Do you keep spreadable cheese in your refrigerator? If so, how often and for what purpose do you use it? Spreadable cheese isn’t exactly known as the most versatile of ingredients, and that can often hinder its role in the kitchen.
Admittedly, the appeal of spreadable cheese (at least the type of spreadable cheese we’ll be focusing on in this article, there are quite a few) lies mainly in its straightforward nature. You know what it is and what it’s for: smear it on top of some toast or crackers, and you’re good.
However, that straightforward approach, while great for time-saving purposes when you need a quick breakfast, lunch, or snack, can also become unnecessarily restrictive and cap your imagination when utilizing it in the kitchen. There’s more to spreadable cheese than just being a spread, and some ways might be somewhat surprising.
That said, let’s first establish what we mean when speaking about spreadable cheese. The term is, admittedly, rather vague and even somewhat finicky.
What is Spreadable Cheese?
Spreadable cheese is not one specific product but rather a term that can refer to three distinctly different products:
- Natural soft cheese varieties that can be spread with a knife or a spoon, like Ricotta, Mascarpone, Chevre (young goat cheese), and even stringy Stracciatella, are all, technically, varieties of spreadable cheese;
- Processed cheese products, ones that are often packaged and sold in plastic containers. They somewhat resemble cream cheese but have a softer, more liquid, and less moldable texture, slightly reminiscent of room-temperature butter. The Laughing Cow’s cheese triangles, Velveeta, and Cheez Whiz, are all examples of this type of spreadable cheese. Many processed cheese products are additionally flavored with other ingredients, most often savory (herbs, garlic, mushrooms, meats) but sometimes sweet (cream, berries, fruits) or designed to imitate the flavors of traditional cheese varieties (cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, swiss cheese, etc.).
- The term “cheese spread” is often folded into “spreadable cheese,” though it’s technically not the same. Cheese spread isn’t a separate product, but a dish that can be made from soft, spreadable cheese or hard cheese melted over heat. A good example would be Almogrote, a Canary Islands’ specialty made with melted hard cheese, peppers, and olive oil, or Tirokafteri, a Greek spread made with Feta cheese, yogurt, olive oil, and roasted peppers.
Term technicalities aside, nowadays, the term “spreadable cheese” is most often used to refer to highly processed cheese products, reminiscent but not identical to cream cheese. These cheese products often imitate flavors of classic cheese varieties, else are flavored with other ingredients. Not precisely as versatile and oft-used as cream cheese, but it can act as a substitute in specific recipes, especially when paired adequately with other elements.
That said, most commonly, the term “spreadable cheese” is used for its primary purpose - as a spread.
Is Spreadable Cheese the Same as Cream Cheese?
Yes, and no. Cream cheese is technically spreadable cheese, as it’s, well, spreadable. It hovers right between soft, spreadable cheese varieties and processed cheese spread (Cheez Whiz, Velveeta, etc.) products, but while visually closer to the second, in nature, it’s closer to the first.
The term spreadable cheese is rarely used when referencing cream cheese and only when there’s a need to describe its texture. When looking for “spreadable cheese products,” the seekers are more likely to use the term to describe processed cheese.
Cream cheese is described as cream cheese, not spreadable cheese.
How to Use Spreadable Cheese:
Spreadable cheese can be quite a versatile ingredient if utilized with a bit of fantasy. Depending on the flavorings, it can act as a completely independent ingredient or be paired with something else to make more complex dishes, either as a flavoring element or as a condiment added afterward.
Use it As a Toast Topping (Obviously)
Let’s get the apparent option out of the way: yes, the best way to use spreadable cheese is to, well, spread it on top of a toast, or a bagel, or some crackers and pair it with either some fruit for a sweet toast or your favorite cured meats for a savory one. Most spreadable cheese varieties, even flavored ones, pair well with other robust toppings, opening up a path to experimenting with unique flavor combinations. Sweeter varieties, flavored with fruit, for example, can be topped with other fruits, honey, the tender meats like prosciutto and nuts; while those flavored with truffles, bacon, or wine, would fair well paired with more robust meats like Bresaola or Chorizo, olives, peppery greens like arugula or cress, and nuts. Nuts, I’ve found, pair well with all cheese.
Make a Cheese Dip (or Just Use it as a Dip)
I believe that most spreadable cheese varieties are great as a dip as they are, especially those with softer consistency that can be easily scooped up. But if the texture seems too thick for you or you want to amplify the flavor, just swap regular cream cheese for a new spreadable cheese variety and follow your favorite recipe. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it even more.
Make a Sauce or Salsa
Another option is to thin it even further to make a sauce or salsa instead of a dip. Slowly heat heavy whipping cream (the higher the fat content, the better it’ll bind as a sauce) and carefully dissolve the spreadable cheese into it without bringing the mixture to a boil. It’s a speedy and simple alternative to dissolving shredded cheese into heavy cream, taking less time and effort for a result just as (if not more) creamy and versatile. This type of sauce fairs best as a pairing to robust and flavorful dishes, like steak, baked salmon, or roast chicken.
Add to a Pizza as a Topping
Ricotta cheese is perhaps the most common spreadable cheese variety used in this regard, but it’s not like you can experiment with others! I’ve encountered a cream cheese pizza made in a similar vein (a dollop added to each slice to bake from the top and soften inside) at more than one pizzeria in recent years. If you’ve got a cold leftover pizza or a frozen pizza you want to elevate, adding a dollop of your favorite spreadable cheese on top seems like an easy option. Especially with spreadable cheese that tastes like varieties already used as pizza toppings like Provolone or Gouda.
Add to a Pasta Sauce or Pasta Bake to Make it Creamier
I’m the type of person who likes pasta dishes extra cheesy. As in, I ascribe to the doctrine of “pasta exists to transport cheese to your mouth” of Mac n’ Cheese philosophy. I’ve found that adding even a couple of dollops of cream cheese or other similar products (recently, I’ve been partial to garlic and herbs Alouette cheese spread) adds creaminess and flavor depth (primarily due to extra tang) to the dish. If you don’t have a lot of time to cook dinner, then making a simple cream-based sauce with a few dollops of spreadable cheese and topping it off with bits of whatever cured meat you’ve got in the refrigerator is an easy way to solve the problem.
Add Extra Flavor to Quiches, Frittatas, Scrambles, and Other Egg Dishes
The great thing about the soft texture of spreadable cheese is that it can act like a condiment for complex dishes, even without being turned into a sauce or a dip first. And it acts as an excellent flavoring ingredient for egg-based dishes because eggs are naturally somewhat neutral-flavored themselves, pairing well with robust cheese and cured meats. Add a few dollops of spreadable cheese (the more robustly flavored, the better if you ask me) while whisking the eggs, and then decide what you want to do with it: a quiche, frittata, shakshuka, scramble, egg muffins, etc. Once the eggs are fried or baked, the cheese will melt, elevating both the texture and the flavor of the dish.
Make a Cheese Ball with more Pizzaz
Cheese ball spread is always a success at parties because it looks impressive, and most guests can depend on it tasting at least palatable. At its core, it’s just softened cream cheese mixed with sour cream and various flavoring ingredients. It’s then shaped into a ball and additionally covered with similar ingredients it’s been mixed with: shredded cheese, crispy bacon bits, herbs, chives or green onions, and nuts are some of the most popular options. With flavored spreadable cheese (like the ones from Di Bruno Bros), you can even skip additionally flavoring the mixture. But best combine it with cream cheese for a more solid and shapable texture.
Cream cheese is often used in baking, but why not try using other spreadable cheese? Creme de Brie, with its sweet and mellow yet distinct flavor that pairs so well with fruits and berries, might be just the option to explore. Usually, for a simple cream cheese cookie, it’s enough to mix cream cheese with butter and cake flour at a 1:1:2 ratio. I wouldn’t advise outright swapping cream cheese but instead using a mixture of cream cheese and spreadable cheese. Depending on the consistency of your chosen cheese, you may want to experiment further, but the flavor will undoubtedly be worth it.
Flavor Crackers or Scones
On the other hand, if you prefer savory treats - or want to explore your options with flavored spreadable cheese varieties with herbs, truffles, or wine - you may pivot towards crackers or scones. In this case, you can even start with the cookie ingredient ratio, just switch cake flour to all-purpose flour and maybe add a bit more of it. Perhaps it’s even better to start with this one because as long as it’s cheesy and crunchy, it’ll fair well, especially when topped with even more spreadable cheese.
Visit Yummy Bazaar’s Online Grocery Store for More:
Yummy Bazaar hosts a wide assortment of gourmet cheese at our online grocery store, produced by some of the world’s most renowned manufacturers. Be it status-protected authentic traditional European cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, Taleggio, Fontina, or Gorgonzola, uniquely flavored blended varieties like Wensleydale with fruits and berries, wine-infused Moliterno, or black truffle Cheddar or artisanal cheese varieties born at small-scale local creameries, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy.