Cream cheese is a delicious and versatile food that can be used in many different recipes. It is made from milk, cream, salt, and cheese cultures (bacteria), and often contains stabilizers such as carob bean gum and guar gum.
Stabilizers, such as locust bean, xanthan, and guar gum, are gluten-free (1).
Therefore, cream cheese is generally gluten-free. Similarly, most store-bought brands of cream cheese are gluten-free. But always check the ingredient list to be sure.
Take the popular Philadelphia brand cream cheese, for example. The ingredients listed on their UK website are – full-fat soft cheese, salt, stabilizer (locust bean gum), and acid (citric acid). The “full-fat soft cheese” may seem a little weird, but I get that they are trying to point out that it’s made from natural cheese, which is true as we explained in the Is Cream Cheese a Real Cheese article. It’s actually another way of saying it’s made from milk and cream.
In their Philadelphia original, none of the ingredients contain wheat, barley, rye, or oats (and no gluten-containing ingredients are listed), so it is considered gluten-free.
One step further, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central has listed the ingredients of Philadelphia cream cheese as below:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, SALT, CAROB BEAN GUM, CHEESE CULTURE
So again, no gluten ingredients. The cheese culture is the starter culture of bacteria. So, if you are from the United States, then you should also be fine with Philadelphia.
Here is their response to gluten in FAQs:
Philadelphia (cream cheese) does not contain gluten but the breadsticks and crackers in our snack range do contain wheat gluten.Philadelphia
Gluten in Cream cheese Varieties?
The brand (Philadelphia) also has a variety of other cream cheese products, including their original recipe cream cheese spreads, whipped cream cheeses, and Neufchâtel cheeses. So, we might as well look into every single one of them to make sure there is no hidden gluten source.
Many of the ingredients are repetitive, you may want to check again.
Original Cream Cheese Spread USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEY, SALT, CAROB BEAN GUM, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, SORBIC ACID (AS A PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Spread USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, SUGAR, SKIM MILK, CHOCOLATE PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, SALT, LACTIC ACID, VANILLIN, SOY LECITHIN, SORBIC ACID (AS A PRESERVATIVE), CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE
There is another version of chocolate cream cheese spread USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, SUGAR, SKIM MILK, CHOCOLATE, COCOA BUTTER, CHOCOLATE PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MILK, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, SALT, VANILLIN, SOY LECITHIN, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, SORBIC ACID (AS A PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE
Sugar and lactic acid are free from gluten (5). Pure chocolate made from cocoa beans, or processed with alkali, or cocoa butter, is naturally gluten-free (6, 7, 8). Vanillin and soy lecithin are both gluten-free as well (9, 10). Yes, no gluten in this variety.
Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, SUGAR, STRAWBERRY PUREE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, DRIED STRAWBERRIES, WATER, SALT, FOOD STARCH-MODIFIED, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, SORBIC ACID* (AS A PRESERVATIVE), CITRIC ACID*, NATURAL FLAVOR, RED 40, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE.
We do not know how exactly Philadelphia makes their strawberry puree, but the regular recipe suggests that it’s made from fresh strawberries, sweeteners, and lemon juice – thus, should be gluten-free (11). The same goes for dried strawberries. In the U.S. all food starch-modifieds are not made with wheat and are safe for celiacs (12). Red 40 is a synthetic food dye made from petroleum, unless cross-contaminated, otherwise should be gluten-free (13).
Garlic & Herb Cream Cheese Spread USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, GARLIC, SALT, DRIED ONIONS, DRIED PARSLEY, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR, NATAMYCIN (A NATURAL MOLD INHIBITOR), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE
Natamycin is an anti-fungal agent and It’s gluten-free (14). Likewise, no gluten was found in this cheese spread.
Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEY, ONIONS, SALT, CARROTS, GREEN BELL PEPPERS, CUCUMBERS, RED BELL PEPPERS, GREEN BELL PEPPERS*, RED BELL PEPPERS*, CARROTS*, CAROB BEAN GUM, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, LACTIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR (CONTAINS CELERY), SORBIC ACID (AS A PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE.
Many ingredients have been mentioned above with no gluten. The vegetables, i.e. carrots, green bell peppers, cucumbers, and others, should be free from gluten naturally. Therefore, this cheese spread version is also gluten-free.
Fat-Free Cream Cheese USDA:
SKIM MILK, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM PHOSPHATE*, SUGAR*, SALT, COLOR ADDED*, XANTHAN GUM, PASTEURIZED MILK AND CERAM**, NATURAL FLAVOR, POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM PROPIONATE AS PRESERVATIVES*, CARRAGEENAN, CHEESE CULTURE, CAROB BEAN GUM, VITAMIN A PALMITATE*
Sodium Phosphate is an emulsifier, potassium sorbate and calcium propionate are molds inhibiting preservatives – and they are gluten-free (15, 16, 17). Carrageenan is an extract from red seaweed, it is also gluten-free (18).
Black Cherry Cream Cheese USDA:
PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, SUGAR, CHERRY PUREE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WATER, DRIED CHERRIES, SALT, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, COLOR ADDED, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SORBIC ACID (AS A PRESERVATIVE), XANTHAN GUM, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CHEESE CULTURE.
Similar to the strawberry puree above, the cherry puree should very likely be gluten-free.
Cream Cheese – Cheesecake USDA
CHEESECAKE FILLING (CREAM CHEESE [PASTEURIZED MILK AND CREAM, CHEESE CULTURE], SKIM MILK, WATER, SUGAR, CREAM, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, LACTIC ACID, CAROB BEAN GUM, PECTIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE), CHERRY TOPPING (CHERRIES, WATER, SUGAR, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CHERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE, BLACK CARROT JUICE CONCENTRATE [COLOR], ASCORBIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, NATURAL FLAVOR).
Pectin is a gluten-free gelling agent (19). The juice concentrates also naturally do not contain gluten. The acids such as ascorbic acid, citric acid, and sorbic acid, are all gluten-free as well (20, 21, 22). Rest is mentioned above. So yes, surprisedly, Cheesecake by Philadelphia is also a gluten-free product.
Cream cheese is gluten-free. The cream cheese varieties of Philadelphia mentioned in this article are also gluten-free.
However, be sure to always double-check ingredients, as some flavors of some other brands may contain traces of gluten. Enjoy this delicious, versatile dairy product worry-free!