Cream Cheese vs Neufchâtel

Cream cheese and Neufchâtel cheese are two types of soft, creamy cheeses that look very similar and are often used interchangeably.

Cream Cheese vs Neufchâtel

However, there are some key differences between these two cheeses that are good to understand before using them in recipes.

Origins and History

Neufchâtel cheese has a long history spanning back to medieval times, while cream cheese is a relatively new invention from the late 19th century.

Neufchâtel Cheese Origins

Neufchâtel cheese traces its origins to the town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray in northern France. References to the cheese date back to the 11th century, making it one of the oldest cheeses in France. The heart shape that we associate with Neufchâtel comes from a legend that local dairymaids presented this cheese as gifts to English soldiers in the Hundred Years' War in the shape of a heart.

Originally, Neufchâtel cheeses were made from raw cow's milk and aged for several weeks to develop a bloomy rind. The French government granted the cheese an AOC designation in 1969, meaning that true Neufchâtel cheese can only come from a designated region in Normandy and must be made using traditional methods.

Cream Cheese History

Cream cheese was invented in the United States in 1872 by a New York dairyman named William Lawrence. He was attempting to recreate the French Neufchâtel cheese after purchasing a cheese factory. However, the end result was a new creation after he decided to add cream to the recipe, creating what we now know as Philadelphia cream cheese.

The name "cream cheese" comes from the use of cream in the recipe. Philadelphia cream cheese went on sale to the public in 1880 and soon became popular nationwide as a spread for bagels and crackers. Unlike aged cheeses, cream cheese is not ripened and has always been meant to be consumed fresh.

Key Takeaway: Neufchâtel dates back over 900 years while cream cheese was invented in 1872.


While the original French Neufchâtel cheese is made from raw milk, most modern cream cheese and Neufchâtel sold today use pasteurized milk. The key difference lies in the use of cream.

Neufchâtel Cheese Ingredients

Authentic, AOC-designated Neufchâtel cheese from Normandy is made from raw cow's milk, salt, and rennet. No cream is added. The milk is curdled, drained, molded, and then aged.

Today in the United States, commercial Neufchâtel cheese sold in supermarkets is typically made from pasteurized cow's milk, salt, and bacterial cultures to thicken the cheese. It does not usually contain any cream. Some versions may have stabilizers or thickeners added.

Cream Cheese Ingredients

Cream cheese is made from a mixture of milk and cream which gives it a higher fat content. The ingredients generally include pasteurized milk and cream, salt, stabilizers (like carob bean gum or xanthan gum), and several cultures or enzymes to thicken the cheese and develop tangy flavors.

Homemade cream cheese simply contains milk or half and half, cream, salt, and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to curdle the milk proteins. Extra ingredients help improve firmness and shelf life.

Key Takeaway: Neufchâtel only uses milk while cream cheese also contains cream, resulting in different fat contents.

Nutrition Comparison

The nutrition profiles of Neufchâtel and cream cheese differ mainly due to the higher fat content in cream cheese. Let's compare them:

Nutrition per 1 ozNeufchâtelCream Cheese
Protein4 g2 g
Carbohydrates1 g<1 g
Fat6 g9 g

As shown above, cream cheese has over 25% more calories per ounce compared to Neufchâtel—mostly from added fat. The protein and carb contents are similar.

So while Neufchâtel can generally be thought of as the “lower-fat” version of cream cheese, both cheeses are high in calories and fat compared to other dairy products. As far as nutrition goes, there is not a huge difference between the two.

Texture and Appearance

When it comes to texture and appearance, Neufchâtel has a more crumbly texture while cream cheese is known for its ultra-smooth, spreadable consistency.

Neufchâtel Cheese Texture

Neufchâtel cheese is white in color like cream cheese. However, it has a crumbly, drier texture rather than being silky smooth. Some versions of Neufchâtel may have small air pockets or a slightly grainy texture.

It is soft enough to easily spread at room temperature. The texture comes from the lower moisture and fat content compared to cream cheese. As Neufchâtel ages, it can develop even smaller openings and a earthier flavor.

Cream Cheese Texture

Cream cheese is known for its ultra-smooth, thick, creamy texture that is easy to spread, even when chilled. It has a consistency similar to mascarpone or softened butter. The higher fat content from added cream gives it a rich, creamy mouthfeel.

When chilled, cream cheese should be soft but not hard. It can be whipped for greater volume and lighter texture to use in desserts or dips. Overall the consistency is luxuriously smooth and creamy.

Key Takeaway: Neufchâtel is crumbly while cream cheese has a smooth, thick texture. Both are white in color.

Flavor Profiles

While subtle, traditional French Neufchâtel does have a more distinctive flavor than typical American cream cheese. However, today most commercial Neufchâtel lacks strong flavor.

Neufchâtel Cheese Flavor

True, artisanal Neufchâtel cheese often has a rich, mushroomy, herbaceous flavor with a tangy finish. This comes from the use of raw milk and aging over several weeks to develop complexity. The bloomy rind also contributes to more earthy flavors.

However, today most Neufchâtel cheese produced worldwide has a very mild, fresh dairy flavor. It is just slightly tangy and savory, with some subtly nutty or grassy notes. Without extended aging, it lacks the robust flavor of gourmet French Neufchâtel. The flavor should remind you of fresh milk.

Cream Cheese Flavor

Cream cheese is valued more for its creamy texture rather than prominent flavors. It has a mild tang that is subtly sweet with a fresh dairy flavor.

The flavor arises from the lactic acid bacteria and enzymes used to thicken the cheese rather than an aging process. It may pick up hints of other flavors like herbs or peppers depending on additional ingredients mixed in. But overall, the sweet, milky taste is quite subtle.

Key Takeaway: Authentic Neufchâtel is tangy while cream cheese offers just a mildly sweet flavor.

Popular Uses

Thanks to its soft texture, both Neufchâtel and cream cheese make excellent spreads. They can be used in sweet or savory recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts.

How to Use Neufchâtel

Because Neufchâtel cheese has a crumbly texture, it is best used in recipes where smooth consistency is not required. For example:

  • Spread on bread, bagels, crackers
  • Mix into dips like spinach artichoke dip
  • Use in cheese balls or baked brie
  • Add to omelets, frittatas, pasta, soups
  • Flavor compound butter
  • Mix into cheesecake batter or frosting

The slightly tangy flavor pairs well with fruits, nuts, vegetables, eggs, and herbs. Neufchâtel works better in savory cooking rather than recipes where cream cheese is a key ingredient.

How to Use Cream Cheese

Thanks to its velvety texture that melts smoothly, cream cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes:

  • Icing cakes or cupcakes
  • Cheesecakes, mousses, creamy desserts
  • Spread on bagels and toast
  • Dips and appetizers
  • Mix into omelets, pasta, chicken dishes
  • Add to smoothies or sweet rolls
  • Blend into cream sauces or soups

Its mild flavor allows the cream cheese to take on the flavors of other ingredients. It brings a rich, indulgent texture without overpowering other tastes.

Key Takeaway: Neufchâtel and cream cheese work well in appetizers, baking, frosting, sandwiches, bagel spreads, and more.

Can Neufchâtel Substitute Cream Cheese?

Because Neufchâtel and cream cheese are quite similar fresh cheeses in terms of flavor, you can substitute Neufchâtel for cream cheese in equal amounts in most recipes.

However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • For cooked applications like cheesecake or sauces, the lower fat content of Neufchâtel may prevent it from melting as smoothly. This can result in a grainier texture.
  • In recipes where cream cheese is a star ingredient like frosting or dip, you may want to add a touch of cream, milk or butter to Neufchâtel to enrich it closer to the fat content of cream cheese.
  • Cool, chilled recipes like cheese platters work perfectly with Neufchâtel instead of cream cheese since no cooking is involved.

So while Neufchâtel isn't an exact match, its flavor profile allows it to work instead of cream cheese in many cases with small adjustments to fat content or expectations of texture.


What exactly is the difference between Neufchâtel cheese and cream cheese?

The main differences are that Neufchâtel cheese contains less fat since it is made from milk without added cream. It also has a crumbly texture vs the smooth, creamy texture of cream cheese. Finally, traditional French Neufchâtel has a more robust, mushroomy flavor compared to the mild sweetness of cream cheese.

Why is Neufchâtel called "light" cream cheese sometimes?

Since Neufchâtel cheese is lower in calories and fat than regular cream cheese, some brands market it as “light” cream cheese. However, it does not contain cream like real cream cheese does. The lower fat content comes from using only milk rather than milk and cream.

Can you make Neufchâtel cheese at home?

Yes, you can make homemade Neufchâtel cheese with just a few simple ingredients: milk, cream, salt, lemon juice or vinegar, and milk coagulating enzymes. Omit the cream and you'll end up with something closer to the traditional French version of the cheese. However, without aging for several weeks, homemade Neufchâtel lacks the complexity of aged, artisanal varieties.


While Neufchâtel cheese and cream cheese appear almost identical in the dairy case, they have some clear differences when it comes to their history, ingredients, texture, flavor, and best uses.

Neufchâtel cheese is lower in fat thanks to using all milk rather than higher fat cream. It also has a signature crumbly texture and potentially more complex flavor when aged artisanally. Cream cheese is distinguished by its velvety smooth texture and subtle sweetness.

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!