Cream Cheese Vs. Yogurt (also Greek Yogurt)

When it comes to spreading on toast or bagels, or using as a base in cooking, cream cheese and yogurt are two popular options. But, have you ever wondered about the differences between the two?

Both cream cheese and yogurt have their own flavor profiles and uses in the kitchen. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at cream cheese and yogurt, including Greek yogurt, and compare their nutritional value, taste, and versatility in cooking.

So, whether you’re a cream cheese lover or a yogurt fan, this post will help you understand the pros and cons of each and how you can use them.

The Differences

Cream cheese is a type of fresh unripened cheese made from a combination of cream and milk — read our cream cheese 101. It is high in fat and calories, with about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat per ounce. It is also high in cholesterol, making it a less healthy option for those watching their cholesterol levels. However, it does have a rich, creamy texture and a tangy flavor that makes it a popular spread for bagels and as a base for dips and spreads.

Yogurt, on the other hand, is a fermented dairy product made from milk and cultures. It is a good source of protein, with about 5-10 grams per cup, and is also a good source of calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Greek yogurt, a thicker and creamier variety, has a slightly higher protein — with about 17 grams per cup — and typically has less sugar than regular yogurt. It is sometimes known as strained yogurt, labneh, or yogurt cheese, which is a type of yogurt strained to remove most whey and resulting in a cream-like consistency.

Flavor Profile

When it comes to taste, cream cheese has a rich and slightly sweet flavor, while yogurt has pronounced tangy, and also tart, and sour notes. Greek yogurt is similar but has a slightly creamier and thicker mouthfeel than regular yogurt. Therefore, it is often used in cooking and baking as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise.

Yogurt is generally lower in fat than cream cheese, and has a tangier flavor. In baking recipes, yogurt can be substituted for cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio, but the texture of the final product may be different. Blending ricotta cheese with yogurt or Greek yogurt can be a good way to create a substitute for cream cheese.

The ratio of ricotta to yogurt or Greek yogurt will depend on the desired consistency, but a good starting point is to use equal parts of each. You can also add some seasonings, herbs or other ingredients to enhance the flavor.

Origins

Cream cheese and yogurt have different origins and histories.

Cream cheese, also known as Philadelphia cream cheese, was first produced in 1872 by William Lawrence in Chester, New York. He accidentally discovered a method for making a smooth, spreadable cheese by adding cream to the curds of cheese. The resulting product was called “Philadelphia” cream cheese as it was first marketed in the city of Philadelphia. Today, cream cheese is produced in various forms and brands all over the world.

Yogurt, on the other hand, has a much longer history and can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The earliest known evidence of yogurt comes from the Neolithic period, around 6000 BC, in the area that is now modern-day Turkey. It is believed that yogurt was accidentally discovered by nomadic people who stored milk in animal skins or stomachs, which naturally fermented due to the presence of bacteria. From there, yogurt spread to other parts of the world, and today it is a popular food in many cultures.

Greek yogurt is a more recent development and it is believed to have originated in Greece in the early 1900s. Traditional Greek yogurt is made by straining yogurt to remove the whey, resulting in a thicker and creamier consistency. Today Greek yogurt is widely available and produced in various countries.

Productions

Cream cheese and yogurt have different production methods.

Cream cheese is made from a combination of cream and milk. The milk is first standardized to separate the milk fat and pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria, then cultures are added to help develop a tangy flavor. The mixture is then cooled, and sometimes thickened with the addition of rennet or other enzymes. After that, it is packaged and sold. Some brands also add ingredients like salt, sugar, and stabilizers to enhance the taste and texture of the cream cheese. See the production process here.

Yogurt production starts with pasteurizing milk and adding live cultures. These cultures ferment the lactose in the milk, turning it into lactic acid, which thickens the milk and gives it its characteristic tangy flavor. After fermentation, the yogurt is cooled, and sometimes sweetened or flavored with fruit or other ingredients. Then it is packaged and sold.

Greek yogurt production is similar to regular yogurt production, but with an additional step. After fermentation, the yogurt is strained through a cheesecloth or other fine-mesh strainer to remove the whey, resulting in a thicker and creamier consistency. Greek yogurt is also often higher in protein than regular yogurt because of this straining process — concentrated. Ingredients like sugar, stabilizers, and milk powder may be used to enhance the taste and texture of Greek yogurt.

Generally, no salt or stabilizer is needed in making yogurt. But for some flavored varieties of yogurt, such as blueberry, banana, and strawberry Yogurt by Chobani, the stabilizer (as a thickener) could be used to prevent the fat and water part from separating.

Additionally, rennet is also not typically used in the production of yogurt. It is possible that some manufacturers (such as in Canada) may use rennet or other enzymes in addition to or instead of live cultures to make yogurt, but it is not a common practice.

Which is Healthier?

According to FDA law, cream cheese needs to have a minimum of 33% fat content, whereas yogurt typically has 6% fat or less. Also, yogurt has around 85% fewer calories than cream cheese.

Cream cheese is a high-fat food, with a typical serving (2 tablespoons) containing around 12 grams of fat. The majority of the fat in cream cheese is saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels if consumed in excess. If you would like to know more, we have discussed further in what cream cheese does to your body post.

Yogurt also contains fat, but it is lower than cream cheese. A typical serving of plain yogurt (6 ounces) contains around 4-5 grams of fat. Some varieties of yogurt, such as whole-milk yogurt, can contain more fat, while non-fat or low-fat options contain less. Greek yogurt is also lower in fat than cream cheese, and generally slightly higher in protein and fat than regular yogurt.

When it comes to popular brands, according to the FoodData USDA, Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt USDA contains higher protein and calcium content than the Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese USDA. On the other hand, cream cheese has a higher level of vitamin A than yogurt.

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