If you happened to stumble upon this article by accident, there is an excellent chance that you’re asking your monitor this question: “Wait, what is Neufchâtel cheese?“. That’s a good question.
You probably know what cream cheese is, and you probably have a block of it in your fridge right now. We know we do. But you must have noticed a different cheese next to the usual creme stuff you buy. We get it, you go with what’s familiar, and you know you like cream cheese.
But what if we told you there’s an alternative? Well, we’ll give you all this information no matter what, and you might as well give it a try. Let’s begin.
Neufchâtel VS Cream Cheese
Suppose they’re the same cheese but with different fat-percentages. Why not get whichever fat-percentage suits you and call it a day? You would have a point, but the army of French cheese lovers that are probably at your door right now have something to say about that. And we wouldn’t blame you!
Bought while fresh, the Neufchâtel can be used in pretty much all dishes, and in the same ways, you can use Cream Cheese. The differences are in the texture and the varieties that the Neufchâtel comes in.
If aged, the French cheese gets a bit harder and brings a mushroom aroma that can’t be found in the American counterpart.
If left to ripen, it will develop a beautiful soft bloomy rind that’s an added extra to the already tasty cheese.
The texture, even in the fresh version, is crumbly, something that Cream Cheese doesn’t have (though this is quite a subjective feature, some would prefer the smoothness of the Cream Cheese)
The taste isn’t that far apart, either. They are both beautiful creamy and milky kinds of cheese. The only difference taste-wise is the fat. Cream Cheese because of the well.. cream, has a somewhat richer taste, which explains why it’s viewed as the regular one in the States while the Neufchâtel holds the low-fat crown.
Whichever way you go, American or French, you’ll have a creamy and tasty cheese that spreads beautifully on a piece of bread and goes perfectly in any cheese-related baking recipes. You really can’t go wrong here.
It is believed that this French classic is one of the first made, well, in France! We can’t be sure when production started, but experts throw around the 6th century as a good guess. It is made from raw cow’s milk (though the export version uses pasteurized) and has an aging time of at least 8 to 10 weeks.
It’s a white cheese on the soft and fresh side of the cheese spectrum. But dabbles in more potent aromas and textures when aged (for the sake of this comparison, we’ll keep with the new kind). With even a simple search on the internet, you’ll find pictures of the beautiful heart-shaped cheese that the Neufchâtel traditionally comes in, but there are many shapes and sizes!
Some of those are bond, Coeur, care, and briquette. And if you don’t know French (like we don’t), that’s – cylinder, heart, square and good ol’ brick shape.
As we mentioned, the heart shape is the traditional form factor even though that tradition came about hundreds of years after the actual cheese was made.
The legend says that the farm girls shaped the cheeses for their lovers during the 100 Year War with the English. Their beloveds weren’t always French. So there were probably thousands of English Soldiers coming back from the War, head over heels for a French girl and with her cheese heart wrapped up in their bags. Makes your heart melt away.
Now what usually confuses people is that when at the market, they usually see Cream Cheese and Neufchâtel Cheese side by side.
And not just that, they are usually in an identical package apart from the name. Well, there’s a reason for that. See, back in 1872. a man named William Lawrence, a New York dairyman decided to make some Neufchâtel Cheese.
And he failed.
But what resulted is something we now call Cream Cheese! The mistake he made was that he added cream to the mix. This gives the American version a higher fat percentage, which is why Neufchâtel is usually sold as a low-fat alternative.
Ironic, considering that it wouldn’t exist without the original French version.
Lawrence created the company Empire Cheese, but since he had to send his product to Philadelphia to get it packaged, the cheese was forever branded as the “Philadelphia Cream Cheese”.
So there you have it. You got a little more cheese knowledge in you and you’re prepared for the next trip to the market. If you already have Cream Cheese regularly living in your fridge, we suggest that you give the Neufchâtel a try.
You never know, taste is a subjective thing, so don’t limit yourself to habits. Like we said already, you can’t go wrong with these two, but you have to try it to know. So go out there, get some cheese, and start munching!
Make sure to consider some of the cream cheese substitutes we covered in another article. We’re sure you will love them!