Condiments · Vegetarian

Homemade cream cheese subsitute without starter culture

I am often asked to share the recipe for ‘HOME MADE CREAM CHEESE’. Cream cheese is readily available for me. But the same can be pricey and inaccessible for some folks. It’s mostly readers from India who find it hard to lay their hands on cream cheese. So here’s the recipe I experimented just for the heck of it. This one has a slight tang with a creamy texture.

I’ve come across many online recipes that use just whole milk  to make cream cheese. I would rightly call it ricotta cheese which has a grainy texture. CREAM CHEESE needs cream and culture and/or rennet. This recipe requires no starter cultures or unpronounceable ingredients. It takes about 5 days! But you can check the consistency mid way and stop the process even on the 3 rd day.

I did not take step-by-step pictures as I did it for fun. This picture was shared by Anjali Patwardhan who used this recipe to make Cream Cheese at home.

Pic Courtesy - Anjali Patwardhan
Home made cream cheese substitute. Pic Courtesy – Anjali Patwardhan

Makes about two cups.


  • 2 cups pasteurized half and half (Butter fat 18% – 20%) If you’re in India, you can use Amul fresh cream (Butter fat 25%) If possible, do not use ultra pasteurized cream as there are no organisms left to grow a culture. * If you do not have Amul fresh cream, use full fat milk that’s simmered for about 15 mins on stove top. This gets rid of a lot of moisture in make the milk thick.
  • 1/2 cup pasteurized heavy whipping cream (Butter fat 36%). Regular malai from your grocery store or Milky mist medium fat fresh cream (Butter fat 35% approximately ) works fine. If possible, do not use ultra pasteurized cream as there are no organisms left to grow a culture. * If you do not have milky mist fresh cream, feel free to use Amul fresh cream. But it will result in a less creamy outcome.
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk. Plain and thick Indian buttermilk (Chaas/More) or curd/dahi works. Slightly whipped.
  • Pinch of salt to taste. Do not omit.

Day 1: Heat both creams to 32° C/ 90° F. Do not boil. If you do not have a thermometer to check the temperature, dip your finger into the warm milk. If you can hold the finger for about 10 seconds, then you’re good to go. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk or curd. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, then wrap a few kitchen towels around the bowl and place it in a warm area. In summer, just one layer of towel is sufficient. In winter, pre heat the oven at the lowest heat setting. Switch on the oven light and leave the bowl inside. Let it sit for twenty-four hours. After 24 hours, the cream mixture forms a firm curd. It should not be wobbly when the bowl is tilted. If the mixture still has some movement of liquid, culture needs more time to develop. Let it sit for another 6-12 hours. It took a day for me to set the curd. Curd will have a slight sour smell.

Day 2: Pour mixture into a colander lined with wet cheese cloth or any cotton cloth over a bowl. Drain for 15 minutes. Fold the cheese cloth over the cheese. Drain the whey and place colander back over the bowl. Cover it with cling wrap and place it in the refrigerator for another 12-14 hours. Do not keep anything strong smelling next to the bowl.

Day 3 and 4: Remove curd from the refrigerator and pour it into a mixing bowl. The cream cheese should be firmer now. Add in salt to taste. Line your colander with fresh cheese cloth. Pour curd back into the colander. Cover colander with a cling wrap and place it back over the bowl. Place cheese back in the refrigerator and let it sit for 36-48 hours, depending on the consistency you desire.

Day 5: Place the finished cream cheese in a container and keep it refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Source –

BAKED MINI CHEESE CAKES by Saranya Velu, Coimbatore, India. She made these baked mini cheese cakes, using my cream cheese substitute recipe.

saranya's cheesecake

CREAM CHEESE POUND CAKE by Alby Antony, Bangalore, India. She baked this cream cheese pound cake using my cream cheese substitute recipe.

Alby's cream cheese pound cake


25 thoughts on “Homemade cream cheese subsitute without starter culture

    1. Please read the recipe again. You can use Amul cream in place of half and half. If that’s not available, just use full fat milk.

  1. hello, i am not sure if this is a cream cheese or sour cream because i use this method to make sour cream, can you use this cream cheese in baked cream cheese cake? please reply because now i am confused.

    1. Yes this is similar to cream cheese, but definitely not a tub of philadelphia cream cheese which has whey protein, carob gum and cheese culture. This is definitely a recipe for someone who doesn’t have access to cream cheese or doesn’t want to pay a whopping price for a small tub. This is just a substitute.
      Saying this, I’m not sure why you need 5 days to make Sour Cream/ Creme Fraiche? This recipe gives cream cheese similar to a store bought one. Many readers have tried it for cheese cake and got good results. I haven’t personally baked a cheese cake with this product as it’s easy for me to get philly cheese.

  2. hello, was searching for home made cream cheese recipe , since we can’t get cream cheese here in Bangalore, and I badly wanted to make cheese cake so was searching for home made cream cheese recipe and i came across your recipe I definitely will try this one.I have tried making cream cheese with just milk not using cream it was ok I dint like the taste I was getting curdish taste . will definitely try your recipe and let you . will add you to my blog roll to 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by Bharani. Cheese made with just milk is called Ricotta. Even this recipe is not the perfect cream cheese, just a good substitute.Good luck!

  3. This is awesome, I just bought a 200g packet of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for Rs 500! And then came home and made some ‘homemade’ cream cheese substitutes too. Trying out hung curd, paneer, hung curd and cream, and mascarpone. Let’s see how those work, if it doesn’t I’m definitely trying out your recipe! Cheers from Ahmedabad 🙂

  4. Cheryl, When you save regular malai, do you mean the malai that I strain from milk and use to churn butter?

  5. Thanks Cheryl for this recipe. I got a good 500g output from 1 Litre milk and 2 packets of Milky Mist cream. Good flavour and texture. I honestly did not expect so much output. If I freeze it I might lose the texture right? I want to use it in frosting for a red velvet cake.

    1. Uma,

      I’m glad to know that this recipe worked for you. I wouldn’t suggest freezing as the texture becomes grainy. It will be okay for a cheese cake but not for frosting as it’ll have a grainy mouth feel.


  6. This is an oversimplified method..alright as the first step in cheese making. Using traditional Dahi or curd as the acidifier leaves a tart tasting cheese also called Labneh. Same consistency but the taste is nowhere close to Philadelphia. What is needed for real tasty cream cheese is bacteria that imparts a sweeter taste to the curd. I am in the process of refining my homemade cream cheese and am on the look out for the right culture.. Once I obtain it.. Will share the source!

    1. Yes it is an oversimplified method to make a cream cheese SUBSTITUTE. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, this recipe and method will not replace a tub of Philly. This recipe certainly has helped home bakers and baking enthusiasts residing in remote places or do not wanna shell out big bucks for a tub of philly. People have made frostings and cheesecakes with this. So I’ll not change a thing.

      Here, curd /buttermilk is not just an acidifier but the culture too though the recipe does not call for store bought culture. If I wanted to just curdle the milk solids, acidifying agents like citrus juice or vinegar would do the job. Labneh/ Lebanese soft cheese is not made with cream but with cow’s milk yogurt and goat’s milk. So we’re talking about two different things! Dahi/ desi curd culture has Lactobacillus while cream cheese culture has Lactococcus. Both are bacteria. For a tasty cream cheese, bacteria alone doesn’t do the job. It needs other agents like vegetable gums and whey protein concentrate to give the right texture and mouth feel. Hope this helps!

      Good luck with the cheese culture hunt.

  7. Thanks a lot for the recipe. Along with this recipe if we add little of amul cream cheese will we get the authentic flavour.

  8. Hi enjoyed your style of explaining.j hv not tried anything but surely will try soon.thank you to banta hai

I truly appreciate your feedback. Drop me a word.

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