In addition to the difference between cream cheese and Neufchâtel, there is a difference between the American and French versions of Neufchâtel itself.
- Cream cheese: a soft, white, smooth-textured, unripened, spreadable cheese made of sweet milk and sometimes cream
- Neufchâtel: a soft, white, cheese similar to cream cheese, made from whole or partly skimmed milk in Neufchâtel, a town in North France
- Uses milk and cream.
- Is pasteurized.
- Is more like cream cheese than the French version.
- Does not have a rind.
- Typically comes in a block shape.
- Uses milk and no cream.
- Is raw.
- Has a rind.
- Typically comes in a heart shape.
Often found beside one another in the grocery store, cream cheese and Neufchâtel are both white, spreadable cheeses used as toppings, in dips, and with baked goods.
The flavors of our two food items are almost the same – Neufchâtel is slightly less rich, and a bit more grainy in texture.
The most significant contrast between cream cheese and Neufchâtel is the fat content: USDA standards maintain that cream cheese must consist of 33% milk fat and (American) Neufchâtel 20%. Also, Neufchâtel has a moderately higher moisture content.
When it comes to substituting one for the other, Taste of Home believes they are interchangeable for dips and spreads, but you might notice a slight difference in texture when used in cooked meals.
Interestingly, one could discover a potent smell in one over the other – some insist Neufchâtel smells like mushrooms, or at least the French version.
Although cream cheese and Neufchâtel are incredibly similar, there is no question as to which one came first; Neufchâtel is one of the oldest French cheeses, dating back to the 6th century.
Cream cheese made its debut in 1872 as an attempt to replicate the French cheese – this was the beginning of Philadelphia cream cheese, which was purchased by Kraft in 1928.