If you’re a fan of that rich, velvety cream cheese flavor, but don’t want to indulge in its cholesterol-heavy calories or lactose intolerance, the following substitutes for cream cheese might just do the trick.
Creamy-style spreads are all the rage right now – especially because they’re lower fat and higher protein than regular cream cheese. They tend to have less sugar too. Here are 19 different options for your future recipes!
What is Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is also known as brick cheese, cream butter and Philadelphia. It is a soft, spreadable dairy product made from cow’s milk and produced in small batches. It has a rubbery texture, a sweet fragrance with trace gamey overtones, mild acidity and a mild salty taste. It’s sold commercially as soft whipped cream cheese or block cream cheese to be eaten on bread or vegetables.
Cream cheese is made by the agitation of milk, cream and an acid-producing bacterial culture. The by-products of this process are whey, curds and butterfat. The curds are separated from the butterfat and processed further to make cream cheese. Cream cheese is a relatively expensive product, costing about $4 a pound in most supermarkets. However, it’s usually sold for less than $3 per pound in most retail stores.
How to Use Cream Cheese?
One way that cream cheese is used is as a spread. It can be used to make sandwiches, bagels, English muffins and crackers. Cream cheese can also be added to vegetables including artichokes, celery, onions or peppers. Cheesecake and other baked goods can be made with cream cheese. You could also use it to make dips, glazes or sauces, including guacamole or spinach dip. It can even be used as a substitute for eggs in certain recipes.
List of 19 Best Substitutes for Cream Cheese
Mascarpone is a sweet cream cheese originally from Italy that is widely available in grocery stores. It has a higher fat content than traditional cream cheese, which leads to its creamy texture and slightly sweeter flavor. Its mildness makes it the perfect substitution for cream cheese in recipes.
Mascarpone is more widely available than many other substitutes for cream cheese, but you won’t always be able to find it since it needs to be refrigerated after opening. To keep mascarpone fresh longer, wrap it like you would a block of cream cheese and seal it with plastic wrap.
You can use mascarpone in place of cream cheese in almost any recipe. This includes recipes for desserts, savory meals and everything in between!
2. Almond Cream Cheese
These days there are many products like almond butter and almond milk that simply do not taste the same as traditional cow’s milk. In fact, almonds taste nothing like cow’s milk at all!
My favorite almond butter brand is made with ingredients I can pronounce and uses simple ingredients such as almonds and sea salt. This brand is fine in baking however I discovered that I could use just as much of it in savory recipes without any changes to the recipe itself.
This almond cream cheese is a perfect substitution for dairy-containing cream cheese and can be used as a substitute in a similar manner to that of mascarpone. The only difference you will notice is that it has a slightly different flavor but to my palate it’s far better than the older brands of cream cheese.
3. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese can be used as a replacement for cream cheese in recipes that require no baking. Cottage cheese is also the perfect alternative for cream cheese and crackers when offering a dairy-free appetizer for a party!
However, do note that the cottage cheese you consume should not be low-fat or non-fat. Due to the low fat content, it will make your dish less creamy and and will alter the consistency of your dish. If you are looking to lighten up your recipe you can use mascarpone in place of whole milk cottage cheese.
4. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is similar to cottage cheese in that it too has a thicker consistency. It is made from fresh or boxed ricotta and is used in baking and cooking recipes just like cream cheese. I find this cheeses a little more tart than traditional cream cheese however if you want to lighten up the flavor you can use mascarpone as a substitution for ricotta.
5. Hung Curd
This is one of my favorite substitutes, and I encourage you to try it out on your next recipe! It’s similar in texture to cream cheese and can be mixed with everything from fruit salad to salad dressings!
As with whole milk yogurt, the only difference between this curd and traditional cream cheese is its texture. Hung curd has a thinner consistency than normal yogurt. My personal preference for recipe testing is that of a thick and smooth cream cheese so I use either mascarpone or sour cream as a substitute depending on the dish.
6. Petit Suisse / Double Suisse
Petit Suisse is a soft, fresh cheese with a mild flavor. (It’s not as strong as some other hard cheeses so you may want to forego using it in recipes that are very strong in flavor.) It’s very similar in texture and taste to cream cheese and has enough fat to hold up well without adding heavy ingredients or excessive liquid.
It does have a bit more salt than cream cheese, so make sure you add the correct amount for your recipe if you add fruit.
Double Suisse is similar in taste and consistency to Petit Suisse, but is more firm when first blended (it will become softer on the inside as it sits). The two are interchangeable in recipes, but Petit Suisse turning softer will be key to making any recipe with this cheese.
7. Cashew Cream Cheese
Cashew cream cheese may not be the most authentic substitute for cream cheese, but it is extremely simple to make and mimics the taste and texture of cream cheese very well. It’s also customizable for you to make it healthier or sweeter if you want.
It’s best in cooking when a cheesy flavor isn’t required, but rather a creamy one is. You can simply blend or process cashews until they are smooth with some water, salt and lemon juice or vinegar to taste and add nuts of any kind (or fruit if you want a sweeter flavor) if you are wanting to add more flavor.
8. Gervais Cheese
This French-style cheese is actually made from goat milk and is similar in taste to cream cheese, though it has a thicker consistency, making it a good substitute for cream cheese as well as kabocha or pumpkin cheeses that aren’t made from milk. Since it has a fruity, tangy taste, you may want to add some of your favorite fruits or berries for flavor when making an all-fruit dip, for example.
If you cannot find Gervais Cheese and cannot find a good substitute source, some other Goat Milk Cheeses like Ossau Iraty or Montrachet do have the right consistency—they are great in baking and on salads.
9. Sour Cream
Sour cream has a thicker consistency and a tangy flavor to it. As with the other substitutes, sour cream can be used if your recipe calls for it however I don’t recommend substituting for whipped cream as it will alter the taste and consistency of your recipe. This substitute is great for cooking especially in savory recipes!
10. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has a thinner consistency than sour cream or heavy cream. Like the other substitutes, it is best used in savory recipes. However in baking, you can use it as an ingredient if your recipe calls for it. I don’t recommend using this as a substitution for whipped cream as it can take on a grainy texture.
Neufchatel is basically cream cheese made from non-cream dairy products. It is perfect for those who can not consume regular cream cheese as a substitute for Neufchatel is made with bacteria, rennet and enzymes.
Note that if you are using this cream cheese as a replacement for whipped cream or frostings, it will have a slightly different taste and smell due to the non-cream base. The great thing about Neufchatel is that is may be substituted for whipped cream recipes with no alterations to the recipe pieces.
If you find you can’t use sour cream or crème fraîche and need something with a bit more weight, kefir will do the trick. (Kefir is a milk product fermented with a strain of bacteria similar to the one that grows on yogurt. Though they are not the same, they have similar properties.)
It has a tangy flavor and thick consistency that makes it great for baking, sauces, and dips. It’s not as creamy as cream cheese itself so it works best in recipes that don’t require a real cream cheese taste (although it does have some good fat absorption properties).
13. Merckens Greek Yogurt
This brand is just one of three brands that are dairy-free, soy-free and vegan. The other two brands are also great substitutes for cream cheese however the taste is slightly different than traditional cream cheese.
The first difference is that it has a saltier taste because they use kelp in the manufacturing process. The second difference is that the texture is a little more dense than traditional yogurt; thus giving it a thicker consistency.
14. Yogurt Cheese
Yogurt cheese is made by straining regular yogurt. This process takes out excess water and makes the product thicker. I personally love this substitute as it has a tangier taste than sour cream or heavy cream. It can be used as a replacement for whipped cream or in recipes that call for cream cheese.
15. Chèvre (Goat Cheese)
If you have a hard time finding a substitute that can hold up well to your recipe, try goat cheese. It’s similar in taste and consistency to cream cheese, and will give you that tangy flavor many recipes need. You can also add in dried fruit or other fruit for flavor if you want to go the route of making an all-fruit dip.
16. Sour Cream / Creme Fraiche
Although sour cream and crème fraîche are not identical, they are nearly interchangeable when it comes to cooking. Both have a bit more tang than cream cheese does, so if your recipe calls for a flavored cream cheese you’ll want to swap in something milder. If the flavor is going to be masked by other ingredients like chocolate or vanilla, though, you shouldn’t notice a difference.
Since they both have more fat than cream cheese and will change the texture of whatever you are making slightly, it’s best to stick with crème fraîche if possible—it’s richer and will hold up better in recipes like dips and spreads.
17. Boursin Gournay Cheese or Alouette Garlic Herb Cheese
If you’re looking for a cheese that will be similar to cream cheese in taste, texture and consistency, one of the brands under Boursin is your best bet. Their Gournay cheese is soft like cream cheese and has a similar texture and flavor. It may need a bit of help to make it taste exactly like cream cheese, however—you may need to add honey or sugar if the flavor isn’t strong enough for you.
18. Butter Beans
If you need to make your own version of a cream cheese frosting, try using butter beans instead of cream cheese. The butter bean is a fresh bean that’s very similar in taste to cream cheese, and has a light, milky-like color as well. It can be used in recipes that call for cream cheese and will give them the right consistency without extra liquid.
19. Coconut Cream Cheese
Coconut cream cheese is similar in texture and taste to cream cheese and works great for recipes that call for a cream cheese type ingredient. It can be made into an all-fruit dip, spread on bagels, or used in baking near the end of the recipe so it won’t affect the texture of a recipe. You can also add dried fruit to it if you want a sweeter flavor.
If you’re looking to replace cream cheese in your recipes, coconut cream cheese is your best bet because it has enough body to hold up well during cooking and has a bit of fat that will help with melting other ingredients.
How To Make Cream Cheese At Home?
In conclusion, if you are looking for a substitute for cream cheese, it’s best to try and find one that has the same consistency and taste. For best results, choose a substitute that has the same fat content as cream cheese, or is at least buttery in consistency to make sure your recipes stay the same.