8 Easy Ways to Make a Cream Cheese Substitute
Out of cream cheese? No need to make a grocery run. Get cooking with these easy cream cheese substitutions.
With its sweet, tangy flavor and smooth, creamy texture, it’s no surprise many people love cream cheese. Containing up to 33% fat, this soft, fresh cheese lends a rich, velvety touch to cheesecakes, appetizers, frosting and other decadent dishes.
You likely have a few blocks of this dairy staple stocked in the fridge, but if you suddenly realize you’re out and don’t have time to run to the store, don’t sweat it. It’s easy to swap in a similar ingredient that will yield surprisingly delicious results.
Here are eight easy substitutes you likely have on hand that will work in place of cream cheese, and a few easy tips on how to do it right. And next time you shop, be sure to stock up on our Test Kitchen’s favorite cream cheese brands.
Greek yogurt is yogurt that’s been strained to remove the liquid whey, resulting in a thicker yogurt that’s higher in protein and lower in fat. It adds a rich, creamy texture and because it has a pleasant tanginess, it won’t sacrifice any of the flavor. Simply sub in an equal amount of Greek yogurt for the cream cheese in your recipe. You’ll love the zing it adds to the frosting in these Key lime bars.
Sour cream is an ingredient you likely have stocked in the fridge, so it’s a convenient one to reach for when you’re fresh out of cream cheese. With its thick texture and tangy, slightly sour flavor, it’s great in dips and sauces, stirred into mashed potatoes or blended into a rich topping for a salad. It’s not recommended for soups because the heat will cause the cream to curdle. Use 1 cup sour cream for 1 cup cream cheese to achieve desired results.
Cottage cheese is a fresh unripened cheese with a mild, creamy taste. It’s lower in fat and calories than other types of cheese, making it ideal when you’re in search of a lighter option. However, to achieve a consistency close to regular cream cheese, you need to add heavy cream, which will up the calorie count. For frostings and desserts, mix a cup of strained cottage cheese with a cup of heavy cream. For dips and sauces, blend strained cottage cheese and puree to achieve a super-smooth texture.
Neufchatel, basically a low-fat version of cream cheese, is one of the best standard substitutes, especially when making cheesecake. Traditional French Neufchatel has its origins in the quaint town of Neufchatel-en-Bray in Normandy. You’re probably more familiar with American Neufchatel, which is similar in flavor and texture to regular cream cheese, but lower in fat (about 1/3 less) because it’s made with whole milk instead of cream. You can use Neufchatel in a 1:1 ratio with regular cream cheese.
Mascarpone, a staple ingredient in tiramisu, is the Italian version of cream cheese. This ultra-rich product (up to 75% fat!) is made from whole cream, cultures and acids, and lends a mildly sweet flavor to dips and desserts, making it a top pick when you don’t have regular cream cheese on hand. Mascarpone achieves the best results when used as a 1:1 substitute for cream cheese.
Editor’s note: Add a squeeze of lemon juice to mascarpone when you want the slightly acidic taste that cream cheese imparts.
Ricotta, classified as a whey cheese, is a soft, white and sweet dairy by-product that’s typically made by re-cooking the whey that is produced in the making of other cheeses. You’re probably most familiar with it as the creamy filling tucked inside lasagna and manicotti.
To use as a cream cheese substitute in baked goods and dips, blend one cup ricotta with one cup plain yogurt to equal two cups substitute. For frosting and cheesecakes, blend one cup ricotta with one cup heavy cream to equal two cups substitute.
Kefir is a tart, tangy yogurt-like drink made from fermented milk. You’ve probably seen it listed as an ingredient in homemade smoothies, as it boasts numerous health benefits and can even aid in easing digestive maladies. But because kefir is more watery than regular cream cheese, it can’t be subbed in on its own. To achieve optimal results, mix one cup kefir with ¼ cup chia seeds. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes to allow the seeds to absorb the kefir’s liquid content. Once thickened, it can be used just like regular cream cheese. This substitute is best used in dips and sauces rather than desserts or frosting.
Cashew cheese is a non-dairy, vegan substitute for cheese. It’s typically made of blended cashews, nutritional yeast, water and a blend of seasonings. You can find it at natural food and organic grocery stores as well as specialty cheese shops. Or make your own! Use 1 cup cashew cheese in place of 1 cup regular cream cheese in savory dishes like soups or sauces, or simply enjoy it as a delicious schmear on a toasted bagel. But heads up, it’s not an ideal swap for baked goods or frosting. If you’re craving cheesecake and follow a dairy-free diet, you’re better off sticking to a recipe for dairy-free cheesecake.