Q: What’s the deal with lowfat or light cream cheese? Can I use it interchangeably with the full-fat version?
A: Light cream cheese is excellent in cheesecake, and Neufchâtel is great in frosting, but stay away from fat-free cream cheese—it’s disappointingly rubbery and gummy.
The creamy texture and tangy flavor of cream cheese are welcome on bagels and in many baked goods, as well as fillings and some pasta sauces, but we could do without the 4.5 grams of fat and 50 calories in each tablespoon of regular cream cheese.
We needed to explore the possibility of using its lowfat cousins. Here’s what we found: Fat‐free cream cheese, with 15 calories per tablespoon, was awful across the board. It produced a rubbery, tacky cheesecake with a vinyl‐like top and a gummy frosting. Light cream cheese (with 2 grams of fat and 30 calories per tablespoon) makes soupy frosting. But the cheesecake made with light cream cheese rivaled a traditional cheesecake. American Neufchâtel cheese is marketed as reduced‐fat cream cheese, having one‐third less fat than cream cheese. It is strikingly similar to regular cream cheese, but with 3 grams of fat and 35 calories per tablespoon it was a little too high in fat for our cheesecake. Neufchâtel did, however, make great cream cheese frosting. Mixed by hand, the frosting had the consistency and flavor of its full‐fat counterpart.