Cream cheese and whipped cream are two popular dairy products used in a variety of desserts, pastries, and other dishes.
But what exactly is the difference between cream cheese and whipped cream? And which one is healthier for you?
What is Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, mild-tasting fresh cheese made from milk and cream. It has a creamy texture and tangy flavor.
Cream cheese is made by curdling pasteurized milk with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. The curds are then drained, salted, and mixed with cream. This gives cream cheese its soft, spreadable consistency.
Cream cheese contains at least 33% milk fat. Full-fat versions usually have closer to 35-40% fat while low-fat and nonfat varieties contain less. It also contains protein, calcium, and some vitamins and minerals.
Common varieties of cream cheese include:
- Regular cream cheese - The most popular type, regular cream cheese comes plain or flavored with herbs, spices, fruit, and more.
- Whipped cream cheese - Light, fluffy whipped cream cheese incorporating more air. It is easier to spread than regular cream cheese.
- Neufchatel cheese - Has a slightly lower fat and moisture content than regular cream cheese giving it a firmer texture. Often sold as lower-fat cream cheese.
- Low-fat and nonfat cream cheese - Contains 25% to 41% less fat than regular full-fat cream cheese. However, some nutrition can be lost as well.
Key Takeaway: Cream cheese is a fresh, soft cheese made from milk and cream containing at least 33% milk fat. Common varieties include regular, whipped, Neufchatel, low-fat, and nonfat.
What is Whipped Cream?
Whipped cream refers simply to cream that has been whipped by a mixer or whisk to incorporate air bubbles. This aerates the cream, making it light, fluffy, and easy to spread or dollop.
The process of whipping introduces air into the structure of the cream. As air expands the volume of the cream, the same amount of cream becomes lighter and airier. Whipped cream can expand to double or even triple in volume.
As whipped cream sits, the incorporated air bubbles will slowly collapse. So freshly whipped cream holds it shape better than cream that has sat for awhile.
Whipped cream is commonly sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla or other extracts. Fruits, chocolate, liqueurs, spices and more can also flavor whipped cream.
Nutrition Comparison: Cream Cheese vs Whipped Cream
So in terms of nutrition, how do cream cheese and whipped cream compare? Here is a breakdown:
|Cream Cheese (1 oz)
|Whipped Cream (2 tbsp)
As you can see, while both cream cheese and whipped cream contain a good amount of fat, cream cheese is higher in calories, fat, and sodium.
Cream cheese has more protein and calcium as well. However, whipped cream contains less cholesterol than cream cheese.
So if you are looking make a lower calorie choice, opt for whipped cream over cream cheese. But for more nutrition, the cream cheese wins out.
Cream Cheese vs Whipped Cream: Uses and Substitutions
Cream cheese and whipped cream each have their own distinct uses in cooking, baking desserts, and more. Here is a breakdown:
Uses for Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is valued for its rich, creamy texture and tangy flavor. It can be used:
- As a spread for bagels, toast, muffins, tortillas, crackers and more
- In dips and spreads like spinach artichoke dip
- As a filling for pastries like rugelach, hamantaschen, or kolaches
- In cheesecakes, tarts, cheese danishes and other desserts
- As a topping for cupcakes, pies, cakes or fresh fruit
- As an ingredient in frostings, icings, glazes and whipped toppings
- To make homemade cream cheese
- As a base for savory sauces in dishes like pasta, eggs or seafood
Its rich, indulgent texture makes it perfect for desserts and sweets. Mix cream cheese with sugar or honey to spread onto graham crackers or fresh fruit. Blend it smooth as the base for a decadent frosting. Let its subtle tang balance sweetness in cheesecake filling.
Cream cheese also works well in heartier dishes, contributing its creamy factor and mild flavor to sauces for meats, veggies or grains.
Uses for Whipped Cream
Air-lightened whipped cream can be used:
- As a light topping for cakes, cupcakes, pies, parfaits, and sundaes
- As a filling for crepes, cream puffs, eclairs or layer cakes
- Swirled into drinks like hot chocolate or milkshakes
- As a garnish for puddings, ice cream, milkshakes, and other desserts
- On waffles, crepes, pancakes, french toast or oatmeal
- As a topping for coffee and tea beverages like a Caramel Macchiato
- As a topping for fresh fruit
- In mousses, soufflés, flan, or trifles
- As icing or frosting using stabilized whipped cream
Its light texture makes whipped cream an ideal choice for finishing desserts or dress up decadent treats. Swirl it atop pie fillings, layer it between cakes or let it melt over hot cocoa. Whipped cream can even work in frostings with the help of stabilizers.
Can You Substitute Cream Cheese for Whipped Cream?
Cream cheese makes a decent substitute for whipped cream in some recipes depending on the desired texture.
For fillings like crepe fillings, add some milk or buttermilk to thin cream cheese out closer to whipping cream. Beat until light and fluffy.
Stabilized whipped cream (with gelatin, pectin or cornstarch to prevent water loss) can also substitute decently for cream cheese in lighter desserts like cheesecake or frosting. Simply churn cream to soft peaks then beat in a pinch of stabilizer.
But for applications like coffee creamer, icing cakes or topping key lime pie - whipped cream really can't be replicated by cream cheese alone.
Key Takeaway: Cream cheese excels as a rich, tangy filling or topping for both sweet and savory dishes. Whipped cream lightens desserts and beverages as a airy, sweet topping. In some cases, they can substitute for one another with adjustments.
Can You Use Whipped Cream in Place of Cream Cheese?
Whipped cream alone generally cannot perfectly replace cream cheese in recipes. However, equal parts whipped cream and cream cheese whisked together can substitute for cream cheese in a pinch.
Since whipped cream contains less fat and more air than cream cheese, it won't contribute the same richness, moisture or binding qualities alone. But when blended with cream cheese, the two balance each other out while decreasing fat and calories.
Try a 50/50 mix of whipped cream and cream cheese as a substitute in:
- Cheesecake filling
- Creamy salad dressings
- Dips like ranch dip or onion dip
- Frostings and cream fillings
- Alfredo sauce
For the best results, choose stabilized whipped cream or whip the cream just before mixing it with the cream cheese. This will prevent the whipped cream from weeping liquid during baking.
Health Benefits: Is Cream Cheese or Whipped Cream Healthier?
So when it comes to your health - should you reach for the cream cheese or the whipped cream? Here's a comparison:
Cream cheese offers more protein plus bone-building calcium and vitamin A. Depending on variety, it contains a range of fat from low to regular fat levels. Fat helps cream cheese contribute creamy richness and satisfying flavor.
Potential benefits of cream cheese:
- Builds strong bones with calcium
- Supports vision and immunity with vitamin A
- Keeps you feeling fuller longer with protein
- Adds smooth, creamy richness to dishes
However, the higher fat and calorie counts require consuming cream cheese in moderation. Those limiting fat, carbs or calories may prefer reduced fat or low fat varieties.
Whipped cream offers a lighter option lower in fat, carbs and calories than cream cheese. It still packs a creamy texture with less guilt thanks to air incorporated during whipping.
Potential benefits of whipped cream:
- Low calorie choice for toppings
- Adds indulgent richness with less fat
- Contributes bone-building calcium
- Easy to limit portions due to light texture
The lower fat and calorie content make whipped cream an ideal choice for those managing their weight. Stick to a serving or two to minimize negative health impacts.
Storing Cream Cheese and Whipped Cream
To enjoy cream cheese and whipped cream when you want them, proper storage is key! Here are some storage guidelines:
- Store unopened cream cheese in the refrigerator up to 1 month past the sell-by date
- Let refrigerated cream cheese soften at room temperature for 30 minutes before whipping or blending for optimal smoothness
- Once opened, rewrap tightly in plastic wrap or a storage container
- Lasts up to 2 weeks refrigerated after opening
- Discard moldy or expired cream cheese
- Can be frozen up to 1 month by wrapping it airtight and placing in an air-tight container
- Store unopened heavy whipping cream up to 5 days past the sell-by date
- Refrigerate whipped cream in an airtight container
- Plan to consume homemade whipped cream within 2 days
- Discard watery or soupy whipped cream
- Do not freeze homemade whipping cream
Following proper storage methods ensures you can enjoy your favorite cream cheese cheesecake or whipped cream toppings when the craving strikes!
Which is Better for Your Dessert: Cream Cheese or Whipped Cream?
So when it comes to dessert, should you add a swirl of whipped cream or a schmear of cream cheese? Consider the pros and cons:
Cream Cheese Desserts
Pros: Tangy, indulgent, rich flavor. Contributes moisture, fat and texture to balance sweetness in desserts.
Cons: Higher in fat, sodium and calories than whipped cream. Can make desserts dense or heavy. Requires balancing flavors.
Whipped Cream Desserts
Pros: Light, fresh, sweet flavor. Easy to limit portions and fat/calories. Quickly tops most desserts for added richness.
Cons: Not as rich in taste or fat content. Adds less moisture or flavor complexity alone. Requires stabilization to prevent water loss.
Yet for dessert connoisseurs, the complex tanginess and luscious mouthfeel of cream cheese takes the cake. It positively makes cheesecake or pairs with sweet fruits and berries for gourmet appeal.
Ultimately cream cheese and whipped cream both make desserts decadent and delicious. The choice comes down to the specific dessert and personal preferences. Don't be afraid to try both!
Is whipped cream cheese different than regular cream cheese?
Yes, whipped cream cheese incorporates air to lighten it to an airy, spreadable consistency easier for spreading bagels or frosting cakes. Regular cream cheese has a denser, creamier texture better for baking unwhipped into cheesecakes or dips.
What happens if you freeze cream cheese?
Freezing changes cream cheese's texture slightly grainier but it remains perfectly safe to use after thawing overnight in the fridge. Letting frozen cream cheese thaw at room temp can cause bacterial growth.
Can you freeze whipped cream?
Whipped cream loses its light, airy texture when frozen so it does not freeze well. However, the heavy cream or whipping cream used to make whipped cream can be frozen prior to whipping up to 3 months.
Is it safe to eat whipped cream 2 weeks after whipping?
No, homemade whipped cream only lasts 2-3 days refrigerated. After that, bacterial growth causes it decompose and pose safety risks. Discard whipped cream with liquid at the bottom or strange smells instead of risking illness.
In the battle of cream cheese versus whipped cream, both dairy products have their advantages and uses.
Cream cheese offers indulgent richness at the cost of higher fat and calories.
Whipped cream provides a lighter, sweeter alternative that cuts calories yet doesn't contribute as much flavor complexity alone.