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 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!