Cream Cheese vs Butter: Nutrition Comparison and More

Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by TheFarmChicken

Cream Cheese block and butter stick on parchment paper

Which one is better for you? Cream cheese or butter? What are their similarities and differences? How can a person cook with them or use them in their diet in a healthy way? We are going to answer these questions and “More”. Cream Cheese vs Butter: Nutrition Comparison and More.

Let’s start by looking at the nutrition facts of cream cheese and butter. I hope you enjoy this side-by-side comparison to show the areas that are the same and different. Whether it helps you decide which one is better for your diet or just out of interest. Here we go!

Cream Cheese vs Butter Nutritional Value Comparison

*These numbers below are all based on 1 oz. amount of cream cheese, cream cheese spread or butter*

 Cream Cheese SpreadCream CheeseButter, Salted (Members Mark brand)
Calories83.6 kcal99.2 kcal200 kcal
Protein2.01 g1.74 g0g
Total Fat8.11 g9.75 g22g
Sugars0.99 g1.07 g0g
Calcium20.1 mg27.5mg6.8 mg
Potassium31.8 mg37.4mg6.8 mg
Sodium124 mg89mg180 mg

A Look at Nutritional Differences Between Them:

When looking at just butter and cream cheese we can see that butter far surpasses cream cheese in grams of fat, and calories. Cream cheese has fewer calories than butter per ounce. This makes it an easy choice to know per ounce which one is the healthier option. Cream cheese also has higher amounts of calcium and lower amounts of salt. For protein we see that cream cheese has about 2 grams of protein and butter does not, giving cream cheese another benefit over butter. Cream cheese has 1.07 grams of sugar whereas butter has no sugar. Both have no added sugar.

If you are looking to watch your fat and calorie intake, then cream cheese might be the best option for you. In a general consensus cream cheese is the better option. Keep in mind that for a healthy individual you should be able to include both butter and cream cheese in moderation as part of a healthy diet. In moderation butter does not necessarily contribute to heart disease.

Looking at the differences of the cream cheese vs the cream cheese spread, the spread is a little less in everything listed per ounce. This is a result of the cream cheese spread having more air in it therefore being less nutrient dense.

Why is Cream Cheese Lower in Fat and Calories per Ounce?

This is largely do to the fact that cream cheese is commonly made with milk and cream and butter is strictly churned cream. Cream cheese also commonly has other things added to it besides being solely cream, like butter, so this reduces the number of calories and fat grams that it has.

Flavor Comparison:

Cream cheese has a creamy tangy flavor while butter is more of a sweet cream flavor and salty if salted butter.

Price Comparison of Cream Cheese vs Butter

Philadelphia Cream CheeseSweet Cream Salted Butter (Great Value)Lowest price per 8 oz
$2.98 for 8-ounce block$3.68 per 16-ounce pkgSweet Cream Salted Butter

Cream Cheese

a block of cream cheese on parchment paper

How is Cream Cheese Made?

When they make cream cheese, they start with a mixture of cream and cow’s milk or just cream. They add an acid called lactic acid bacteria. This acid lowers the pH of the milk and/or cream. When the pH is lowered it causes curds to form. The whey or watery part is then drained off and the curds are heated, and stabilizers are added to give the cream cheese structure.

This process reminds me in a way of how cottage cheese is made. Cottage cheese is made by separating the whey from the curds. But with cottage cheese it is both curds and whey that are used.

The Ingredients to Make Cream Cheese (store brand):

  • Pasteurized milk and cream
  • Cheese culture: When added to the pasteurized milk and cream the cheese culture or starter culture is made from lactic acid bacteria and helps the milk/cream to separate and create a solid mass.
  • Salt
  • Guar gum: Guar gum is an additive in cream cheese. Guar gum is usually added to thicken and stabilize food. Guar gum is made from legumes called guar beans.
  • Carob Bean Gum: This ingredient is also added to help thicken and stabilize. They get Carob Bean gum from the endosperm of the seed of a carob tree. It is also called locust bean gum.
  • Xanthan Gum: This too is added to cream cheese as a thickener and stabilizer but is also known for its emulsifying properties. Xanthan gum is produced with a strain of a certain bacteria that are fed a solution of glucose.

The Different Types of Cream Cheese:

  • Spreadable cream cheese – has a more creamy texture due to the addition of stabilizers.
  • Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese or 1/3 less fat cream cheese or low-fat cream cheese
  • Regular Cream Cheese (Original) or Full-fat cream cheese or Traditional Cream Cheese
  • Flavored Cream Cheese Spreads– Strawberry, Garden Vegetable, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon, Honey Pecan, Chive and Onion, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Pumpkin Spice, Garlic and Herb, Jalapeno, Smoked Salmon, Pineapple, etc.
  • Whipped Cream Cheese Spread – like it says in its name whipped cream cheese spread is whipped, adding air to the finished product. It is light and fluffy making it less calories per tablespoon vs a tablespoon of regular cream cheese.

Ways to Use Cream Cheese:

Cream Cheese is most commonly used as a spread for bagels or in baking. It can also be used as a spread for crackers etc.

  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Baking: cookies, muffins, or cheesecake

Butter

Butter on Parchment paper

How is Butter Made?

Butter is made when you take sweet cream and mix or churn it until the buttermilk separates from the fat or solid and that solid is the butter. It is then rinsed in cold water to remove any excess buttermilk that might be there. Then it is salted if it is salted butter and packed.

Types of Butter:

Sweet Cream Butter

  • This butter is made with pasteurized fresh cream usually around 80% butterfat.

Salted Butter

Unsalted Butter

  • Unsalted Butter has no salt added and is perfect for baking and frostings like traditional buttercream.

Clarified Butter

  • Clarified Butter is the skimmed milk solids off the top of melted butter. Separating it from the water content. Clarified butter is close to 100% butterfat. Typically used for frying with high heat or a dipping sauce.

Ghee

  • Ghee is popular lately, ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer after it has been separated from the water content. When it is cooked longer it “toasts” which leaves it with a brown butter taste. Ghee is used in cooking; like sauteing or roasting.

Cultured Butter

  • this butter has bacterial cultures added to it. Think of it as having similarities to how yogurt is made. You can expect it to have a tangier flavor from fermentation. Cultured butter frequently has a higher butter fat around 82%.

European-Style Butter

  • European butter is classified differently because of the higher butter fat content. They generally churn their butter at least 82% butterfat giving it a rich flavor and creamy texture.

Irish Butter

  • Irish Butter is made with cream from Irish dairy cows. It is a European style butter that is around 82% butterfat. If you have heard of Kerrygold, that is Irish butter.

Light Butter

  • Light butter usually has things like vegetable oils or other things to lessen the fat and calories in the butter.

Whipped Butter

  • Whipped butter, just like it says, is butter that is whipped making a small amount of butter go farther with the same number of calories. It is lower in calories per tablespoon than regular butter.

Full-Fat Butter

  • It has around 82-86% butterfat content which has less water. Full- fat butters have a richer taste and are easier to melt.

When it comes to choosing a butter a lot of it has to do with personal preference.

Benefits of Butter:

Butter is used in a lot of ways and for a lot of different recipes in the culinary world; a kitchen staple. One thing that butter always helps with is bringing out flavor. This is due to its high fat content. Fat equals a flavor enhancer.

Butter and cream cheese on parchment paper

Interesting facts about cream cheese and butter:

  • At room temperature cream cheese and butter are both solid. This is partly from the saturated fat content of each. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature.
  • One thing I found interesting when researching the ingredients in cream cheese is that Philadelphia Cream Cheese spread had less additives than its store brand alternative. (9/2023)

Pin for Later:

pin image for cream cheese vs butter

I found this site interesting. It talks about the different types of butter more in depth:

TheKitchn

Thanks for reading! I hope you learned something new! Comment below!

Mariah Nienhuis, NDtr | TheFarmChicken

*Note: This post is intended for the general healthy population. It is not personalized nutrition advice and if you are in need of this please visit your doctor/health care professional for specific advice. *

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