This simple, 5-ingredient tofu cream cheese is one of my favorite homemade vegan staples! It’s so easy to make and perfect on bagels or toast. I include four of my favorite flavor additions with the basic recipe. But you can experiment with adding your favorite herbs, spices, fruits, and more.
When I was in college, the local bagel shop happily carried tofu cream cheese. Not only that: they had many varieties of tofu cream cheese, including scallion, vegetable, and strawberry.
I fell in love with tofu cream cheese in my four years of undergraduate life. Somehow, it took me many years of being vegan myself to create a homemade version of the tofu cream cheese that I’ve always loved.
This 5-ingredient tofu cream cheese is a DIY alternative to store-bought. It’s simple, fast to make, and the best part is that you can modify it to include lots of different flavoring additions. I give three of my favorites in the recipe—scallion, dill, and sun-dried tomato—but you can get creative with your own favorite additions.
Making this tofu cream cheese is really easy. It’s a matter of adding extra firm tofu to a food processor and puréeing it to a silky smooth consistency. I add umeboshi plum vinegar, a specialty condiment, for an unmistakably tangy flavor. The vinegar helps to create some of the natural tanginess in cream cheese. But I’ve got notes below on how to substitute the vinegar if you don’t have it.
Otherwise, you don’t need to add much to the cream cheese! Nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon juice create the appropriate “cheesy” flavor.
Once the tofu is blended, you’ll have two choices. You can either serve as is, plain, or you can chop up and mix in your favorite flavoring additions.
It’s important to use extra firm tofu for the tofu cream cheese recipe. Silken tofu will be much too liquidy, and even firm tofu is a little too soft. I like to press the tofu gently before blending, between two tea towels. But you don’t have to press for a long time or use a tofu press for this recipe. My go-to tofu brand, including the extra firm tofu used in this recipe, is Nasoya.
Umeboshi plum vinegar has a distinctively salty and sour taste. This type of vinegar is often used as a seasoning in Japanese cooking, and many macrobiotic recipes call for it as well. I’ve read that it can be used in place of fish sauce, though I think it has a much fruitier flavor.
This is the vinegar that I like to buy and keep in my pantry, but you may find other varieties in a local specialty grocer.
If you don’t have umeboshi vinegar at home, that’s OK. The trick is to simply re-create the sourness and saltiness that the vinegar would provide. I suggest doing this by adding additional lemon juice and fine salt. There are instructions in the recipe for substituting.
Lemon juice also helps to create sourness and acidity in the tofu cream cheese. I recommend freshly squeezed lemon juice only—bottled won’t have the same brightness or fresh flavor.
Nutritional yeast is a magical plant-based hack ingredient for creating “cheesy” flavor. I use it in my go-to cashew cheese, my cashew parmesan, my tofu feta, my pesto, pizza pasta bake, skillet lasagna, and more.
You won’t need a lot of nutritional yeast in the recipe—just a tablespoon or two, depending on how cheesy and predominant you want the flavor to be.
While Kosher salt is my go-to salt for cooking, I use fine sea salt in the tofu cream cheese. The fine texture of the sea salt is best for smooth blending in the recipe.
While I love the tofu cream cheese plain, I also love to experiment with add-ins and flavors. Here are my three favorites.
The scallion flavor is very savory and a little pungent. I love using it on bagels. It’s also shockingly good if you add a bit of crumbled or sliced vegan bacon!
Maybe my favorite of the three! Savory and extra tangy, thanks to the sun-dried tomatoes. I prefer to use tomatoes that aren’t oil-packed (these are my favorite—they’re pre-cut, which makes life easy). But you can use any sun-dried tomatoes that you get your hands on.
This version is great on a panini with roasted vegetables.
Light, bright, and lovely for a springtime slice of toast.
The 5-ingredient tofu cream cheese will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I’ve found that some of the smoothness and spreadable quality of the cream cheese diminishes when it’s defrosted. So I think you can freeze it in a pinch—if you’d like to save some that you won’t have time to use. However, the tofu cream cheese is best when it’s freshly made.
The tofu cream cheese is a regular meal prep staple in my home. I hope you’ll enjoy this simple, homemade vegan condiment as much as I do!
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Wow Wow Wow. Absolutely a winner.
Made it yesterday and will make some more today 🙂
So good on baked potatoes, yum.
Thanks for sharing.
So glad you like it, Astrid!
A wee quibble – nutritional yeast is not plant based. Yeasts are tiny little organisms; the ones in commercial nutritional yeast are no longer alive (unlike active bread yeast). I think few vegans have any ethical or other concerns about eating these little guys, but wanted to mention this in the interest of accuracy 🙂
Looking forward to trying the recipe! Do you think it could work in an icing, like for carrot cake?
Hi Zelda, I do think it could work as an icing if you sweeten it. If you try it, I hope that it’s a success!
Hola! Thanks for this recipe! I made it today because I craved it so much after eating bagels with cream cheese in New York for the first time last week. There’s no vegan cream cheese here in Mexico so I’m grateful for a recipe with simple ingredients. Now, I have to say that I had to add a lot more salt than as well as fresh garlic and chives – but it turned out amazing! I have both your recipe books and can’t wait for the next. Best wishes from Mexico!
Thanks for the feedback, Stefanie! So glad you enjoyed it.
Can I use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead of plum vinegar?
Hi Autumn! It’s not quite the same, because the plum vinegar is super salty. So you can make the swap, but you may need to add some salt to taste 🙂
How long would this last in the fridge ?
Up to four days 🙂
Do you use silken tofu for this recipe?
Nope! Extra firm.
Can i use the cream cheese to bake cheesecake?
I’m honestly not sure—I’ve only used commercial vegan cream cheese in cheesecake recipes. You can certainly try, but I can’t promise the results! If it works out, let me know. Thanks for reading.
Thank you so much for this!!! Since going plant based 10 months ago we havent missed any cheese or dairy but lately have felt like something was missing from our sourdough bagel consumption. Did a garlic and dillweed version and i cannot wait to try others.
Dear Gena, wanted to let you know I made this to share at a little art reception we had in our neighborhood for an art show my neighbor and I have up. Not a vegan in the house but me, and the crowd LOVED this spread. One person even took some home with her to have in her lunch the next day. I just sent her the link to the recipe. <3 Thanks for being a part of a really fun time! Sold six paintings! xoxo
Nice recipe and preparation. Auntie gonna love to try this.
Omg, I was literally just wondering how I could make a good homemade alternative for this. Thank you so much for sharing this Gena!
Gena–this looks fab! And so easy! I am a big fan of a splash of umeboshi plum vinegar here and there, so I totally get how this could make this recipe pop! I will have to try it when the kids come out next. Sorry to hear you’re feeling overwhelmed. Glad you’re calling on known comforts to help you through ((hugs)). You can do this!! Thank you from another friend who feels a bit overwhelmed herself xoxo