health benefits you had with your cream cheese option.
I hope this article helps you with your cooking. Stay tuned for the next cooking tips and reviews.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are some healthier alternatives to cream cheese?
A: Healthier alternatives include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, neufchatel cheese, hummus, ricotta cheese, silken tofu, cashew or almond-based spreads, avocado puree, and light cream cheese.
Q: Can Greek yogurt really replace cream cheese in recipes?
A: Yes, Greek yogurt can replace cream cheese, especially in dips and spreads. It offers a similar texture and a tangy flavor, though it’s less creamy. It’s also higher in protein and lower in fat.
Q: Is cottage cheese a good substitute for cream cheese?
A: Cottage cheese is a great substitute for cream cheese in cooking and baking. It’s lower in fat and calories but still provides a creamy texture. For a smoother consistency, blend it before using.
Q: How does neufchatel differ from regular cream cheese?
A: Neufchatel is very similar to regular cream cheese but has about one-third less fat. It can be used as a direct substitute in most recipes.
Q: Can hummus be used as a cream cheese substitute?
A: Hummus, made from chickpeas, can be a flavorful substitute for cream cheese in savory dishes and spreads. It’s vegan and higher in fiber.
Q: Is ricotta a healthier alternative to cream cheese?
A: Ricotta is a good substitute for cream cheese, particularly in Italian dishes and desserts. It’s lighter in texture and has less fat.
Q: Can silken tofu be used in place of cream cheese?
A: Silken tofu is a great vegan alternative to cream cheese. It has a similar creamy texture and can be blended with lemon juice and salt for added flavor.
Q: Are there any nut-based cream cheese substitutes?
A: Yes, cashew and almond-based spreads are excellent vegan substitutes for cream cheese. They have a creamy texture and are good for spreads and dips.
Q: Can avocado puree be used as a cream cheese substitute?
A: Avocado puree can replace cream cheese in certain recipes, offering a creamy texture and healthy fats. It works well in dips and spreads.
Q: What is light cream cheese and how does it compare to regular cream cheese?
A: Light cream cheese has reduced fat and calories compared to regular cream cheese. It retains a similar flavor and can be used in the same manner as regular cream cheese in recipes.