Introduction: How to Make Cream Cheese

Picture of How to Make Cream Cheese

Making cream cheese is much easier than you think!

This is an adaptation of the cream cheese recipe from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. Using this method, you get wonderful cream cheese and whey, which can be used to make sauerkraut, ginger ale, or many other lacto-fermented foods.

It couldn't be easier: Put plain yogurt in a dish towel or cheese cloth and let the whey drip out overnight. I tied my dish towel together with rubber bands, and suspended it from a cabinet knob over a pitcher. Once the cream cheese and whey are separated, scrape the cream cheese out of the cloth with a spatula, and salt it to to taste. Refrigerated whey will last for months. In the images, I used goat milk yogurt and red Alaea Hawaiian sea salt, which makes the cream cheese slightly pink. Cow's milk and plain salt will both work just fine.

Homemade cream cheese is one of my favorite things to bring to brunches or dinner parties. Everyone is so amazed that I make my own cream cheese, and the flavor is much stronger and more "real" than processed cream cheese; Sally Fallon writes, "The cream cheese is far superior to the commercial variety, which is produced by putting milk under high pressure and not by the beneficial action of lactic-acid-producing bacteria."


sdave121 (author)2017-04-24

This isnt making cream cheese. When you strain the whey from yogurt you have greek yogurt not cream cheese.

tami.east (author)sdave1212017-05-16

Depends on how long you hang it. Shorter time is a greek yogurt. Let more of the whey out it gets even thicker and is cream cheese.

ReinieD (author)2015-12-05

Hi, I'm new here and our teacher assigned us to do this activity but I was wondering why you need to tie it up . (?)

marimini (author)2015-04-12

I have used cloth bandages. I didn't have any other cloth that would work. And then I remembered we had a bunch of bandages still in the box. Layered them in the strainer, worked great.

theegghead (author)2015-03-29


Newell_Jalynn (author)2014-01-05

why us there a bug on ur window??

dwamikayla (author)2012-12-03

I've done this with smaller batches using paper coffee filters instead of cheese cloth. I suspect the "cheese" also comes out/off more easily. At least 98% of mine simply slips out of the filter(s). [I use about one per cup of yogurt.]

dwamikayla (author)dwamikayla2012-12-03

BTW, I also make a scrumptious tart/torte filling/topping using this and adding berry puree, sugar (as needed) and vanilla extract. I mix it all together and do the rest as if it were yogurt alone. It takes the same time (1-2 days, depending on desired thickness) and is soooooo easy! I then slap it on a sponge cake round, top with fresh berries, and Voila! You have a delicious, EASY, cheap, SEMI-HEALTHY dessert that also looks beautiful!

dwamikayla (author)dwamikayla2012-12-03

Silly me! I also should mention: If you follow my lead using sponge cake instead of some other base, it's best to generously brush the top surface of the cake with about 1/2 cup of (thinned) berry syrup. (First, poke lots of fork holes into the cake, so the syrup fully soaks in and is more evenly distributed.) You can do this right before topping the cake with the "cream cheese" mixture, then let it all sit in the fridge for at least one day, so the syrup soaks in well and the topping "marries" with the cake beneath. I add fresh berries on top the same day I'll be serving it, for total freshness.

twighahn (author)2012-10-14

ok how do i make yogurt?

manicmike (author)twighahn2012-11-15

grannyjones (author)2012-10-05

I used the fine denier polyester mesh fabric that looks like silk screen cloth.
It works for that too, as long as you're not too rough with it.

elwulf (author)2009-10-28

I tried to make this with the white dish towel I had - the result was too wet.  I tried it with cheese cloth - the yogurt ran through it.  Finding the cloth with the right porosity is not easy.  I bought some fairly porous cheap dish cloths and had awesome success.  So remember for the weave of the cloth, not too tight, not too open.

evacooper (author)elwulf2012-06-26

i've used cloth diapers or burp cloths, the thin ones you use for spit-up. also dish cloths that were thin. handkerchiefs didnt work too well...

Tynerion (author)elwulf2010-07-16

One solution to this is to take the cheese cloth and line a colander with it initially. Put the yogurt in and wait for a few hours or until the dripping has slowed and the cheese in the colander has firmed up a bit. At that point, you can finish up with just the cheese cloth over night without the worry of having the solids pass through.

kojak (author)elwulf2010-05-30

This may be a bad idea, but I use Handi Wipes. You know, those resuable "cloths" you can get in a grocery store. I rinse them in hot water before I use them for this task.
I'll buy the 1000 gram (35 oz) container of Plain, No-Fat Greek Yogurt at Costco. I use 2 Handi Wipes, placed side by side, with about a 1" overlap at the center, into a colander . The yogurt is dumped onto the Handi Wipes, and the colander is placed over a bowl to catch the whey. I put plastic wrap over the exposed yogurt, add a 28 oz can of something on the plastic wrap, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator for a couple of days. 
When done, it has the consistency of cream cheese.
The Handi Wipes seem to be the perfect medium for straining the yogurt. As I said, I don't know if this is a good idea, health wise or not. Handi Wipes are made of Rayon and Acrylic. However, they work, are washable and reusable.

speltbaker (author)elwulf2009-11-08

 elwulf - perhaps it was the yogurt you chose: it is best to make this with the thickest brand of yogurt you can find, and the most natural as well. if you live by a trader joe's store, i would recommend you get one of the greek style yogurts they carry, rather than their european style yogurt, for better results. try again - it's well worth it!

travisma (author)2010-06-28

easiest way I've found to strain the yogurt is to line a strainer with a paper coffee filter, put it above a deep bowl and stick in the refirgerator overnight. Next morning cream cheese. You can use vanilla yogurt to get a sweeter dessert type cheese. If you look in kitchen gadget type stores you can purchase a two pack of yogurt strainers.... I found a set at a Goodwill for 50 cents. They are like larger permanent style coffee filters, but they don't work any different then the regular paper type.

evacooper (author)travisma2012-06-26

vanilla yogurt cheese sounds great... and then you can put it in blinzes... oh boy!

bajablue (author)travisma2012-01-10

Vaniila Yogurt? What a BRILLIANT idea!!!!

mickryobe (author)2010-05-30

Not a comment.
A question.

I find the cream cheese I make from yogurt is too tart for my taste.
How can I minimize the tartness?
No sugar, please. I am diabetic.


annfill (author)mickryobe2012-02-04

mickyrobe you could try thr same method using ricotta instead of yoghurt. I have and it worked out fine .

mickryobe (author)annfill2012-02-05

Thank you, annfill.

I will try it.


Tiktaky (author)mickryobe2012-01-13

You could try a different variety of yoghurt. I tried it with just regular plain yoghurt, but it was also very tart.

I'm planning to try goat and sheeps milk yoghurt as it sounds like the best options when I talk to people who make their own cheese.

You'll need quality yoghurt to make quality cheese.

sbirch4 (author)mickryobe2011-12-13

Instead of using sugar maybe you can use splenda instead, you can use it the same way as sugar and it doesn't raise your blood sugars.

gjm (author)2009-07-31

The yogurt won't get foul sitting out overnight? My mom is old school so I'm a little paranoid.

annfill (author)gjm2012-02-04

It will work just as well in the fridge.I hang the bundle of tied up yoghurt from one of the bars the fridge shelf is made from and catch the whey in a dish under. You can leave it hanging for a couple of days if you want.

canida (author)gjm2009-07-31

That's how you make yogurt in the first place - it will be fine. You can store yogurt at room temp if you eat it reasonably quick; it just gets more sour as it ages. It really only goes bad if it develops fuzzy stuff. ;)

CenzoFrat (author)2011-10-11

Cheap and better alternative to cheese cloth. At Home Depot or Loews they sell paint strainers (to screen lumps out of paint). They are Trimaco 1-Gallon Elastic Top Strainers (2-Pack) about $2.00 for the two-pack, feature an elastic top. This pack comes with 2 strainers. These elastic top strainers are disposable.

I wash mine and reuse them. Have used one bag for about 20 batches of yogurt so far and still hasn't shown signs of wear. Get great yogurt cheese from them and they fit into a lot of types of containers.

I use an rubber band around the top as the elastic on that comes with the strainer isn't very secure.

KittyF (author)2010-10-30

sounds like you're making yogurt cheese not cream cheese. cream cheese is made from cream, yogurt is made from whole milk or even less than whole milk. not much cream in that.

Did you make the yogurt yourself?

LittleWolf (author)KittyF2010-10-31

Why stop at making your own yogurt? Let's make our own cows!

KittyF (author)LittleWolf2010-10-31

sounds good, but that would take a couple years. yogurt is easy and cheap.

porcupinemamma (author)2010-09-05

my husband's grandmother was making this60 years ago-tried and true

TheInventor1997 (author)2010-08-25

i got alaea salt for my dad when we were in hawaii

HeeDee (author)2010-06-28

use coffee filters...less mess...not washing up ...put in compost bin later...

schlimmerkerl (author)2010-06-24

PS Good kitchen towels for draining are at Ikea(!) The ones with the red stripes. About .99 each(!!)

schlimmerkerl (author)2010-06-24

I've found the best yogurt for this kind of thing is Fage ( Very thick, few ingredients, comes low/no fat also. Best for tzatziki also.

Twoop (author)2009-11-15

I will usually make sour cream out of kefir.  I let a batch of kefir separate into curds and whey, spoon the curds into a dish towel and then proceed as you've listed here.  I'd love to try this with goat yogurt!

Yerboogieman (author)2009-07-31

Is this healthier than the Store bought cream cheese?

skylane (author)Yerboogieman2009-09-11

It depends on what you mean by "healthy" It's cheese... its fat. They are both good.

dagenius (author)2009-09-03

You said to let the whey drip out. Did you put the whey in the yogurt before hand? And also, can you use greek yogurt?

skylane (author)dagenius2009-09-11

The whey is the clear watery stuff that separates out..
It's also the clear watery stuff you get when milk goes bad.
Not really bad... just changing to curds and whey..

CrawdadMan (author)2009-08-22

If i was to do this in my room would it smell?

ewilhelm (author)CrawdadMan2009-08-24


Kryptonite (author)2009-08-03

My family's been doing this for a number of years because we find that the 'normal' yogurt we buy is too runny, and to make tzatziki we add grated cucumber, sugar, lemon juice, tahini and salt.

dreich (author)2009-07-31

This isn't technically cream cheese, it's Labni. Which is probably why it has a stronger flavour that the "real" thing. :P

ewilhelm (author)dreich2009-07-31

I just read how more details about cream cheese is made. Fascinating! Thanks for getting me to think more about it. I'm going to leave the title as is, as Sally Fallon does, though.

got2bskilled (author)2009-07-31

I am going to try this! Now, some smoked wihite fish & sour cream on a bagel... 8-)~

lindsy (author)2009-07-31

Awesome but why can't I add it to favorites so I can use it later :(

SinAmos (author)2009-07-30

Makes so much sense.

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Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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