What is Cream Cheese?

A bagel with cream cheese
John E. Kelly/The Image Bank

Question: What is cream cheese?

Cream cheese is a fresh cheese that is not aged

Answer: Cream cheese is an American invention developed in 1872 in New York state. A cheese distributor soon commissioned the enterprising dairyman to produce the cream cheese in volume under the trade name "Philadelphia Brand®." The company was eventually bought out by Kraft Foods in 1928, and still remains the most widely-recognized brand of cream cheese in the United States.

Cream cheese is similar to French Neufchatel in that it is made from cow's milk, but differs in that it is unripened and often contains emulsifiers to lend firmness and lengthen shelf-life. USDA law requires standard cream cheese must contain at least 33 percent fat and no more than 55 percent water, although there are low-fat and nonfat varieties now on the market.

Cream cheese is categorized as a fresh cheese since it is unaged. As a result, it has a short shelf life, once opened. The flavor is mild, fresh-tasting, and sweet, yet has a pleasing slight tang. At room temperature, cream cheese spreads easily and has a smooth and creamy texture. It is sold in foil-wrapped blocks or in a soft-spread form which has air whipped in to make it spreadable right from the refrigerator. Many flavored versions are also now available, including those with herbs, fruits, and even salmon blended in.

Cream cheese is one of America's most widely-consumed cheeses.

Its soft creamy texture gives richness to , frosting, bagel-toppers, and and makes wonderfully light and flaky pastry crusts. Along with these more well-known uses, cream cheese is a main ingredient in many savory dishes as well as as you will see in the cream cheese recipe collection.

More about Cream Cheese and Cream Cheese Recipes:

What is cream cheese? FAQ
Cream Cheese Cooking Tips