18 Ingredients That Will Upgrade Plain Cream Cheese

Glass bowl of cream cheese
Glass bowl of cream cheese - New Africa/Shutterstock

In a world brimming with culinary possibilities, even the simplest of ingredients can undergo a transformative journey. Enter plain cream cheese, a versatile canvas waiting to be adorned with flavor and flair. With its velvety texture and mild demeanor, this fridge staple serves as the perfect foundation for a myriad of delectable enhancements.

Elevating this creamy indulgence from mundane to magnificent requires just a touch of creativity and innovation. From the aromatic embrace of herb-infused blends to the sweet serenade of honey and nuts, each upgrade brings a unique personality to this dairy delight.

I invite you to embark on a delicious adventure beyond the realm of ordinary spreads with these 18 ways to upgrade your plain cream cheese. Whether you're a culinary enthusiast or a casual kitchen explorer, this curated list promises to breathe new life into your spreads and snacks. Join me as I traverse the realms of sweet and savory, exploring exotic combinations that will leave you wondering why plain cream cheese was ever deemed ordinary.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Brown Sugar And Cinnamon

Brown sugar, cinnamon & raisins
Brown sugar, cinnamon & raisins - Floortje/Getty Images

Transform plain cream cheese effortlessly with a simple blend of brown sugar and cinnamon. The rich and caramel-like sweetness of brown sugar, with its molasses undertones, seamlessly complements the creamy base. In tandem with brown sugar, cinnamon adds a layer of warmth and spice to the mixture. Ground cinnamon, with its convenient form, easily disperses throughout the cream cheese.

To incorporate, begin with softened cream cheese, gradually adding brown sugar and cinnamon and tasting as you go to reach your desired level of sweetness. A little goes a long way, especially with cinnamon, so take your time in finding the right balance.

Don't settle for plain cream cheese when the enchanting combination of brown sugar and cinnamon is an easy and rewarding upgrade that will undoubtedly become a staple in your culinary repertoire. The combination of these two ingredients creates a symphony of flavors that can elevate your culinary creations to a whole new level, making it a perfect addition to bagels, toast, crackers, or even cookies.

Fresh Herbs

Chives in cream cheese
Chives in cream cheese - Marianvejcik/Getty Images

Elevate the simplicity of plain cream cheese by infusing your favorite with the vibrant freshness of herbs. Incorporating fresh herbs offers a burst of flavor and a touch of sophistication that can enhance various dishes. The first step is choosing a selection of herbs such as chives, dill, parsley, or basil, depending on your preference and the flavor profile you wish to achieve. Chop the herbs to release their essential oils before adding them to the cream cheese; this will ensure an even distribution throughout the spread.

The result is an herb-infused creation that not only adds complexity and depth but also a visual appeal with specks of green throughout. This versatile concoction is perfect for spreading on bagels, crackers, or sandwiches, instantly transforming your everyday snacks into a culinary delight. You can also get creative by adding it to appetizers and even use it as a flavorful base for savory dishes. The possibilities are endless -- start crafting your personal innovations today!


Garlic and herb cream cheese
Garlic and herb cream cheese - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

Adding to the last option on this list, why not infuse a burst of sophistication into plain cream cheese by marrying the aromatic intensity of garlic with the fragrant allure of herbs? This savory blend is not limited to breakfast, as it can be used as a flavorful base for dips, as a stuffing for meats, or as an accompaniment to roasted vegetables, expanding beyond the confines of a traditional spread. But hey, no one is saying pass up the bagels or breads.

To add, soften the cream cheese to ensure easy blending, then finely mince fresh garlic and combine with your selection of finely chopped herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano -- depending on your taste preferences. The marriage of garlic's pungent notes with the earthy and aromatic qualities of herbs creates a balanced and versatile flavor profile. This creative cream cheese is simple to make and will become a household favorite.

Everything Bagel Seasoning

Everything bagel seasoning
Everything bagel seasoning - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Everything bagel seasoning is a household staple for most, and if you haven't tried it yet, you should hop on that train. This dynamic blend of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, onion, and salt brings a delightful crunch and a symphony of savory notes that effortlessly transforms your culinary creations. Since everything bagels exist, why not everything bagel cream cheese, too? Including the seasoning in your plain cream cheese is a quick and easy way to go from plain to pizazz without the hassle of buying a lot of other ingredients, cooking, or even cleaning up a prep mess.

Adding the seasoning is easy -- generously fold in the mix to match your taste preference. This fusion encapsulates the essence of the beloved bagel, creating a spread that boasts the perfect balance of savory, nutty, and salty flavors. While bagels are a clear use for this creation, you can also use it as a dip for veggies, a topping for baked potatoes, or even as a flavorful stuffing for chicken breasts. Between taste, texture, and visual appeal, using everything bagel seasoning is a no-brainer for elevating your plain cream cheese.


Fruit behind cream cheese
Fruit behind cream cheese - MakroBetz/Shutterstock

Whether it's the freshness of berries, juice from the tropics, or the concentrated sweetness of dried pieces, incorporating fruit into your cream cheese can turn your spread into a sweet and even healthy treat. The addition of fresh fruits brings a burst of natural sugar, creating a delightful contrast to the mildness of plain cream cheese. The chewy texture and intense sweetness of fruit pieces not only contribute to the flavor but also provide a delightful surprise in every bite.

There are a variety of ways to use fruit in your spread. You can finely chop berries like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, and gently fold them into softened cream cheese. For a tropical twist, consider muddled pineapple or mango, adding a burst of sunshine to your creamy concoction. Alternatively, dried fruits, such as apricots or raisins, can be finely chopped and blended into the cream cheese for a chewy and flavorful dimension. Fruit-infused cream cheese becomes a versatile companion and offers a delightful twist on the classic.

Lemon Or Orange Zest

Lemon zest
Lemon zest - 4kodiak/Getty Images

Awaken your taste buds with a burst of citrus by incorporating the zesty essence of lemon or orange into your plain cream cheese. This simple addition can easily enhance your spread, bringing a ray of sunshine to your breakfast or snack routine. To seamlessly incorporate fruit zest, use a fine grater or zester on the outer layer of lemon or orange peel and mix it into softened cream cheese. This process captures the essential oils, bringing a fragrant aroma and lively flavor to the cream cheese. You can also give that fruit a squeeze, adding the juice for a more pronounced flavor profile.

The addition of fruit zest introduces a bright and lively dimension to bland cream cheese, cutting through its richness with a burst of citrusy freshness. It's a versatile ingredient too; while it's especially tasty when used on pastries or cookies, it can also be used in savory recipes for a delightful surprise.


Bowl of Sriracha
Bowl of Sriracha - Martiapunts/Getty Images

Turn up the heat on your cream cheese game by introducing the bold and spicy kick of sriracha. This iconic hot sauce adds a tantalizing zing to the smooth and mild cream cheese, creating a spread that packs a punch. To infuse, gradually add the hot sauce while stirring into your softened cream cheese until you achieve your desired level of heat. You're left with a creamy concoction that balances the richness of the cream cheese with the fiery intensity of sriracha, creating a spread that adds an exciting element to your culinary repertoire.

The best part? You can use your spicy creation as a dip, a zesty sauce for sandwiches or wraps, or even as a flavorful base for appetizers. The unexpected fusion of cool creaminess and heat from the sauce creates a sensory experience that can awaken your taste buds, making each bite a thrilling adventure. Get playful with this option, and see where the spicy journey takes you.


whole and ground wasabi
whole and ground wasabi - Bonchan/Getty Images

Wasabi is a pungent Japanese condiment made from grated green horseradish root, commonly served with sushi or sashimi. Why not surprise your taste buds with a bold twist by incorporating the fiery essence of this green machine into your plain cream cheese? This unique fusion not only adds a zesty kick but also introduces an element of Asian-inspired flair to your spreads. From sushi rolls to crackers and bagels, this option marries a fusion of East-meets-West.

The aromatic and spicy qualities of wasabi contribute to a sensory experience that can elevate your culinary creations, especially paired with the cool and smooth texture of cream cheese. To prepare this option, take your softened cream cheese and gradually fold in the wasabi paste, tasting as you go to achieve the desired level of heat. The result is a creamy spread that blends the rich smoothness of cream cheese with the pungent and sinus-clearing kick of wasabi, creating a culinary experience that is both unexpected and utterly delightful.


Jar of pesto with spoon
Jar of pesto with spoon - beton studio/Shutterstock

Transform your plain cream cheese into a Mediterranean masterpiece by infusing it with the aromatic and herbaceous allure of pesto. This flavorful fusion not only adds a burst of freshness but also elevates your spread to gourmet heights with simplicity and ease.

Pesto-infused cream cheese offers a complex flavor profile that combines the earthiness of basil with the nuttiness of pine nuts and the savory notes of Parmesan, creating a spread that is as versatile as it is delicious. To incorporate pesto into your cream cheese, gently fold in the pesto sauce -- homemade or store-bought -- and you have cream cheese gold; it's that quick and easy. This option is perfect for incorporating into pasta dishes and stuffed chicken, or as a topping for baked potatoes or garlic bread. Have at it and see which option you love the most!


Shaved chocolate
Shaved chocolate - Tenkende/Getty Images

Indulge your sweet tooth and up your cream cheese game by introducing the rich and decadent allure of chocolate. Select your choice of chocolate –- whether it's melted dark chocolate for a bittersweet richness, milk chocolate for a sweeter touch, or even white chocolate for a creamy and vanilla-kissed flavor, then fold it into your choice of plain cream cheese. You're left with a delightful contrast of creamy and cocoa flavors, perfect for spreading on bagels, toast, or as a decadent dip for fruits.

But don't stop there. The versatility of chocolate allows for endless creativity -– add cocoa powder for an intense chocolate flavor, mix in chocolate chips for a delightful crunch, or even swirl in caramel for an added layer of sweetness. Get wild with some pretzel pieces for a savory option, or spread it on crackers and top with a sprinkle of sea salt for a decadent twist!

Cinnamon And Raisin

Cream cheese on a bagel
Cream cheese on a bagel - Ancram Little Store/Facebook

Transport your taste buds to a cozy bakery experience by infusing the timeless combination of cinnamon and raisin into your plain cream cheese. This classic duo brings together the warm, comforting notes of cinnamon with the sweet and chewy bursts of raisins, creating a spread that's reminiscent of freshly baked cinnamon raisin bread. With this option, you get the perfect balance of sweetness and spice. Spread it on bagels, muffins, or even use it as a filling for pastries to add a touch of nostalgia to your culinary creations.

Incorporation is easy. Start with a softened block of cream cheese or your favorite tub, and gently blend in ground cinnamon and finely chopped raisins. The result is a cream cheese that not only boasts a delightful texture with the raisins' chewiness but also captures the essence of a beloved breakfast or snack. I promise you won't be sorry for trying this one out!


Bowl of tahini
Bowl of tahini - Alexpro9500/Getty Images

Derived from the simple yet mighty sesame seed, tahini emerges as a canvas of culinary creativity, which is why it's a perfect pairing for plain cream cheese. The bold and nutty flavors of the Middle East provide a distinctive taste, marrying the creamy richness of the cheese with the earthy and slightly bitter undertones of sesame seed paste. This elevation promises a spread that is both savory and exotic.

Adding tahini is easy, too. Just blend it with the cream cheese until the mixture is smooth and well combined. The result is a luxurious spread that can be used in a variety of dishes, adding a touch of Mediterranean flair to your recipes. Use it as a dip for fresh veggies, a sandwich spread, or even incorporate it into sauces for an added layer of richness. And hey, the nutritional benefits of tahini are on point, too, rich in healthy fats and minerals, making this fusion not only a flavorful choice but also a nourishing one.

Honey And Nuts

Spoon with nuts in honey
Spoon with nuts in honey - Kaorinne/Getty Images

Another quick and easy way to transform your ordinary cream cheese into a decadent delight is by infusing the sweet richness of honey and the satisfying crunch of nuts. This pairing creates a spread that is not only indulgent but also boasts a delightful contrast of textures and flavors.

To create a honey nut cream cheese, begin with softened cream cheese and gently fold in your preferred honey. This is another creative turning point where you can have some fun. Whether it's the floral notes of lavender honey or the robust flavor of spicy honey, you can enjoy the depth and whatever profile your mouth desires. Next, add a generous amount of finely chopped nuts –- almonds, walnuts, or pecans to name a few –- for a nutty crunch that elevates the creaminess of the base. The nutritional benefits of nuts, rich in healthy fats and protein, make this fusion even better.

Chili Pepper

Bowl of chili pepper
Bowl of chili pepper - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Ignite your taste buds with a burst of fiery excitement by infusing chili pepper into your cream cheese. This bold addition brings a spicy kick that transforms the plain old creamy spread into a lively and invigorating experience.

This is truly an effortless option; simply blend in finely chopped or powdered chili pepper, adjusting the quantity based on your desired level of heat. You'll enjoy a delightful contrast of cool and spicy but also a daring dimension of flavor to your culinary creations.

Chili pepper-infused cream cheese introduces a thrilling and unconventional flavor profile you won't find anywhere else, elevating your spread to new heights that can be used as a zesty sandwich spread, a bold dip for veggies, or even as a unique topping for crackers. The invigorating heat of chili peppers is known to stimulate the palate and release endorphins, making every bite a truly exhilarating experience, while the creamy cheese mellows the fire, making for a delightful contrast. Turn up that heat and enjoy!

Pureed Pumpkin With Pumpkin Spice

Bowl of pumpkin spices
Bowl of pumpkin spices - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Blending velvety pumpkin puree and the warm embrace of pumpkin spices with cream cheese introduces a captivating autumnal twist to this classic spread. The smooth, earthy notes of pumpkin puree meld seamlessly with the aromatic spices within the bland backdrop of plain cream cheese, creating a luscious and seasonal infusion.

Soften your cream cheese, then gently fold in a dollop of pureed pumpkin, and sprinkle in the warm notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. You'll smile when you see a velvety and aromatic spread that encapsulates the essence of fall. Spread it on bagels or toast for a taste of seasonal indulgence any time of year, or incorporate it into your fall gatherings as a dip for graham crackers. Don't be afraid to swirl your creation into desserts like pumpkin rolls and pastries, too. Celebrate the season with a luscious and aromatic treat that captures the spirit of fall in every bite.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Jar of sun-dried tomatoes
Jar of sun-dried tomatoes - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Elevate the richness of plain cream cheese with the robust and savory essence of sun-dried tomatoes. Introducing this Mediterranean-inspired twist adds a burst of umami flavor and a delightful chewiness to the creamy base. Finely chop the tomatoes before gently folding them into the mixture, which will result in a spread that not only brings that Mediterranean flavor but also adds a textural contrast that elevates your breakfast or appetizers instantly.

Sun-dried tomatoes infused into cream cheese offer a unique and sophisticated flavor profile, providing a savory depth that goes beyond the ordinary. This flavor option can be used for spreads on crackers to create elevated appetizers for your next party, or incorporate into sandwiches for a savory kick for your next picnic. The vibrant red hue and concentrated flavor of sun-dried tomatoes bring a pop of color and intensity to your spreads, making them visually appealing and flavorfully satisfying. Don't be afraid to add some herbs or other favorites in here to make that flavor pop even more!


Jalapeños - VG Foto/Shutterstock

If you love the spicy options on this list, try adding a burst of heat and vibrant flavor to your plain cream cheese by incorporating the zesty kick of jalapeños. Jalapeños transforms the creamy base of cream cheese into a bold and savory spread that is sure to awaken your taste buds. To add some, start with softened cream cheese and finely chop or dice the jalapeños before gently folding them into the mixture. If you want a little kick, omit the seeds, but if you want the full blast of fire be sure to include them. This is a spread that not only provides a delightful contrast of cool and spicy but also adds a daring dimension to your culinary creations.

Why should you consider this fiery upgrade? This thrilling and zesty flavor profile is perfect for adding a spicy kick to bagels with smoked salmon, making a veggie tray more exciting, or just smearing on Ritz crackers for a late-night snack. Try one or try them all!

Maple Syrup And Pecans

Maple syrup with pecans
Maple syrup with pecans - Revel Pix LLC/Shutterstock

Embrace the warm and comforting flavors of fall once again by infusing the delectable combination of maple syrup and pecans into your plain cream cheese. This option adds a touch of sweetness and a satisfying crunch to the creamy base.

Roughly chop the pecans before adding them to the softened cream cheese. If you want a smoother spread you can crush them more finely. For an even deeper flavor profile toast them first. Gently fold the pecans and maple syrup into the softened cream cheese. To make things even easier you could use store-bought maple pecans instead of two separate ingredients. Your new and improved spread will not only offer a delightful contrast of textures but also bring a rich and indulgent taste to the table -- literally.

If you love a blend of sweet and nutty notes, then try turning this simple spread into a comforting treat reminiscent of fall desserts. Spread it on bagels, muffins, or use it as a topping for waffles and pancakes for an added layer of autumnal goodness.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.