Cream Cheese vs. Cream Cheese Spread

Cream cheese and cream cheese spreads are two popular options found in most refrigerated dairy sections.

Cream Cheese vs. Cream Cheese Spread

While they may seem quite similar at first glance, there are some notable differences between traditional cream cheese sold in blocks versus whipped cream cheese spreads sold in tubs.

An Overview of Cream Cheese and Cream Cheese Spreads

Cream cheese is a fresh, soft cheese made from cow's milk and cream. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a tangy, slightly sweet flavor. Cream cheese is typically packaged in foil-wrapped blocks or bricks. Philadelphia and other brands are common examples found in most grocery stores.

Cream cheese spread starts out as regular cream cheese, but it undergoes further processing. Manufacturers blend the original cream cheese with other ingredients like milk proteins, stabilizers, or sweeteners. It is also whipped to make it lighter and fluffier in texture. The result is a spreadable cream cheese sold in plastic tubs that is easy to spread directly from the refrigerator.

Key Takeaway: Cream cheese comes in dense blocks, while cream cheese spreads are whipped with added ingredients so they spread effortlessly right out of the fridge.


If you compare the ingredients labels between traditional cream cheese and cream cheese spreads, you'll notice some clear distinctions.

Here is an overview of the common ingredients found in each one:

Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese Spread

  • Milk, cream, and extra moisture sources like whey or milk proteins
  • Salt
  • Stabilizers like carob bean or xanthan gums
  • Sweeteners or flavorings
  • Preservatives
  • Cheese cultures
  • Air whipped into the mixture

The main difference comes down to extra ingredients used to make the cream cheese easier to spread directly from the fridge. This includes boosting moisture content, adding stabilizers and gums, introducing air bubbles through whipping, and using flavorings or sweeteners to enhance taste.

Block cream cheese has fewer additives overall, using just the basics like milk, cream, salt, and cheese cultures.


Due to the differences in ingredients and processing, traditional cream cheese and cream cheese spreads also vary a bit in their nutrition profiles.

Here is a comparison of the basic nutrition facts between Philadelphia brick cream cheese and Philadelphia whipped cream cheese spread:

Nutrition FactsCream Cheese (1 oz)Cream Cheese Spread (2 Tbsp)
Saturated Fat6g4.5g

As you can see, the whipped cream cheese spread contains fewer calories and less saturated fat per serving compared to regular cream cheese. This is likely due to the addition of air through the whipping process, as well as replacing some full-fat dairy with protein isolates and gums.

However, the cream cheese spread has a bit more sodium. And both varieties provide 2 grams of protein per serving.

So if you are aiming for a healthier fat and calorie profile, the whipped cream cheese spread would be the better choice overall. But traditional cream cheese can still fit into a balanced diet in moderation.

Best Uses

Arguably the biggest difference between cream cheese and cream cheese spreads comes down to texture—and therefore how each one performs depending on the application.

Cream Cheese

  • Dense, smooth texture
  • Excellent binding and emulsification properties
  • Holds its shape well when heated
  • Ideal for baking and cooking

Cream Cheese Spread

  • Light, smooth, fluffy texture
  • Easy to spread straight from the fridge
  • Higher moisture content
  • Best as dips, spreads, fillings, frostings

So in what scenarios should you use cream cheese or cream cheese spread?

Cream cheese works best for recipes like cheesecake or dips where you want the cheese to hold its shape and remain stable when baked or heated. The dense texture also makes it the best choice when you need its emulsification and binding abilities—like in cookie dough or a creamy salad dressing.

Meanwhile, save the whipped cream cheese spread for easier direct spreading onto foods like bagels, toast, English muffins, or crackers fresh from the fridge. The lighter, fluffier texture also lends itself well to frostings and lighter fillings.

Key Takeaway: Dense cream cheese bricks are better for baking and cooking, while easy-spread cream cheese tubs are ideal as dips, spreads, and frostings.

Substitution Possibilities

Say you grab cream cheese spread but then realize the cheesecake recipe calls for regular cream cheese. Or you reach for bricks of cream cheese when making a quick breakfast, but realize you need something spreadable.

Can you swap between cream cheese and cream cheese spreads?

In most cases, yes—you can successfully substitute one for another. However:

  • The higher moisture content in cream cheese spreads may impact texture for baked goods or fillings. This could make the end result less firm or stable.
  • Any added flavors in the cream cheese spread could also throw off intended tastes in a recipe where you want plain cream cheese.

So while swapped cream cheese will still be edible, the results may not be quite as ideal compared to using the specified type. When baking it's safer to stick with tradition cream cheese bricks. And for spreading, go for the whipped spreads.

Price Differences

One last key difference to note is the typical pricing between traditional cream cheese and cream cheese spreads. Due to extra processing and more expensive ingredients, cream cheese spreads almost always carry a higher price tag.

For example, an 8-ounce tub of Philadelphia regular cream cheese runs about $2. Meanwhile, an 8-ounce tub of Philadelphia whipped cream cheese spread goes for around $3.50—about $1.50 more per container. Other store brands show similar pricing differences.

So if you don't really need the easier spreadability, buying traditional cream cheese bricks can save you a bit of money in the long run. But for some, the convenience of ready-to-spread cream cheese directly from the fridge may be worth paying a premium.


Are cream cheese and cream cheese spreads the same thing?

Not quite. Cream cheese spreads start with a base of regular cream cheese. But manufacturers blend in other ingredients to make it smoother and easier to spread straight from the refrigerator.

Why does cream cheese spread better than blocks of cream cheese?

Extra moisture, added gums and stabilizers, and the introduction of air bubbles through whipping all help improve the spreadability of cream cheese spreads. Regular dense cream cheese lacks these enhancements.

Can I substitute one for the other in recipes?

You can, but the results may not be quite as ideal in some cases. For baking, traditional cream cheese often performs better. For spreading onto foods or lighter fillings, go for whipped cream cheese spreads.

Which one is healthier?

Cream cheese spreads tend to be a bit lower in fat and calories per serving compared to regular cream cheese bricks. So from a nutrition standpoint, whipped cream cheese spread is usually considered a slightly healthier choice.


Understanding the characteristics of brick cream cheese versus tub cream cheese spreads comes down to differences in ingredients, texture, performance, and pricing.

While one is not necessarily "better" than the other universally, each variety lends itself better to certain uses.

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!