Smokers and barbecue set-ups are great for turning larger, tougher cuts of meat into mouth-watering entrees that everyone loves. You can also use your smoker to turn everyday staples into delicious, flavor-packed versions of themselves.
From smoked fruit for desserts or jams to smoked veggies like tomatoes for a fresh pasta sauce, smokers can be used to create one-of-a-kind dishes with or without the meat.
This recipe takes a fresh loaf of cream cheese and turns it into an absolute explosion of smokey, garlic, and jalapeno flavor.
Whether you're spreading this jalapeno and garlic smoked cream cheese on a toasted bagel every morning, or more likely enjoying it warm, fresh out of the smoker with a pile of crackers, it is sure to become one of your go-to smoker recipes!
How to make smoked cream cheese!
Before you get started smoking cream cheese, you'll need to keep a few things in mind.
The most important part of the smoked cream cheese equation is temperature control. Unlike proteins or vegetables that can be more forgiving, cream cheese is a relatively sensitive balance of fat, sugar, and protein that does not like to be heated quickly or at too high temperatures.
If you've ever tried microwaving cream cheese, you'll probably understand that if the cheese gets too hot, the cheese breaks and separates. The key to a perfectly smoked block of cream cheese is a low, consistent temperature.
So if your smoker is capable of that, proceed on to this delicious smoked cream cheese recipe.
If you're not so sure your smoker can maintain a consistent 185°f, you can still attempt this recipe. Just be sure to monitor the temperature and progress so you can pull the cheese before it begins to break.
In addition to a consistent smoker, a digital meat thermometer will allow you to track the ambient temperature of your smoker to a much more accurate level. It's sad to say, but most commercial smokers come with inexpensive and often inaccurate temperature measurements. The best way to improve your smoking experience is to add a precise meat thermometer to your set-up.
Gather the ingredients!
Before starting any new recipe, it's best to gather all the ingredients you'll need before diving into the actual preparation.
There's nothing worse than realizing you're missing a key ingredient in the middle of the cooking process, so make sure you've got everything at hand before you begin!
Preheat your smoker.
Because the cream cheese will only be in the smoker for ~1 ¾ hours, it's essential to make sure the wood is burning as cleanly as possible before putting the cheese in the smoking chamber.
When you smoke cream cheese, the smoke coming from your smoker should be white or clear. Grey or black smoke is a sign of incomplete combustion, and this will give the cheese a sooty look and a gas-like chemical flavor from the smoke residue.
Prep the veggies.
First, wash the jalapeno peppers and peel the garlic cloves. Once done, prep the jalapenos by slicing the peppers in half a long way and then cutting the halves into half-moons.
You can remove the seeds before slicing the halves into half moons or leave them in if you like it spicy!
Next, chop or slice the garlic as desired. Chopped garlic is easy to spread evenly and will give the entire dish a smokey garlicky flavor; on the other hand, slices or larger chunks of garlic nestled into the cream cheese will provide bursts of garlic flavor without overpowering the dip.
Pull out the cream cheese.
For this recipe, you'll need a few blocks of cream cheese. There are a lot of different brands and styles to choose from, but in our experience, good whole-fat cream cheese will work best overall. You can use low-fat cream cheese-like Neufchatel or even a "greek style" cream cheese that's more of a type of yogurt, but regular ol' full fat cream cheese such as Philadelphia cream cheese is the best for this.
To prepare the cream cheese for the smoker, you'll open the packages carefully, removing the foil while trying to keep the entire cream cheese block intact.
If you're worried the cream cheese is too soft, throw it in the freezer for 10 minutes before unwrapping it to harden the outside and make it easier to handle.
Add the Jalapenos and Garlic, then Season.
Once the block of cream cheese is out of the wrapper, place it on a small tray lined with tin foil.
Press the jalapenos and garlic into the top and sides of the cream cheese. Don't press hard enough to deform the block of cheese, but make sure the veggies are firmly set and won't fall off as the cream cheese heats.
Once the veggies are firmly affixed to the cream cheese, season both blocks with your favorite bbq rub, we recommend something sweet with a touch of salt and brown sugar to balance the heat of the jalapenos and fresh garlic bite.
Smoking the cream cheese.
Once you've seasoned and dressed the cream cheese, it's time to put it in your smoker.
Place the cream cheese blocks on the foil-lined pan uncovered on the middle or top rack of the smoker. It's best to keep the cheese as far from direct heat as possible and allow the hot air/smoke to cook it.
Set your time for 1 hour and 45 minutes, and allow the smoking process to get underway.
Monitor your cream cheese.
Unlike other smoking projects where it's essential to keep the pit closed to maintain a consistent temperature, there is no problem with regularly checking the progress of your cream cheese.
Even with a quality pit thermometer, you're going to want to keep a visual eye on the progress of the cream cheese, so make sure to check it every 20-30 minutes during the cooking process.
If the cheese begins to melt, or look broken, remove it immediately, it's most likely ready, and the temperature was higher than anticipated.
Serve and enjoy!
Once the cheese is above 140°f, it's safe to serve. At that temperature, the cream cheese should be warm and delicious with a ton of smokey garlic and jalapeno barbecue flavor.
Enjoy the cream cheese immediately with a pile of crackers and some bell pepper pieces for dipping, or refrigerate the cream cheese and use it to serve on bagels or sandwiches for up to 7 days!
Make sure to store the cream cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You can freeze smoked cream cheese without a lot of issues, you may have to whip it when you defrost it, but it should come right back together with a bit of elbow grease!
Jalapeno And Garlic Smoked Cream Cheese
- 2 (8 oz.) packs of cream cheese
- 1 large jalapeno or 2 small
- 1 large clove of garlic, diced or 2 small
- 1 tbsp all purpose BBQ rub I used holy gospel
- Preheat the smoker to 185 degrees F.
- Wash and cut the jalapeno into slices, then cut the slices in half.
- Unwrap the cream cheese packages and place onto a foil-lined pan or in an aluminum pan.
- Place the jalapeno slices onto the cream cheese in the pattern of choice and slightly push them into the cream cheese.
- Then use a sharp knife to score the cream cheese around the jalapenos.
- Next add the garlic.
- Sprinkle the top and sides of the cream cheese with the BBQ Rub.
- Add some of the BBQ Rub to the foil underneath the cream cheese to season the bottom of the cream cheese.
- Place the pan onto the preheated smoker and close the lid.
- Let smoke at 185 degrees F for about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Remove from the smoker and enjoy it warm with crackers and sweet mini peppers.