How to Make Cream Cheese

how to make cream cheese

Learning how to make cream cheese is one of those things that makes you feel like a homesteading rockstar…

But I have to warn you before you proceed, otherwise it just wouldn’t be fair:

Homemade cream cheese is one of those things that beckons you to eat it in large spoonfuls. You’ve been warned. 

Yeah, yeah… Smearing it on homemade bagels is nice too, but there’s just something about eating it plain…

Since I am currently milking our cow twice daily and have an abundance of cream (for the first time in a looong time), I decided it was time to try playing around with making my own cream cheese.

And, let me just say that it couldn’t be easier!

First, some clarifications…

Number 1: there seems to be about a million different methods if you want to learn how to make cream cheese… This is the method I prefer, and it’s pretty darn simple.

Number 2: Many, MANY “cream cheese” recipes are actually yogurt cheese or fromage blanc recipes. I’ve made a lot of yogurt cheese as well, and it’s great– but not the same as real cream cheese. The flavor and texture are notably different.

Number 3: I used my fresh, raw cream for this recipe. However, since you are adding a culture to it, you could use store-bought, pasteurized cream if you had to. Or even half & half would work. Just try to use the highest quality cream that you can find.

homemade cream cheese recipe

How to Make Cream Cheese

Make sure you are using a glass container to hold your cream. Gently stir in the starter culture.

Loosely cover (not airtight!) and set it on your counter top to culture for 8 to 12 hours. (It may take more or less time, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.)

You’ll know it’s done when it has set up and somewhat resembles yogurt. (It might not be a perfectly even consistency, but that’s ok.)

Dump the thickened cream into the cheesecloth and allow the whey to drip out for at least 12 hours (the longer it drips, the firmer your finished cheese will be).

(Instead of draining the cream at this stage, you could also turn it into cultured butter. Decisions… decisions…)

You might have to get a little creative with your drip set-up. I don’t have any knobs on my cabinet doors, so I tie the ends of my improvised cheesecloth around a wooden spoon and allow it to drip into a pitcher.

My not-so-fancy dripping set-up

Once it has reached the desired consistency, scrape it out of the cheesecloth and lightly salt it to taste. The salt is optional, but it will help it keep slightly longer. Store in an airtight container in your fridge– it will get firmer as it chills.

I usually get 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cream cheese out of 1 quart of cream. Yields will vary slightly.

Kitchen Notes:

  • I’ve seen several recipes that use cultured buttermilk instead of the mesophilic culture to make cream cheese. I haven’t personally tried it, but it would probably work just as well. Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of buttermilk to your quart of cream to try this method.
  • You can spice up your cream cheese with all sorts of different flavors! Mix in cinnamon, fruit preserves, or even some chives and onion powder for a unique treat.
  • To make yogurt cheese: Follow this exact same method, substituting the quart of cultured cream with a quart of yogurt (homemade yogurt or store bought) instead.
  • Here are a bunch of ways to use the leftover whey. Getting fresh whey is one of the perks of learning how to make cream cheese– don’t waste it!
  • If you *ahem* accidentally forget about your cream cheese and leave it culturing or dripping for longer than stated above, don’t sweat it. It won’t hurt it and the worse that will happen is that it will just be slightly tangier.

Let me just say that homemade cream cheese is infinitely better than the store bought stuff. You’ll want to scoop it out of the container and eat it plain… Or smear it on some chocolate zucchini bread… Or homemade bagels… Or make a pumpkin cheesecake… Or….

homemade cream cheese

How to Make Cream Cheese

Yield: 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cream cheese


  • • 1 quart cream or half & half
  • • 1 package (1/8 teaspoon) Mesophilic starter culture
  • • Fine cheesecloth
  • • Sea salt to taste (optional)


  1. Use a glass container to hold your cream and gently stir in the starter culture
  2. Loosely cover (not airtight!)
  3. Leave on countertop 8 to 12 hours to culture, time varies depending on temperature
  4. It's ready when it somewhat resembles yogurt
  5. Dump thickened cream into cheesecloth and allow whey to drip out at least 12 hours (the longer it drips, the firmer your cheese will be)
  6. Scrape out of cheesecloth and lightly salt to taste (salt is optional, but it lasts longer)
  7. Store in an airtight container in fridge


It gets firmer as it chills

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  1. says

    It must be cheesemaking time – I posted about hard cheese today! Your cream cheese recipe is very similar to mine, I just wanted to add a couple of points that might interest you – if I don’t have enough cream, I use milk instead or to top up the cream, I think this is technically cottage cheese, but it still tastes good with sweet chilli sauce. I also use a thermos of hot water to keep my culturing milk warm enough on a cold day (i.e. I put the jar of milk in the thermos). Sometimes it doesn’t go solid enough in 12 hrs, so I just leave it for 24 hrs. I love your draining solution, very clever!

    • Jill says

      Good idea about the thermos- although the mesophilic starter *should* be able to do it’s thing just at room temp. Or are you using thermophilic instead maybe?

    • Denyl says

      Um, I tried the recipe and because I don’t have access to fresh cream (I wish I did) I used 40% cream from the store with a 1/4 cup of buttermilk. It turned out to taste like butter and not cream cheese. I don’t know much about cheese making so if anyone could enlighten me I would be grateful. Even though it didn’t turn out like cream cheese I did add my homemade cocoa mix to part of it and it’s a great chocolate spread. Then the other parts I made into a cinnamon spread and then a garlic n onion spread. I will keep on tryin!

  2. says

    I do use mesophilic starter, but sometimes temperatures in my kitchen in winter when we are both at work are below the mesophilic ideal range (68-102F), so I like to give it a boost then, also the higher the temp the faster the microbes multiply (within the ideal range), so I like to keep it closer to the top of the range to speed up the process. I haven’t actually tried it without the thermos, so that might be an interesting experiment….

    • Jill says

      Ah- gotcha! might have to try that later this winter- my house gets pretty chilly sometimes, too!

  3. Linda says

    On the Cultures for Health website, Mesophilic Culture is listed along with Cream Cheese Starter. Do they produce they different results in making cream cheese or can you use them interchangeably? Thanks!

    • Jill says

      Hi Linda,
      Some cream cheese recipes call for the addition of rennet along with the starter culture. It appears that the Cream Cheese Starter is simply a packet that has the rennet and starter culture already combined. I haven’t found rennet to be necessary for my cream cheese, although it wouldn’t hurt anything to use it. However, I think the *slightly* cheaper route would be to just purchase the mesophilic culture by itself. Hope that helps! :)

      • Echo says

        I just found your recipe to make your own cream cheese and am super excited about it. However, I was wanting to split the recipe in half and was curious if that would indeed split the time in half????

  4. says

    Hi Jill, How long does your cream cheese usually keep for? I have done the yogurt cheese and enjoy the taste but it only seems to keep for a few days…

    • Jill says

      Hi Nicole,
      Unfortunately, I usually use it so quickly that I’m not 100% sure! But, I would think not much more than a week. Adding the salt might help with that a little, though.

  5. Lee Ann says

    I use cultured buttermilk instead of the meso culture- works great and you can keep a jar of buttermilk culture going- 2 tbls. of the old culture into a quart, leave on counter 10 hours or so then to the fridg! And if you get enough (without eating it!), the cream cheese freezes really well.

  6. Laura says

    Is it okay to leave the cream and then cheese (when the whey strains) out for all that time unrefridgerated?

  7. Catherine says

    Have you tried it with goat’s milk? I am trying to avoid dairy and goat ‘juice’ seems to pacify my needs for moo juice.

    • Jill says

      Hi Catherine,
      Yes, I have made this with goat’s milk. However, I don’t have a cream separator, so I have never tried it with actual goat “cream.” It will work just the same with the milk- it will just produce a slightly different texture and flavor than with the cream. I believe that when made with goat’s milk, you could technically consider it “chevre” cheese.

      • Chef Caleb says

        Jill, you are correct. Chevre is a soft, fresh goat cheese and it is actually my favorite. I have two questions. Can you post a recipe for chevre? And, if you use raw cream for the cream cheese do you still need to add the culture?

        • says

          I will definitely plan on posting a chevre recipe in the near future! And yes, I still add the cultures when I use raw cream– I find that it produces a more pleasant end result. :)

  8. says

    yea! I am excited about how easy this sounds. I am looking forward to when the people we get our raw jersey milk (and cream!) have enough to sell again – they took a break when the calves were born.

    We are still getting goats milk now though so maybe I will try it with that first.

  9. says

    Great tutorial! I’ve only made ricotta cheese at home, I might have to try cream cheese. You are so right about grocery costs increasing!

  10. Gennah says

    So I just now started a quart, yay! Then read the comments, boo! Did I just ruin my meso starter by putting it into refrigerator-temp cream? Is that too cold/should I have allowed the cream to warm to room temp first?

  11. Eric Roberts says

    Something that might be helpful in this process (possibly….) How about using a tofu press? All it is is a box with some holes on the side along the bottom with a top that has a lid that is smaller than the inside perimeter of the box. When i make tofu, I line the box with cheesecloth and pour the curdled soy milk and the press the “whey” out of it by putting some weight on the lid and letting it set for a few hours. Could you do the same for the cream cheese?

    • Jill says

      Hmmm– I have no experience with tofu, or tofu presses, but the concept sounds like it might work. I’m betting it would produce a firmer end product, too.

  12. Belinda Davis says

    I’m so very new to this. Have just begun getting raw goats milk from my Mom’s goats. How do I get the cream off?

  13. Ladyhawke says

    I think if you use whole milk it would be like neufatchel cheese which they sell in the stores as “low fat cream cheese”. I need to get some starter and try this, I get so into making butter with my cream that I do not think of things like this and even sour cream. Thanks for the tips.

  14. Renee says

    I’m so bummed, i tried this with my fresh raw cream yesterday and it failed miserably.

  15. Marsha Fulton says

    I think your blog and information is so helpful! I was disappointed to see that the cheese / yogurt starters include ingredients like maltodextrin :(. I will find a way to incorporate your amazing ideas without the starters, but wanted to thank you for your effort and your time to dedicate to this blog 😉

  16. Lori says

    I didn’t read thru all of the posts, so maybe someone else said this, but the same recipe with goat’s milk is Chevre (just be sure to use “pasteurized” not “ultra-pasteurized” (of course, fresh is best) and we make this all the time with plain old whole cow’s milk – yummy, and even cheaper!!!

  17. Paz says

    Is there a way to foster a “mother” and breed the starter or do you need to buy direct set each time?

    • says

      I believe there is a way to do a mother mesophilic culture– unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with that. Would be worth looking into, though!

  18. says

    You actually don’t need to add mesophilic starter to your cream, I don’t and I’ve been doing it for awhile.. just let your cream sit out for 8-12 hrs (turns it into awesome sour cream) and then drain that in cheesecloth for 12 hours and Voila!! Super easy and cheaper since you don’t have to buy the starter :)

    • says

      You know– I’ve tried letting my cream naturally sour, but I don’t care for the taste as much. However, maybe each batch of milk is a little different? It’s a great way to avoid buying starter, though!

  19. Jeff runs 4 Protein says

    Jill, very nice post and site you have here. The cream cheese recipe is great. Making Greek yogurt uses the same process except with milk rather than cream. I would advise to not make cheese or yogurt without the cultures. Using specific dairy cultures promote rapid growth of the beneficial bacteria rather than potential spoilage bacteria found in the air, tap water, and other locations around the kitchen. Different cultures can be used to generate a bit different taste as well. Cheers.

  20. John says

    I use either cultured buttermilk or plain Russian kefir to make my cream cheese… if you let it be very soft, mix it with salt pepper and chives it makes a great meal together with salt potatoes. If your culture has a hard time starting, preheat your oven to its lowest setting ~150-175 deg insert your bowel with the mix and let it sit in the oven for about 5 min, then turn off the oven and leave the mix sitting in it until its room temperature. By then you can make the decision if you want to just leave it there for the next 12+ hours or if you want to put it on your counter top to cure.

    • John says

      forgot to say.. I use those as the starter….1 quart of buttermilk (organic) or one bottle of plain Russian kefir (organic) plus one Gallon of organic whole milk.Sometimes I add a pint of heavy cream I get directly from our local Dairy. I only buy milk in glass containers….its so much healthier.
      I use the whey to cook or drink it on a hot summer day..its very refreshing.

  21. Liz says

    I was wondering what Yogurt cheese is? We make a sort of cheese where we basically let raw milk sit in a warm kitchen for about 2-3 days until we can see it start to firm up, then we strain it out and have some sort of tangy cheese and whey. We also have taken fresh cream and used a yogurt starter culture (thermophilic I think, because my husband sticks it in a cooler with hot water overnight) and we make cultured cream that tastes sort of like cream cheese, but we don’t have to separate it…then again our cream separator is very serious about it’s job and regular cream left in the fridge overnight will harden like butter. I am interested in making cream cheese. I usually just use cultured cream as a replacement, but I am curious to try what the “real stuff” would taste like. Thank you for this blog, I sincerely appreciate it.

    • says

      Yes, what you made is considered clabber cheese, and is very similar to yogurt cheese. I’m betting you’ll like this recipe– I love how smooth and mild it is, although it’s probably not too different than what you’ve done. That’s what I love about raw milk– SO many cool things you can do with it!

  22. Kelly says

    At what stage would you add the flavorings? When you add the salt?
    Thanks, can’t wait to try this!

    • says

      I wouldn’t add the flavorings and salt until the very end after the draining process. You can mix it in before you stick in the fridge, or pull out small portions and flavor small amounts at a time. Enjoy! :)

  23. Leah says

    Making this tonight! Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Thanks for the recipe. My DD has already claimed this batch of goat cream cheese for making fruit pizza.

    • Margaret says

      My mother used to make cheese using Junket. When you use the junket you have to heat it on the stove. We always used the cheese cloth in the colender which held it in place very easily. I want to give this a try and of course will save the whey for cooking with. Enjoyed you post, thanks for all the tips.

  24. says

    Thank you for the wonderful article! I am going to share with our facebook readers today! I hope to bring you some more traffic :)

  25. says

    Blessings on your day!
    I was going to try this tonight, but was wondering if a whole package of DS is okay, since it says it can set-up 1-4 gallons. I’m kind of new to this and am so glad to have stumbled on to your site!


    In Christ,

  26. Amanda says

    I love this, thank you. Question – can you reuse the culture or do you have to buy a new one every time? Seems to me it would cost more than the store stuff (which we won’t eat because we tend to stick to stuff we make and are on GAPS). Thanks for the help. :)

  27. Maria Hopkins says

    I make my own yogurt often using the crock-pot method, straining it to be greek yogurt; I found jelly bags work wonderfully for this purpose. Got them on Amazon (and they even come with a ring/stand) pretty inexpensively. Rinse them out and they are ready for the next round. I can see they would work well here too. Can’t wait to try this!

  28. says

    I am definitely going to try this out! But I wanted to ask if there is a reason that you use the mesophilic starter culture instead of the cream cheese starter (I see they sell both on the website)? Also, would this be considered “fermenting”? Thanks!

  29. Veronica Brunjes says

    Have not seen anyone post how much this comes to per 8 oz.. If you have to buy all the products I don’t think with the price of cream and the price of culture it would be less than 2.50.

  30. Wendy Cockerham says

    Great information!! I’m definitely going to try this. I have a couple questions – do you know if you can can your cream cheese onceit’s done? Also, I looked at your link on where to find the mesophilic culture and it says it has to be refrigerated or frozen. How would you keep this culture fresh if you are living off grid?? You may not know, but I figured it doesn’t hurt to ask. :) Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Wendy- I haven’t experimented much with storing culture off-grid. I’m guessing you could make a mother culture and keep propagating it- it’s more work that way, but requires no electricity. I don’t believe you can really can cream cheese– and if you did can this particular recipe, it would loose all of it’s beneficial raw properties. I’ve heard varying reports on the safety of canning dairy products. HOwever, if you hear of something different, let me know!

  31. Wendy Cockerham says

    I have canned butter that is made locally by some amish and have heard of canning cream cheese and was going to buy some to can but then I stumbled across your recipe on how to make it so I was curious if the purchased cream cheese (that might have some sort of preservatives) would be safe to can but homemade wouldn’t??? I have no idea as I’m new to all of this.

    I’ve also heard the varying reports on canning dairy products, but I made sure I did my butter using pressure canning vs. some people’s method of just melting the butter and then as the hot butter cools it seals your lid (which to me is not canning). The easiest solution for me would be to have my own cow or goat so I could make it whenever I want, but I don’t think my city will allow that (although I am checking with them).

    • says

      Wow– I’ve never thought of canning butter! I imagine you might be able to do cream cheese too, then– but I have no idea of the process- sorry!

    • Margaret says

      Check with your local extension service. They are very helpful and can give you tips on how to can butter or cream cheese safely. It usually takes a few days to get a response and they do the research if they have not had that question before. Would be interesting to know.

  32. Kathleen says

    I make a low fat version of this cream cheese using 2% milk, it is not as rich, but is so much better than the store bought and such a satisfying treat. I make my own meso culture from cultured buttermilk and freeze it (I start with fresh buttermilk about once a year). Thanks for the post – I love your idea for straining in a pitcher, makes the process much easier. I also enjoyed the comments, good info!

  33. Stephanie says

    After you make this once with the starter culture, can you just use a little bit of the raw cream cheese to start the next batch? Or do you have to use the mesophilic culture every time?

  34. OG (old goat) says

    awsome site with good old school info. I usually make cottage cheese from fresh whole milk. Two five gallon pails at a time. Naturally soured (it usually takes about three days at room temperature).

    The real pain was dealing with the whey, too many diapers to wash,too time consuming, not enough upper cupboard door pulls and too many drip catcher to wash.

    -let the milk sour right in the food grade pail (can be filled within two inches from the top)
    – keep the lid on but unsnapped (some gas is produced)
    -let sit for three days undisturbed (I have left it for a week with no negative results)
    -the cheese/ whey will be on the top half of the pail
    -with a large stainless serving spoon skim the cheese/whey off into your cooking pot
    -skim in one inch layers across the surface, when you are almost half ways down the pail you will reach the true whey/cheese separation. You may have to use a siv to get the last little bit skimmed.
    -I heat the cheese/whey on high heat to 110F,shutoff, temp will still rise to about 114F. During heating constantly stir to avoid bottom sorching.
    -leave undisturbed to start cooling and to allow the cheese to settle down (an hour?)
    -use your wine racking syphon tube to syphon the surface whey back into your bucket (be careful the whey temp could be hot enough to burn your wips) …….oops running out of typing room, if this helps email me for the rest of the steps to my no diaper process. OG

  35. Laurie says

    I am not familiar with Mesophilic starter culture and I’ve only made cheese once before so I am a newbie. I would love to make my own cream cheese. I make my own kefir and I was wondering if it could be used in place of the Mesophilic starter culture. Any idea? Thanks.

  36. robin says

    So a person could buy a quart of heavy cream and make butter and buttermilk from this then use the buttermilk to culture half and half?? If so, you would have butter, buttermilk, cream cheese,and whey. What do you do with whey?

    • says

      You could definitely make butter from the cream, but the buttermilk you would have left would be old-fashioned buttermilk–not the cultured kind. It would still be good for making pancakes or biscuits, but wouldn’t have the necessary bacteria to culture anything.

  37. says

    I just put a fresh milking of raw cow milk into a 2 qt jar and sit it on top the fridge for a couple days. Once it separates, I drain it in cheese cloth and mix in salt to taste. Ingredients: raw milk and a hint of sea salt, nothing more. No cultures needed.

  38. says

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (, a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

  39. Linnea says

    Someone taught me to make cream cheese by using plain yogurt and draining the whey. I made refrigerator mashed potatoes with it last evening. They tasted great! Today while heating them (and after the flavors came together), I think they taste really vinegary. Is there any way I can fix this? I think I used too much “cream cheese”. From now on, I will be using this recipe!