Aren't we all looking for a healthy substitute for cream cheese? We all love using cream cheese on our morning bagel and in recipes.
But sometimes you need a cream cheese replacement due to a food allergy. Or you ran out of regular cream cheese while cooking. Or maybe you're interested in vegan cream cheese or just want a healthier option.
Many of these cream cheese alternatives are a great substitute in recipes and cooking.
So, what is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is the American cousin to French Neufchatel.
It's made by combining whole milk, cream, and lactic acid.The lactic acid causes the cream to thicken into cheese curds. The curds are strained from the whey.
Then they're blended with stabilizers like carob bean gum to give it a smooth texture.
Of course, we're all familiar with the blocks of Philadelphia Cream Cheese in the United States. You can get whipped and flavored versions, no-fat, and low-fat cream cheese, too.
Regular cream cheese is high in fat and contains a small amount of carbs and protein.
It’s a good source of vitamin A and contributes some riboflavin (vitamin B2).
Whipped cream cheese contains less fat and fewer calories per serving.
Since it's high in fat and calories, it's best to use it in moderation.
Why use cream cheese?
It's a great choice to make this Slow Cooker Creamy Verde Chicken Chili Recipe nice and creamy.
You can use it in dessert dips like this Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip Recipe.
Cream cheese is terrific in cake frostings, mashed potatoes, and sushi, too.
Here are 8 of the best substitutes for cream cheese (dairy)
1. Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone is an Italian double or triple cream cheese. Most of us know it as the main ingredient in tiramisu.
Why is mascarpone a good substitute?
It's super spreadable cheese because it's high in fat. Use it in desserts since this soft cheese is so creamy and smooth.
You can use it just like cream cheese, but you will notice a difference in texture and flavor. (American cream cheese is firmer and tangier.)
How to substitute mascarpone for cream cheese:
1 cup of mascarpone = 1 cup of cream cheese
2. Neufchatel Cheese
You may have seen low-fat cream cheese packages labeled Neufchatel cheese. So what's the difference?
Cream cheese is made with 33% milk fat content. Neufchatel has 23% milk fat content, so it's the healthier alternative.
Why is Neufchatel a good substitute?
It's the best substitute for any recipe where you can use low-fat cream cheese, like cupcakes, cream cheese frostings, and other dessert recipes.
Try it in dips, soups, and mashed potatoes as a healthy substitute for high-fat content cream or cheeses.
How to substitute Neufchatel for cream cheese:
1 cup of Neufchatel = 1 cup of cream cheese
3. Sour Cream
Sour cream is made when lactic acid-producing bacteria is added to dairy cream. This results in a slightly tart, thick substance.
Sour cream must have a milk fat content of not more than 18%. Lighter versions of sour cream are made with 10.5% milk fat content.
Why is sour cream a good substitute?
Sour cream is a good substitute to use in dips and sauce recipes because it’s rich and thick.
Lots of cooks love using sour cream in blueberry cakes and muffins. It can also be used in frostings.
Don't use sour cream in cheesecake recipes as a substitute as it's too runny. Your cheesecake won't bake up and will just fall apart.
However, don't use sour cream in soups or stews since the heat makes it curdle.
Finally, don't use fat-free sour creams in cooking or baking. The stabilizers used and lack of fat will cause the fat-free sour cream to fail in your recipe.
How to substitute sour cream for cream cheese:
1 cup of sour cream = 1 cup of cream cheese
4. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from the whey that is left over after making sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk cheeses.
Since ricotta is crumbly, you have to mix it with plain yogurt or heavy cream to get the right texture to use as a substitute for cream cheese.
For dips and baking, add plain yogurt. For cheesecake or frosting, add heavy cream. You may want to add a little sugar, too.
For gravies, you can use the ricotta cheese as-is.
Why is ricotta a good substitute?
Ricotta is easy to find and inexpensive. You can also use low-fat or no-fat ricotta as a substitute along with no-fat or low-fat plain yogurt.
How to substitute ricotta for cream cheese:
1 cup of ricotta cheese + 1 cup yogurt = 2 cups of cream cheese for baked goods and dips
1 cup of ricotta cheese + 1 cup heavy cream = 2 cups of cream cheese specifically for frostings and cheesecake
Gervais is another French cream cheese substitute. Unfortunately, it may be hard to find unless you have a good cheese shop near you.
Why is Gervais a good substitute?
It's the perfect cream cheese substitute. It's sweet and tangy. Having 75% milk fat content, it's one of the creamier cheese cheese substitutes.
How to substitute Gervais for cream cheese:
1 cup of Gervais = 1 cup of cream cheese
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained to remove most of its whey. This results in a thicker consistency. (This is also called yogurt cheese.)
Greek yogurt has almost double the protein of regular yogurt. And three times the saturated fat than regular yogurt.
Greek yogurt contains about half the sodium of regular yogurt. And half the carbohydrates of regular yogurt.
Why is Greek yogurt a good substitute?
Since Greek yogurt is less sweet but more creamy, it works best in dips and spreads.
You can use it in frostings and baked goods as long as you add some sweetener.
Try it in savory dishes, too.
How to substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese:
1 cup of Greek yogurt = 1 cup of cream cheese
7. Cottage Cheese
Cream cheese is a soft, mild-tasting fresh cheese made from milk and cream.
It's best to drain the cottage cheese for 5 minutes in a fine sieve. Add a little heavy cream, then run it through a food processor.
This gives the perfect cream cheese replacement that's ideal for cheesecake recipes, dips, savory recipes, and more.
Why is cottage cheese a good substitute?
It's inexpensive and readily available. You can also use no-fat and low-fat versions in your favorite recipes.
How to substitute cottage cheese for cream cheese:
1 cup of cottage cheese = 1 cup of cream cheese
8. Hung Curd
Hung curd is used in Indian cooking. Hung curd is made by draining the whey from the curd to make it thicker and creamier.
It’s used in Indian recipes like tikka, raitas, and some chutneys.
Why is hung curd a good substitute?
You can use it to make dips, in baking, in cheesecakes, and in cream cheese frostings. Try sweetening it with sugar, maple syrup, or honey.
If you’re interested in learning how to make your own curd try this recipe.
How to substitute hung curd for cream cheese:
1 cup of hung curd = 1 cup of cream cheese
Here are the 6 more substitutes for cream cheese (non-dairy and vegan)
Some people feel that vegan, plant-based options may be the healthier option. Makes sense since these healthy substitutes are lower in fat.
1. Vegan Sour Cream
Vegan sour cream is made with extra firm tofu. Since it's yummy and super creamy, use it any time a recipe calls for sour cream.
To make it a thick substitute for cream cheese, cut back on the oil and/or lemon juice.
Why is vegan sour cream a good substitute?
It's easy to blend up a batch in your blender or food processor with a few simple ingredients.
Use it in sauces or dips. I love it on my Simple Lemon Pasta recipe.
How to substitute vegan sour cream for cream cheese:
1 cup of vegan sour cream = 1 cup of cream cheese
2. Nut Cream Cheese
You can use cashews or almonds to make a vegan nut cream cheese by combining either with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.
Add some fresh lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Then, voila! You have a creamy almond or cashew cream cheese that’s a good as actual cream cheese.
Why is nut cream cheese a good substitute?
It's simple to make this vegan spread yourself. You control how tangy the flavor by adding more or less lemon or vinegar.
It’s full of protein, since it’s made with nuts. Almond cream cheese is super keto-friendly.
Best of all, it doesn't contain any funky fillers like carrageenan, carob bean gum, or other stabilizers.
The only drawback is that it isn't good for people with nut allergies.
How to substitute cashew or almond cream cheeses for cream cheese:
1 cup of nut cream cheese = 1 cup of cream cheese
3. Tofu Cream Cheese
Tofu cream cheese is a terrific substitute for the real thing. It's non-dairy and vegan.
A popular brand of tofu cream cheese available at most grocery stores is Tofutti. (There’s also a whipped version.)
People also recommend Trader Joe's Vegan Cream Cheese. Some prefer it over Tofutti.
Why is tofu cream cheese a good substitute?
It can be used in baking, dips, and spreads.
You can make your tofu cream cheese by mixing 3/4 cups of tofu, 1/4 cup non-dairy margarine, vegan buttery spread, or coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a blender.
Blend until you have a smooth paste. Then refrigerate the mixture to get the right consistency.
How to substitute tofu cream cheese for cream cheese:
1 cup of tofu cream cheese = 1 cup of cream cheese
5. Coconut Milk Cream Cheese
This cream cheese substitute is made with full-fat coconut milk, fresh lemon juice, salt, and nutritional yeast.
Why is coconut cream cheese a good substitute?
You can make this yourself. (Here's a basic recipe.) Since it’s low carb, it’s keto-friendly.
Since it's made with coconut milk, it's sweeter than standard plain cream cheese. So it's the perfect substitute in sweet recipes, your favorite recipe for frosting, and baked dishes.
It's a non-dairy vegan variety of cream cheese that's nut-free and soy-free. So it's perfect for people with nut allergies or who must avoid soy.
How to substitute coconut cream cheese:
1 cup coconut milk cream cheese = 1 cup of cream cheese
Traditionally, hummus recipes are made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. They're usually vegan and packed with protein and fiber.
Why is hummus a good substitute?
Hummus is a terrific spread for crackers and bagels. You can find it at most grocery stores.
It's plain enough to add flavors to. For example, these non-traditional hummus recipes use avocados and cranberry sauce:
You can even find recipes for dessert hummus. However, it’s not a great option for using in baking, frosting, or other recipes.
How to substitute hummus for cream cheese:
1 cup of hummus = 1 cup of cream cheese
7. Kefir + Chia Seeds
Kefir is a Turkish milk drink, sort of like runny yogurt. You can use this homemade mixture in dips or spreads.
Why are kefir + chia seeds a good substitute for cream cheese?
Combining it with chia seeds, with its probiotic and antibacterial properties, helps with gastrointestinal issues.
Don’t use it in any recipes that have to be baked or heat, because it will curdle.
How to substitute kefir + chia seeds for cream cheese:
To make a cup of cream cheese substitute, combine 1/4 cup of chia seeds and 1 cup of kefir in a bowl. Leave the mixture until the seeds absorb all the water from the kefir.
This could take up to an hour. Don’t stir the mixture.
1 cup of kefir + 1/4 cup of chia seeds = 1 cup of cream cheese