If you’ve run out of cream cheese, you don’t like it or you want a dairy-free alternative then you’ll be looking for a replacement. This article will have you covered. What you want as a replacement will largely depend on what type of cooking you are doing. This article will set out the best replacements for every cooking scenario.
Luckily there are some cream cheese substitutes that you can use on all occasions. They’re in the ‘cream cheese substitutes for all occasions’ section.
Cream cheese is an American classic, which was invented in 1872 by Mr. William A Lawrence when he tried to copy French Neufchatel cheese. He got pretty close, but not close enough to call it Neufchatel. Instead, it became cream cheese and what he invented back then is basically what we all still eat today. Philadelphia cream cheese came along in 1873 and is the brand that most of us know.
Cream cheese is soft and mild, but tangy tasting and is made from both milk and cream. What sets cream cheese apart from most other cheeses is that it’s not left to mature. It’s served fresh and that’s one of the main reasons for its distinctive taste.
Cream cheese is a very versatile cheese and it’s used in a huge number of recipes. It’s used as a dip or a spread, in baking and for frosting, and in desserts.
What about making your own cream cheese?
Making your own cream cheese isn’t actually that difficult if you have the right ingredients. It usually only takes a couple of hours as well. So, if you’ve got the time and the ingredients, and you’re up for it, then skip to the last section in this article. We’ve got two homemade cream cheese recipes to choose from.
Most people either don’t have the time or the ingredients to make their own cream cheese or they just want to try something different.
Cream Cheese substitutes for all occasions
Here are some substitutes that work pretty well in all cooking applications where you would normally use cream cheese.
If you can get hold of it, Neufchatel cheese is a pretty good replacement. Cream cheese actually came about when Mr. William A Lawrence tried to make his own Neufchatel. You can basically use it interchangeably and in the same amounts.
The main difference between cream cheese and Neufchatel is that Neufchatel is matured. This does make a slight difference to the taste and texture, but it’s not too different.
While you would expect Neufchatel to be more cheese-like than cream cheese, it’s actually creamier in texture and slightly less rich-tasting. That doesn’t make it boring though. While cream cheese has a bit more flavor, Neufchatel has a nice texture and a flavor of its own which is slightly different, but still good.
You can swap Neufchatel in for dips and spreads, baking, or frosting and dessert making.
Cashew or almond cream cheese
These are the best vegan alternatives to cream cheese and can be used in any cooking application as a cream cheese substitute.
These are made to resemble cream cheese but are obviously made with cashew or almond milk. The taste of cashew or almond does change things a bit, just like when you swap regular milk for almond or cashew milk. Nonetheless, it can be used in exactly the same way and makes a great cream cheese substitute.
Gervais cheese might be hard to get hold of. But if you’ve got some or you know where to get it, then you can swap cream cheese for Gervais cheese.
Gervais cheese is actually an Austrian-style cream cheese. It’s produced from milk and is a creamy, spreadable cheese with an aromatic taste. Some varieties come with herb flavorings.
Much like Neufchatel cheese, you can swap it in at like-for-like ratios in any recipe. It will change the flavor a bit and the texture is different, but it makes a really good replacement for cream cheese.
Gervais cheese with cream
A lot of people like to mix Gervais cheese with cream to make it more like cream cheese. This will make it taste a bit fresher and is a particularly good idea when you are making frosting for a cake or cooking a dessert.
Sour cream would seem like a fairly obvious cream cheese substitute. Sour cream has a more sour taste than cream cheese, but is also soft and has a spreadable texture.
You can swap these for each other in everything except desserts. The sour taste of sour cream usually doesn’t work in a dessert and so just use it as a spread, a dip, or in baking.
Best cream cheese substitutes for spreads and dips
If you need a cream cheese substitute for a spread or a dip, then here are the best options. Don’t forget that you can use one of my substitutes above that work in all applications.
Boursin, Alouette or Rondele Cheese Spreads
These are all common cheese spreads that you will probably find in your grocery store. They’ll probably be next to the cream cheese as well. They work really well as spreads or dips and are a great alternative to cream cheese if you’re just looking for something different for a change.
These cheese spreads are all made to offer something slightly different from cream cheese, so watch out because they’ll probably taste a bit different.
Hung curd is made by hanging fresh yogurt in a muslin bag and allowing it to drain. It has lower fat content than cream cheese and a slightly more sour flavor. It’s similar to Greek yogurt but is much thicker and creamier.
Hung curd is thick and creamy and works really well as a cream cheese substitute in dips and spreads. If you want the sour taste, then just use it as it is. If you want to add a little sweetness, then try putting some sugar, honey, or maple syrup with it.
One of the great benefits and one of the reasons that people use hung curd instead of cream cheese is that it’s lower in fat. If you’re on a health drive or you always like to choose low-fat alternatives, then give hung curd a go.
Mascarpone, which is an Italian cheese, is similar to cream cheese and is often used in the same way. Cream cheese is usually firm in texture and sharper tasting, whereas Mascarpone is generally considered to have a smooth texture and a richer taste.
What mascarpone cheese doesn’t do is match cream cheese for the fresh cheese taste. What it does do is match the way that you can use it and bring a nice, alternative rich taste to your dish. Replace cream cheese with mascarpone for a dip or a spread and see what you think.
Ricotta cheese mixed with yogurt
Ricotta cheese doesn’t have the tanginess and saltiness that cream cheese has. It does still make a good cream cheese substitute for dips and spreads. Ricotta cheese is made in a different way and comes out of the process a lot milkier and plainer.
Adding plain or, even better, Greek yogurt will help the texture and flavor a great deal if you want a swap for a spread or a dip. Just add yogurt in a 1:1 ratio and mix them together. Some of the cheesy flavors will go, but you end up with a really nice, creamy spread or dip that will work really well. You can also mix it with cream instead to do this, but this will work better in baked goods and sweet recipes.
Kefir is fermented milk made from Kefir grains and it’s usually served as a drink. This can be used as a substitute, but is probably the most dissimilar one to cream cheese, though.
Kefir is very creamy and has a slightly sour taste, which helps it to provide a flavor match for cream cheese. You will need to mix it with something to thicken it up a bit. If you have some hung curd, another soft cheese, or a thickening agent, then mix the two together until you end up with the right consistency for a dip or a spread.
Goat’s cheese, or chevre cheese as it’s otherwise known, is a good alternative to cream cheese with a distinctive taste. The taste and texture of goat’s cheese are actually very different from the cream cheese. It’s much stronger and it’s also a lot firmer. This is a good one if you’re looking for something totally different.
To help it spread and to use it as a dip, add an equal amount of cream and mix them together. This will also help to reduce the cheesy flavor a bit as well and make it a bit more like cream cheese.
Best cream cheese substitutes for baking
If you’re looking for a cream cheese substitute for baking, then this section is for you.
Cottage cheese is another fresh cheese, just like cream cheese and it makes a good substitute for cream cheese.
Unlike, cream cheese, cottage cheese is made from yogurt. This gives it a different taste and also makes it a low-fat alternative. On top of this, it is 70% protein and has 11% of the daily recommended dose of calcium.
Cottage cheese will hold up really well in a baking recipe and you can just swap it indirectly.
As I said earlier, ricotta cheese doesn’t have the tanginess and saltiness that cream cheese has. It is made in different ways and comes out of the process a lot milkier and plainer.
It does make a really good cream cheese substitute for baking applications, though. You can just swap it indirectly. To add a bit of tanginess and to get closer to the flavor of cream cheese, you can try adding some apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You’ll only need a small amount. Just make sure you mix it in really well before you start baking.
Farmer’s cheese/dry curd cottage cheese
Farmer’s cheese, or dry curd cottage cheese as it’s otherwise known, is another good cream cheese substitute for baking.
Farmer’s cheese is made in the same way as normal cottage cheese. However, when it’s being produced and they strain the whey out they don’t add any cream afterward like they do when they’re making cottage cheese. The milkiness of cottage cheese comes from the cream being added.
Farmer’s cheese is a lot tangier than cottage cheese and has a firmer texture. The tanginess can be too strong sometimes, but this is what makes it a good substitute for cream cheese. If you have any sour cream, try mixing it with farmer’s cheese to get the texture closer to cream cheese.
Hung has lower fat content than cream cheese and a slightly more sour flavor. It’s similar to Greek yogurt but is much thicker and creamier.
Hung curd has already been mentioned as a substitute for dips and spreads, but you can also use it for baking. Watch out for the slightly more sour flavor.
Sour cream with butter and flour
Sour cream is one substitute for cream cheese that you can use in most applications. It works pretty well in savory dishes but works even better with some butter and flour.
You’ll need to have a blender for this one. Add butter and flour and blend them together according to taste. The more flour you add the more it will thicken and the more butter you add, the less sour it will be.
Just like when you use goat’s cheese as a substitute for cream cheese in dips and spreads, goat’s cheese will be a lot more flavorful and quite different from the cream cheese. You can either swap it in like for like to get something different or you can mix it with some heavy cream to get a closer match for both taste and texture.
Best cream cheese substitutes for frosting or desserts
When you’re making desserts and frostings you have to be a bit more careful.
The smoothness and richness of mascarpone actually work really well for frosting, desserts, and other sweet recipes. The best thing to do is mix it with a little cream and add some lemon juice. This will freshen it up a bit and give it a nice tanginess that works in sweet dishes
Cottage cheese with cream
Mixing cottage cream with cheese will often work as a cream cheese substitute for no-bake cheesecakes. Follow the following recipe:
- Equal parts of cottage cheese and cream mixed together
- 1/4 cup margarine,
- 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt
Mix all this together and go for it.
Hung curd with honey or maple syrup
This thicker and creamier version of Greek yogurt can be used for frostings and desserts if you add some honey or maple syrup. Without honey or maple syrup it is likely to be too sour. Just mix some in and use it just as you would use cream cheese.
Ricotta cheese mixed with cream for cheesecakes
Ricotta cheese mixed with cream will make a light and refreshing cheesecake and is a good substitute for cream cheese. One part cream to two parts ricotta is the recommended ratio.
It’s perfectly nice plain or with fruit fillings such as blueberry or strawberry.
Dairy-free substitute for cream cheese
If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly alternative to cream cheese, either as a creamy spread, for a dip, for baking, or for a dessert, then here are your options.
Cashew/almond cream cheese
These are dedicated types of vegan cream cheese and they’re the best vegan cream cheese substitutes. Cashew cream cheese is the one that most people go for. There isn’t too much to say about them, other than they’re a slightly nutty alternative to cream cheese. A lot of what is out there isn’t that good though, and so here are some of the best brands and versions:
- Violife Creamy Original
- Ferme Cashews Fermentino
- Bute Island Creamy Cheese
Tofu spreads, like Tofutti, often make a really good cream cheese substitute. Pureed tofu or tofu spreads are actually quite nice and they often come with different flavorings to add a little extra.
You can either use them as they come or you can add something to them to try and get them a little closer to cream cheese. To give them a bit of tanginess or savoriness, you can try adding lemon juice, vinegar, or nutritional yeast, if you have any.
Lemon juice and vinegar will add a nice tang and nutritional yeast works really well for savory recipes.
If you want it to be sweeter, then add some honey or maple syrup. That said, I don’t recommend using tofu spreads in a dessert.
Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese
Trader Joe’s make a vegan cream cheese, which is coconut oil-based rather than cashew or almond-based like most of the other dairy-free cream cheeses. This stuff is pretty smooth and creamy, with a nice distinctive taste and you should check it out.
How to make your own cream cheese
Making your own cream cheese isn’t that hard and it doesn’t take too long. If you’ve got the right ingredients, then give it a go. While the recipes we’ve suggested here aren’t an exact match for cream cheese, they’re pretty good. So, go ahead and have a go at making your own cream cheese.
Our first recipe
This recipe is really good and it’s also pretty easy…
Here’s what you need:
- 4 cups of fresh milk
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Here’s how to do it:
- Slowly bring the milk and salt to the boil
- Let it simmer for a moment
- Remove it from the heat and add the vinegar
- Stir it in
- Leave to cool
- After it has cooled, pour it into a muslin bag or another filtration aid and allow it to drip
Once you’ve finished, you should be able to divide your freshly made cream cheese into blocks for storage. Failing that just put it straight into whatever you are cooking.
If you’re serving it as a dip or a spread, cream cheese is often best when it’s cold. So, you might want to keep it in the refrigerator for a short time before you serve it. This adds a nice freshness to it.
An alternative recipe
Here’s an alternative way to make your own cream cheese. This recipe is an imaginative alternative and rather than giving you real cream cheese, it will give you a nice imitation.
Here’s what you need:
- 3 lemons
- 1/2 pint of heavy cream.
- 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk
Grate the lemons into a bowl and then squeeze all of the juice into the bowl as well. Add the heavy cream and condensed milk and then mix it all together with a whisk and that’s all you need to do.
I recommend you keep it in a fridge for a while, just to cool it down and to help it set. This recipe works really well for dips and spreads.