Cream cheese is one of the easiest cheeses you can make.
There are several different ways to make homemade cream cheese. Milk can be curded and set with yogurt or lemon juice. However, setting the curd with rennet is the best way to get really thick cream cheese.
Here are a few reasons why I love making cream cheese.
- It’s affordable! It is about half the cost of store-bought cream cheese, and much cheaper than fancy homestyle cream cheese.
- The flavor is amazing. I recommend French-style cream cheese and preculturing for the richest flavor, however, even simple rennet-set cream cheese is sweet, creamy, and delicious.
- A really simple recipe. Since it is a fresh cheese, it doesn’t require as much precision around sanitation and heating. And there’s no need to cut the curd or press the cheese. It’s a really easy recipe!
French-Style Cream Cheese
This recipe has two options: making simple cream cheese with rennet or making a French-style cheese by adding a bit of culture.
The added culture means that French cream cheese is full of flavor and deliciously probiotic. It doesn’t take any extra effort. Simply add the culture when you add the rennet!
Since homemade cream cheese is set at 72F (22C), you need to use a mesophilic (room temperature) culture. Here are three different options that you can simply add with the rennet:
- Mesophilic cheese culture: Use 1 packet, enough for 2 gallons of milk.
- Milk kefir: Add a 1/4 cup of kefir cultured milk (not the grains).
- Cultured buttermilk: Add 1/4 cup of cultured buttermilk. Just be sure to use buttermilk that has a good quality culture. The culture is usually better from organic or small dairies than from massed produced buttermilk.
Flavored Cream Cheese
Who doesn’t love flavored cream cheese? It’s a delicious way to spruce up a bagel.
Homemade cream cheese is soft, creamy, and spreadable. Which makes it perfect for mixing in additional flavors. Here are a few popular options. Each of these flavors is designed to be mixed into 1 batch of cream cheese (approximately 4 cups).
- Berry Whipped Cheese: Mix 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh berries into a batch of cream cheese. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are ideal.
- Cinnamon Honey: Mix in 2 tsp cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 cup of honey. Perfect as a dip for apples or spreading on carrot cake.
- Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper: Oven roast 2 red peppers and 4 cloves of garlic. Peel and deseed the red pepper. Grind the red pepper and garlic into the cream cheese using a food processor.
- Herbs: Finely dice 1/2 cup of fresh basil, 1/2 cup of chives, and 2 Tbsp of fresh parsley and stir into the cream cheese.
- Boursin-style: Here’s a recipe to make your own Boursin-style cream cheese.
Homemade Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is so simple that it’s perfect for beginners. Try making a French-style cultured cream cheese or flavor it with berries, herbs, or garlic. See the sections above for more information.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups 1x
- Category: Cheese
- Method: Cultured
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 4 cups milk (any percentage)
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 drops of food-grade calcium chloride (mixed with 2 Tbsp chlorine-free water)
- 3 drops of liquid rennet or 1/4 tablet (mixed with 2 Tbsp of chlorine-free water)
- Mesophilic culture (optional, see section above for options)
- 1 tsp non-iodized salt (preferably cheese salt)
- Heat milk and cream up to 72 F.
- Gently whisk in calcium chloride for 1 minute. Then mix in the rennet, being sure to use an up and down motion so that it is fully mixed in. If you want to make cultured French-style cream cheese, add the mesophilic culture with the rennet. See the section above for more details.
- Leave the pot of milk to set for 24 hours. It needs to be maintained at roughly 72 F. See the notes for different ways of maintaining the temperature.
- After 24 hours the milk will have firmly curded. Without cutting the curds, pour the entire pot of curded cream into a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Tie the corners together and hang the curd to drain for 6-8 hours.
- Remove curds from the cheesecloth and place them in a bowl with the salt. Stir with a spoon to combine. Add any additional flavors at this point. See the section above for flavor options.
- The cream cheese will be quite soft, however, it will firm up after being refrigerated. Homemade cream cheese tastes best if used within 2 weeks.
- If you have never made cheese before, here is a post on the steps involved in making cheese.
- I use a folding fermentation box for all of my ferments, however, an exact temperature is not required. You can keep your curding milk warm by putting it near your hot water heater or on top of your fridge.
Keywords: probiotic, easy, flavours, berries, roasted garlic, cinnamon, herb, keto, Boursin, traditional, fermented, gluten-free
When you say you can ferment with buttermilk or kefir is that instead of the rennet/chloride? or in addition to? and how much do you recommend?
The fermentation is in addition to the rennet and calcium. It is to add flavour, not set the cream cheese. So ferment until you reached a desired flavour. I would do 1/4 cup for 4-12 hours (depending on how strong you want the flavour.
I tried you cream cheese recipe, but my doesn’t look as thick as your and it taste like cream cheese but has a weird after taste. Did I do something wrong?
The flavour and thickness will depend on what you used for a culture. I used a REALLY good quality buttermilk culture. My other thought is that it may need to drain a bit more whey after salting. Sometimes excess whey can give a slightly bitter flavour. Maybe add some herbs or other flavours for a more enjoyable cheese. 🙂
I’ve just made a batch of cream cheese (using a culture and rennet). I’ve let it set at the right temp, for the right time, drained it for the 6 hours, and mixed some salt in… but the texture isn’t what I’d expect. Rather than being smooth and creamy, it’s a bit lumpy – not as lumpy as a cottage cheese, but heading that way. Flavour is fine though. Do I just meed to mix it more vigorously, or have I drained it too much, or is there something else going on that I need to address? Is there any way of getting this to be a lovely smooth cream cheese?! Thanks in advance for any advice!
It sounds like the curds formed more strongly than expected. The most likely things might have caused this. 1. Your rennet was really fresh and stronger setting than mine. 2. That it was set slightly higher than 72 F. 3. Your culture was really strong setting (more likely if using a powdered mesophilic culture). Try mixing it more vigorously. Hopefully, that will break apart the curds into a smoother cream cheese. Good luck!
I’m not sure how inexpensive this recipe for cream cheese will be considering I don’t have rennet or any of the other ingredients except for cream and milk. However, it sounds very good and worth trying.
Great directions and easy to follow too!
I have never made cream cheese before, so I went looking on the internet and came across a variety of methods that do not require rennet etc…I thought that I will work my way up to your recipe since it is obviously an advanced technique and is so confusing to me.
However, I have spent the day trying to find the basic ingredients and researching some of those ingredients trying to figure out how to use them properly. I’m just not sure a beginner could make this recipe because it isn’t easy to understand what is taking place for each step.
For example, the website that I found for the rennet said to add the drops to non-chlorinated water and then immediately use it. However, you didn’t stress anything about using it immediately. As a beginner, I would have added it to the water as I was setting up all the ingredients. It could have sat there for 5 or 10 minutes. I am not sure if it would have affected the end product? It would be an expensive mistake to make if it does. I think it says the same thing for the Calcium Chloride also.
Additionally, I believe there is no mention about making sure the calcium chloride is food safe or that getting the food safe one on the skin can burn (especially important if you are making this with children.)
I am confused if I need to add a culture or if it could be made without it. The other internet recipes don’t have the cultures that you listed. (I personally would use the Kefir)
Finally, I cannot understand the 72 degrees F for this recipe. That is the inside temperature of my house during the winter. I could set out a cup of water with a thermometer that would read 72F. I believe you said in your directions to keep it at a constant 72 for at least 12 hours. If that is true, the sad thing is that I would only be able to make this in the winter. In the summer, I cannot get my house cool enough to meet those requirements. Can the Brød & Taylor Bread Proofer & Yogurt Maker work for making this type of cheese? You mentioned that on one of your links.
Well any help you can provide this newbie would be greatly appreciated. I don’t suppose you have videos on Youtube?
Hello, Hopefully, I can help address some of your questions. I haven’t done videos, mostly because my kitchen is VERY tiny and it wouldn’t be possible to film anything in the poor lighting. 🙂 However, I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can, and you can always check out all my related posts on cheesemaking which are linked to in the notes section (the first note). They include everything from the steps involved, the equipment, ingredients, etc. Since the info pertains to all types of cheesemaking, I wrote posts to cover each topic in-depth.
As a fresh cheese, cream cheese is fairly easy and reliable. A good place to start for a beginner.
Now to your questions! First, regarding rennet… I recommend following the instructions on your package. I have used rennet tablets that need to be mixed up in advance and liquid rennet that can be used right away. Your rennet packaging should tell you how to use it.
You are correct, not all types of cream cheese are made with culture. French-style cheese starts with cultured cream. It adds flavor and a bit of acidity to help the curd set but isn’t necessary. However, since my blog is all about fermenting, I have included it as an optional first step.
I do own the Brod & Taylor Proofer… which I use for many different ferments including cheese. However, prior to that, I made cream cheese and cottage cheese by approximating the right temperature, similar to the process used for making yogurt. I have found that near a heater or next to my hot water tank is warm enough to set a culture.
Wishing you all the best with your cheesemaking adventure! Cheers, Emillie
This is a great cheese spread for crackers! Kind of confusing to make, but worth it!
Glad you like it. Cheers!