64 Parishes

Creole Cream Cheese

Creole cream cheese is a silky, slightly tart cheese used in sweet and savory dishes throughout Louisiana.

Creole Cream Cheese

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Creole cream cheese and strawberries, 2024. Erin Greenwald, photographer.

Creole cream cheese is a silky, slightly tart cheese often compared to fromage blanc or soft mascarpone. The principal distinction is that Creole cream cheese is not a thick, solid brick like that sold in stores across the US, one favored brand being Philadelphia cream cheese. Instead, Creole cream cheese comes in a tub, much like that for cottage cheese or some yogurts.

In magazines and cookbooks, Creole cream cheese has often been shown spread on bread; added to strawberries, blueberries, or figs; stirred with cane syrup, sugar, or cinnamon; made into ice cream; and most often, topped with cream. German immigrants were said to eat it with salt and pepper. One can also use it in casseroles and soups.

Creole cream cheese first came by different names. In Cooking in Old Créole Days (1904), Célestine Eustis and a cook with whom she conferred, Leonie Penin, called it fromage à la crème. Other early cooks and farmers described it as “creamed clabber.” In Acadiana, it was sometimes called caillé gouté, which translates to convey both the process of making cheese from curds or clabber (from the French verb cailler, to curdle in English) and also the taste of sweet cream on top of the sour, or the afternoon snack of children called le goûter. The word “Creole” was added in the early twentieth century, as it was for many aspects of Louisiana life created by the first French, Spanish, and Africans.

The recipe for this beloved food calls for skim milk and buttermilk drained of whey and the filtering of curds through agitation, beating, or simply swaying. Housewives made it from milk on its way to spoiling, pouring the thickening liquid into a cloth that could be hung from a back porch or tree, or in molds resting in sinks. Eustis and Penin also give directions on washing the linen; others suggest that bleached feed sacks could be used. In twentieth-century recipes, rennet appears to make the long process go faster.

Industrious home cooks, as well as commercial dairies, made cream cheese for sale. The second edition of The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1901) directed its readers to look for the “cream cheese ladies” coming on every “fast day and Friday.” Food writers also recall dairy trucks delivering this delicacy to residents’ doors.

Chef John Folse links Creole cream cheese to the farmers among the first French and German settlers. He believes that these colonists knew how to create farmhouse-styled cheeses that drained and hardened in molds, especially using ancient methods used in creating Neufchâtel cheese. The creamier Creole cream cheese was one modification the Louisiana farmers made, perhaps in response to the grasses their cows ate and to the intense summer heat. Memoirist Laura Locoul Gore, travel writer Eliza Ripley, and others recalled heart-shaped cream cheese being made and sold. As in other places, Louisiana cheese molds are sold today usually as antiques. Nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century memoirists wrote of the heart-shaped Louisiana cheese, further linking it to the French cheese.

At the end of the twentieth century, when dairies became regionalized and restrictions on milk products began, Creole cream cheese was almost lost. In 1999 culinary expert Poppy Tooker nominated it for the International Slow Food movement’s “Ark of Taste.” Creole cream cheese then became the first Louisiana food placed on this registry of foods in danger of extinction. Tooker also promoted farmers making the cheese, especially encouraging purchases from Mauthe’s Dairy at New Orleans’s Crescent City Farmers Markets. Dorignac’s grocery store in New Orleans and Chef John Folse in Donaldsonville and elsewhere also worked hard to keep Creole cream cheese available during its demise. Creole cream cheese continues to be sold in a number of grocery stores throughout southern Louisiana. Consumers are willing to seek it out, especially since its popularity continues to be spread by chefs such as John Besh, Emeril Lagasse, Susan Spicer, and others via cookbooks, cooking shows, and recipe compilations online.