Cream Cheese vs. Brie

Cream cheese and brie are two popular soft cheeses that have their differences when it comes to taste, texture, uses, nutrition and more.

Cream Cheese vs. Brie

Origins and Manufacturing

Cream cheese originated in the United States in the late 1800s. It is made by curdling pasteurized milk with lactic acid bacteria, draining the curds, and mixing in cream to create a smooth, spreadable texture. Stabilizers and emulsifiers are often added during processing for an even creamier consistency.

Brie has a long history originating in the French region of the same name dating back to the 8th century. Traditional brie is made from raw cow's milk which is curdled with rennet and ladled into molds to drain. As the cheese ages, white surface mold grows naturally, helping form brie's signature edible rind and creamy interior paste.

So while both undergo lactic acid fermentation and use cow's milk, brie relies more on traditional techniques compared to mass-produced American cream cheese.

Key Takeaway: Cream cheese uses pasteurized milk and added stabilizers while authentic brie depends solely on raw milk and mold growth for its signature flavor and texture.

Flavor Profiles

When it comes to taste, cream cheese has a fresh, tangy flavor owing to the lactic acid. It tends to taste mildly sweet with a hint of butter and cream. The texture is smooth, rich and spreadable.

Brie features a richer, more complex taste and aroma. Notes of butter, cream and mushrooms come through, becoming stronger with age. The edible white rind supplies nutty, almost ammonia-like accents. The inner flesh starts out dense and becomes oozy as it ripens.

So while both offer a creamy mouthfeel, brie's flavor is more dynamic, evolving from the surface mold and enzymatic activity during aging. Cream cheese delivers straightforward, subtle sweetness in comparison.

Key Takeaway: Cream cheese tastes mildly tangy, buttery and sweet while brie features deeper earthy, nutty notes that intensify with its rind and softening paste.

Nutritional Value

Though high in fat and calories, brie leads over cream cheese in several vitamins and minerals. Brie boasts higher amounts of riboflavin, vitamin B12, zinc, folate, vitamin B6, phosphorus and selenium. Cream cheese, on the other hand, outpaces brie in vitamin A.

When it comes to fats, around 66% of the fats in both cheeses are saturated. However, brie contains a higher percentage of the healthier unsaturated fats. So if you're watching your cholesterol, brie may have an advantage.

Finally, brie packs over 3 times as much protein per serving compared to cream cheese. So if you're looking to balance out indulgence with nutrition, brie may satisfy more.

Key Takeaway: Brie contains higher levels of B vitamins, some minerals, more mono- and polyunsaturated fats and more protein compared to cream cheese.

Culinary Uses

Cream cheese is a versatile American staple used in appetizers, spreads, frostings, dips, bagels and baked desserts like cheesecake. Its high fat content and neutral flavor allows it to take on sweet or savory flavors. Mix-ins like herbs, garlic and jam are common.

The French delight in brie's creamy texture to accompany bread, fruit and wine or as a cheese course. Wedges of brie can be baked, grilled or fried while preserving the oozy center. Pairings lean more savory, like nuts, honey and cured meats though preserved fruits also match well.

So while brie shines as the star attraction on a cheese platter, cream cheese tends to play a supporting role blending in dips, dressing up bagels and frosting cakes. Both earn their place in the dairy aisle and fridge.

Storage and Handling

To enjoy these cheeses at their best, proper storage is key. Here's how to handle cream cheese versus brie:

  • Cream cheese is best kept tightly wrapped in its original packaging until you're ready to use it. Once opened, transfer to an airtight container, smoothing the surface to limit air exposure. Use within 2 weeks.
  • For optimal flavor and texture, brie should be ripened fully at room temperature on a cheese paper then wrapped loosely in parchment once at desired softness. Pre-cut wedges stop maturing so buy whole wheels instead. Consume within a couple weeks.

So cream cheese holds up better over time while brie is more finicky, needing special care for prime eating pleasure. Handle and store them correctly for cheese bliss.

Price Points

Price-wise, cream cheese consistently beats out brie by a couple dollars per pound on average. Mass production and stabilizer use allow cream cheese to be made cheaply on an industrial scale. Affordable cream cheese has become an American, especially New York staple.

Comparatively, imported wheels of artisanal brie demand a premium, especially when made from raw milk. As a specialty cheese requiring extra aging time, more milk and manual effort go into a smaller yield of finished product. From France in particular, brie costs more to import as well.

For those on a budget or baking with volume, cream cheese pulls ahead. But for an elegant appetizer or cheese plate centerpiece, handmade brie makes the more sophisticated choice.

Pairing Suggestions

Want to serve up these cheeses in style? Here are winning combination ideas:

Cream Cheese Pairings

  • Bagels - A classic! Pair with smoked salmon and capers for a lox and bagel vibe.
  • Fresh Fruit - Try berries, melon and stone fruits for sweet contrast.
  • Wine - Opt for sweeter whites like Riesling or sparkling wines.

Brie Pairings

  • Nuts - Complementary crunch from almonds, walnuts or pecans.
  • Honey - Drizzle lavender or wildflower honey over warmed brie.
  • Charcuterie - Cured meats like prosciutto, salami and dry-cured ham.

Explore mixing and matching fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, meats and spreads to craft your own perfect bite featuring these luscious cheeses.


Is brie considered a type of cream cheese?

No, brie is not a kind of cream cheese. Cream cheese contains more milk fat and moisture compared to brie which has less fat and more protein. The manufacturing process also differs with brie relying on surface mold ripening.

Can brie be substituted for cream cheese in baking recipes?

It's best not to swap brie for cream cheese in baking. Cream cheese contains stabilizers for structure versus soft brie which can leak liquid and collapse baked goods. Stick to cream cheese for reliable cheesecake or frosting texture.

Is brie safe to eat while pregnant?

Pregnant women need to avoid brie and other soft cheeses made from raw or unpasteurized milk as they could contain dangerous bacteria. Pasteurized brie made with heat-treated milk is safer but check with your doctor first regarding cheese consumption guidelines. Stick to cream cheese to be extra cautious.

Can dogs eat cream cheese or brie?

It's best not to share brie or cream cheese with dogs. While small amounts won't seriously harm healthy canines, both cheeses can cause digestive issues including pancreatitis. Stick to dog treats and leave rich people food including dairy to human handlers!


Cream cheese and brie make luscious additions to any cheese plate or recipe.

But as we've discovered, they differ considerably when it comes to taste, texture, uses, nutrition values and handling needs.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!