Feta vs. Cream Cheese


Choosing the best cheese for your purposes is hard enough when you consider the plethora of options available on the market. Most supermarkets have an entire aisle devoted solely to different varieties of cheese.

But that choice is made even harder when you’re comparing two different types of soft cheese. Is feta cheese or cream cheese better? There are a lot of factors that one needs to consider, like whether they’re trying to choose an eating cheese, using the cheese as an ingredient in a dish, or grating it on the top of a dish, not to mention an individual’s dietary restrictions.

Here’s everything you need to know about both cheeses to help you make the choice.

Feta — The good old cheese.

Feta is a white, soft cheese from Greece. In fact, it’s the most well-known cheese there and it’s widely popular in a variety of Mediterranean dishes. It’s a PDO product (Protected Designation of Origin). So, in the EU, the only cheese allowed to bear the name “feta” is that made from goat’s or sheep’s milk and made in Greece.

There are many reasons for the PDO status and all the regulations on feta cheese, one of which is the fact that it’s been made since at least 8 B.C.E. and the regulations preserve its heritage, and the other is that regulation ensures consistency.

Every cheese that’s labeled “feta” will have the signature taste and quality.

Lots of things affect the flavor of feta cheese. The fact that it’s made from sheep’s or goat’s milk makes it tangier than cheese made from cow’s milk. Dairy-free feta? read more.

One of the reasons for it’s PDO status is the fact that the plants the animals eat affect the milk’s flavor too, so feta cheese made from animals’ milk from Greece reflects only native Greek flora. It also has a tangier flavor when made only with sheep’s milk, but the flavor is made milder when goat’s milk is mixed with it. 

Feta is a little tricky.

It comes in blocks and appears to be a firm cheese, but it crumbles easily when cut and is quite creamy. It also doesn’t melt, so you can do things with it, such as fry or grill it. It also makes an excellent “eating cheese” because of this and its unique flavor. 

A lot of people argue that feta is one of the healthiest cheeses that a person can choose to eat, but it has just as many drawbacks as it does benefits.

It has a lot of vitamins and nutrients in it, like iron, folate, vitamins A and K, magnesium and pantothenic acid, and it’s a great source of calcium. It has fewer calories and less fat than most aged cheeses. And, it has probiotics in it, which are good bacteria which deter harmful bacteria like e.coli and promote better gut health. But, it also has a lot of sodium in it because it’s brined, not aged. There’s more lactose in feta than there would be in aged cheese because it’s an “unripened cheese”. Why does feta smell like feet? read here.

Also, unpasteurized feta has a high probability of containing the harmful Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. 

Cream Cheese — A little taste of heaven.

Cream cheese catches a lot of flack because people mistakenly say it’s “not a real cheese”. In all actuality, it’s a fresh cheese and not an aged cheese.

Cream cheese is a soft cheese with a mild flavor and a creamy texture made from cow’s milk. It became popular during the 1800’s, at which time Philadelphia was the biggest producer of cream cheese, and now it’s enjoyed around the world. 

Because it’s a fresh cheese, cream cheese has a short shelf life, especially once you open it. That’s why it should be refrigerated, whether it’s been opened or not, in order to lengthen the shelf life. In the United States, emulsifiers are often added to the cheese to add some length to the shelf life and to give it a little firmness. And the short shelf life and need for it to be refrigerated is why it’s often packaged the way it is.

There are often two ways cream cheese is packaged and sold. The first is in a block wrapped in foil. In this version, once the cheese reaches room temperature it’s pretty easy to spread. The second is in air-whipped soft spread forms that come in tubs and don’t have to reach room temperature to spread.

There are a wide variety of applications for cream cheese. While you probably don’t want to just eat a chunk of it (though you could), it’s better in or on things.

It’s widely known to be delicious on bagels or crackers, in the form of cream cheese frosting, in baked goods, as the main ingredient of cheesecake, and in savory meat dishes. Because the cheese is both sweet and tangy, it functions well in both sweet baked goods, or in savory pasta dishes.

It’s reputation for spreading easily opens a lot of culinary doors, too.

There are lots of flavor options in cream cheese now, such as fruits, herbs, sweeteners like honey, and even salmon. And, cream cheese is vegetarian-friendly because acid is used to make the milk coagulate. 

Nutritional Comparison

Value per oz: Feta Cream Cheese
Total Fat 31.9g 8.4g
Saturated Fat 22.4g 5.6g
Cholesterol 133mg 37.3mg
Sodium 312mg 121mg
Protein 21.3mg 1.9g
Carbohydrates 6.1g 1.9g
Calories 396 kcal 84 kcal

So, which cheese is better? That depends.

If you want a cheese that will melt or spread, cream cheese is the better choice. If you want a cheese that will crumble well, or something that won’t melt, feta is your best bet.

If you have health problems, are pregnant, lactose intolerant or happen to be vegetarian, skip the feta and go with the cream cheese. Other than that, it’s a matter of taste. If you like a tangier cheese, try feta. If you prefer a cheese with milder flavor, you’re more likely to enjoy cream cheese.

Continue reading…

AaronMH

I have a background in biotechnology, and I love cats.

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