Cream cheese is a versatile kitchen staple. It is a condiment and an ingredient. Great in savory recipes and sweet bakes. Let's take a deep dive into the popular brand, Philadelphia cream cheese to find out if it is really gluten-free. Plus, we will explore alternatives to Philadelphia Cream Cheese to find out if they are gluten-free.
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If you Google "Is Philadelphia cream cheese gluten free?" you are going to see two different answers. One will say yes, the other will say maybe.
And when you have celiac disease or are gluten-sensitive, "sort of" and "maybe" don't cut it. And with so many flavors of cream cheese, it can be a little confusing. Let's dive in.
Philadelphia's U.K. website site states that the cream cheese "does not contain gluten". While the FAQ page for the U.S. website of Kraft Heinz doesn't specifically state their cream cheese is GF, they do clearly outline how they label. This is great!
In addition to the 8 major allergens (wheat being the one of concern here) and "all sources of gluten, and sulfites in levels over 10 ppm."
What are Gluten PPM levels?
PPM stands for parts per million. The FDA specifies that any item labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. That is 0.0002%.
Studies have shown that people with Celiac disease can tolerate up to 10 mg of gluten per day. How much is that? A crumb or two of wheat flour but it would be a significant amount of food that is actually labeled gluten-free.
So based on this information, Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese is gluten-free.
Traditional cream cheese is naturally gluten-free. But modern manufacturing requires the use of stabilizers and other ingredients to bring their products safely to market.
The plain varieties of full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese contain the following on their ingredient list:
- Pasteurized Milk and Cream
- Carob Bean Gum- Also called locust bean gum, it is from the seeds of the carob tree and gluten free.
- Cheese Culture- Specific bacteria strains that make cheese. They are gluten free.
Its ⅓ less fat cousin, also called Neufchatel, contains the above plus xanthan gum and guar gum as additional ingredients. Both of which are gluten-free.
Philly Cream Cheese comes in a variety of flavors and packaging sizes. And not all the flavors beyond the plain variety of GF.
Any snack or dessert packs with the words chips or crumble are not gluten-free.
The following flavors are gluten-free as of the last update of this article:
- Philadelphia Strawberry Cream Cheese (regular and low fat)
- Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese (regular and low fat)
- Philadelphia Blueberry Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Pineapple Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Honey Pecan Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese
- Philadelphia Spicy Jalapeno Cream Cheese Regular and Dip (tub only)
- Philadelphia No Bake Original Cheesecake Filling (tub)
- Philadelphia Dips Buffalo Style with Celery Cream Cheese Dip (tub only)
The biggest concern with cream cheese is the cross-contamination that may occur after purchase. Condiments like cream cheese are subject to a shared knife or spoon that deposits crumbs of glute into the original container.
If you live in a house with gluten-eaters, we suggest labeling gluten-free only items with a sharpie pen.
If you are looking for alternatives to the Kraft brand of Philadelphia Cream Cheeses, there are two we recommend.
First, Organic Valley is block-style cream cheese. Both their cream cheese and their Neufchatel cheese are free from gluten-containing ingredients. Both are excellent for baking.
For a spreadable cream cheese, we like the Tillamook brand. All four flavors (Original, Strawberry, Verry Veggies, and Chive and Onion) are free of gluten-containing ingredients and are not made on equipment shared with wheat or other gluten-containing ingredients.
Also, you can make homemade vegan cream cheese.
In short, cream cheese is naturally gluten-free. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese blocks and plain whipped cream cheeses are not made with any gluten-containing ingredients and should be safe for those with celiac disease.
Always read the labels as ingredients and manufacturing methods change over time. And pay special attention to flavored varieties of cream cheese. Some do contain gluten. Specifically, the snack dips that are prepackaged with chips and the cheesecake crumble desserts.
Gluten-Free Cream Cheese Recipes
Now that we know cream cheese is safe, here are a few of our favorite gluten-free recipes: