Is Cream Cheese Keto-Friendly?

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Dairy and dairy products are arguably the most confusing food group on keto. On one hand, you have very keto-friendly products and on the other, you have very non-keto-friendly ones. 

This is mostly owing to the fact that the ways in which dairy is processed end up isolating one macronutrient. 
 
For example, the process of making butter isolates fat, making it good for keto. On the other hand, drying when making milk powder isolates carbs and protein, resulting in a high-carb product. 

Amidst all this confusion, it’s important to check every time if a dairy product is keto-approved. In this article, we answer the question, is cream cheese ok to eat on keto?

 

What is cream cheese? 

Cream cheese is an unaged soft cheese made from milk and cream. To make it, lactic acid bacteria are added to a milk and cream mixture, allowing it to spoil or curdle. 

The mixture is heated to kill the bacteria and then stabilized with gum or another stabilizer. 

This product originated in North America, but other parts of the world have different versions of their own. In France, it is known as Neufchatel and it is made from only milk instead of milk and cream. Mascarpone is the Italian version. 

All these cheeses and more are available across the world. In this article, we will only discuss the American kind. 

Is cream cheese considered a fat?

Yes and no. Yes, because cheese in general is regarded as a fat. No, because cream cheese is not like ordinary cheese. Soft cheeses in general are higher in carbs because they are not aged. 


Cream cheese nutrition facts 

Being a dairy product, cream cheese is high in fat and contains moderate amounts of protein. It is low in carbs, especially if compared to other dairy products like yogurt.

Serving size: 14.5 g. Equal to about 1 US tablespoon

  • Calories: 50 kcal
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Net carbs: 0.8 g
  • Total carbs: 0.8 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.9 g
  • Calcium: 14.1 mg
  • Cholesterol: 14.6 mg 

This nutrition information only applies to plain generic cream cheese. Certain brands may have more carbs in them. Always read the nutrition label before using any unfamiliar brand. 

How many carbs are in cream cheese?

From this nutrition information, we see that 1 tablespoon contains less than 1 g of net carbs. It is very rich in fat, with over 90% of the calories coming from fat. 

 

JUMPSTART YOUR KETO GOALS


Is cream cheese good for keto? 

Yes. Cream cheese is very keto-friendly. 

It is low in carbs and high in fat, making it the ideal ketogenic food. In addition to being low-carb and high-fat, it also provides other nutrients, particularly calcium and protein. 

While the protein content is modest, it is still better than nothing. 

 

How much cream cheese can you eat on keto? 

One serving of cream cheese is 2 tablespoons. 2 tablespoons have 1.6 g of net carbs, way below anyone's carb limit.

Even if you were to eat only 20 g of net carbs per day, a 2-tablespoon serving will still fit in your macros. 

For those with higher carb limits, for example, 50 g, you can afford to eat up to 3 servings or 6 tablespoons. However, this is unlikely since most recipes call for just a single serving. 

For those seeking to lose weight, it is important to watch the number of calories on keto. With each tablespoon having 50 calories, it may be best to keep it under two servings (4 tbsp). 

Even if you need the extra calories, opt for alternative sources of fat. Sources like avocado and nuts offer a wider variety of healthy fats like MUFAs and PUFAs. 

 

What kind of cream cheese can you eat on keto? 

Even if most of us reach for the original plain kind of cream cheese, there is an abundance of types. Most types have been altered to match them to a specific purpose, for example, sweet flavors for baking. 

  • Original. This is the most keto-friendly, with very few carbs and high amounts of fat. It is also the most versatile because it goes with almost everything. 
  • Flavored. There are so many flavors available on the market, but we can group them into two.
    • Sweet. As it is usually sweetened with sugar, this kind is not keto-friendly. Sweet flavors include strawberry, blueberry, honey walnut, and vanilla.
    • Savory. This is usually keto-friendly because it is not sweetened, so it can be used with salty dishes. Savory flavors include onion and chive. 
  • Whipped. If not whipped with sugar, whipped is just as keto-friendly as the original.
  • Low-fat. This type is a good option if you aim to consume less calories. Consider adding a plant-based fat like avocado or walnuts.

 

BUILD YOUR KETO DIET PLAN

 

What can you eat with cream cheese on keto? 

The number of ways you can use this food is nearly infinite! Its tart and sharp taste make an excellent addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Some of the ways you can use it on keto include:

  • As a dip for snacks like keto chips
  • Spread for sandwiches
  • Part of a dressing for a salad
  • Stirred into soup for extra creaminess
  • Making keto-friendly cheesecake
  • Substitute for yogurt in recipes
  • In keto mashed potatoes

 

Keto-friendly cream cheese alternatives 

If soft cheese isn't for you or you are just looking for some variety in your diet, do not fret. There are a number of keto-friendly cream cheese replacements you can use. 

For spreads:

  • Ricotta
  • Mascarpone
  • Neufchatel 
  • Cashew cheese

For dressings:

In desserts:

  • Butter
  • Plain Greek Yogurt and sour cream 

 

FAQs about eating cream cheese on keto

If you are still conflicted, keep reading as we answer some of the commonly asked questions on the topic.
 

Ingredients 

  • 850 g plain Greek yogurt
  • 425 g sour cream
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions 

  1. Line a colander with a four-layered cheesecloth 
  2. In a bowl, mix the sour cream with yogurt and pour the mixture into the cheesecloth.
  3. Cover the mixture with the cloth.
  4. Transfer to the fridge and let sit for 4 hours. 
  5. When the mixture begins to firm, place a plate on top and load it with something heavy 
  6. Let the whey drain for up to 14 hours. The time depends on your desired level of firmness. The longer the draining time, the lower your cheese will be in carbs.
  7. When the firmness is to your liking, enjoy your cheese.
  8. Store in the fridge till the expiry date of the products you used. 

This is a key ingredient in dishes such as:

  • fat bombs
  • frosting
  • veggie dip with dill
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • spinach artichoke dip

Cream cheese is kind of in-between when it comes to the quality of fat. It is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to an increased risk of certain diseases. So it should be eaten in moderation.

There are better sources of fat like avocado, nuts, and seeds, which have more variety in the type of fat they contain. 

Sweet flavors like strawberry, blueberry, and pineapple are not keto-friendly, but savory flavors like onion can be. Check the nutrition label.

Yes, if it is not whipped with sugar, this product can remain low in carbs. 

Yes, original Philadelphia cream cheese is very keto-friendly with only 2 g of net carbs per 2-tablespoon serving.