Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Cream Cheese

March 11, 2015

Today: Set your cream cheese free from the chains of your bagel. Here are new ways to use the schmear. 

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is not sophisticated. It lacks the sexiness of an oozing Camembert or soft ricotta, and it’s certainly no match for an aged cheddar -- but that's part of its charm. Cream cheese is plain and it knows it. Instead of shining in a cheese plate, it usually finds a spot on top of a bagel or slice of plain bread.  

Shop the Story

Though we love that classic combination, it’s time to take advantage of the cheese’s versatility: Cream cheese is extremely mild, which makes it perfect for cooking and baking. It adds creaminess to savory dishes, melts well, and rarely dominates over other flavors. In sweets, the cheese contributes a subtle tang and lightens up baked goods. Here are 5 ways to take your schmear beyond the bagel:


1. Give it some funk.

Lox and cream cheese are best friends for a reason: The mild cheese cuts through the smoky fish, creating a combination that is just intense enough. But this effect works well with any strong flavored fish, including smoked trout and sardines. Mix together the fish, cream cheese, chopped shallots, herbs, and lemon juice to form a spread, then slather it on crackers or crudite -- or, go big and turn the entire combination into a strata for brunch.



2. Scramble it up.

No one likes dry scrambled eggs. Cream cheese solves that problem by keeping your eggs moist and melty. Mix together eggs and milk, add it to a hot skillet, then fold in chunks of cheese. The cheese should dissolve into the eggs, creating a creamy and fluffy mixture. 


3. Stuff ‘em.

Jalapeño poppers are great at bars, but much less fun to make at home. Save yourself the trouble of breading and deep frying by making roasted poppers instead. Mash together cream cheese, cheddar, onions, and spices, then spread it onto halved and seeded peppers. Bake them at 425º F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and browned.  


4. Bake a cake.

Even though a pound cake is simple, it’s hard to get just right. It often comes out of the oven dry and dense -- more like a bread than an indulgent cake. Cream cheese eliminates this risk by keeping your cake moist and light. It also adds a pleasant sourness to the cake, giving it a flavor boost.  


5. Churn it up.

You don’t need eggs to make great ice cream at home. This method, perfected by Jeni Bauer of Jeni’s Ice Cream, relies on cornstarch and cream cheese instead. It involves boiling a milk and cream cheese mixture long enough to reduce the liquid and concentrate the milk proteins. The cream cheese adds an extra bit of protein, while the cornstarch thickens the whole mixture. In the end, it mimics egg yolks, which bind water and fat together to make an emulsion. Without eggs, the ice cream is much lighter and softer -- perfect for straight-out-of-the-freezer consumption.

What are your favorite ways to use cream cheese? Tell us in the comments below!

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Anne Walsh
    Anne Walsh
  • Claudia T
    Claudia T
  • Janie Diane Simpson
    Janie Diane Simpson
  • Syria Gabriella Samuels
    Syria Gabriella Samuels
  • Greenstuff
Hillary Pollak

Written by: Hillary Pollak


Anne W. December 5, 2019
Cream cheese in pound cake but how much and what do you swap it for?
Please help>
Claudia T. November 11, 2019
The pound cake that is linked doesn't call for cream cheese?! Shenanigans!
Janie D. August 28, 2015
Add a layer on the bottom of baked spaghetti...mmm
Syria G. April 12, 2015
I like to put it in my raman. It makes it creamy and delish.
Greenstuff March 12, 2015
Alice Medrich, in her Piglet-contender Flavor Flours, notes that cream cheese in her tart and cookie doughs binds the ingredients and provides a little structure. She suspects that the cream cheese may be playing the same role that xanthum gum plays in other gluten-free recipes, making it unnecessary to add xanthum gum itself.
Amanda C. March 12, 2015
I love adding some cream cheese to my cookie batter. The cookies stay moist and soft longer. It adds richness and depth to the cookies, but you cannot taste the cream cheese.
Aliwaks March 12, 2015
I sometimes stir a bit of cream cheese into tomato sauce - if I don't have cream and need it-

And cream cheese + fresh salsa on an amak cracker is best snack ever ( also cream cheese on doritos, but i don;t do that anymore)

Also when you are dieting and you want something rich tasting- non-fat cream cheese stirred into whole wheat pasta + parm + LOTS black pepper and either mushrooms & truffle salt or peas & lemon zest. It will get you through a craving.