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Substitutes for Cream Cheese – What Can I Use Instead?

Cream cheese has always been a crucial ingredient in so many dishes, lending its blend of sweetness, creaminess, and a bit of tartness to proceedings. It is super versatile and is as equally comfortable in a bagel with bacon as it is within the confines of a cheesecake. So, why seek out a replacement for it then?

Well, there are numerous reasons why you would. For one, cream cheese isn’t the best of ingredients for those who are health conscious. It contains a very high level of fat which can clog arteries in the long run. Another reason to seek a substitute is if you happen to be lactose intolerant, or perhaps not consuming dairy as an ethical choice. The third is simply that you may have run out of cream cheese and want to know if anything in your immediate vicinity will work in its place.

We invite you to review the following questions and answers section for some additional information that just might be of some use to you.


Is cream cheese good for you?

A mere 2 tablespoons of your standard cream cheese can have as much as 100 calories in it. It also doesn’t provide anything that is good for you in significant amounts.

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Is cream cheese keto?

Cream cheese is a keto favourite as it mainly consists of fat. There are even some great recipes out there for delicious keto cheesecake!

Is cream cheese gluten free?

Yes! Thankfully cream cheese is gluten free. This means that you can still enjoy this breakfast staple if you are gluten intolerant, provided it is combined with a gluten free bagel too.

Substitutes for Cream Cheese

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No matter what reason you have for wanting to negate the need for cream cheese in a recipe, we have you covered. Many of the ingredients listed below, by happy coincidence, just so happen to be low fat and healthy alternatives. However, it is worth noting that not every substitute has the versatility and the range of cream cheese itself. Nevertheless, we’re confident that the shortlist below represents the best substitutes for cream cheese that money can buy, and who knows, you may already have one of these in your fridge!


1. Ricotta


The naturally lower in fat ricotta can make for an ideal substitute for when you’re looking to replicate that creaminess that cream cheese provides. Ideally used for baking, ricotta makes for delectably creamy lasagne sauce. It also fills out a cannoli perfectly.

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When substituting cream cheese for ricotta while making desserts however, the situation becomes a little more complicated. Though the flavour will remain very similar, ricotta does possess a harder and slightly grainy texture that some may not find appealing. Essentially, we would have no trouble recommending ricotta as a solution for baking. Desserts, on the other hand, may come down to a matter of personal taste. Ricotta is pretty much ubiquitous across all stores, with some brands being of higher quality than others for this purpose. Some ricotta can be hard enough to grate, so make sure you select the soft version.


2. Mascarpone


Mascarpone. When we think mascarpone, we think of sweet dessert cheese, so in that regard it is a great substitute for cream cheese. It improves every dessert it comes into contact with, in our eyes. Form frostings to cheesecakes, this substitute pretty much has all bases covered.

In fact, for most intents and purposes the two are almost identical. The difference is simply that mascarpone is creamier and a little sweeter whereas cream cheese possesses more of a tang. So, where’s the drawback? Unfortunately, there is one; mascarpone, despite being rich in calcium and low in sodium, has a high amount of fats in it. For this reason alone, it just about falls short of being the ideal substitute.

3. Sour Cream

sour cream

Sour cream isn’t that far removed from cream cheese, in reality, and therefore should seem like a relatively logical substitute to most. Formed by coagulating cream, it is mostly synonymous with dips and as a base for a few condiments. However, we happen to think that its range is quite a bit broader than just that.

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When it comes to baking in the savoury sense of the word, there isn’t much that cream cheese can do that sour cream can’t. It works great in lasagne, for example. So, if you’ve found yourself stuck whilst preparing something savoury, give this a go. However, due to its slightly acidic taste, we can’t recommend you reach for this substitute when it’s time for dessert! The main factors which brought this substitute to the list were its cheapness and its availability.


  •         Available pretty much anywhere
  •         Works great in savoury dishes and for dips
  •         Easy to substitute, simply use the same amount as the recipe calls for


  •         Doesn’t work as well for desserts
  •         No tangible health benefits from this switch


4. Cashew Cream Cheese

cashew cream

Considering all previous suggestions were dairy based, it’s about time that we introduced a vegan alternative. But fear not, this option sacrifices nothing in terms of flavour – so this can be a viable option whether you’ve adopted the plant-based stance or not. This delicious and rich substitute is also really easy to make in your own home and works great as a dip, on a bagel, or even stirred into pasta dishes.

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If you’re inclined to give this a go, which we thoroughly recommend, all you will need are a few ingredients:

  •         1 cup of raw cashews soaked overnight
  •         2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  •         2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  •         A food processor

Simply add the yeast and the soaked cashews and blend to a fine paste. After you’ve achieved the desired consistency, add the lemon juice and give it another quick blitz. It’s that easy! If you want to change it up a bit and introduce some extra flavours you can do so as it’s quite an adaptable ingredient.


5. Coconut Manna

coconut manna

Coconut manna consists of the meat of the coconut which has been extracted from the coconut and turned into a paste. This of course makes it 100% compatible with vegan and lactose free diets, but without compromising on flavour. This stuff is great in shakes, in desserts, and in baking. It is faintly sweet in its natural form, despite having no added sugars.

Take Away

We hope that you found this guide to substituting for cream cheese to be a valuable and informative source as you embarked on your quest for an alternative option. As you can see, there are several decent substitutes out there – one or more of which may be lurking in your fridge as you read this!

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