Light Cream Cheese / American Neufchatel Making Recipe

This is a generic recipe for making Light Cream Cheese. Light Cream Cheese like Cream Cheese making is simple to make yet but has a lower fat content as it is made from whole milk and not cream.

In USA & Canada Light Cream Cheese is also called Neufchâtel, a historical misnomer as Neufchâtel originated in Normandy France and while it is also a very soft, spreadable cheese, it is traditionally molded in a heart shape and uses Penicillum candidum, a common white mold used in Camembert and Brie type cheeses and thus has a rind, whereas light cream cheese does not.

Light Cream Cheese or in USA & Canada, Neufchâtel is used in many cooking recipes and desserts as well as on toast, bread, and bagels.

Light Cream Cheese is a primarily lactic acid coagulated, whey drained, soft, unpressed, rind less, fresh cheese.

  • Primarily lactic acid coagulated as it commonly uses little rennet and primarily uses high acidification of the milk to form a soft curd and expel whey resulting in the light cream cheese. Milk has lactic acid creating microorganisms already naturally in it and if left un-refrigerated will naturally curdle and acidify. However this normally takes several days as the amount of acid producing bacteria are low, and during this time the lactic acid producing microorganisms can be outcompeted by other in milk or airborne microorganisms resulting in off tastes. Thus in making of many cheeses including cream cheese, this acidification is accelerated through the addition of lactic acid creating bacteria commonly called a starter culture. This acceleration enables the lactic acid producing bacteria to outcompete the unwanted microorganisms avoiding off tastes. While acidification with a starter culture is faster than without, it still takes 1-2 days and thus historically for simplification is done at room temperature and thus starter cultures that work at room temperature are required. These are called Mesophilic Starter Cultures (vs the other major type of starter cultures called Thermophilic which work at high temperatures). There is a large range of Mesophilic lactic acid producing microorganisms. Many have been isolated and are now manufactured as “pure” products and are available at cheese making supply stores. Another common source used by many new to and experienced cheese makers is store-bought buttermilk as it already has several mesophilic cultures in it. But instead of using direct, buttermilk must first be ripened with time to make the bacteria count very high, to enable rapid acidification of the milk.
  • Drained as the acidic curd is placed in cheesecloth and hung to allow whey (water & some nutrients) to drain out. The whey is normally discarded as small volume or when fresh can be used in cooking or for garden fertilizer etc.
  • Soft meaning it is high water-moisture content as it has less whey (water and some nutrients) drained from the milk as is commonly done in making hard cheeses.
  • Unpressed as is commonly done to rennet coagulated cheeses like Gouda or Cheddar.
  • Rind less as it is a high water-moisture content cheese that is unaged and thus no time to form a dried out rind.
  • Fresh, meaning it is not aged and can start to be eaten immediately after making. However as it is high moisture content, it has a short shelf life (versus hard pressed cheeses) of up to ~4 weeks.

Ingredients – Metric

Makes ~0.55 kg of Light Cream Cheese:

  • 2 litres fresh whole cow’s milk.
  • 60 ml of homemade or your choice of manufactured Mesophilic Starter Culture, amount as per directions.
  • Rennet, your choice of type, normally roughly 1/4 package directions which are normally for rennet coagulated cheeses, diluted in ~125 ml cool water.
  • Optional: Flavourings.

Ingredients – American

Makes ~1.1 pounds of Light Cream Cheese/American Neufchâtel Cheese:

  • 2 US quarts fresh whole cow’s milk.
  • 2 ounces of homemade or your choice of manufactured Mesophilic Starter Culture, amount as per directions.
  • Rennet, your choice of type, normally roughly 1/4 package directions which are normally for rennet coagulated cheeses, diluted in ~1/2 cup cool water.
  • Optional: Flavorings.


  1. Pour milk into food grade container (ie saucepan or plastic container).
  2. Add mesophilic starter culture and thoroughly mix in.
  3. Add diluted rennet and thoroughly mix in.
  4. Cover and set aside to ripen for about 15-20 hours at ~21 °C/70 °F room temp, the full-time is needed to develop the correct flavour and to develop a soft weak curd.
  5. Ladle the curds into a colander lined with a fine cheese cloth, set aside for 5 minutes for excess whey to drain.
  6. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth together and hang above container for 8-12 hours to further ripen and drain whey.
  7. Discard drained whey and place the curds into a small bowl and mix to make homogeneous.
  8. Add salt, herbs, etc. to taste.
  9. Place the light cream cheese in a sealable food grade (ie Tupperware) container in fridge where it will firm up a little as cools.


  • Popular post seasonings-flavorings are:
    • Strawberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Peaches
    • Herbs and Garlic (Boursin Brand style)
    • Honey and Chopped Walnuts
    • Sun-dried Tomato
    • Salmon/Lox
    • Bacon Scallion
    • Olive Pimiento
    • Onion and Chives
    • Garden Veggie (using dry vegetable soup mix)
    • Jalapeño
    • Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Spice
    • Chocolate

Tricks & Traps

  • To get dryer cheese, while hanging, either i) half way, turn cheese upside/wet side down or ii) every ~2 hours, scrape de-whey’d drier cheese (filter cake) off of walls to allow moister curd’s whey better exit route to the cloth.
  • If using store bought buttermilk as starter culture, prepare it in advance.
  •  Start making light cream cheese in afternoon so that ripens in stockpot overnight, can hang next morning, turn or work cheese during daytime, after which it should be done in afternoon, and have spare extra time in evening in case need to hang longer to get drier cream cheese.
  • When finished, little whey appearing around cheese while stored in fridge before fully consumed is normal in non-manufactured store bought Light Cream Cheese.
  • Do not try to rush this natural process, it needs the time to develop the flavour. However, for higher ambient room temperatures such as ~30 °C/86 °F room temp, you will probably need to cut off a couple of hours, otherwise it will become over ripe.