Leftover cream cheese is an obvious candidate for schmearing on your morning bagel, but if you’re all out of tubular carbs — or are just looking for something different — there are lots of other delicious ways to use up a partial brick of cream cheese. Here are 25 of our favorite things to do with leftover cream cheese:
1. Spread It on a Cracker with Jam or Jelly
This is a classic snack option, and gives you lots of room to experiment. Try it on buttery Ritz crackers with our Red Pepper Jam recipe, or with sweet blackberry preserves on peppery Triscuits.
2. Stir Some into Polenta
Our Italian-Style Beef Ragu with Cheesy Polenta calls for ¼ cup of cream cheese (which equates to ¼ brick), but even stirring in just a couple spoonfuls can help enrich a side dish of polenta, grits, or even rice (as in these vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers).
3. Stir Some into Mac and Cheese
By the same token, a bit of cream cheese makes a bechamel base for mac and cheese that much more rich and delicious. This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe calls for half a block (and happens to be keto), but try it in your favorite recipe too.
4. Make It into Dip
Mix whatever amount of cream cheese you have left with an equal amount of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or mayo (or some combination thereof)—or just thin it out with a little milk or heavy cream—and mix in whatever else sounds good. Fresh herbs and scallions are always a sure bet. Caramelized onions, chopped roasted peppers, or olives also work. Basically, use any full-batch dip recipe for flavor inspiration. These make great sandwich spreads too.
Or, you can make a small-batch sweet cinnamon fruit dip for jazzing up berries and sliced apple and pears.
5. Make Pimento Cheese
The classic Southern shredded cheese spread doesn’t always include cream cheese, but our Pimento Cheese recipe incorporates half a brick; if you have a little less, you won’t notice the difference, but you can always add a bit more mayo if it seems too dry.
6. Stir It into Scrambled Eggs
A couple ounces of cream cheese can take frittatas and omelets to the next level too, but who can pass up a great scramble, especially when it’s mixed with fresh herbs or wrapped in prosciutto?
7. Use It to Stuff French Toast
Stuffing some cream cheese into custardy, crisp-fried bread works both for standard french toast and for french toast roll-ups. You’ll never want to eat either one without the extra layer of gooey goodness again.
8. Make a Mini Batch of Cream Cheese Frosting
You can scale down any cream cheese frosting recipe to work with an odd amount of cream cheese (this one starts with just half a brick), but our Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting recipe makes it even easier—just whisk the cream cheese (or beat with a fork) until light and fluffy and sweeten with powdered sugar (which also helps stiffen the icing) to taste; a dash of vanilla makes it even better. Eat it on anything from a slice of toasted banana bread to an English muffin.
9. Swirl It into Brownies (or Bake It into Bread)
Our Cream Cheese Swirl Brownie recipe calls for a full brick of cream cheese, but even a little bit swirled on top makes them special—and more importantly, gives you a great excuse to make brownies in the first place. In the same vein, it’s great for stuffed banana bread; half a block is all you need!
10. Use It to Fill a Danish
The idea here is to make another small batch to match your partial block of cream cheese; using store bought puff pastry, cut out just a few squares and fill them with sweetened cream cheese before baking per this Danish recipe.
11. Use It to Make Savory Wontons (or Crab Rangoon)
You only need about a teaspoon of cream cheese per wonton wrapper for crab rangoon (or our New England Clam Chowder Bites, for that matter), and you can fry off just a few for a snack. Similarly, you can stuff cream cheese—doctored with sweet or savory flavors—into crescent roll dough and bake them.
12. Use It to Stuff Chicken Breasts
Any kind of cheese is dynamite in stuffed chicken breasts; cream cheese is no exception. Mash some garlic and herbs into it, maybe some fresh citrus zest, and fill ‘em up before pan searing or roasting.
13. Make a CC&J
That’s cream cheese and jam (or jelly). A toasty Grilled Jam and Cheese Sandwich is a great alternative to the usual PBJ but just as easy and comforting, especially when it’s been heated up (but it tastes good cold too).
14. Make Jalapeño Poppers
It’s easy to make just a handful of jalapeño poppers at a time, and broiling them instead of frying makes them a totally doable snack any time the craving hits.
15. Make Cream Cheese Cookies
Our Cream Cheese Pinwheel Cookie recipe only asks for three ounces of cream cheese, but makes 32 cookies (per the comments, you may want to cut back on the flour so these are easier to pipe; letting the dough warm a bit beforehand should also help).
16. Make Mini Cheeseballs
Just mix cream cheese with some shredded cheddar (or whatever else you have), herbs, hot sauce, crumbled bacon, etc. and roll into bite-size balls for a snack. Impale them on pretzel rods for extra flair.
17. Make No-Bake Cheesecake for One
This No-Bake Cheesecake for One recipe may be the best use of 2 ounces of cream cheese ever devised (it’ll also use up a little leftover heavy cream if you have some of that).
18. Mix It into Tomato Sauce (or Soup)
Just as a bit of heavy cream can smooth out a tomato sauce and give it a bit more body, so can a chunk of cream cheese. Try it in your next pot of pasta alla vodka, or even in tomato soup. (Chowhound monavano likes to use it in asparagus soup too.)
19. Stir It into Oatmeal
A spoonful or two of cream cheese stirred into your morning oatmeal makes for a luscious bowl; add cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla and it’s sort of like a healthier cinnamon roll you can eat with a spoon…
20. Infuse It with Booze and Pair with Fruit
Beat your cream cheese with a splash of Tuaca or another liqueur (or liquor), then use it to top fresh fruit—or invert the idea and use a bit of whipped, lightly sweetened cream cheese to layer under drunken prunes, bruleed bananas, poached pears, or macerated strawberries for an easy dessert. Layer them in a glass with crushed cookies or graham crackers for a fancier trifle that’s no more difficult to make.
21. Blend It into Three-Ingredient Ice Cream
Three-ingredient recipes are amazing—if they also happen to use up some food scraps, all the better. This easy no-churn Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe blends a tablespoon of cream cheese with two frozen bananas and a cup of strawberries for a fantastic, fruity treat.
22. Mix It into Mashed Potatoes
Cream cheese mashed potatoes are just as rich and delicious as you’d imagine; this recipe calls for a whole brick but makes 10 servings total, so you’ll need less cream cheese for a smaller batch—but even stirring the otherwise sad stubby end of a brick in will still prove a worthy secret ingredient for luscious spuds.
23. Use It to Stuff Meatballs
If you can stuff meatballs with cheddar cheese (and boy can you), you can stuff meatballs with cream cheese. These Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Meatballs only require four ounces for 20 servings, and it’s easy to reduce the ingredient amounts by half (or freeze half for another dinner).
24. Use It in Place of Whipped Cream or Ice Cream
Not quite cream cheese frosting, but another sweet topper for fruit desserts: Try swapping cream cheese in for the mascarpone called for in our Grilled Nectarine Crumble recipe. The cheese is simply mixed with sugar and lemon zest, and when placed on a warm dessert, it melts into a beautiful sort of sauce. These are easy to make for just one or two, and you can broil them if you prefer.
25. Put It in Pie Crust
Adding cream cheese to pie crust helps make it easier to work with and more tender. This Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust recipe calls for six ounces (or most of a brick of cream cheese), so it might be the thing that leaves you with leftovers, but either way, it’s delicious.
26. Make It into a Glaze
For the most decadent pancake topper you’ve ever tried, mix half a brick of cream cheese with maple syrup, cinnamon, and a little buttermilk, then pour it over a breakfast stack. It’s especially good on Carrot Cake Pancakesfor obvious reasons, but even plain pancakes or waffles will benefit greatly. And it’s easy to stir together a smaller batch.
27. Use It in Pancakes
While the above glaze is in no way keto, this low-carb Cream Cheese Pancake recipe is. But stirring some cream cheese into regular pancake batter makes it even fluffier.
28. Use It to Top Toast
Perhaps the most like a bagel schmear, and yet so much better. Let your cream cheese come to room temp, then blend it with a touch of booze or vanilla or almond extract, slather it on freshly toasted bread, and top with ripe, sliced fruit and a drizzle of honey. (This particular recipe calls for mascarpone, but again, you can swap in cream cheese and scale down as desired).