Cream Cheese or Neufchâtel- Which One Do You Want?

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | May 12th, 2023 | Cooking Basics
cream cheese or neufchatel

You are getting ready to make a dish that has cream cheese as an ingredient. While you are shopping the dairy aisle, you wonder, “Could I use low fat cream cheese (AKA Neufchâtel), or do I need to use regular cream cheese?”

The answer to that question is the ever so delightful: Maybe.

The similarities

Let’s start with the basics: what each cheese is made of. Both cream cheese and Neufchâtel are made from a combination of cow’s milk and cream. Both are soft cheeses, which spread easily, even when just taken out of the refrigerator.

When baking, quite often Neufchâtel can be used as a substitute, if you are seeking a final product that is lower in fat. For example, you can use Neufchâtel instead of cream cheese when making a cheesecake. Want a little less fat on top of your bagel? Yes, Neufchâtel works for that also.

Not that I have often seen a recipe that calls for Neufchâtel, but if it did, you could replace it with cream cheese. These substitutions work in either direction.

The differences

The main difference between these two soft cheeses is the amount of fat in each, as referenced above. In order to be labeled as cream cheese, it must have a minimum of 33% milk fat, whereas Neufchâtel has only 23% milk fat. They also have different moisture content with cream cheese weighing in at a maximum of 55% and Neufchâtel at a maximum of 65%.

Besides the nutritional values, there is one other difference, which is the texture. Cream cheese truly lives up to its name. This soft cheese has a silky texture. Neufchâtel still is creamy, but there is a slightly granular note to this cheese.

When to use each

The short answer is that for most recipes the two cheeses are usually interchangeable, as mentioned earlier. Of course, usually does not mean always, so when are the times they cannot be switched? For me, one reason not to use Neufchâtel is when the texture of the cream cheese matters. On top of my bagel? Not a big deal. A little texture there is fine. When making the filling for Handheld Tarts Bursting with Blueberries? Stick with regular cream cheese. That slightly grainy texture is noticeable in the cheese layer.

Unless you’re using cream cheese as a stand-alone layer in a dish or want a dish that is very rich, feel free to substitute with Neufchâtel. Most likely you won’t notice the difference.

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