Cream cheese is one of the most popular staples in your fridge. This mild cheese is perfect for spreading on toast, baking, or using in variety of dishes. However, if you don’t have any cream cheese on hand, here are some alternatives that can work just as well.
What is Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is made from a combination of milk and cream. It has a mild, tangy, slightly sweet flavor with a thick, fluffy texture that has a consistency perfect for spreading.
How Cream Cheese Is Most Commonly Used?
Cream cheese has a flavor that can stand on it’s own and is often used as a spread. If you enjoy a good bagel, then you are likely very familiar with cream cheese. However, it is also used as an ingredient in a wide variety of dishes from deserts such as cheesecake and frostings to savory dishes such as dips, casseroles, and pasta sauces.
Substitutes for Cream Cheese
If you don’t have any cream cheese on hand or are working around dietary restrictions, here are some great alternatives to cream cheese:
1. Cottage Cheese
Like cream cheese, cottage cheese is also a milk product and has a similar mild and slightly tangy taste. Unlike cream cheese, it is made from curdled milk, which is why it has a lumpy texture.
Cottage cheese is great as a replacement for cream cheese in dips or in savory cooking as a thickener. However, if you are trying to bake with cottage cheese, mix it with cream as otherwise the texture may not work with your final product.
2. Sour Cream
Sour cream is made by fermenting regular cream. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a tangy taste that is slightly more runny than cream cheese.
Thanks to its similar texture, sour cream works as a good alternative for cream cheese in most savory dishes. You can use it in dips, pasta sauces, and even in baking. Sour cream is healthier than cream cheese and lower in calories, so you may want to use this substitute if you are on a diet. Given it’s sour taste, I would be careful if considering this as a cream cheese substitute in desserts though.
3. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a thicker, tangier version of regular yogurt. Unlike regular yogurt, the whey is strained out during the manufacturing process giving it a thicker texture. In terms of texture and taste, Greek yogurt is somewhere between cream cheese and plain yogurt.
This is an excellent substitute for cream cheese in dips and spreads. You can also use it when baking desserts or making frosting, but make sure to add more sugar as it is tangier than cream cheese.
4. Ricotta Cheese
Some people call ricotta cheese “Italian cream cheese” due to its similarities with regular cream cheese. Ricotta is a runny, grainy cheese made from whey. It has a slightly sweeter taste than cream cheese.
Ricotta works well as a cream cheese substitute in pasta dishes, casseroles, and especially in baking. Keep in mind that ricotta has a runnier texture, so if you are using cream cheese as a stabilizer in your recipe (for example, in a cheesecake recipe), I would whip the ricotta to make it thicker.
Neufchatel is a creamy French cheese that is usually sold in a rind. Once you peel off the papery rind, the result is a soft, grainy cheese with a slightly funky texture.
Despite the different texture, it is a delicious cheese you can spread on your bagels and toast. It is a great low fat alternative to cream cheese, particularly when baking, because the texture is so similar.
6. Silken Tofu
Like all tofu, silken tofu is made from coagulated soy milk. This version of tofu is smooth and creamy, making it very similar in texture to cream cheese. It has a neutral taste, making it a great cream cheese alternative for vegans.
Silken tofu is a great cream cheese substitute for baking. You can even use it to make a delicious “cheesecake,” though, just make sure that you add lemon juice for that tangy taste you get from cream cheese. You can also use it to make sauces, dips, and even salad dressing.
Mascarpone is an Italian cheese that is made by fermenting heavy cream instead of milk, which is used as the base ingredient for most other cheeses. The result is a thick, spreadable cheese with a sweet yet somewhat tangy flavor. Texture-wise, it is very close to cream cheese.
You can use mascarpone instead of cream cheese in most baking recipes, especially for richer dishes. Mascarpone also works in some pasta dishes, but keep in mind that it is much sweeter than cream cheese.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern spread made from pureed chickpeas. It has a smooth, creamy texture, similar to cream cheese. However, its has a very different taste that is more savory.
It can be a good vegan alternative to cream cheese, but it only works in certain situations. You can spread it on your toast, use it as the base for a dip and as an ingredient in some savory baked dishes. It doesn’t work well in sweet recipes.
I would say this is my least favorite alternative to cream cheese because of the difference in taste. However it will work in some recipes when you are in a pinch.
9. Goat Cheese
While cream cheese typically comes from cow’s milk, goat cheese is made from milk that comes from goats. It usually comes in logs and has a similar spreadable, thick texture as cream cheese, if a bit more crumbly. Goat cheese is similar in flavor to cream cheese as well but is tangier.
You can replace cream cheese with goat cheese as a spread, in dips, in salad dressings, and in fillings for fresh pasta. However, the taste is more intense than cream cheese, so some people may find it off-putting.
I myself love the taste of goat cheese and think it is one of the best substitutes for many dishes.
Quark, sometimes called farmer’s cheese, is strained, curdled milk. It has a similar creamy, firm texture to cream cheese and a slightly more sour flavor.
Quark is very popular in Germany, where most people use it as a cream cheese replacement. You can use it to make cheesecake, frost cupcakes, or add it to your next casserole. If you are baking with quark, just add more sugar than you would if baking with cream cheese.
11. Cashew Cheese
Cashew “cheese” is a vegan replacement for cream cheese made from cashews. You can make it at home by soaking cashews and blending them with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and seasonings. The texture is similar to cream cheese, but the flavor is tangier and more assertive.
This alternative is a great vegan cream cheese replacement in savory dishes such as dips and casseroles.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is popular in Southeast Europe and the Middle East. It is a creamy liquid drink, slightly thicker than milk, and much tangier.
On its own, kefir is not a good cream cheese substitute because the texture is completely different. However, you can turn kefir into cream cheese by straining it until it reaches the right consistency. Then, you can use it as a cream cheese substitute in any dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Replace Cream Cheese With Milk?
While you can substitute cream cheese with milk in some recipes, you definitely won’t get the same texture and tangy flavor that you associate with cream cheese. Milk has a much more mild flavor making other alternatives better options.
Can I Use Normal Cheese Instead of Cream Cheese?
The answer depends on what you consider “normal” cheese. You can substitute most soft cheeses such as goat cheese, mascarpone, and ricotta for cream cheese. Harder cheeses such as cheddar don’t work well as a substitute.
Final Thoughts on Cream Cheese Substitutes
Cream cheese is so versatile thanks to its mild flavor and forgiving texture. The main thing that you need to consider when looking at cream cheese substitutes is the flavor and texture you are going for in your specific recipe. I hope you find this list helpful! Happy cooking!
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