EV’s Take: Our Review of Oatly Cream Cheese Alternative
Plant-based cream cheeses have existed for years now, with established brands like Tofutti and Kite Hill dominating the dairy-free cheese products section. However, like many veganized versions of dairy and animal products, plant-based cream cheese is relatively new and ever evolving. So what happens when Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk manufacturer, enters the ring? It disrupts the cream cheese game, knocking out taste buds with a sweet, oaty spread.
Oatly introduced their new line of cream cheeses in the U.S. earlier this year, including a plain cream cheese and a chive and onion flavor. Sadly, I’ve only been able to try the plain flavor—stay tuned for an update on the chive and onion!
Philadelphia plant-based cream cheese is another notable addition to the vegan cream cheese club in 2023. However, Oatly stood out to me since there haven’t been many (any?) oat milk-based cream cheeses available on grocery shelves. I always assumed that was for good reason, that sweet oat milk wouldn’t make a great base for a tangy, rich block of cream cheese—but Oatly has changed my mind.
In a Sweet & Spreadable League of Its Own
Oatly cream cheese’s most unique feature is its sweet, creamy flavor that has undercurrents of that distinctly oaty oat milk flavor. Upon trying it on my bagel, and being a little surprised by the sweetness, I recalled my first experience with oat milk, at some point in the 2010s. My friend described the then-newfangled plant milk as tasting like “the milk left over in your bowl after eating Lucky Charms.” And as oddly specific as that sounded, the comparison turned out to be completely accurate. I love oat milk today because of that naturally sweet, milky flavor thickened by hearty grains. And this trademark flavor finds an unlikely home in Oatly’s cream cheese, too.
Besides the sweetness, Oatly’s next-best feature is its shmearability. It spread on my bagel very easily and has a delightfully smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It did not require stirring or letting it sit at room temperature. It was ready to go once opened, and in my experience is the most spreadable vegan cream cheese I’ve tried yet.
All that said, the lighter, airier texture resembles a whipped dairy cream cheese. Some may want a dense layer of cheese on their bagel (sometimes I do) or a more tangy, less sweet spread. If you’re leaning in that direction, I recommend Toffuti, which is more dense and not so sweet.
While the sweetness could be a turn off for some, I thought Oatly provided a perfectly delicious vegan cream cheese substitute for my bagel. Of course, you could use it on other foods, too, including in baking.
Wait, Are Bagels Even Vegan?! Plus More Vegan Substitutes for Cream Cheese
If you’re newly exploring plant-based foods, you may also be wondering “are bagels vegan?” Well, the ones I ate were!
Generally, most bagels out there are vegan, but not all of them. Some bakers use egg or honey in their recipes. Ask about ingredients if you wish, but know that a bagel is typically a safe bet for a plant-based diet.
In fact, bagels are a great option for those eating vegan. They can be found at most breakfast spots, providing an alternative to eggs and bacon. And when it comes to topping your bagel, there are many delicious (and easy) vegan substitutes for cream cheese when a plant-based version isn’t available. Try avocado, peanut butter, jam or hummus with your next bagel! Plus, breakfast restaurants usually have at least one of these spreads.
What Ingredients Are in Oatly Cream Cheese?
Oatly plain cream cheese contains:
Oat milk (water, oats), palm oil, potato starch, potato protein and 2% or less of: sea salt, pectin, natural flavor, tricalcium citrate, dextrose.
And to be super-duper clear: It’s dairy free, soy free, nut free, gluten free, non-GMO and kosher.
If you’re wondering about ingredients for health reasons, it’s worth noting that compared to dairy cream cheese (I referenced a regular block of Philadelphia cream cheese), Oatly has nearly half the fat and calories for the same serving size, as well as zero cholesterol. It’s not necessarily nutritious on its own, but may be a healthier choice if you’re a daily bagel kind of person (no judgment).
Where Can I Buy Oatly Cream Cheese?
I recommend checking their Oatfinder to see where their products are located. Note that at the time of writing this review, Oatly cream cheeses are not available for purchase on their website and are still being rolled out, so they may have not yet reached grocery stores near you.
My advice for desperate vegans? Contact your favorite local grocery store to encourage them to stock this—or any other plant-based product you’re dying to try!