11 Clever Ways to Turn Plain Cream Cheese into a Flavored Schmear

published Sep 30, 2016
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

9. Pickles

Toss in chopped pickles and their juices for a tart and tangy cream cheese that’s also great tucked into sandwiches.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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.