This recipe for homemade cream cheese looks extremely similar to making yogurt and then straining it.

In fact, the final step for culturing the milk goes:

After 12 to 18 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt (solid if tipped but still relatively soft). You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear liquid.

The 'main ingredient' in both cultures are again, just different varieties of Lactic Acid Bacteria (plus sugars and rennet for cream cheese)

Cream Cheese Starter Culture: Sucrose, maltodextrins, lactic bacteria (Lactococcus lactis subsp. Lactis, Lactococcus lactis supsp. cremoris), Rennet

Yogurt Starter Culture: Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus

Upon following the same procedure as given for creation of cream cheese, with yoghurt culture +/- Rennet, what exactly would be the difference in the two cheeses as compared to each other?

I ask instead of experimenting because I'm having a hard time getting my hands on some cream cheese starter culture, so I'm hoping to get a voice of experience on this subject.

Note: There's a related question asking about usability of 'yoghurt cheese in cheese cake', but I'm more interested in knowing what the differences in the resulting cheeses would be, rather than just substitutability.

  • 1
    Unfortunately many so-called "cream cheese" recipes are really just yogurt cheese or fromage blanc recipes. Cream cheese is made from cream (or at least half-and-half). What differentiates the two is the ratio of fat to protein. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 23:44
  • 1
    I have a book on cheese-making and yogurt (only make kefir and yogurt though), and one thing I notice is that both of those cream cheese bacterial strains are meant to be used at room temperature for longer fermentation, while the yogurt cultures are thermophilic, meaning they're most active around 110 degrees F and get done faster. With yogurt, I know that fermenting at a higher temperature is more likely to give you a grainy, or even pasty texture. I wonder if the room temp. strains are recommended for cream cheese to reduce the risk of a grainy texture?
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 17:08

2 Answers 2


Just as important as the bacterial culture is the use of rennet in cream cheese, which aids in the removal of liquid whey. When making cream cheese, the point is to drain much of the whey, resulting in a semi-solid texture. Rennet helps encourage the solids to curdle and squeeze out liquid. Yogurt doesn't necessarily include the draining step, though it can be done if you're looking for a thicker Greek-style yogurt. In this case, the acid produced during fermentation while making yogurt aids curdling and helps produce the final texture.

In fact, it's possible to take the draining process even further with yogurt, resulting in what's often called yogurt cheese or labneh. The final texture can vary a bit depending on how long it's drained, and whether you use weights to encourage the process.

In my experience labneh still never gets quite as solid as cream cheese, but it's pretty close when sufficiently weighted and drained. Labneh also retains yogurt's tangy flavor, which is mostly an effect of the bacterial culture. Though I haven't measured, I would expect that the pH of labneh is lower, so it's probably not always appropriate as a direct substitution for sensitive applications like baking. In other places, you could definitely use labneh instead of cream cheese. If you're having difficulty locating cream cheese cultures, this would be the easiest tack to take.

I haven't tried (or seen) both rennet and yogurt culture used together, but my suspicion is that it would take the curdling action a bit too far for the result to be smooth and spreadable.

So, tl;dr: the major difference is that yogurt culture is calibrated to produce a higher level of acid, resulting in a tangier flavor and reducing the need for rennet to curdle the solids. If you follow the same procedure, varying only the culture used, you'll have a reasonably similar end result.


I tried to make yoghurt, but got cream cheese.

Been making yoghurt for a long time, spoonful of previous yoghurt in a mug of pasteurized milk, left to stand overnight.

So this time I used raw milk, spoonful of previous yoghurt in a mug of raw milk, left to stand overnight.

In the morning, it looked wrong, instead of a mug of yoghurt (teaspoon of whey or less on top), result was much more solid (1/2" of whey on top), didn't taste like yogurt, tasted like cheese. Instead of yoghurt paste, it was very small solid curds.

Strained it through a muslin cloth and added un-iodised salt, = cream cheese. Guess if I had wanted yoghurt, should have pasteurized the raw milk first.

PS. I'm in the tropics, nighttime temperature 20-30c

  • Raw milk contains loads of bacteria that would compete with your yoghurt culture, so as you said, you should have pasteurized first to get your yoghurt the way you're used to.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 17:01

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