Thinking about making your own cheese? This is a great one to start with! It only takes a few ingredients and some little time to can make your very own homemade Cream Cheese From Scratch! - Newly updated with a smaller, easier-to-make amount!
What's at the heart of from-scratch cooking? Cheese, of course! One of the easiest cheeses you can make yourself is homemade Cream Cheese From Scratch! It takes just a few ingredients and you can have the creamy dreamy perfect bagel pairing rich cheese.
- Whole Milk - For this, you really want "regular" milk from your favorite grocer. Farm fresh (straight from the cow) don't quite work for this recipe.
- Half and Half and Heavy Whipping Cream - This is what adds the "cream" to the cream cheese.
- Lemon juice - Fresh is what we always use, but a bottled juice is totally fine, too!
- Salt - Kosher is always our preferred for cheese making because it is the purest form of salt.
Ok, so I know that ingredient list is expensive. You can totally just use all whole milk, too but that will make really more of a Ricotta Cheese. What separates Ricotta from Cream Cheese? Cream. By using the heavy cream and half and half, you will get a much richer tasting, creamier cheese.
- Cheese Cloth
- Sieve or colander
- Large Pot
- Add milk, cream, and salt to pot and slowly heat
- Heat to about 165 - 170 degrees.
- Add lemon juice and give a stir.
- Continue to heat for a couple of minutes then remove.
- Line a colander with a cheese cloth
Tip: Definitely make sure you have a big cheesecloth that it covers the sieve or colander fully and will give you enough to gather all of the edges.
- Scoop / Pour curds into the the cheese cloth.
- Gather ends of the cheese cloth and let drain.
Tip: We've let this drain as little as 1-2 hrs and as much as 24. If leaving it out to drain more than 3-4 hrs, let it drain in your fridge or in a very cool place.
Once it's drained, you have a super creamy, delicious cream cheese from scratch! Who known homemade Cream Cheese From Scratch was so easy!
Tips for Making Cream Cheese:
- Keep the ratios of milk to cream and half and half. You can use just milk, but if you want to use cream and half and half, keep to these ratios.
- Rinse your pot with cold water, first. This will help with the clean up after!
- Use a Thermometer. This will help ensure that you're not overheating your milk and help prevent you from burning it.
- Make sure you have a good cheese cloth. Be sure that it's one that's wide so when you line your sieve or colander so that you have enough room to gather it all to hang to drain.
- Hang it for faster draining. You can just let it drain while in the sieve/colander, but gathering the edges of the cheese cloth and suspending it will help it all drain faster. Plus, doing this will allow you to gently squeeze the cloth a bit to release liquid faster.
Now that you have this Cream Cheese, you can make this amazing Cream Cheese Frosting From Scratch!
If you overheat your milk, you'll end up with a kind of gritty cheese. It'll be smooth but it will have a grainy texture because the protein is denatured.
Totally. I think that it's a little less creamy and will make a cheese that's more like ricotta, but just using milk is still delicious!
No problem, use a mixture of half and half and heavy cream that you have, as long as the two are the majority (and ideally 2x the milk).
The separation of the curds and whey for this recipe won't be as distinct as another cheese like mozzarella. Often, they're very soft and cloud-like with not a lot of distinct whey and curd separation. Even if it seems like distinct curds have not formed, continue with draining.
We find the best results with 2-4 hrs. but if you want a looser, wetter cheese, then drainer for a shorter period.
It's best to use this cheese within a week of making it.
Yes, you can. However, it will change the texture. So it won't be great for spreading on bagels, but it'll be great for baked goods. Just be sure to wrap it in foil and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
As always, if you do please let me know!! I love to hear about it on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!
Cream Cheese From Scratch
- large spoon
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Line a large sieve or colander a large cheesecloth and position over the sink or over a large bowl or pot if you plan to use the whey later. Be sure that your cheese cloth hangs quite a bit over the edges of the sieve - plenty for gathering when you drain.
- Rinse a large pot with cold water. Add milk / creams and salt to the pot and heat over medium heat. Heat to approximately 165°-170° F, approximately 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and continue for a minute or two. Curds will begin to form and float to the top and the milk/cream will begin to simmer a bit and a gentle foam will start to form. Soft curds will start to form, but they won't be as firm as curds from mozzarella, they'll be much softer and cloud-ike. Once you start to see them form, turn off heat and let it sit for another minute and then remove from heat.
- Let sit for 2 minutes and then use a large spoon to gently scoop curds into the cheesecloth, and then slowly and gently pour the rest of the curds/whey into the cheesecloth. Note: The curds will often seem very soft and cloud-like and it may seem like they're not scoopable. If that's the case, just gently pour into the cheesecloth and allow to drain.
- Gather edges of the cheesecloth and suspend over kitchen faucet or just let drain in the cheesecloth lined sieve/colander. You can give the wrapped cheesecloth a gentle squeeze or release some of the whey. See recipe notes.
- Let drain for at least an hour and up to four.
- Gently open cheese cloth and turn cheese into a large bowl. If it seems a little loose still, that's ok it will thicken a little more in the fridge as it chills.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap or add to an air tight container and let cool for at least 2-4 hrs, this will help it thicken.
- Store in fridge for about a week or in freezer for up to 2 months.
HELLO THERE WAS JUST WONDERING IF ANYONE TRIED WITH CREAM CHEESE POWDER? IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET CREAM CHEESE WITH POWDER?
when eating cream cheese straight, as is, like on a bagel or with fruit, i am snob and require philly cream cheese. for baking and cooking, i'm good with any kind of cream cheese. i'm thinking of trying this, but i am wondering how it compares to philly? i can't even tell you what difference my tongue finds between philly and other brands, but its something disagreeable to it. lol
depending on how you long you drain it and season with the salt and vinegar or lemon juice, (IMHO) it's better than philly.
Hello, thank you for the recipe. I havent tried it yet but definetly want to give it a go. I am just wondering if the cream cheese is good for making cheesecake? Have you ever used it for making cheesecake?
Thank you for your help, Moritz
Yes! You can use it to make cheesecake 🙂
Hi not sure where to leave comments so…I wanted to write and thank you for giving us a real recipe for cream cheese. Many are writing and telling us that cream cheese is boiling milk and adding an acid and salt and running that through the food processor but I know that that recipe cannot and does not produce cream cheese. That recipe they provide is the same as is used to make paneer, the Indian curds, and queso fresco, the Mexican curds.
Thanks so much for making the difference and providing this recipe.
CJ! Thank you SO much for your thoughtful reply!! Yes, I've seen those with food processors and cringe! Thank you again for taking the time to leave a comment! 😀
Ok. So after following these instructions to the letter. Nothing happened other than a basic “splatter” curdle. Frustrated I added more lemon, I allowed it to come to boil, took it off the heat, returned it to the heat. Basically anything and r cope didn’t call for. Disappointed I ended up pouring the very milky and not so curdled mixture into a large stainless steel bowl and left it outdoors to shock in the midnight cold air. Many many hours later, I ventured out into the cold north Canadian winter, to see, to my shock and delight, that the mixture had now evolved into a more sour-cream consistency. Encouraged (although frost bitten) I brought it back inside and strained it through cheesecloth and colander and collapsed into bed. Waking up with little to no expectations I was astonished and overjoyed to see this wonderfully thick, smooth and heavenly creamy cream cheese! I swear there were a host of angles in the background singing Hallelujah! But this was pre-coffee, so maybe not? Filled with a renewed joy I ventured on to make several different flavour batches, including a herb and garlic Boursin (OMG kill me now good). The plain cream cheese definitely had a lemon undertones, but see my previous note on adding extra lemon in the hopes to make it curdle. So, morale of the story is, it appears you can punish this recipe as much as you want, but you still end up with the most delicious cream cheese EVER! The process was not fun, but the outcome is sublime. I will definitely tell be making this again and again. Thank you. Sincerely, 10lbs-Heavier-In-Canada. Ps: I yielded 4+lbs of cheese. ❤️
Best comment review ever! Now I am going to try it!! Thank you!
Soon to 10 lbs heavier.
I followed this recipe exactly and used normal store-bought milks. It never curdled, nor did the whey ever clear, but it thickened. I'd spent over $20 for this recipe, so I didn't want to just give up. I let it sit 12 hours in 2 glass containers, then drained it for another six.
Fed the drippings to my cats and dogs. Then scooped the stuff into a plastic container and again refrigerator for overnight.
BEST CREAM CHEESE EVER. Four pounds of it! It is thin, but no thickening bat poop additives, so that's a good thing.
I've slathered it onto my homemade bagels.
Phew! Evelyn I was so worried at first but so glad to hear that it ended up working out - that's GREAT!! So glad you enjoy it!!
I think it would be very helpful to give a time for how long this takes to make. I am not getting the curds like in the pictures or video&right now its been about an hour of me watching it simmer on medium..
Does her recipe make 1lb or 4lbs of cream cheese? She says 1lb but you say 4lbs. I’m curious!
IS MAKING CREAM CHEESE THE SAME AS MAKING RICOTTA CHEESE. I HAVE NEVER TRIED MAKING CREAM CHEESE BUT THIS IS HOW I MAKE MY RICOTTA. ALSO DO YOU PUREE IT TO GET IT SMOOTH AND CREAMY AFTER DRAINING THE CURDS?
I’ve made paneer and queso fresco for years and this is basically a very similar recipe, and is the same used to make ricotta. The difference is the addition of half and half and heavy cream—necessary to get the rich, luxurious texture and taste of cream cheese.
In making all these different recipes the instructions always tell us to bring the milk to a boil, and to do it slowly, the same process I use to make yogurt. So bring it to a boil…I’ve noticed that some people are saying to simmer milk but if you never bring it to a boil—at 180 Farenheit or 82Celsius—..
You do have to watch and stir your dairy products so that you don’t scald or burn your milk. Then let it boil for 2 mins. Then you stir in the lemon juice or other acids as per the recipe.I’m sure that this might have been why it didn’t curdle right away or thick enough.
Hi! Thank you for providing this recipe, I'm super excited to try it out. However I was wondering why I can't use farm fresh milk for this recipe? That's all I have, is there any way I could make my milk more like the store bought whole milk and still make this?
Hi Irene! I haven't used fresh farm milk for this recipe yet (I wish I had access to it!), so unfortunately I cannot say how this recipe will work with non-pastruized milk and cream.
Hi, NO it is not. But it is similar. Many on web are stating or providing recipes that say boiling milk and adding salt and an acid like lemon juice or white vinegar is cream cheese but it it is not. I also make ricotta and paneer, and queso Fresca, but cream cheese needs the rich fats that served from scratch.com provides in this recipe. I’ve been looking for days ecause I knew, intuitively, that those other recipes would not provide the richness and fat that simply using the boiled milk with an acid give us. I’m so happy that after days searching on the web I found this recipe.
What is half & half?
It's half whole milk and half light cream. Here's an example.
I have been gifted a couple gallons of half and half. Can i use that instead of the other milks?
Yes, you can make this with all half and half - it'll be so nice and rich and creamy!
I have not tried this recipe yet, but as I work on my girlfriends parents dairy farm I plan on trying it with farm fresh raw milk. I shall return to tell you how it turned out.
Hi! I actually wouldn't recommend making it with raw milk! This recipe is specifically for pasteurized milk. When using fresh raw milk, the recipe will adjust. I don't have any of those on my site, unfortunately, but here's one using raw milk! https://wholelifestylenutrition.com/recipes/condiments-sauces/how-to-make-organic-raw-cream-cheese/
It says it makes 1lb in your recipe. That’s a lot of milk, heavy cream and half / half it seems for such a small batch. Is that correct? I saw one of the others who made ur recipe said it makes 4lbs. What is the correct amount?
Followed recipe to the letter, but no curds ever formed.
I'm so sorry to hear this, Dom. This is usually a sign that the temps weren't right. Did you use a good thermometer - sometimes if the thermometer isn't reading accurately that can throw things off. Again, so sorry this happened. I'd be happy to continue to troubleshoot it with you, though!
yes i used a thermometer, the temps were right. i did not use UHP milk, i had never heard of this product until troubleshooting cream cheese.... i used 100% organic dairy products which makes the abject failure of this attempt that much more upsetting
I'm so sorry to hear this, Dom. I wish I had more answers but it could have been something to do with your milk - if it was heated too high in the pasteurization process, something you'd have no way of knowing. Here's another article that might provide some insight, too https://www.cheesemaking.com.au/problems-with-setting-milk/
Apparently, you will more commonly find that organic milk is ultra pasteurized. Super frustrating! I was planning a recipe once and I actually contacted the dairy myself to ask if their products were ultra pasteurized, they told me that it was a good thing that I checked since so many organic dairies do. Maybe contact the dairy and ask them for guidance for next time you want to try making this, I'm sure they would help you! : )
Dom, all organic milk products are UHT (Ultra High Temperature) process so that organic milk will last longer from cow to your mouth. Here is an article that explains it very well.
Not Straus organic. It's only pasteurized. I'm using it now to make recipe. I will update how it turns out
Am I missing something? The recipe mentions having a thermometer, but doesn't say what to do with it. I'm assuming the cream is meant to be heated to a specific temperature, but without knowing what that temperature is, it doesn't seem that having a thermometer would be of any help.
Great, thanks for the reply. I was a bit confused by this. But if I'm understanding correctly, the milk doesn't have to be heated to a specific temperature, just as long as it's at a low simmer and does not boil? Thanks for the recipe, I am going to try this very soon!
Yup! That's great - let me know how it turns out!
I followed the recipe exactly and the same thing happened to me that happened to everyone else. I actually doubled the recipe. It thickened and never curdled. Then I tried to add more lemon juice so not sure if I screwed it up all the way yet. i also added more salt. I was reading things from other blogs to try to troubleshoot.... I also noticed in the recipe it doesnt say to add the heavy cream and the half and half in with the milk at the same time..it just said " Bring milk and salt to a simmer" so that's what I did. Then I added the lemon juice then I was like when am I supposed to add the heavy cream and half/half???? So I dont know, but Im not sure if that is what screwed it up. This is not the best recipe and is super confusing.. Not happy at all. im now letting the pot sit on the stove for awhile to see if it will actually begin to curdle or not. If not, I wasted ALOT of money on this recipe.
Falen, so sorry this wasn't clear - I just updated the recipe to note the milk/creams and am sorry you're upset. It may still work though! Did you add the cream at any point? If not, then what will likely happen is as the milk sits it will start to curdle and then you can drain it. You'll have more of a ricotta like cheese, but it will still be tasty. If you added the cream after the lemon and brought it up to a simmer it might still work. If you want to share, I'd be curious to see if it still curdles for you.
Great instructions. Was worried after reading the reviews but it turned out very well.
Thank you for sharing the recipe 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing that, Priya!
Don't use Ultra Pasteurized (probably not UHT either) because it won't curdle right (denatured protein as mentioned above). It's pretty hard to find half and half or heavy cream that isn't ultra pasteurized, but some healthstores carry it, a few grocers also. Grocers prefer the ultra pasteurized because they don't have to throw it away as quickly. If it curdles right, when you stir it 5 minutes after adding the lemon, you should see the whey and curds separated(curds float and can give the illusion nothing is happening).
Thank you very much! This is really helpful! I shared it on my blog post about cheese making on TurtleDoveToughts