How to make Cream Cheese

Luscious, soft, tangy cream cheese, made in minutes with just three ingredients? Absolutely. Follow this easy recipe to learn how to make cream cheese at home.

Did you know that you can make luscious, soft, tangy homemade cream cheese, with just three ingredients? And that you probably already have these ingredients in your kitchen? You absolutely can!

Trust me when I say, once you learn how to make cream cheese, you may never go back to store-bought cream cheese again,

Homemade Cream Cheese is super cheap to make, and the flavour is rich and delicious. Ideal for your baking your next cheesecake or spreading thickly on bagels.

How to make cream cheese

How do you make cream cheese at home?

It works like this. Milk + Heat + a souring agent = Little Miss Muffet’s favourite dish, curds and whey. Drain off the whey, whizz the cheese curds in a food processor until they are smooth and creamy, add salt and you’re done.

30 minutes tops and you can pat yourself on the back while you enjoy your homemade cheese, made with just three ingredients and no nasty preservatives.

How do you use Homemade Cream Cheese?

After that, you can add flavourings to your heart’s delight! You could:

How to make cream cheese. Clockwise from top left, heating milk, milk starting to separate, curds and whey and a cheese cloth ready to strain the cheese.
As soon as you add the citric acid, the milk will begin to separate into cheese curds and whey.

One cheese, many names

This sort of soft cheese is known by loads of different names. It is similar to Indian paneer, or German Hüttenkäse (cottage cheese). The difference is that instead of being pressed (like paneer) or left as curds (Hüttenkäse/cottage cheese), it is creamed in the food processor.

Creaming the cheese in the food processor breaks up and smooths out all the curds into a rich spreadable paste. Draining for a shorter amount of time, or adding back some of the whey while blending will result in a softer cheese.

How to make cream cheese

What to do with leftover whey

On the subject of whey, don’t throw it out! It’s both useful and nutritious.

  • Use it as a replacement for water in bread making – it makes the bread last much longer, keeping the crumb soft and tender.
  • It makes a fabulous tenderiser in marinades for meat.
  • Whey is full of protein, so fantastic for smoothies and shakes (great for gym bunnies, just freeze it into ice cubes and throw it in the blender)
  • You can even use it as a toner for your skin and hair (yes, truly!)

Whey will keep several days in a covered container in the fridge so you don’t have to use it right away.

Now that you’ve leant how to make cream cheese, why not try out my recipe for Sesame Bagels! Or whip up some frosting for my Spiced Carrot Cake Loaf? There are so many great cream cheese recipes out there!


Can I use skim milk to make cream cheese?

You can, but it will drastically reduce the amount of cheese you get at the end. Use full cream milk for best results.

What can I substitute for citric acid?

You can substitute the citric acid with 2 Tbsp of lemon juice or 2 Tbsp white vinegar. Citric acid will give the most neutral result in the end cheese. Look for it in the baking aisle if you are having trouble finding it at the supermarket.

How long does this cheese last?

This is a fresh cheese in style, rather than an aged cheese. That means as long as all your dishes and containers are clean, the cheese will last around 5-7 days in a covered container in the fridge.

Can I double this recipe for homemade cream cheese?

Absolutely! Just double all ingredients.

Can I use Heavy Cream to make cream cheese?

Wow, very luxurious! Yes you can, and what you will have made is a delicious Italian mascarpone cheese! You can use this in my Cherry Honey Mascarpone Tart, Mascarpone Stuffed White Wine Pears, or a classic Italian tiramisu! Yum!

How to make cream cheese

Make sure all your pots and utensils are extra clean, that way the cheese will last longer.

Clockwise from top left: Strained Cheese, Cheese in the foodprocessor starting to become creamy, finished cheese in a dish, cheese fully creamed in food processor.
Homemade Cream Cheese in a glass container.
Homemade Cream Cheese

Homemade Cream Cheese

Yield: 200 grams (7 oz.)
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Draining TIme : 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Luscious, soft, tangy cream cheese, made in minutes with just 3 ingredients? Absolutely. Follow this easy recipe to learn how to make cream cheese at home.


  • 1 litre (1 qt.) full cream milk (1 quart)
  • ½ tsp citric acid, dissolved in 50ml (3 Tbsp) of hot water
  • ½ tsp sea or kosher salt


  1. HEAT THE MILK: In a large saucepan, heat the milk on a medium setting until it is nearly simmering, stirring to stop the milk from catching. The milk is ready when tiny bubbles start to form around the outside of the pot.
  2. ADD ACID: Stir in the citric acid, lemon juice or vinegar, and continue to heat, stirring gently, until the curds separate from the whey, clumping on the surface with the greenish whey liquid underneath. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for five minutes, while you line a sieve with the cheesecloth or muslin and place it over a large mixing bowl to catch the whey.
  3. DRAIN: After five minutes, carefully pour the curds and whey into the sieve, then allow to drain and cool for 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes will give a softer set, while 15 minutes will be firmer after chilling.
  4. SALT AND PROCESS: When the curds have cooled, scrape into the bowl of a food processor. Add ½ a teaspoon of salt and process until the cheese is soft and creamy, and not at all grainy. This will take around 2-3 minutes, and you should stop halfway to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl.
  5. SEASON TO TASTE: Taste the cream cheese and add a pinch more salt if you think it needs it, processing again to combine. If the cheese is crumbly and refusing to come together, add a tablespoon of the reserved whey to loosen.
  6. CHILL: The cream cheese will be very soft, but it will firm up in the fridge. Transfer to a small container with a lid and refrigerate until ready to use - this sort of cheese will last 5 days in the fridge.


  • If you can't get citric acid, use either: 2 Tbsp lemon juice or 2 Tbsp white vinegar and omit the additional water.
  • You will need cheesecloth, muslin or a clean cotton tea towel rinsed out in hot water to drain the cheese.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 22Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Current Flipboard Food Writer in Residence and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 306


    • Hi Ruth! A coffee filter won’t work very well in this case as they are too fine. You can also use a clean cloth (like a dish drying cloth or an old, clean t-shirt). I’d pour boiling water over the cloth first to sterilise. J.

  1. I was given 2 gallons of 2% milk, and with only 2 adults in the house, It would have gone to waste. Tried this and used up a gallon. Easy and delicious. Sharing.

    • Hi Denise! What a fantastic way to use up all that milk before it spoiled! I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe and thank you so much for your lovely comment and sharing the recipe with others! 🙂 J.

      • I have used evaporated milk to make sour cream. It comes out like more of a crema. I also use it when making no-churn ice cream with added butter. I think about 16 years ago I made some cream cheese using evaporated milk and it came out pretty good. I think I added some butter as the milk was heating. I should have written it down. So now it’s making me curious to try it again. I’ll post the results.

  2. Citric acid is the way to go. That’s a regular staple in my kitchen since it has so many uses. I buy it by the pound or more. It’s also what I use for making sour cream. I need to get busy and make some cream cheese. Someone gave me some smoked salmon and I want to make a spread. Cream cheese is so much better without the guar, xanthan, and carob bean gums. Thanks!

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