Cream cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient used in all types of recipes. From topping bagels and English muffins, to cheesecake and delicious dips, this kitchen staple should always be on hand.
But what do you do if you’re in the middle of making a recipe and you find out you’re all out of cream cheese?
Have no fear, there are a number of great substitutes for cream cheese you can use no matter what you are making.
We will even cover non dairy, vegan cream cheese alternatives in case you are looking to turn your recipe into a vegan friendly dish.
So what are the best substitutes for cream cheese?
The top cream cheese substitutes are mascarpone cheese, neufchâtel cheese, ricotta, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, farmers cheese, goat cheese, nut “cream cheese”, gervais, hung curd, sour cream, and gournay cheese.
Read on for the full rundown on each of the cream cheese replacements and how to best use them in your particular recipe.
Related Recipe: Cream Cheese Frosting without Powdered Sugar
Cream Cheese Alternatives
Cream cheese offers a creamy texture and unique flavor that makes it important to understand which substitute is best for your type of recipe. What you are needing a cream cheese replacement for will dictate which of the following ingredients you should use.
No need to worry though, we will let you know everything you need to know. Let’s get to it!
The best all around cream cheese substitute is mascarpone cheese. This delicious cheese is popular in Italian desserts (tiramisu is one of them) and offers an incredible rich and creamy flavor and texture.
Mascarpone offers a less tangy flavor than cream cheese as well as being less salty. Mascarpone can be used in any recipe that calls for cream cheese from desserts to dips and spreads.
Note: Add a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice to create a flavor even more similar to cream cheese.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of mascarpone equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
Related: How to Freeze Mascarpone Cheese
A close second for all around best substitute for cream cheese is Neufchatel cheese. This French cheese is similar to brie and is often found packaged similarly to cream cheese. In fact, at most supermarkets, you will find it near the cream cheese.
The US version of Neufchatel cheese is lower in fat than cream cheese and offers a subtler flavor with less tang.
Neufchatel can be used in any recipe that calls for cream cheese and is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a milder flavored alternative. It is popular for cheesecake as well as dips and spreads.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of Neufchatel cheese equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
Ricotta cheese can work well in place of cream cheese in dips and spreads. And if thickened with some cream, can be used in desserts as well.
Ricotta has a higher water content than cream cheese so be sure to use whole fat ricotta and strain the excess water before using.
Note: To thicken ricotta place it in the blender with whole cream and a squeeze of lemon juice and process until blended.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
Related: Ricotta vs Mascarpone
With a little thickening, Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for cream cheese with some added tang. Because Greek yogurt is thinner than cream cheese, you will want to thicken it a bit for most recipes. But once thickened yogurt can be used in place of cream cheese in most recipes.
Use a cheesecloth to strain the excess liquid from your yogurt and then whip it by hand until it reaches the desired thickness.
Greek yogurt works particularly well as a spread or dip when used instead of cream cheese.
Note: Use plain Greek yogurt.
Equivalent1 cup of Greek yogurt equals 1 cup of cream cheese
I know what you’re thinking, cottage cheese is nothing like cream cheese. But it is a great alternative that is great for those who don’t have any of the above options available.
While not exactly like cream cheese, cottage cheese can be adjusted to a fine substitute. Start with whole milk cottage cheese and put it in your food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Blend until it reaches the desired thickness and strain any excess liquid and you are ready to go.
Cottage cheese works best in place of cream cheese in dips and as a spread. I would not recommend it for cheesecake or desserts as it just won’t be thick enough to hold up.
Related: Cottage Cheese vs Sour Cream
Equivalent1 cup of cottage cheese equals 1 cup of cream cheese
If you need a dairy free, vegan, or vegetarian cream cheese substitute then tofu is a solid option. Tofu is a popular base for vegan cheesecake and it will work in almost any recipe that calls for cream cheese.
Tofu can also be used in dips and even as a spread. To get a flavor more similar to cream cheese add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and mix until desired consistency is attained.
Equivalent1 cup of tofu equals 1 cup of cream cheese
This mild cheese offers creamy and crumbly consistency that can work well in place of cream cheese when making spreads and cream cheese based fillings.
You will need to add your farmer’s cheese and a bit of heavy cream to the blender and mix to get the desired consistency.
Because farmer’s cheese has a lower fat content than cream cheese it is not a good substitute for baked recipes.
Equivalent1 cup of farmer’s cheese equals 1 cup of cream cheese
For a great tangy flavor you can’t do better than goat cheese. This delicious alternative does need to be blended with a bit of cream to achieve the right texture but the results are well worth the added step.
While not the best option for baked recipes, goat cheese is an exceptional option for filling, dips, and spreads. If you enjoy a robust flavor you will not be disappointed with goat cheese.
Equivalent1 cup of goat cheese equals 1 cup of cream cheese
Nut Cream Cheese
Here is another great option for those looking for a vegan or dairy free cream cheese substitute.
Nut cream cheese is a great option for spreads and dips and with the right recipe, can be used in cream cheese based desserts. Because of it’s fat and protein content though, it is best to use nut based cream cheese in recipes specifically calling for them.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of nut cream cheese equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
This powerfully flavored French cheese may not be in everyone’s fridge but if you do have it available it’s a great cream cheese substitute for dips and spreads.
It is creamy and offers a similar texture to cream cheese even though it does offer a stronger flavor. But it makes a great dip and spreads wonderfully.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of gervais equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
Hung curd is an excellent cream cheese replacement in all types of recipes. If you have some on hand it is a great all around option.
Hung curd has a lower fat content than cream cheese but it will hold up decently well in baked recipes.
Equivalent1 tablespoon of hung curd equals 1 tablespoon of cream cheese
If you have some cream cheese but not enough for your recipe then adding some sour cream is a great way to save the day.
Mixing equal parts sour cream and cream cheese, mixed well, creates a great replacement for the missing cream cheese in your dish.
Sour cream can be used in dips and spreads and some baked dishes but keep in mind that sour cream has high acidity so should not be used in frostings.
Related Recipe: Sour Cream Dessert Crepes
Here is another French cheese that works well in place of cream cheese in spreads and dips. Gournay is already flavored so you likely will not need to add much more to your recipe.
Gournay should not be used in desserts or baked dishes but in spreads and dips (and even cheeseballs) it is a great option.
Equivalent1 cup of Gournay equals 1 cup of cream cheese
Cream Cheese Relacement FAQ
What is the best substitute for cream cheese in cheesecake?
The best cream cheese substitute for cheesecake is mascarpone cheese. It offers a similar texture and rich and creamy flavor that is ideal for cheesecake.
Neufchâtel cheese is another excellent alternative when making cheesecake.
Related Recipe: Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake
What is the best cream cheese replacement for bagels?
The best cream cheese alternatives for spreading on bagels are mascarpone cheese, neufchatel cheese, and farmer’s cheese.
What is a good substitute for cream cheese in cookies?
The top cream cheese alternatives when baking cookies are mascarpone, neufchatel, and ricotta cheese.
What are good substitutes for cream cheese when making pasta?
Mascarpone and Neufchâtel cheese work wonderfully with pasta. You can also use ricotta cheese or hung curd.
What is a good substitute for cream cheese in soup?
Goat cheese, mascarpone cheese, and farmer’s cheese are great alternatives for soup.
Can I use milk instead of cream cheese?
No, milk is too thin to be substituted for cream cheese. Instead, use mascarpone, Neufchatel, Ricotta or one of the other substitutes listed above.
Can I substitute butter for cream cheese?
Butter by itself does not make a good substitute for cream cheese. It can be used to thicken thinner cheeses such as ricotta to be used as a substitute for cream cheese.
Can I substitute heavy cream for cream cheese?
Heavy cream alone is not a suitable substitute for cream cheese. You can add heavy cream too thicken some cream cheese substitutes such as Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese.