Cream cheese is a popular spread used for breakfasts, appetizers, sandwiches, bagels, and in certain dishes. Because it is so widely used, you may be concerned about whether or not it contains gluten.
Cream cheese is naturally gluten-free. The combination of milk, cream, and stabilizers do not contain any gluten. Because of how it is served, cream cheese offers a higher risk of cross contamination, so ensuring cleanliness is important.
We believe the answer to “is cream cheese gluten-free” is pretty straightforward, but it is important to understand potential issues. Keep reading to ensure your favorite brands are gluten-free as well as discover some dairy-free alternatives.
Cream Cheese Gluten-Free Ingredients
Cream cheese is a soft cheese, and it must meet certain FDA standards before distribution.
- Content containing milk fat of at least 33 percent
- Moisture content below 55 percent
- Required pasteurization of dairy ingredients
Most cream cheese is made of a combination of milk and cream. It can also contain salt, cheese whey, and certain stabilizers to ensure the cream cheese does not separate. When you purchase cream cheese from the store, these often show up as gums or carrageenan. Homemade recipes use lemon juice, which also gives cream cheese a tangy flavor.
None of the ingredients listed above contain gluten, and there is little to no risk of cross contamination during manufacturing. When dealing with gluten on its own it’s pretty safe to assume that there is no gluten (but checking the label never hurts).
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Where Gluten May Hide
The further you get from plain cream cheese, the more likely you are to run into hidden gluten.
The first point of concern is flavored cream cheese, but most of these formulas remain gluten-free. Scan the ingredient list to ensure that none of them contain gluten. The label may also inform you of potential cross contamination.
You’re more likely to run into issues when cream cheese is served alongside another item. Common culprits include:
- Pie crusts
- Graham cracker crusts (cheesecake)
These usually contain whole grains or processed ingredients that contain gluten.
Even if you have your own gluten-free alternative, there is a possibility for cross contamination. It is best to put security measures in place to prevent gluten-contaminated crumbs from ending up in your cream cheese.
- Having a dedicated cream cheese container for your gluten-free diet
- Cracking down on using a clean knife for the cream cheese
- Implementing a plop process for cream cheese (you plop it on your plate before spreading)
Most manufacturers are good about letting you know of potential gluten, but it’s best to proceed with caution.
Gluten-Free Alternatives to Dairy Based Cream Cheese
While cream cheese is naturally gluten-free, it’s obviously not dairy-free. When you look into dairy-free alternatives, you increase your chances of ending up with gluten in your cream cheese.
Alternatives that are highly unlikely to contain gluten include:
- Cashew based cream cheese
- Coconut based cream cheese
- Soy based cream cheese
- Almond based cream cheese
- Soft tofu
You can also make your own cream cheese spread to ensure it is both gluten- and dairy-free.
Gluten-Free Cream Cheese Brands
Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Kraft Heinz handles Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and the company does a great job of ensuring no gluten ingredients. They clearly label all sources of gluten on the label, but you can contact the company to verify.
Verified gluten-free variants include:
- Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Blueberry Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Cracked Pepper ; Olive Oil Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Dips Buffalo Style with Celery Cream Cheese Dip
- Philadelphia Strawberry Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia ⅓ Less Fat Chive ; Onion Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Chive ; Onion Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Dips Buffalo Style with Celery Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Brown Sugar ; Cinnamon Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Dips Caramelized Onion ; Herb Cream Cheese Spread ; Dip
- Philadelphia ⅓ Less Fat Cream Cheese
Lucerne’s cream cheese is gluten-free, so you don’t need to worry when adding it to your gluten-free diet.
ALDI loyalists will be happy to know that this brand contains no gluten in its cream cheese.
Crystal Farms clarifies that all of their cream cheese products are gluten-free.
- Crystal Farms Light Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Original Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Onion ; Chive Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Neufchatel Cheese ⅓ Less Fat
- Crystal Farms Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Strawberry Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Whipped Cream Cheese
- Crystal Farms Blueberry Cream Cheese
Organic Valley cream cheeses are gluten-free, but they may be produced in plants that process gluten or nuts.
Good ; Gather
Target’s Good ; Gather cream cheeses do not use any gluten containing ingredients. Their products are also free from artificial flavors and sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and synthetic colors.
Most of Walmart’s Great Value cream cheeses are gluten-free, including:
- Great Value Whipped Cream Cheese Spread
- Great Value Strawberry Whipped Cream Cheese Spread
- Great Value Cream Cheese Spread
- Great Value Mixed Berry Cream Cheese Spread
- Great Value Strawberry Cream Cheese Spread
- Great Value Fat Free Cream Cheese
- Great Value Cream Cheese
Is Spreadable Cream Cheese Gluten-Free?
There are no separate concerns for spreadable cream cheese and gluten.
The biggest concern here is that spreadable cream cheese is more likely to be packaged alongside gluten containing snacks, such as crackers or bread sticks.
Spreadable cream cheese is also the one that ends up with errant crumbs from double dipping, while bars of cream cheese remain for cooking and clean slices for serving.
Read More >> Is Butter Gluten-Free?
Main Gluten Concern with Cream Cheese
If you live in a home where others eat food containing gluten, watch out for cross contamination or implement measures to keep your cream cheese pure.
When buying snacks with cream cheese, verify that the entire platter is gluten-free. If not, assume that it is not and find a better alternative. Some snack packs seal the cream cheese off, but there is still a slight chance of cross-contamination.
Ordering cream cheese on your bagels or other food when you’re at a cafe or restaurant is trickier. Most places will have gluten-free accommodation in place, but you need to make a request or ensure this is standard practice.
You may need to request they open a new package to make sure there is no chance that someone double dipped in the spread.
Depending on how much you love cream cheese, it may be well worth the additional work to keep your cream cheese pure and gluten-free.