Heavenly, No-Cook Cream Cheese

IF YOU ONLY KNOW BLAND, STORE-BOUGHT CREAM CHEESE (which, by the way, is artificially thickened with guar gum, locust bean gum, and modified food starch), get ready for a treat. The homemade version, which I made several times this week, is rich, tangy, and utterly pure. Even an 8-year-old child can make it. Yes…it’s that easy:

I made this cheese two different ways: with ultra-pasteurized half & half (this made a very white, tangy cheese); and another, with one quart each of local, whole milk and heavy, pasteurized creme. This last batch, which I preferred, had a creamy-yellow hue, possessed slightly less tang, and had an irresistibly-rich edge. I’ll let you decide which way to go.

Homemade Cream Cheese
Ingredients for about one pound of cheese
2 quarts half & half (pasteurized and “ultra-pasteurized” will both work)
1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter*
Optional: salt
Optional: herbs or jam

Special Equipment – a glass bowl that will hold at least two quarts; a colander; a wire whisk; a sheet of plastic wrap to cover the bowl; a large piece of butter-muslin*

*You can obtain, as I did, 5 packets of direct-set mesophilic starter and also the large piece of butter-muslin from The New England Cheesemaking Company. Each costs $5.95. The muslin, which is used for draining all kinds of soft cheeses, can be used again and again.

1. Pour the half & half into the glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for several hours, or until it comes to room-temperature: 72 degrees. (If patience isn’t one of your virtues — it isn’t one of mine — set the bowl in the microwave, and heat it on high for exactly 60 seconds. Check the temperature with a thermometer; if it hasn’t reached 72 degrees, microwave again for 15-30 seconds, or until the proper temperature is achieved.)

2. Sprinkle the starter over the half & half, and let it rehydrate for 2 minutes. Then vigorously whisk it into the liquid.

3. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 12 hours. A softly-solid curd will form.

4. Line the colander with butter muslin and then pour in the curds. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot, and let the curds drain for 12 hours, or until the bag stops dripping. (If you change the bag once or twice, it will speed up the draining-time.) Ignore my lousy knot-tying in the photo above.

5. Pour the cheese into a bowl. Then either transfer to a big plastic tub, or several small tubs. The small tubs are nice, because you can add different ingredients to each — a tablespoon of chopped chives to one, a dollop of strawberry jam to another, and so on, to create your own unique-boutique blends.

6. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. The cheese will quickly firm up after only a few hours under refrigeration.

WARNING: Like other recipes here at A Garden for the House, this homemade cream cheese is highly addictive. I found myself eating it by the spoonful. And that’s something I would never think to do with Kraft’s “Philadelphia” or any other commercial cream cheese. You will probably want to spread your homemade cheese on a bagel, an English muffin, or on some of these exquisite English Cream Scones.

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Related Posts:
Paula Wolfert’s Hummus
Lentil Croquettes
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
Apple’s in Bourbon Custard
My Best Fried Green Tomatoes


  1. I have a feeling I'll soon be placing an order with The New England Cheesemaking Company.

  2. Me too. Homemade cream cheese sounds finger lickin' good.

  3. Oh man! Now I'm even more bummed that I didn't win the cheesemaking kit! (I'm not surprised though- I don't think I've ever won anything in my life.)

  4. Katreader – I'm in love with The New England Cheesemaking Company!

    Eric – Homemade cream cheese is truly awesome.

    Broken Barn Industries – don't feel too bad. I've never won anything in my life, either!

  5. Brenda Johnson says:

    Thank you again for bestowing “taste tester” with this amazing cream cheese!!! (It was wonderful with the fresh chives and crackers)It's smooth,creamy and has a texture NOTHING like the gummy loaf of bland mass produced product of the same name. This is slightly tangy,rich and FRESH tasting! Perfect for savory (like chives) and sweet( like jelly or honey) pairings! My 17 year old niece enjoyed some on a works bagel this morning and raved over it!!!! Well done again Kevin!!!!

  6. MMm… that looks amazingly tasty! Wow, thanks for making me crave! lol

  7. I will need to try this with the whole milk and heavy cream, the 2 quarts of half and half yielded very tangy results for me. Overall, very easy and I am looking forward to my next attempt.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I made this with 1% milk and mesophilic starter made from cultured buttermilk (recipe at cheeseforum.org), that is what I had on hand. I can hardly believe that I made cream cheese, it is so easy and delicious! The low fat is not as rich, but 1,000 times better than what they sell in the store! It is white and slightly tangy, it will be perfect with herbs or fruit served with my home made crackers, bread or bagels. It is less tangy than drained yogurt and I like it much better for some uses. To drain, I used a big pan and tied the ends of the cloth to the handles (not sure where I found this hint), this allows stirring during the draining. Thanks Kevin, so glad I found your website, lots of interesting stuff here. I checked out The New England Cheesemaking Company and have added a lot of stuff to my wish list from their website.

  9. prairiecactus says:

    Hi Kevin…the link to your English Cream Scones is not working…I get an error message 404

  10. Hi Prairiecactus – link is working now. Or, you can just click here: English Cream Scones.

  11. anything made with the word “bum” in it, cannot be good!! I need to try your recipe!!!

  12. Carol – Arg! Thanks for catching that typo. I switched the b for a g. Now all is well in the homemade-cream-cheese-world.

  13. My entire family thank you. I made your recipe this week using half & half. It is delicious, and the recipe was easy. Mine has a slightly different appearance, however: it looks less creamy, as though it has a grainy texture. It resembles ricotta. Any idea why? Did I perhaps drain it too long, or do you know another reason?

  14. I have read several good stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting.

    I surprise how much effort you place to make such a magnificent
    informative website.


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