How to Make Homemade Cream Cheese

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home" magazines. She is a recipe tester for "Cook's Illustrated."

Bagel and homemade cream cheese.

Bagel and homemade cream cheese.

How to Make Cream Cheese at Home

I'll never forget my first taste of real homemade cream cheese. We had waited in line for twenty minutes at a bakery in Brooklyn, New York just to buy a bagel and cream cheese. Of course, the bagel was off the charts delicious. But what stuck in my mind was the tangy, cheesy flavor of the cream cheese. It definitely wasn't Philadelphia. Later, I learned that the bakery made its own cream cheese. Make your own cream cheese? It sounded too complicated for me.

Fast-forward several decades to me living in a South American country where bagels are impossible to find and cream cheese is difficult to come by and very expensive. Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. Now I can tell you that cream cheese is actually the easiest of all cheeses to make at home, so easy even a child can make it.

There are many recipes on the internet for "cream cheese" made with yogurt or vinegar. Don't get me wrong. Those recipes also make delicious concoctions. Yogurt cheese is actually called "labneh" and is common in the Middle East. Milk cut with vinegar is Italian ricotta. Delicious, but not the same flavor or texture as real cream cheese.

To make real cream cheese at home, you'll need rennet and buttermilk or mesophilic cheese cultures. "Mesophilic" is a bacteria that can be cultured at a moderate temperature or, in this case, at room temperature. You'll also need cheesecloth or, in a pinch, a thin tea towel. You can find rennet and buttermilk in most modern grocery stores. If not, order them online. Amazon or culturesforhealth.com carry these products. Believe me, it's worth your while if you're serious about making tangy, unforgettable cream cheese at home.

Homemade Cream Cheese


  • 1 quart or 4 cups whole milk, *not ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/8 teaspoon mesophilic culture, or 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 drops or 1/4 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, (optional)


  1. Heat milk to 70-75 F, or let it sit on the countertop until it reaches room temperature. Make sure to use a glass or stainless steel container.
  2. Sprinkle mesophilic culture over the surface of the milk and allow to dissolve for 2-3 minutes. Stir gently, until it is well incorporated into the milk.
  3. Pour the diluted rennet into the milk. Using an up and down stirring motion, gently stir the rennet into the milk. Don't stir for longer than 20 seconds.
  4. Cover the pot and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 10-16 hours at 70-75 F, or until milk looks like yogurt. You'll see some of the whey separating from the curds. The culturing time will be closer to 10 hours if your kitchen is warmer. If your kitchen is cooler, it will take the cheese longer to culture.
  5. Carefully ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Allow to drain for at least 12 hours, until the cheese is thickened. Save the whey for another use. Salt the cream cheese with 1 teaspoon of salt, if desired. Whip with an electric mixer for extra fluffy cream cheese. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  6. Yield: Approximately one pound of cream cheese, although yield will vary depending on culture temperature, milk quality, etc.

What Is Rennet?

Rennet is rich in enzymes. It causes milk to curdle so the whey and curds can be separated. Rennet is traditionally obtained from the intestines of a baby calf or goat. However, you can also purchase vegetable rennet, made from plants such as nettle. Either type of rennet will produce delicious cheese.

What Can I Do With Whey?

Don't throw away the whey you drain off the cream cheese. Save it for your family or for your plants. Whey is rich in protein and can be consumed in smoothies. Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze for just that purpose. You can also save whey to make ricotta cheese. Or use whey instead of buttermilk for extra fluffy pancakes!

You can feed the whey to acid-loving plants in your garden. Dilute it with equal portions of water and pour it over grown tomato plants. Since whey is full of potassium and phosphorous, your plants will love it.

Flavored Cream Cheese

Once you've drained the cream cheese, you can salt it and add a variety of other ingredients for extra flavor. These are some of my favorites.

  • Vanilla extract and brown sugar
  • Vanilla bean and honey
  • Cinnamon and honey
  • Chopped chives & dill (my favorite savory cream cheese)
  • Minced or grated veggies
  • Fruit preserves
  • Sweet pickle relish
  • Black pepper
  • Maple syrup, walnuts and figs

For French-style cream cheese, use a combination of half-and-half or heavy cream and milk, such as 2 cups heavy cream + 2 cups whole milk for French-style cream cheese.

How to Make Cream Cheese

Note: As seen in this video, the rennet can be omitted if at least half of the milk is substituted for heavy cream.


Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 27, 2018:

This sounds delicious and I feel good to have come across your recipe! I am definitely going to try it. Thanks for sharing the detailed instructions and helpful pictures.

Thank You!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 24, 2016:

Thanks for your comment AliciaC!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 23, 2016:

This cheese looks especially creamy, which definitely appeals to me! As always, I love your variations.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 21, 2016:

Phyllis Doyle, I'm so glad you're going to make your own homemade cream cheese.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 21, 2016:

Thank you for shsring this with your daughter vocalcoach!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on September 21, 2016:

I love cream cheese and am picky enough about the taste and texture that I am going to try your recipe, for it looks and sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on September 21, 2016:

I'm passing this on to my daughter. She will be ecstatic! We all love cream cheese and have not had the pleasure of tasting home made. Thanks and sharing.


Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 19, 2016:

Thank you for sharing this recipe with your son MizBejabbers!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 19, 2016:

Honey walnut cream cheese and toasted cinnamon bagels makes my mouth water. Thank you for sharing FlourishAnyway!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 19, 2016:

I love the idea of this recipe. My son is into cheese-making, so I'll forward him the link to this hub and let him try it first. Good job.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 19, 2016:

This looks delicious. My favorite type of cream cheese is honey walnut, spread thick on toasted cinnamon bagels. Now I'm hungry. I'm going to have to share this with my brother's family; they have their own farm and make their own cheeses. Sharing on HP too!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 19, 2016:

Please let me know how it turns out DDE!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 19, 2016:

This recipe sounds awesome! You make me want to try it and will surely do thank you.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 19, 2016:

Thanks Suzie HQ!

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 19, 2016:

Sounds like it is well worth making even though it is a little complicated. Love your pictures , instructions and gorgeous flavor options! Well done you on bringing this recipe to us here!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 18, 2016:

I'm glad this inspired you to make homemade cream cheese, SusanDeppner!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on September 18, 2016:

Making my own cream cheese is something I never even considered, but you make it look quite easy. Hope to give it a try very soon. Thanks for the helpful photos and simple instructions!

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 18, 2016:

Sallybea, thanks for your meaningful comment.

Vespa Woolf (author) from Peru, South America on September 18, 2016:

Kyriaki Chatzi, tomatoes and basil cream cheese sounds delicious! I would probably use sun dried tomatoes for more intense flavor. I hope you try it.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on September 18, 2016:

Love this hub with its lovely images and clear instructions. I remember my own mother making home cream cheese with the finished result not quite as nice looking as yours but this certainly takes me back into the family kitchen and the happy memories we all shared there. Thanks for sharing.

Kyriaki Chatzi on September 18, 2016:

Despite being a bit complicated, I would like to give this recipe a shot. Do you think it'd be a good idea to make it a bit Mediterranean by adding tomatoes and basil?

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