Basil-Cream Cheese Spread

My long-time garlic 'n' herb cheese spread, just grab some cream cheese, a little garlic and a few leaves of fresh basil and you've got the basics for a versatile spread that spices up the day from breakfast to supper, including my favorite, a real wow factor for summer's best watermelon. If you love those pricey little packages of Boursin, this spread has been my inexpensive DIY for more than twenty years!

Basil-Cream Cheese Spread ♥, a garlicky spread, alive with fresh basil, my budget-friendly substitute for Boursin. Especially good with watermelon.

Real Food, Fresh & Inventive, an Easy DIY. A Long-Time Family Favorite. Extra Welcome When "Supper's a Little Skimpy". Fun Picnic Food. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Great for Meal Prep. Great for Food Gifts. Potluck & Party Friendly. Low Carb. Vegetarian. Naturally Gluten Free.

My Substitute for Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese

Ooooooo, Boursin is pricey!

So for more than twenty years, this easy cream cheese spread has been my budget-friendly substitute. Do you know how long it's been since I bought the real Boursin? Yep. Twenty years.

But just a sec, let's back up.

WHAT IS BOURSIN, ANYWAY? Boursin [pronounced BOAR-sun or BORE-sin] is a soft cheese spread, both creamy and crumbly. It's sold in small foil-wrapped "pucks," an effortless appetizer to pick up for a charcuterie platter or a quick cheese 'n' crackers with a glass of wine before dinner. Boursin originated in France in the 1950s and was originally seasoned with garlic and herbs; today there are many different Boursin flavors.

Sounds great, right? And it is!

BUT HOW MUCH DOES BOURSIN COST? But oh my, it's expensive, in 2023, always more $1 per ounce and often more. That's a lot, considering that the main ingredient, cream cheese, retails for about a third of that.

Basil-Cream Cheese Spread, another easy appetizer ♥, a garlicky spread, alive with fresh basil, my budget-friendly substitute for Boursin.

About This Recipe

  • This cream cheese spread is creamy, garlicky, nutty, cheesy and basil-y. It's also my substitute for foil-wrapped cylinders of Boursin [pronounced BORE-sin or BORE-sun], the pricey garlicky cheese spread that originated in France.
  • Distinctive Ingredients = garlic + fresh basil + cream cheese
  • Short Ingredient List = all the above + Parmesan + walnuts + lemon juice + olive oil
  • This is a time-friendly recipe, it takes just 10 minutes to mix in a food processor. Before serving, do allow about four hours time in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld.
  • This is pantry-friendly recipe, you may already have all the ingredients on hand! I do!
  • This is a budget-friendly recipe, especially compared to buying expensive Boursin.
  • This recipe yields about 1-2/3 cups of spread. It's easy to halve the recipe for a smaller batch or double it for a large batch.
  • If you like this recipe, also take a look at Almonnaise (Vegan Mayonnaise Made from Almonds), it too has this very cool texture.
  • Not quite what you're looking for? Check out my other appetizer recipes, including other spreads and dips.
Basil-Cream Cheese Spread ♥, a garlicky spread, alive with fresh basil, my budget-friendly substitute for Boursin. Especially good with watermelon.

Ten Fun Ways to Use Basil-Cream Cheese Spread

  • Drop little bits into a frittata or omelet, adding flavor and richness.
  • Spread some on a warm toasted bagel, top with thin slices of smoked salmon, bits of red onion and a few capers, your very own lox and bagel!

  • Use it as a sandwich spread, it works especially well with vegetable sandwiches like tomato sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches.

  • Spread it across cold, crisp slices of watermelon. Swoon! My favorite!
  • Set up a small vegetable plate or cheese board, including a small ramekin of the spread.

  • Toss it with hot pasta or hot mashed potatoes.
  • Use it instead of butter with a baked potato or baked sweet potato.
  • Toss it with hot vegetables: instant sauce!

  • Use it to bind grains and veggies when stuffing vegetables like twice-baked potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers, for inspiration see Eight-Ball Stuffed Zucchini and Fresh Tomato & Basil Stuffed Peppers.
  • Drop a scoop onto a hot steak or hot burger, letting it melt into the juicy beef.

What's In Basil-Cream Cheese Spread? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Cream Cheese Cream cheese makes up the bulk of the spread. Both full-fat and low-fat cream cheese work great. Do not use non-fat cream cheese unless, by chance, you like the stuff. Me, NOT.
  • Garlic This is such an important ingredient and a little goes a long way. My version is quite garlicky, it's easy to cut back for something less so. Measure the garlic by weight, preferably, and process it on its own with salt first, before adding any other ingredients to the food processor.
  • Fresh Basil This is another important ingredient! You can really taste the basil!
  • Parmesan Cheese Grated Parmesan adds a nice funkiness, it's not obvious that it's there but skip it and you'll miss it.
  • Toasted Walnuts Walnuts give the spread some welcome texture.
  • Lemon Juice Lemon juice adds some acidity, this offsets all that rich creaminess and nuttiness.
  • Olive Oil Just a tablespoon loosens the spread and gives it a smooth mouthfeel.
Basil-Cream Cheese Spread ♥, a garlicky spread, alive with fresh basil, my budget-friendly substitute for Boursin. Especially good with cucumber & other veggies.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • Cream Cheese has some obvious substitutes, goat cheese is one, mascarpone is another, maybe even ricotta. How about cottage cheese? Yes, I think so!
  • Garlic is hard to substitute, especially fresh garlic. A little garlic powder might work, better yet, a little granulated garlic which always somehow tastes a little fresher. You might also head another direction, toward onion, using a little onion or shallot.
  • Fresh Basil adds that quintessential taste of summer. But other flavors could also work. Think chives, oregano, tarragon, dill, even lemon grass. Be creative!
  • Parmesan Cheese is lovely here but whoah, I can't for the life of me keep it on hand so am always looking for a substitute. My favorites are other dry-ish cheeses like romano or Asiago or Manchego or Gruyère. That said, I adore feta in this spread, it offers a Greek-ish cast that really works. A plant-based option? Nutritional yeast!
  • Walnuts are great but substitutes come easily. My favorite substitute for walnuts is toasted sunflower seeds, good news, sunflower seeds are way cheaper and seem to stay fresh longer. But other nuts will work too, think pecans, pistachios, almonds, etc.
    Do make sure to toast the walnuts, that really brings out their nuttiness. Me, I always toast a whole bag (a whole pound, some times a half pound) at a time. To toast walnuts, arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 350F/180C until the nuts turn golden and aromatic. Watch the oven! Nuts have so much fat, they can go from perfect to burned in a flash. I always set a timer to keep my attention.
    FYI this same roasting technique works for all nuts. In addition, there's nothing magic about 350F/180C, you can use any oven temperature. That means that if, say, you're roasting nuts for a cake that's going to bake at 325F or 375F, just use that temperature. There's also no need to preheat the oven for roasting nuts, just toss the baking tray into the oven while it's still warming up. Super easy? Yes!
  • Lemon Juice adds brightness and acidity. One obvious substitute is lime juice. Did you know that you can freeze lemons and limes? You can! See Freezer Surprises, Surprising Foods That Freeze Well. Just keep a few in the freezer, you'll never run out.
  • OLIVE OIL Use an oil that tastes good to you, one with lots of flavor that will complement the basil, otherwise choose a neutral oil that won't sideline the basil. My favorite neutral oil is grapeseed, a big bottle sits beside the olive oil next to the stove.

How to Make Basil-Cream Cheese Spread

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in three easy steps. You can definitely do this!

  • PROCESS THE GARLIC & SALT ALONE, FIRST This is such an important step, not just for this Boursin copycat but anytime garlic is being processed in a food processor, either a mini processor or a large food processor. Processing these together, first, means the garlic will be finely minced, this lets it spread throughout the cream cheese, so no one spoonful ends up with a big chunk.
  • PROCESS THE REMAINING INGREDIENTS Add the basil, then most of the remaining ingredients, then finally a little olive oil. Would it be okay to just chuck everything in all at once? Probably. But instinct and experience caution me to take things slightly slowly, all to ensure an end product whose texture is pretty wondrous.
  • CHILL Store the mixture in a glass container, anything plastic will absorb the garlic flavor. Chill for at least four hours, during that time, the flavors will meld and mellow. A little time makes alllllll the difference.

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Basil-Cream Cheese Spread ♥, a garlicky spread, alive with fresh basil, my budget-friendly substitute for Boursin. Especially good with watermelon.


Hands-on time: 10 minutes up-front
Time-to-table: 4 hours
Makes about 1-2/3 cups, easily halved for a small batch or doubled for a big batch
  • 2 cloves (about 8g) garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (assumes Morton's Kosher Salt)
  • 3-4 large (about 12g) basil leaves
  • 8 ounces (225g) cream cheese (either low-fat neufchatel or full-fat), warmed to room temperature if there's time
  • 1/2 cup (25g) grated Parmesan (or another cheese)
  • 1/2 cup (50g) toasted walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons (55g) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil, just a few drops

In a large food processor, pulse the garlic and salt together until the garlic is in fine bits, scraping the bowl's sides if necessary. Add the basil and process until fine.

Add the cream cheese and process until smooth, scraping the sides to incorporate all the cream cheese. Add the Parmesan and walnuts, pulse until the mixture almost reaches the desired consistency (me, I like to leave some texture).

Add the olive oil and pulse once or twice to thin to reach the desired consistency.

Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the flavors to meld.

Let warm to room temperature before serving, really opening up the flavors.

ALANNA's TIPS Sorry, this recipe has too much volume for a mini food processor. If that's what you have, cut the recipe in half or mix it in two batches. Whenever a salad dressing, marinade, dip or any other concoction calls for garlic and a food processor, consider processing the garlic and salt first and together. The salt gives the blade something to grab onto, without it, the garlic will just flail around without ending up finely minced. Good news, there's no need to warm the cream cheese to room temperature before processing, it works fine, straight from the fridge. That said, if there's time, do let the cream cheese warm up, it'll cream a little faster and smoother.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
RECIPE HISTORY Basil-Cream Cheese Spread was first published way back in 2003 alongside Light Tomato Basil Quiche. In those days, Kitchen Parade was formatted for newspapers in two side-by-side columns: the main recipe was on the right, recipe tips and complementary "quick" recipes were on the left. This formatting worked well in print (easy reading! easy clipping!) but the practice just doesn't work in the online world, especially because all those special quick recipes just get lost. So twenty years later, the oh-so-summery Basil-Cream Cheese Spread gets its very own page and the attention it deserves!

What to Make with Fresh Basil

for still more recipes, search
~ fresh basil ~
Homemade Basil Pesto ♥, extra basil flavor thanks to no cheese, mixing technique.

Light Tomato Basil Quiche Recipe ♥, a make-ahead, healthy, vegetarian and light quiche recipe.

Cantaloupe Salad with Feta & Basil, another easy summer recipe ♥, just sweet summer melon in an almost-savory salad, just five ingredients. Make it for lunch, make it dessert. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ cream cheese recipes ~
~ Parmesan cheese ~
~ walnut recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2003 & 2023

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.