Whether it’s your morning bagel or a batch of cookies, these cream cheese substitutes will save you a trip to the grocery store.
And from mascarpone to hummus, they’re pretty varied.
Top Cream Cheese Substitutes
As the name suggests, cream cheese is a creamy, spreadable cheese. And it’s good for so much more than just frosting.
It can make a batch of cookies impossibly tender and bring a kick of tang to an overly sweet cake.
The downside to cream cheese? It’s high in fat and calories.
But if you’re craving buffalo chicken dip or frosting for a cake, these simple cream cheese substitutes should help with that.
Needless to say, they won’t all work for every recipe. So be sure to read the descriptions before you start cooking!
1. Neufchâtel Cheese
Don’t let the picture fool you! Neufchâtel cheese is one of the best cream cheese substitutes around.
You’ll often see it sold with the rind next to the Brie and Camembert. But it’s also available in blocks, just like cream cheese.
Neufchâtel is a French spreadable cheese with a near-identical consistency and flavor to cream cheese. But it is much lower in fat and calories.
Use it in any recipe that calls for cream cheese, and you won’t even notice the difference.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of Neufchâtel cheese.
2. Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone cheese is far from a healthy alternative to cream cheese. But it’s my top choice for its flavor and texture.
It’s not as thick as cream cheese (especially the kind you get in a block), and it’s not as tangy.
So, if you need a swap for cream cheese frosting, you’ll need to add more powdered sugar to make it thick. And you won’t get that signature tang.
But it is rich and creamy, and you can easily swap it out in cakes, sauces, and even cheesecake.
It makes cookies tender, and it’ll work well in pretty much every recipe.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of mascarpone.
Note: To achieve a hint of tang, add a pinch of salt and a quick squeeze of lemon juice.
3. Sour Cream
Sour cream isn’t as thick as cream cheese, and it has a tangier flavor profile. But it is lower in fat and calories, especially if you opt for light sour cream.
Still, the flavor can be quite overwhelming, so I wouldn’t suggest spreading it on a bagel.
Instead, sour cream works best as a replacement in savory dishes. It’s nice in dips, sauces, dressings, and mashed potatoes.
But don’t add it to soup, as it’s more likely to curdle.
Similarly, it’s okay to use in desserts. But only when the amount of cream cheese needed is minimal, like in cakes and cookies.
It’ll make terrible frosting!
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/4-1/2 cup of sour cream.
Note: Start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is an excellent swap if you’re trying to eat healthily and infuse a little more nutrition into your recipes.
Not only is it slightly tart, but it’s higher in calcium, vitamin B12, and protein. So it’s perfect for vegetarian dishes.
The texture is similar but a little thinner than cream cheese. It’s more like sour cream, so I’d start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.
For the best results, get full-fat yogurt since it’s thicker.
For baking, try draining away some of the excess water. Just grab a cheesecloth or line a strainer with paper towels and let it drip.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/4-1/2 cup of Greek yogurt.
5. Dry Curd Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is an excellent replacement in savory and sweet recipes. But you need to grab dry curd cottage cheese for it to work properly.
That just means it doesn’t have the extra liquid you usually find in the tub.
And to capture the same creamy texture of cream cheese, you’ll need to blend it.
The flavor is more subtle than cream cheese, so add a squeeze of lemon juice if you want more tang. Then, it’s ready for savory recipes.
For desserts, I recommend blending cottage cheese with heavy cream (1/2 cup cottage cheese + 1/2 cup cream = 1 cup cream cheese).
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of blended dry curd cottage cheese.
Note: Strain regular, full-fat cottage cheese overnight in cheesecloth to dry it out. Then, use as instructed above.
Obviously, hummus isn’t a great swap in desserts. But it is worth checking out for spreads and dips.
It has a similar consistency to cream cheese, and the lemon juice provides that signature tart kick.
The great thing about swapping in hummus is that it has a lot of added nutrition.
The chickpea base adds additional protein (perfect for vegetarian meals), and it’s high in protein and fiber.
This swap is best in dips and uncooked recipes. And it’s yummy on an everything bagel.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/4-1/2 cup of hummus. As more as needed.
Note: Keep in mind that hummus is often flavored with garlic, which will change the taste of the recipe.
7. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese has a similar sweet tang to cream cheese but isn’t quite as thick.
So, strain it overnight in a cheesecloth to get rid of that excess moisture. Then it’ll be nice and thick!
It’s a great swap if you’re watching your calories since it’s lower in fat and calories.
Better yet, it’s an excellent source of protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and fiber.
For savory dishes, drained ricotta is a good 1:1 swap. And you can use it in sauces, pasta, dips, and more.
But for baking, you’ll need to mix it with full-fat plain yogurt or heavy cream. Just like the cottage cheese.
(1/2 cup ricotta + 1/2 cup cream/plain yogurt = 1 cup cream cheese)
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of ricotta.
Kefir is a fermented milk product that’s more like yogurt or cream in consistency with lumps like cottage cheese.
So, to make kefir thick like cream cheese, you need to separate the whey from the curds.
But don’t worry, it’s the same process we’ve discussed above. Just line a strainer with cheesecloth and let the kefir drain overnight.
Then, blend the curds with a pinch of salt and use in savory recipes.
Alternatively, if you only have the smooth kind, mix 1 cup of kefir with 1/4 cup chia seeds. Let that sit for 10 minutes, and use it in savory recipes.
I don’t recommend kefir in sweet recipes. And it’s best used in small amounts.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of blended kefir curds.
9. Silken Tofu
Silken tofu is an excellent replacement for vegan recipes. You can also use it in vegan cheesecakes.
It takes a bit of extra work, but it’s worth it!
Here’s how to make silken tofu into cream cheese:
- Press any excess moisture out of the block.
- Blend with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
How easy is that?
Of course, it won’t be as thick as cream cheese. So again, start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/4-1/2 cup of blended silken tofu.
I have a vegan friend who buys cashews by the crate to satisfy her cheese fix. It takes a little time, but it’s one of the best dairy-free options out there.
This cream cheese substitute is filled with healthy nutrition and packs a powerful flavor punch!
To make cashew cream cheese:
- Soak raw cashews until nice and tender.
- Throw them in a blender with oil, salt, and lemon juice.
- Pulse until creamy.
For savory recipes, try adding a little nutritional yeast, too.
This is usually a solid swap because blended cashews are generally thicker than, say, tofu.
That said, it won’t be super creamy. Instead, it’s more like hummus in the texture, which some people don’t enjoy.
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of cashew cream cheese.
11. Vegan Cream Cheese
For vegan recipes, sometimes it’s best to leave the swapping to the professionals.
And luckily, many supermarkets have vegan cheese options in their lineup alongside other dairy products.
Daiya has a great spreadable cream cheese alternative made from coconut oil, tapioca cream, and coconut cream. It acts like the real thing in most recipes.
It’s a little more expensive, but it’s a great way to swap out the classic cream cheese for vegan easily. No one can tell the difference!
How to Substitute: Swap 1/2 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of vegan cream cheese.
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