Cream Cheese frosted carrot cake

Cream Cheese Beyond the Bagel

Break out this dairy favorite after breakfast to give a rich, creamy makeover to some of your favorite foods.

Cream cheese adds rich flavor to all kinds of dishes—pastas, veggies, and even post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. The bakers at Panera Bread® love it so much that it inspired the creation of the cream-cheese-flavored chips that are a key ingredient in our Red Velvet Crinkle Cookie.

“That’s a chip that is produced just for Panera Bread bakery-cafes,” says Tom Gumpel, Panera’s head baker. “Cream cheese pairs really well with red velvet.”

Though you may not have the power to arrange for the manufacture of your own cream-cheese-inspired creations, you can put this versatile ingredient to good use in your kitchen. Our experts share these delicious and easy ideas featuring a variety of Panera Bread’s own cream cheese flavors.

Energize your appetizers

Fresh bruschetta or crostini can benefit from a thin layer of Plain or Chive & Onion Cream Cheese slathered between the toasted Panera bread and the typical chopped toppings. Another easy idea: Fill a stalk of celery with Roasted Vegetable Medley Cream Cheese and slice it into bite-size pieces. Or serve crispy bagel chips or pita chips with a dip made from Plain Cream Cheese mixed with pesto in amounts according to taste. “Our cream cheese is whipped, so it’s very easy to spread, to fold into recipes, and to use as a dip,” says Tom.

Spruce up your sandwiches

David Kos, a member of the Panera Bread Food Team, recently gave the traditional grilled-cheese sandwich a flavor makeover starting with—you guessed it—flavored cream cheese. “In our Fontina Grilled Cheese, the Vermont white cheddar has got a little bite to it, and the Fontina cheese has a nice pull and stringiness to it. But it’s the cream cheese that brings these flavors together,” says David. He adds that home chefs can use cream cheese to jazz up cold-sandwiches too, but he suggests toasting the bread first. “A little heat helps the herb flavors bloom,” he says. Herbed cream cheese goes especially well with holiday leftovers, including turkey, ham, or roast beef.

Enhance your entrées

For a quick dinner with gourmet appeal, sauté some chicken breast or shrimp with olive oil, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Add fully cooked pasta; then stir in your favorite savory cream cheese. “Add the cream cheese just before serving,” says Tom. “If you put it in too soon, it will start to break down into its components, and the sauce will become watery.

Perk up your potatoes

Stir Chive & Onion or Plain Cream Cheese into your favorite mashed-potato recipe just before serving. “These flavors are also perfect baked-potato toppings,” says Tom. Try Honey Walnut Cream Cheese on a baked sweet potato or use it as a dip for sweet potato fries

Dress up your frosting

Cream cheese frosting makes the perfect foil for a super sweet cake such as carrot, gingerbread, red velvet, or chocolate. “The acidity of the cream cheese balances well with the sweetness of these cakes,” says Tom. Try topping your next batch of cupcakes with homemade cream cheese frosting or coconut cream cheese frosting. Even easier: Savor our Carrot Cake with Walnuts—filled and topped with cream cheese frosting—the next time you’re at a Panera bakery-cafe.