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Alternatives to cream cheese? Counting fat calories.

Hi --

I realize that cream cheese comes in reduced fat and non-fat versions, but it's my understanding that those products use not-very-healthy ingredients to achieve the creamy texture. It's also my impression -- though I'm not entirely positive -- that Neufchatel is a naturally lower-fat product, though it still seems pretty fatty.

So my question is whether anyone has any ideas about healthy, creamy cheese spreads, either store-bought or home-made. For example, could one put cottage cheese through a food processor and expect to end up with something spreadable and palatable?

Thanks.

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  1. Sounds like you're looking for a substitute for cream cheese as a spread on bread/crackers. If so, I have used yogurt in the past when I just haven't had cream cheese around. Works well with smoked salmon and bread :)

    1. Although it's milder than cream cheese, you may want to give marscarpone a look. Bel Gioso is healthier in the fat dept, I believe, than your regular Philly Cream Cheese.

      You can drain a plain yogurt overnight to create a more cream-cheese-like consistency, too.

      1. Try making yogurt cheese:

        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

        Also, look for reduced fat cream cheese that is labeled Neufchatel. It's its own kind of cheese (there is French which is very different and then American which is the block), similar to cream cheese so not overly processed like some of the fat free cream cheeses.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          Original poster here again -- Pinehurst, I wish mascarpone was healthier in the fat department. Unfortunately, one ounce of it has 120 calories from fat, as compared to 81 in the same amount of original Philly cream cheese. Neufchatel, mentioned in my query, has 60, so it's the leader of that pack.

          And yes, bobabear, I am looking for something that by itself, or mixed with other ingredients, will end up on bread or crackers. I have made yogurt cheese in the past, though I've pretty much abandoned regular yogurt for Greek style, which I don't think could be thickened any further. It may be my best option. Maybe I'll try blending it with non-fat cottage cheese and see what I end up with.

          1. re: Deborah R.

            You can thicken Greek yogurt by putting it on a strainer lined with cheesecloth overnight. I do that before making Greek yogurt frozen yogurt in my ice cream machine! Works well and is low fat :)

            1. re: bobabear

              And, Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that has been drained so you're just further draining it. Or, at least it should be but some companies thicken it in other ways.

              1. re: chowser

                Or you could use Skyr Icelandic yogurt which is made from fat-free milk and thicker than Greek yogurt.

            2. re: Deborah R.

              Neufchatel is pretty good but I think people put way too much
              cc on their bagels and crackers. A very thin spread still tastes good.

              OP, if you have not heard of Benedictine, a Kentucky specialty, you might try it. It's basically cream cheese mixed with shredded cucumber and some type of onion, plus seasonings. I don't peel or seed the cuke and use a lot of veg compared to the amount called for in recipes. I also add red bell pepper, and like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
              in it. Probably 1 part cream cheese to 3 parts veg. People thin Benedictine with sour cream or yogurt to make a dip but I wanted a spread for crackers and toast points.

          2. I always use Neufchatel in recipes that call for cream cheese.

            If you're just looking for something to eat with crackers, I use the Laughing Cow wedges. These might fall under the "using unhealthy ingredients to get the creamy texture" umbrella, but I thought I'd throw it out there. (I'm fond of the garlic and herb variety.)

            1. Someone just informed me that a local mega grocery store is carrying a Greek yogurt version of cream cheese, it is on my list for this week so I will let you know what I think. It was touted as half the fat and twice the protein, but I didn't get the brand name.

              6 Replies
              1. re: coll

                It tastes awful, ruined a low carb cheesecake in which it was only 1/3 of the cheese.

                1. re: mcf

                  Thanks for the heads up, I will save it for bagels and such then. Unless you mean REALLY awful? I do expect it to be tangy....

                  1. re: coll

                    Your tastebuds may differ, but for us, there's a very unpleasant sort if bitterness, and it permeates. I can't say tanginess is what sticks in my memory. Just BADness.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Interesting. I was going to go to Stop and Shop just for that later on, but if I don't get there I won't cry now!

                      1. re: coll

                        I got mine at Fairway, maybe it's a different brand? Franklin Foods: http://www.franklinfoods.com/greek-cr...

                        I bought the bars. First time, I used only this product to make a cheesecake that was a waste, we hated it, then used it for less than 1/3 (wanted the protein) with regular cream cheese for the rest. It really wrecked the cheesecake. I managed to save it with an added strongly lemon flavored sour cream top layer that I hadn't planned to use, actually re-baked it for 10 minutes for that. It is bad taste, bad texture, for my money.

                        1. re: mcf

                          If it's that brand, I'll beware. I just realized I need 3 oz cream cheese for a San Diego style shrimp burrito I'm making this weekend, maybe I should just get Philly as usual. It's a new recipe for me and I don't want to blame the source, rather than wacky ingredients.