My lox cream cheese schmear is a simple spread that combines tangy cream cheese with silky Nova smoked salmon for an absolutely fabulous bagel topper or tea sandwich filling.
lox cream cheese ~ why didn’t we think of this before?
It’s one of those simple concepts you wonder why you never tried earlier. We’ve probably all enjoyed bagels with lox and cream cheese before, but a little bit of magic happens when you combine the two into one super delicious spread. It’s so much better than the sum of its parts. Any time you’re having brunch, or really whenever bagels are in the picture, you’re going to want to whip this up, trust me. It’s so much more luxe than anything you’ll find at your local bagel store.
what’s a schmear?
Schmear is a word borrowed from the Yiddish, with German origins meaning to smear or spread. It’s easy to imagine how it became associated with topping a bagel!
Originally a schmear was just a light layer of cream cheese on a bagel. But times change and today schmears are creative combinations of cream cheese blended with all kinds of add-ins ranging from garlic and capers to blueberries, chocolate chips, and sriracha. In the wonderful world of schmears, today’s recipe is rather restrained, but absolutely delish.
what’s the difference between lox and smoked salmon?
True lox is not smoked at all, but simply raw salmon cured in brine. This gives it a salty flavor, without the smokiness. It is a bright orange color and comes very thinly shaved, or sliced. A Scandinavian variation is gravlox, which is cured with herbs and spices.
To complicate matters, much of the lox that you find in delis and supermarkets is a form of cold smoked salmon. It’s lightly cured and then cold smoked at just above room temperature. Nova salmon, which is what I bought, is cured and then cold smoked.
Note: cold smoking is different from hot smoked salmon, which is smoked over heat that actually cooks the fish. I use hot smoked salmon in my Smoked Salmon Salad.
how to know which type of cured salmon you have?
Read the label, if your salmon is packaged. Ask the person behind the counter, and finally, give it a taste. The good news is that virtually any cured or cold smoked salmon will work in this recipe.
how long will your homemade lox cream cheese schmear last?
I recommend making this in small-ish batches that you intend to use up within about 10 days. (Soft cheese and raw fish do not last super long once opened.)
can you make this bagel schmear ahead of time?
Yes, make it a day or two ahead, the flavors will have a chance to develop. Be sure to wrap it well with plastic wrap so no random fridge smells interfere with your schmear, or vice versa.
can you freeze cream cheese schmears?
I don’t recommend it, the texture of cream cheese changes after being frozen, and not in a good way.
can I used hot smoked salmon in this recipe?
Sure, there’s no reason you can’t. The texture of the spread would be a little chunkier, though, and won’t have that silky texture.
You might have come out of the great cream cheese shortage of 2021 with an unnatural urge to hoard cream cheese. That’s understandable. But things have been been pretty much sorted out now, and you should have no trouble sourcing the main ingredient for your schmear.
what type of cream cheese should you use for schmears?
I used plain old brick style cream cheese, it works perfectly and I think it has the best texture. You can also use whipped style if you prefer. Low fat will work, but the best schmears are made with full fat 😉 There’s no need to soften your cheese before blending with the lox, by the way. I like to use it cold from the fridge. Just break it up before adding to a bowl, and use the back of a fork to smooth it out.
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Lox Schmear Recipe
- 8 ounces brick style cream cheese, I like Philadelphia brand.
- 2 ounces lox or cold smoked salmon. Note: use more or less to taste.
- lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp onion powder, or to taste
- Put the cream cheese in a small bowl. If you're using brick style cream cheese it helps to cut it into large cubes first. Use a fork to blend the cheese until creamy. Note: there's no need to soften the cheese first, use it straight from the fridge.
- Cut the lox into small bits and add to the bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the onion powder. Note: do not use onion salt in this recipe, that will make your schmear too salty.
- Mix everything together well, so the lox are evenly distributed. Taste to adjust any of the ingrdients. You may want to add more lox, or more lemon juice.
- Use right away or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Will last at least 10 days, refrigerated.