When you need the perfect party appetizer, you’ll turn to this easy smoked cream cheese over and over again! Coated in a flavorful dry rub, this cream cheese transforms into a luscious spread with just the right touch of smoky flavor after a trip to the grill. It just takes a few minutes to prepare this easy appetizer, and then the smoker handles the rest of the work. You’ll want to keep this smoked cream cheese recipe handy because it’s sure to become everyone’s new favorite party snack.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
The most irresistible cheese spread: Your friends and family will love you even more when this smoked cream cheese is on the menu. Between the ultra creamy texture and perfectly spiced BBQ rub, no one will want to stop dipping.
Simple ingredients: You won’t have any trouble finding the ingredients here. All we need is cream cheese and a few spices, which you probably already have in your pantry.
Only calls for five minutes of hands-on preparation time: This truly might be the quickest appetizer you’ll ever make. Once we prep the cream cheese, the smoker takes care of the rest.
Make ahead of serving time: Want to prep this cheesy spread well ahead of serving time? No problem. You can prepare the cream cheese and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to throw it on the smoker. This is one recipe that makes hosting super simple and low key.
Cream cheese: Make sure to use a block of full-fat cream cheese. Low-fat cream cheese can’t match the richer flavor and superior texture of the full-fat variety. I also recommend Philadelphia cream cheese, which is the gold standard. With so few ingredients, quality matters.
Dry rub: For our spice mixture, we use a combination of chili powder, dark brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and black pepper. You’re also welcome to use your own favorite BBQ rub. Just don’t use one that’s overly salty — cream cheese is already salted, so I don’t even bother with it in my rub.
Step 1: To prepare the cream cheese, we use a sharp knife to cut a criss-cross pattern on top (photo 1). We don't need to go all the way to the bottom — about halfway will do.
Step 2: Now we stir together the spices to make our dry rub (photo 2).
Step 3: With our dry rub prepared, we’re ready to coat the cream cheese so that the top and sides are completely encrusted with the spice mixture (photo 3). Some people like to brush the cream cheese with olive oil first, but I don’t find it’s necessary to help the seasoning adhere. That said, the option is there if you prefer that method.
Step 4: From here, we transfer our seasoned cream cheese to the smoking dish. If you have a mini cast-iron skillet, that works great. Otherwise, a small disposable aluminum pan or grill-safe baking sheet takes care of the job.
Now we place the dish in a 225-degree F smoker with a water pan, close the lid and smoke for about two hours (photo 4).
After two hours, our cream cheese will have transformed into this unbelievably divine spread. You’ll know the cream cheese is finished smoking when it puffs up and begins to pull away from the criss-cross pattern.
For a pretty presentation, I like to sprinkle a little fresh parsley or green onions on top and proceed to devour. If you plan to serve this on a special occasion, this cheese spread is great on a charcuterie board, or you can serve it with some crispy wings and fried pickles on game day.
Note: I tested this recipe on a vertical pellet smoker. That said, you can use it with any type of smoker. You can even turn your standard gas grill or charcoal grill into one if you don't have a dedicated unit.
How to Serve
Wondering what to serve with this smoked cream cheese dip? You have so many options. Here are a few of my favorite accompaniments.
- Grilled bread
- Pita chips or tortilla chips
- Celery sticks
- Cucumber slices
- Baby carrots
- Bell pepper slices
Of course, you don’t have to use smoked cream cheese just as an appetizer. Check out these other ways you can use it.
- Slather onto a seriously upgraded grilled cheese.
- Melt into a creamy pasta sauce.
- Use as a filling for stuffed chicken.
- Mixed into a dip.
- Topped onto some smoked burgers.
- Spread onto your morning bagel with smoked salmon.
- Spoon into puff pastry or phyllo shells to make bite-size appetizers.
- Stuff into mini peppers.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover cream cheese needs to be refrigerated. You can keep the cheese in an airtight container or cover it with plastic wrap. It should last for three to four days in the refrigerator.
If you’d like to reheat your leftovers, let the brick of cream cheese sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This takes off the chill and allows for more even cooking.
Then, place the cream cheese in a 350-degree F oven and bake until it’s warm, about 10 minutes. You’re then ready to enjoy that cheesy goodness again.
I do not recommend freezing cream cheese. The texture can become grainy after freezing. It’s best to get your cream cheese fill now.
Good news — smoked cream cheese is great both hot and cold. You have options here. I prefer it right off the smoker with its warm and creamy, but you can certainly use it as a cold spread as well.
My favorite wood for smoking cream cheese is hickory. It’s such a great all-purpose wood, and it gives the cream cheese a noticeable smoky flavor without overwhelming its natural tang. Apple wood, cherry wood, pecan and maple are also nice options for a lighter smoke flavor.
We want to smoke the cream cheese at 225 degrees F for two hours. By sticking with a low temperature, we give our cream cheese plenty of time to absorb that wonderful smoke flavor without turning into a blog. You can go up to 250 degrees F, but keep an eye on it in case it doesn’t need the full two hours.
As long as you smoke the cream cheese low and slow, it will not melt into a puddle, but it does soften into an ultra spreadable consistency.
While you can certainly serve this spread as directed, you also have so much flexibility to make your own smoked cream cheese variation. These are a few ideas for a little cooking inspiration. Please let me know what cream cheese creation you discover.
- Try another seasoning — think jerk seasoning, everything bagel seasoning, ranch seasoning, Cajun seasoning, Chinese five-spice blend or taco seasoning.
- Give it a sweet finish to complement that BBQ dry rub with a drizzle of maple syrup or hot honey.
- Spoon some bourbon bacon jam on top of the cream cheese.
- Swap the savory rub for a cinnamon and sugar sweet rub, top with a fruit compote and serve with Nilla wafers or graham crackers.
- Top with BBQ sauce — some favorites include these coffee-bourbon, honey-sriracha and blueberry BBQ sauces.
- Brush it with Buffalo sauce for game day.
Place the cream cheese on the smoker while cold: If the cream cheese is too warm, it will melt too quickly. Score the cream cheese, season it and then immediately place it on the smoker. If you’re not quite ready to smoke the cheese after seasoning, keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook.
Don’t skip the scoring into a crosshatch pattern: This makes it much easier to scoop the cream cheese when serving, and it helps infuse the cheese with that smoky flavor.
Easily scale up: One block of cream cheese serves four to six people, but you can easily scale up for larger parties. As long as you have room on the grill, you can smoke as many cream cheese blocks at a time as needed.
Use a water pan: This helps create a moist environment to prevent the cheese from drying out.
A barrel-aged sour ale is perfect here. Those sour notes beautifully match the cream cheese’s tang, and you’ll love how the char undertones of the barrel-aging process complements the smokiness.
If you prefer wine, an oaked chardonnay is a great choice here. The buttery quality of the chardonnay stands up to the richness of the cream cheese, and like the barrel-aged beer, the oak blends with that smoky goodness.
Of course, bubbles are always great with cream cheese. That carbonation cuts right through the creamy body. With that in mind, you’ll love a classic French 76, which is a delightful Champagne cocktail.
For the perfect party dipper, you’ll love this crowd-pleasing smoked cream cheese. Grab your favorite crackers and enjoy every luscious bite.
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Easy Smoked Cream Cheese
- Wood pellets, chips or chunks hickory, apple wood, cherry wood, pecan and maple all work
- Small cast-iron skillet or aluminum pan
- Water pan
- 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese in block form
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Favorite accompaniments such as crackers, bread, fresh vegetables, etc.
- With a sharp knife, score the top of the cream cheese in a criss-cross pattern. Don't cut all the way to the bottom of the cream cheese, about halfway will do.
- Stir together the chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and black pepper to make the dry rub.
- Coat the top and sides of the cream cheese with the dry rub. Place the cream cheese in a small cast-iron skillet or aluminum pan.
- Immediately place the cream cheese on a 225-degree F smoker with a water pan. Close the lid and smoke for about two hours. You know the cream cheese is done when it's warm throughout, puffs up and starts to pull away from the criss-cross pattern. Remove from the smoker and serve with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!
- Place the cream cheese on the smoker while cold: If the cream cheese is too warm, it will melt too quickly. Score the cream cheese, season it and then immediately place it on the smoker. If you’re not quite ready to smoke the cheese after seasoning, keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook.
- One block of cream cheese serves four to six people, but you can easily scale up for larger parties. As long as you have room on the grill, you can smoke as many cream cheese blocks at a time as needed.
- Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should last for three to four days. To reheat, remove from the refrigerator for 30 minutes and warm in a 350-degree F oven for about 10 minutes.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.