Last Updated on April 30, 2023 by Aaron
Cream cheese, a staple in various dishes and desserts, is widely adored for its smooth, creamy texture, and slightly tangy flavor.
However, there are times when we need an alternative, whether it’s due to dietary restrictions, availability, or personal preference.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best cream cheese substitutes, explore their differences, and provide practical tips for choosing and using these alternatives.
|No.||Substitutes||Features||Pro Tips and Usage|
|1||Neufchâtel Cheese||Lower fat content, slightly softer texture||Use in cheesecakes, frostings, and dips; blend for a smoother consistency|
|2||Ricotta Cheese||Looser, grainier texture, lower in fat/calories||Blend with milk/cream, use in lasagna, stuffed shells, dips, and spreads|
|3||Greek Yogurt||Tangier flavor, higher in protein, lower in fat||Use full-fat, use a 1:1 ratio|
|4||Cottage Cheese||Curdled texture, much lower in fat||Blend for a thicker texture|
|5||Mascarpone Cheese||Doubled in fat/calories, buttery, not tangy||Use in dessert, add lemon juice|
|6||Cashew Cream||Healthy plant fat, vegan, neutral flavor||Soak cashews overnight|
|7||Tofu-based Cream Cheese||Vegan, no cholesterol, milder flavor||Choose firm tofu, blend it with plant-based milk or olive oil|
|8||Kefir Cheese||Tangier taste||–|
|9||Quark Cheese||Lower in fat/calories, yogurt-like flavor, cottage-like texture||Use in cheesecakes, strudels, dips, and spreads|
|10||Sour Cream||Tangier taste with thinner consistency||Thicken with cornstarch/flour|
#1 Neufchatel Cheese
Originating from France, Neufchâtel cheese is a popular cream cheese substitute. It shares a similar taste and texture but contains less fat, making it a healthier choice. Neufchâtel cheese is available in most grocery stores and can be used as a 1:1 replacement for cream cheese in recipes. Read the differences between Neufchâtel (American) and Cream Cheese.
- Neufchâtel cheese has about 30% lower fat content
- It has a slightly grainier and softer texture
- Use Neufchâtel cheese in cheesecakes, frostings, and dips
- If you prefer a smoother consistency, blend it thoroughly before use
#2 Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is an Italian cheese made from whey, offering a much milder flavor, and is not tangy or sour like cream cheese. It’s a versatile cream cheese substitute that works well in savory dishes and desserts. Read Cream Cheese vs Ricotta Cheese in our detailed article.
- Ricotta cheese has a looser, grainier texture
- It’s lower in fat and calories than cream cheese
- For a creamier texture, blend ricotta cheese with a small amount of milk or cream
- Use in lasagna, stuffed shells, or as a base for dips and spreads
#3 Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a thick, tangy alternative to cream cheese, boasting health benefits like probiotics and high protein content. It’s an excellent choice for those looking to reduce fat and calorie intake without compromising taste. Read more in Greek Yogurt vs Cream Cheese post.
- Greek yogurt has a tangier flavor
- It’s higher in protein and lower in fat
- Choose full-fat Greek yogurt for the best consistency
- Can use equal parts as a replacement
#4 Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese made from curds and is a suitable cream cheese substitute, particularly for those seeking a lower-fat option. It works well in dips, spreads, and baked goods. Read our comparison of Cottage Cheese vs Cream Cheese.
- Cottage cheese has a curdled, lumpy texture
- It’s much lower in fat and made from skimmed milk
- Blend cottage cheese to achieve a smooth consistency
- Mix with other ingredients like herbs, spices, or fruits for added flavor
#5 Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone cheese is an Italian cream cheese with a rich, buttery flavor. It’s a fitting substitute in desserts, but due to its high-fat content, it might not be the best choice for low-fat diets. Read more in Mascarpone vs Cream Cheese.
- Mascarpone cheese is doubling in fat and calories
- It has a buttery, slightly sweet flavor
- Not as tangy or salty
- Use mascarpone cheese in tiramisu, frostings, or as a cheesecake base
- Combine with other ingredients like lemon juice to balance the richness and lift the taste
#6 Cashew Cream
For a dairy-free and vegan alternative, cashew cream is an excellent option. Made from soaked cashews blended with water (unless you have a high-speed blender), lemon juice, salt, and garlic. See this popular recipe or get this on Amazon straight. it’s a versatile substitute with a surprisingly dairy-like flavor and creamy texture.
- Cashew cream is dairy-free and vegan
- It has a more neutral flavor than cream cheese
- Healthier unsaturated plant-based fat
- Soak cashews overnight for a smoother consistency
- Customize the thickness by adjusting the amount of water used during the blending
- Add sweeteners, herbs, or spices to tailor the flavor to your recipe
#7 Tofu based Cream Cheese
Tofu-based cream cheese is another dairy-free and vegan alternative that mimics the texture and taste of traditional cream cheese. Made from soy, it’s a versatile substitute suitable for spreads, dips, and baked goods. My recommendation is to try Tofutti, but you maybe want to read this taste test first.
- Tofu-based cream cheese is dairy-free, vegan
- Lower in fat with no cholesterol
- It has a milder flavor than dairy-based cream cheese
- Choose a firm or extra-firm tofu for the best consistency
- Blend tofu with a small amount of plant-based milk or oil for a smoother texture
- Customize the flavor with sweeteners, herbs, or spices as needed
#8 Kefir Cheese
Kefir cheese, also known as labneh, is a strained yogurt cheese made from kefir. It’s a probiotic-rich alternative to cream cheese, offering a tangy flavor and creamy texture.
- Kefir cheese has a tangier taste
- It contains probiotics and is higher in protein
- Similar to the ricotta texture
- Strain kefir through a cheesecloth to achieve a thick consistency
- Use kefir cheese in dips, spreads, and as a topping for baked goods
#9 Quark Cheese
Quark cheese is a fresh, soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s popular in German cuisine and offers a smooth, creamy texture and a mild, tangy flavor. Quark cheese is a suitable cream cheese substitute in both savory dishes and desserts.
- Quark cheese is lower in fat, calories and usually has no salt
- It has a milder flavor and tastes almost like yogurt
- Thick texture like cottage cheese
- Use quark cheese in cheesecakes, strudels, or as a base for dips
- Combine with other ingredients like herbs, spices, or fruits for added flavor
#10 Sour Cream
Sour cream can be a viable substitute for cream cheese in many recipes. It’s best suited for dips, sauces, and dressings due to its tangy flavor and looser texture. Read the differences in sour cream vs cream cheese – same? in the previous article.
- Sour cream has a tangier taste and a thinner consistency
- It’s lower in fat and calories
- Thicken a cup of sour cream with 2 tbsp cornstarch or flour if necessary
Other Cream Cheese Alternatives to Consider
Heavy cream, also known as whipping cream, is another option to consider when looking for a cream cheese substitute. However, its use will depend on the specific requirements of your recipe, as heavy cream has a much thinner consistency and a higher fat content than cream cheese.
While heavy cream may not work well as a direct substitute in recipes that call for a thick, spreadable consistency, it can be used as a base for sauces, soups, and certain desserts. To create a cream cheese-like texture, you can try combining heavy cream with other ingredients such as Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, or even cream cheese itself in smaller amounts to achieve the desired thickness and flavor.
Crème fraîche is a viable option when looking for a cream cheese substitute in certain recipes, particularly when a thick, creamy consistency and a tangy flavor are desired. Crème fraîche is a cultured cream that has a rich texture and a slightly tart taste, making it suitable for both sweet and savory applications.
While crème fraîche is not as thick or firm as cream cheese, it can work well in recipes where the consistency is less critical, such as in dips, sauces, soups, or dressings.
Can I substitute cream cheese for The Laughing Cow?
The Laughing Cow is a brand of processed cheese made from a blend of fresh and aged cheese with other ingredients. So it’s sort of cream cheese-ish and aged cheese-ish.
Laughing Cow has many varieties, but the most popular is its spreadable wedge. It can be used as an alternative to cream cheese, but it may not taste similar.