Cream Cheese Vs. Cream Cheese Spread: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Aaron

Are you new to the wonderful world of cream cheese? Do you know the difference between cream cheese and cream cheese spread?

If not, don’t worry! This article will teach you everything you need to know about these two types of cheese.

Cream cheese is a type of fresh cheese that is made from cow’s milk. Yes, cream cheese is real cheese. It has a smooth texture and a slightly tangy flavor. Cream cheese spread is a type of cream cheese that may be processed with other ingredients and is usually whipped — to make it more spreadable.

Their uses are slightly different as well. Cream cheese is more suitable to use as an ingredient for various cooking or baking purposes; while cream cheese spread is made to spread perfectly on bread, bagels, or crackers.

Both are delicious, let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two!

Are they the same? What about the block?

Yes, cream cheese (tub or block) and cream cheese spread are basically the same things and are often used interchangeably.

The only difference is that the cream cheese spread is likely blended with other ingredients for better spreadability.

Below, I’ve listed the ingredients and also the function for each variety of cream cheese by Philadelphia. The data is obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central:

The cream cheese (block) USDA is made with only the 5 basic dairy ingredients (can’t be skipped) in cream cheese making: Milk & cream, salt, bean gum (stabilizer), and starter culture (bacteria).

In addition to the basic, the cream cheese (tub) USDA will usually have some other ingredients added, such as the whey protein concentrate (moisture), guar gum (another stabilizer), sorbic acid (preservative), and Vitamin A palmitate (replacement of lost vitamin A).

As we use tub Philly as the example here, some other brands such as GreenValley or Organic Valley use a different set of ingredients, which can be considered healthier, read more in our other article.

For the cream cheese spread (also tub) USDA, it is made with similar ingredients as the non-spread cream cheese, but they also used whey (to increase moisture) and xanthan gum (yet another stabilizer) to make adjustments for the spreadability and whipping properties.

Here is another one, also by Philadelphia, of cream cheese spread USDA (perhaps a different way of production). This set of spread has water, milk protein concentrate, lactic acid, natural flavor, and carrageenan included in its ingredient list in addition to the regular ingredients of non-spread cream cheese.

Yes, they’re using more ingredients down the list. But for the ordinary buyer like me, I would prefer the one with less processed and wholesome ingredients.

Can I substitute cream cheese spread for cream cheese?

Yes, in most cases, you can substitute cream cheese spread for regular cream cheese. However, the cream cheese spread is softer and more spreadable than block cream cheese due to its higher moisture content. This can make a difference in certain recipes.

For instance, in a cheesecake, the higher moisture content of the spread might affect the texture of the final product, making it less firm.

Also, if the cream cheese spread you’re using has these added flavors like herbs, fruits, or spices, it could alter the taste or texture of your recipe.

So, if it’s a critical recipe or if you’re baking, it might be better to stick with regular cream cheese. For less precise applications like spreads or dips, the substitution should work just fine.


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