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What is Neufchatel Cheese?

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Three neufchatel cheeses in form of hearts
Jean-Blaise Hall/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images
Question: What is Neufchatel Cheese?
Answer: Neufchatel is a French name-controlled AOC cow's milk cheese with a mild flavor and creamy texture. Typically in France, Neufchatel has a bloomy rind and is made from unpasteurized milk. It is sold in many different shapes, even hearts. French Neufchatel can be bought from online cheese stores such as Fromages.com. This site compares Neufchatel to its "cousin" Camembert.

In the United States, a processed and pasteurized version of Neufchatel is sold. This version of Neufchatel has the texture and flavor of cream cheese that has been thickened with a gum such as xanthan, locust bean or carrageenan. Neufchatel made in the US typically has a lower fat content than cream cheese. For this reason, many people buy and use the US version of Neufchatel as a low-fat version of cream cheese.

Why is Neufchatel Sold in the United States Pasteurized?

Since 1949, the US government has forbidden the sale of cheeses made from unpasteurized milk unless the cheese is aged at least 60 days. Since Neufchatel is a fresh cheese that is not aged this long, all versions sold in the United States are pasteurized.

The 60-day ban is meant to protect consumers from potentially harmful pathogens such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. After 60 days, the acids and salts in raw-milk cheese naturally prevent these pathogens from growing. Read more about the raw vs pasteurized milk debate here.

For more information about soft, creamy cheeses at the grocery store, read this Guide to Fresh Cheese.

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