People Are Just Discovering the Secret Ingredient That Makes NYC Cream Cheese So Superior

published Jun 2, 2023
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cream cheese on bagel
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

It’s difficult to imagine something that cream cheese can’t do. The creamy spread is incredibly versatile and performs well in everything from cream cheese frosting and baked pasta to slow cooker dinners and the ever-popular cheesecake. But cream cheese is probably in its prime when it’s simply spread on a perfectly toasted bagel in the morning.

If you’re a bagel person, then you might stock up on lots of bagels and lots of tubs of cream cheese at the beginning of every week. While scooping and spreading the cream cheese straight from the container is a good way to get the job done, take a cue from New York City (aka the home of the best bagels in the world!), where delis add a secret ingredient to their cream cheese to make it super fluffy and spreadable.

This recent TikTok video from Sam Silverman (brooklynbagelblog), who’s also known as NYC’s “bagel ambassador,” revealed a clever method for instantly upgrading your bagels. In NYC, you’ll often see large bowls or containers of different flavors of cream cheese sitting behind a glass counter in a temperature-controlled environment. Sometimes, though, when cream cheese gets cold, it can become very stiff and difficult to spread. To solve the problem, delis often add a splash of plain seltzer to their cream cheese then fold it in. This makes the cream cheese extra creamy, airy, and easy to schmear. 

This hack makes it easier to add smooth texture to your cream cheese while also making it simple to maneuver with a butter knife. In other words, for just a dollar or two, you can buy a bottle or can of seltzer to make a superior bagel with cream cheese no matter where you are in the world!