Cream Cheese vs. Neufchâtel: Ultimate Showdown!

Maybe you’ve spotted Neufchâtel neighboring the cream cheese in the dairy section of your market. They’re obviously in similar packages, but do they taste the same? 

Neufchâtel is an unripened cheese made with cow’s milk, and can be ripened to develop a soft rind. The cheese has a soft yet slightly grainy texture. The French version of this creamy cheese uses only milk while the American version uses milk and cream.

Cream cheese is defined by the FDA as containing at least 33% fat with a moisture content of 55% or less. It is considered to be smooth and mild. Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in New York in 1872, according to the Kraft Heinz Co. The name was created in 1880 as part of a marketing strategy to align the cheese product with the high-quality food and dairy farming that the area of Philadelphia was known for at the time.

Neufchâtel cheese is technically lower in fat content than cream cheese and this is the reason many people regard Neufchâtel cheese as the “light cream cheese.”

What Is Neufchâtel Cheese?

The original creation of Neufchâtel is traced back to 6th century France, titled for a small town of the same name in Normandy. Some research states that Neufchâtel is, in fact, the oldest known cheese in France.

The unripened French cheese is made with cow’s milk and traditionally will be allowed to ripen and then develop a soft rind similar to Brie or Camembert. According to popular origin stories, it is often found in the shape of a heart.

France bestows Neufchâtel with an AOC certification, meaning “appellation d’origine contrôlée” or “Controlled Designation of Origin.” This certification confirms the product is a true Neufchâtel cheese from approved regions in France.

French Neufchâtel is salty in flavor and becomes more pungent in the aging process. It is a spreadable cheese and often used as a topping for crackers, bagels, bread, and toast. The texture also makes it an excellent ingredient for dips, spreads, and dessert recipes such as cakes and frostings.

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How Is Neufchâtel Different From Cream Cheese?

According to cheesemaking standards, Neufchâtel must contain more than 20% milkfat, but less than 33% percent milk fat. It must also have a maximum moisture content of 65% percent. This means any Neufchâtel product will always be considered to have less fat and a higher moisture content than cream cheese.


Neufchâtel cheese is named for the hamlet of Neufchâtel-en-Bray in northern Normandy. It is one of the oldest cheeses in France and dates back to the year 1035.

Cream cheese was invented in the late 1800s in New York by a dairyman named William Lawrence who purchased a cheese factory to make an American version of the popular French cheese. The subtle difference? He added cream into the recipe. The cheese was packaged and sold as “Philadelphia Cream Cheese” and quickly became a kitchen ingredient used in many American homes.


French Neufchâtel cheese is made using raw cow’s milk; this means it is considered to be unpasteurized milk. The cheese has six to eight weeks to mature and ripen into a soft cheese.

Cream cheese is made when lactic acid is added to pasteurized milk and cream, and acts to lower the pH of the mixture to form curds. The resulting curds are heated and stabilizers are added to create cream cheese. There is no aging process and it has a short shelf life once it is opened.


Neufchâtel and cream cheese are similar in flavor, but Neufchâtel tastes a bit tangier with a grainier texture. The Neufchâtel also has an edible rind that gives a more pungent flavor.

How They Are Used

Cream cheese has a higher fat content than Neufchâtel but both of the cheeses can be used in a similar way for spreads, dips, toppings, and frostings. The main difference is that cream cheese can be used as an ingredient for baked goods or as a thickening agent for sauces and soups. It provides a denser texture and sweeter taste.

Neufchâtel can be a good option for use as a soft cheese with a richer, tangier flavor, but isn’t as well suited for cooked applications. 

Can Neufchâtel and Cream Cheese Be Substituted for One Another?

Many bakers and home cooks think of cream cheese as the American equivalent of Neufchâtel. And Neufchâtel can certainly work as a substitute for cream cheese, as long as a few considerations are kept in mind.

Neufchâtel cheese may be substituted for cream cheese in equal amounts. It can be used one-for-one in uncooked recipes, and will slightly reduce the fat content in these dishes (such as chilled dips and spreads).

For recipes that call for using a melted or heated cream cheese, the lower fat content of Neufchâtel will not allow for smooth melting, as regular cream cheese will.

The Neufchâtel cheese is creamy and spreadable, but it can have a slightly more grainy texture because of the lower fat content and won’t be as rich tasting in the final baked product. In recipes that rely on the firmness of cream cheese, like some cheesecake recipes, the result may be too soft in texture when Neufchâtel is substituted.

Despite these differences, Neufchâtel can be substituted in many dishes that require cream cheese. Try both of these soft, creamy cheeses and see where you like to use them best, whether it be in recipes for a simple smear on your morning bagel.