I think cream cheese is a bit of an unsung kitchen hero. I always have a tub of it lurking in my fridge. You can use it in savoury dishes – spread on toast or or a bagel or as the base for building a wrap, of course, but also to thicken sauces and soups, or to enrich bread dough and pastry. You can use it in desserts – cheesecake is the obvious answer, but it’s also great in buttercream that benefits from a savoury edge (not just cream cheese icing but in peanut butter and caramel frostings too) and is a fantastic filling for all sorts of stuff, complemented particularly well by fruit.

Yes, you can buy lots of fancy varieties of cream cheese these days, spiked with herbs and garlic or rippled with chilli. But I like the plain and simple stuff: it’s versatile, cheap, and lasts for ages. And, really, there are few things I like more than a freshly toasted bagel covered liberally in cream cheese with a mound of smoked salmon.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of cream cheese or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which who had made product A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Cream Cheese

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Cream Cheese
100g
£
kcal
fat
carb
fibre
protein
salt
Sainsbury’s
0.45
258
25
2.8
0.5
5.4
0.55
Philadelphia
0.56
235
21.5
4.0
0.2
5.5
0.75
Tesco
0.44
285
27.4
4.0
1.6
4.7
0.5
Aldi
0.25
243
23
3.4
1.1
5.4
0.72
Waitrose
0.38
285
27.4
4.0
1.6
4.7
0.53

A – Philadelphia- 7/10

  • Looked smooth in comparison to some of the others. Tasted rich and creamy and mild, with a little welcome acidity but not too much. Nothing surprising but a good base all-rounder.

B – Aldi- 7/10

  • Immediately less smooth and more craggy than A, visually, and it came through on the taste, but it was still enjoyable. More of a savoury, cheese-y taste than the first sample. Not bad at all, but a very different thing to A.

C – Waitrose- 5/10

  • Smooth. Much firmer and chalkier than the first two samples. Less flavour than A or B. Dissolves away in your mouth. Fine but undistinguished.

D – Tesco- 3/10

  • Looks and tastes less smooth than the other samples. Quite flavourless and very obviously grainy in the mouth.

E – Sainsbury’s – 6/10

  • Creamy and smooth. Similar to sample A in that it was creamy rather than cheese-y. Pleasant enough but unremarkable.

Conclusions

I was surprised that there was a visual difference between the samples. Some looked obviously creamier, some were crumblier. This carried through on the taste: I wondered if I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them, but actually I could, easily.

There were two camps here: creamy and cheese-y. Philadelphia was the winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the creamy camp, although Sainsbury’s a close second. These mild samples would both be great for use in desserts particularly. Aldi, though, was the winner for the cheese-y side – this tasted far more like soft cheese than like cream. It has a lot of flavour, and would be great for savoury things like sauces and soups.

This will be the last in my Taste Test series for a little while, as my real job is sucking up a lot of my time. But I am planning the next round! So if you have anything you would like me to put to the test, please comment and leave your ideas below…