Food & Cooking Blog

How to Make Your Own Cream Cheese (Only 4 Ingredients!)

Here is a short phrase that just might change your life — or at least your bagels — forever: homemade cream cheese. Yep, it’s possible to learn how to make cream cheese at home.

Homemade Cream Cheese

Photos via CakeSpy

This easy homemade cream cheese recipe doesn’t require any hard-to-find or ingredients or difficult cooking techniques.

The only ingredients in this simple recipe are cream, milk, vinegar and salt, and the finished flavor is cream cheese all the way.

This homemade cream cheese just loves being spread on bagels, and while we haven’t tried it yet, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why it wouldn’t work in your favorite cream cheese icing recipe.

The most difficult part of the recipe is the time commitment. While it requires little active time, the resting times make it a two-day project. So time it out appropriately: if you want homemade cream cheese for brunch on Sunday, start either on Friday or very early on Saturday for best results.

How to make cream cheese: What you need

How to Make Cream Cheese

Dairy

With the heavy cream and milk, make efforts to find unpasteurized varieties. If you have a hippie co-op nearby, that’s a good place to start your search. You can use pasteurized dairy, but if you do, try to use dairy with no added ingredients (many varieties of cream in particular employ thickeners or stabilizers).

Salt and vinegar

The salt and vinegar can be adjusted to taste. As you’ll see in Step 2 of the recipe, you can personalize your homemade cream cheese a bit in this regard. I urge you to err on the side of caution with the salt especially, as flavors to become more pronounced as the cheese rests.

The leftover liquid

Don’t throw out the drained liquid following Step 5 in the recipe. You can use it in sauces, use it as a marinade for chicken or pork, or mix it in with scrambled eggs.

Recipe for homemade cream cheese

Adapted from Instructables

  • 1 liter heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar (more or less to taste)

Step 1:

In a clean, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, milk and salt on medium heat, stirring gently but constantly to discourage scorching. Heat until the mixture registers 180 F on an instant-read thermometer. The mixture will not come to a boil, but you may see some gentle bubbling.

Step 2:

Once the mixture reaches 180 F, remove it from heat and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the vinegar and stir gently, just to combine. Give the mixture a little taste: if it doesn’t taste as tangy as you would like, add a bit more vinegar (I added 1 tablespoon more). If you prefer it saltier, you can also add more salt.

DIY Cream Cheese Cooking on the Stove

Step 3:

Cover the mixture in the pot with a towel, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When you uncover the mixture, you’ll see that there is some separation occurring: a thick curd layer on top and a thin, watery liquid whey underneath. This is totally normal, though not highly attractive.

Step 4:

Place a cheesecloth or cloth in a bowl, and pour the mixture on top. Gather the edges of the cloth to form a sort of pouch. There will be some dripping of liquid — this is normal.

Pour Homemade Cream Cheese Through a Cheesecloth

Step 5:

You want to suspend the cheesecloth so that it can drip excess liquid into a vessel. I did this in a high tech way: by using masking tape to secure the top of the bundle to the side of a bowl, so that the liquid could drip down.

Cream Cheese Dripping from Cheesecloth

Leave the mixture to drain for several hours or overnight. Keep monitoring the mixture: when it has stopped dripping whey and feels firm, you can remove it from its pouch. Now, you’ve got yourself some amazing homemade cream cheese! Keep it covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Ready to get spreading? Learn how to make your own bagels at home. The completely from-scratch combo will be irresistible.

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26 Comments

bethany downey

as it sits and drains for hours… is this done while in the fridge or just in the kitchen?

Reply
Mindy

normally these things are done right on the counter.

Reply
sharonejohnson

I’ll add this to my other homemade items. Thank you very much!

Reply
Kristina

Just wondering if I could make a lower fat version using just whole milk, or 2%. Has anyone tried that?

Reply
SR

This is not technically true. Although commercial ricotta is frequently made from milk, true ricotta is a whey cheese, made by reheating the whey leftover from cheese making so that the proteins coagulate into curds–hence the name ricotta, which translates as “re-cooked.” It’s actually a good use of whey, which cannot be easily disposed of, as it’s environmentally toxic (makes a great weed killer, if you don’t mind your grass and other plants dying, as well).

Reply
Bill

Except, for people sensitive to or allergic to lactose, whey has a very high lactose content, so Ricotta is a “forbidden” food in their cases.

Reply
Sue

How much does it make? or did I miss that?

Reply
alaskahl

I made this yesterday. While it tastes silky and fabulous, it never really separated. I waited 8 hours before straining it, then left it out overnight to drip through suspended cloth. It is still quite liquid. There is no visible whey separation. I LOVE the flavor, but I want to spread it on a bagel. Should I just try waiting longer than 8 hours before straining? Thank you!

Reply
Betty

I do not make it with salt till the end, sometimes salt will stop the seperation. And, if your milk/cream is double pasturized, it will never work.. Next time try adding a bit more acid too, that helps a lot. (lemon juice works better than vinegar too.

Reply
alaskahl

Thank you.

Reply
The Ninja Baker

Very cool! I can definitely see how homemade cream cheese would be a fantabulous gourmet addition to any brunch table =)

Reply
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Reply
Netjera

So it’s out at room temperature the whole time, and doesn’t spoil? Yet, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator later. Why? I’m really concerned about food safety, and this seems inconsistent to me?

Reply
Jessie Oleson Moore

@netjera – good question. I will copy and paste something from my entry on creme fraiche (https://www.craftsy.com/cooking/article/making-creme-fraiche-at-home/) that is also appropriate here. Basically, the vinegar is doing the same thing in this particular recipe, so where it says “buttermilk” below, think “vinegar” in regard to this recipe.

Is it really OK to leave it at room temperature?
Yes, it’s true: to allow the crème fraîche to become firm in texture, you have to leave it at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Concerned about the dairy spoiling? Don’t be. The “good bacteria” in the buttermilk will kill any bad, potentially disease-causing bacteria, so this process is safe.

Once the reaction has occurred and the crème fraîche has come together, store it in the refrigerator.

Reply
Sally

Would this recipe still work fine if I used my homemade heavy cream?

Reply
meenakshi

can i use this for making baked creamcheesecakes? unpasturized cream means raw not boiled, am i right?

Reply
muniba

can we use the same cream cheese for making cream cheese frosting??

Reply
Glenda

I made this recipie but used lactose free milk and cream, it was so delicious, it has the exact texture as the store bought but much more flavour.both times it had to rest I left it on the counter for at least 12 hours. Thanks for the recipie!

Reply
Emma

If i use topping cream, this receipe will be work?

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darlene morrison

I didn’t know you could do this, thank you!

Reply
Aimee

So if I put garlic and herbs in it it will be a garlic cream cheese mmmmm. Where do I get cheese cloth or is it the same as muslin.

Reply
Kristina

I’ve found cheesecloth in the fabric store and in the grocery store. It’s usually at the fabric store in the fall when people are buying it to make Halloween decor or costumes. If you have a canning section in your local grocery store, they might have it prepackaged in a size that would be large enough for this. At the fabric store you buy it by the yard and a single yard should be plenty.

Reply
Sue

I use a chux dishcloth and wash and store for next time

Reply
Abeer

I live in Pakistan, making recipes with cream cheese here is quite expensive. it is also difficult to find cream cheese here in the market as it is imported here. So, I wanted to find a good cream cheese recipe which tasted exactly like Philadelphia or Kiri and after trying this one, I’m amazed. it tasted exactly like any store bought cream cheese and doesn’t require any culture to prepare it.
I’ve tried cream cheese pound cake and cream cheese frosting with it. it works like a charm.
Thank you for this amazing recipe.

Reply

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