Plain cream cheese is delicious, but why not get a little creative with your morning bagel? Here we have 11 ways to start with plain cream cheese and turn it into a schmear to make your fancy bagel shop jealous.
We're not just talking about run-of-the-mill cream cheese flavors like scallion or strawberry — these 11 unique mix-ins start with pumpkin, progress to pickle, and close with chocolate. These are schmears to kvell over.
Pre-flavored cream cheeses abound, but all too often they're a disappointment. Besides, it's a whole lot more fun to flavor them yourself. Start with an eight-ounce tub or package of softened plain cream cheese and then add one to three ingredients of your choice. Here are 11 creative mix-ins to inspire you.
1. Pumpkin Purée + Spices
This is arguably better than those pumpkin spice lattes. Add a spoonful of pumpkin purée to cream cheese along with a mix of spices — ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are great, or just use pumpkin pie spice. We like it best when spread on a cinnamon-raisin bagel.
2. Lemon Zest + Poppy Seeds
This is how you get the flavor of a lemon poppy seed muffin in cream cheese form. Mix in fresh lemon zest and poppy seeds to plain cream cheese and enjoy it on a plain bagel or even just toast.
3. Dried Cranberries + Orange Zest + Walnuts
Chopped dried cranberries lend a sweet tang, fresh orange zest adds citrusy notes, and chopped toasted walnuts provide the crunch when mixed into cream cheese. Breakfast has never been better when this combo is spread on a plain or pumpernickel bagel.
4. Blue Cheese + Rosemary
Fancy up your cream cheese by stirring in softened blue cheese and finely chopped fresh rosemary. It's great spread on a bagel, but also go ahead and spread it on crostini or crackers for a simple hors d'oeuvre.
5. Dark Chocolate + Candied Ginger
Make it dessert by adding chopped dark chocolate and chopped candied ginger. Beyond bagels, this combo is pretty spectacular swiped on fresh fruit like apple or pear slices.
6. Bacon + Scallion
Scallion cream cheese is old news. Instead, add about one tablespoon of chopped scallions and crumbled cooked bacon to taste to plain cream cheese and spread it on a plain bagel. It wouldn't be such a bad ideal if you slid a fried egg on top either.
7. Harissa + Mint
Kick up your cream cheese with a heaping tablespoon of harissa, the Middle Eastern chile paste, and chopped fresh mint, which helps balance the paste's heat. Spread it on a bagel or use it as a condiment for sandwiches.
8. Roasted Garlic + Black Pepper
Stir in a clove of sweet and aromatic roasted garlic along with a little cracked black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil for a savory cream cheese that tastes just a little more sophisticated than the norm.
Toss in chopped pickles and their juices for a tart and tangy cream cheese that's also great tucked into sandwiches.
10. Smashed Strawberries + Raspberries + Honey
Fold in a handful of smashed raspberries and strawberries and a drizzle of honey and you've got a pink-hued, sweet, juicy cream cheese that's just as good on a bagel as it is on cream cheese.
11. Zucchini + Carrots
DIY your own veggie cream cheese for your bagel by stirring grated zucchini and grated carrots into plain cream cheese.
Your turn! Tell us your favorite way to glam up cream cheese.