Quick summary: Crème Fraiche, cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta or coconut cream will be perfect substitutes for original mascarpone. Whether you simply ran out of mascarpone or you are looking for a less costly replacement, many cheeses will help you in cooking.
Mascarpone cheese is the epitome of decadence. The triple-cream cheese is velvety, rich, and versatile. This luxurious product is however also on the pricey side, high in saturated fat, and not suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.
Whether you’re looking for a replacement due to dietary concerns or have simply run out of mascarpone, there’s a suitable mascarpone cheese substitute to fit your needs.
In this guide, we’ll offer some tips on choosing the best replacement whether you’re looking for a close-to-identical replacement or something non-dairy, low fat, or for a vegan diet.
What Is Mascarpone Cheese?
If you’ve had authentic tiramisu, you’ve most likely had mascarpone cheese. This fresh, white, cow’s milk cheese is spreadable but thick. It is made from whole cream and the addition of either tartaric acid, lemon juice, or citric acid.
The denatured cream is cooled to room temperature and poured into cheesecloth. It is strained for one to two days.
The Italian cheese doesn’t only adorn tiramisu, but is also used in cheesecake, baked goods, and frosting.
It does have a high fat content which enables heating to high temperatures without curdling. This makes it ideal to use in cooked savory dishes such as classic cannelloni filling, soups, sauces, stews, risotto, pasta dishes, and even added to mashed potatoes.
What to Look for in a Mascarpone Cheese Substitute?
The best replacement in your recipe will depend on the purpose of the mascarpone as well as whether you are making a sweet or savory dish. The cheese can be used to add creaminess or richness, thicken, or served as a standalone component of a dish.
You’ll need to consider what texture your alternative has as well as the effects of a different consistency. Mascarpone has a less acidic and more sweet flavor than most other comparable cheeses, so also consider the impact your substitute will have on the taste.
In essence, compare the most important factors whether flavor, consistency, or texture when making your choice. We’ll help you with some guidelines below to ensure your dish comes out just as delicious despite the replacement.
Best Substitutes for Mascarpone Cheese
#1. Crème Fraiche
Crème Fraîche is the French cousin of mascarpone cheese. It is also a thick cultured dairy cream. Crème Fraîche is generally available in the dairy section of the grocery store with items like cream cheese and sour cream.
Although it has a lower fat content than mascarpone, the percentage is still high enough to prevent curdling at high temperatures. This makes it suitable for use in cooked dishes.
Crème Fraîche is very creamy, although not quite as thick as mascarpone cheese. It also has a slightly tangier taste. If you are using it in desserts or confections you may want to add some form of sweetener to up the sweetness level slightly.
Substitute quantity: Replace Crème Fraîche measure for measure
Suitable to use in: Stews, soups, sauces, pasta dishes, cannelloni, dips, topping scones, whipped as a fruit or dessert accompaniment, and stirred into scrambled eggs.
Tip: When making cheesecake, opt for a recipe that includes Crème Fraiche instead of using it as a straight swap to ensure it sets correctly and has the right level of sweetness.
#2. Cream Cheese
American cream cheese is available in both full-fat and low-fat versions. For the best result, use full-fat cream cheese. Even the full-fat type contains less fat than mascarpone cheese.
If you’re really trying to reduce fat and calories, you can use a lower fat version, however, it may have a less creamy consistency. It will still work in some applications.
Cream cheese is thick, mild tasting, and has a smooth velvety texture. It is also spreadable but is a little thicker than mascarpone. To get the same consistency you’ll need to mix in a little fresh cream.
Substitute Quantity: For every 8 ounces of cream cheese mix in a ¼ cup heavy whipping cream. Optionally you can also blend in 2 tablespoons of softened (unsalted) butter.
Use a hand blender or food processor for even incorporation. Replace the thickened cream mixture measure for measure in your recipe.
Suitable to use in: Cheesecake, tiramisu, frosting, soups, sauces, fillings, toppings, dips, and almost any other application!
If you need to check if your leftovers in the fridge are still okay, read these cream cheese shelf life advices and find sure signs of spoilage.
#3. Sour Cream
As its name suggests, sour cream has a sour, tangy punch. This makes it more suitable to use as a replacement in savory dishes.
As with cream cheese, there are both full-fat and low-fat versions. Even using the full-fat version will still decrease the amount of fat.
When using sour cream in cooked dishes, it will curdle if heated at high temperatures. To prevent this, only add it at the very end of the cook, just before serving.
Read more on the durability of sour cream.
Substitute Quantity: Use full fat sour cream in equal quantities as a mascarpone substitute
Suitable to use in: Soups, stews, pasta dishes, sauces, potato dishes, and dips.
#4. Plain Cottage Cheese
Our next two substitutes both require a bit of blending to get their replacement ready. If you have cottage cheese in the refrigerator, you have a good substitute on hand.
Cottage cheese has a high protein content and is much lower in fat. If you are using a lower fat version, make sure to drain off any liquid before blending. As with any of our alternative recommendations, it is best to use the full-fat version to get a similar consistency.
Pop the chunky cottage cheese into a food processor or blender and blitz it up until you get a smooth and creamy texture.
Cottage cheese has a very mild taste, although some types can be on the salty side. When using it in sweet dishes you’ll have to add some type of sweetener. It is delicious with honey as a topping for fruit, pancakes, scones, and even waffles.
Substitute Quantity: Replace cottage cheese in equal quantities
Suitable to use in: Dips, toppings, and pasta dishes. It’s also good for tiramisu, as a topping for potatoes, mixed with spinach, and egg dishes.
#5. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta is also an Italian cheese, however, it is somewhat saltier and has a slightly grainy texture. As with the above option, simply pop it into a food processor or blender to get a smoother consistency.
Ricotta has a neutral taste. While there are recipes that incorporate ricotta into sweet dishes such as cake, tiramisu, and cheesecake, some people prefer it for savory recipes. We suggest you give it a taste before adding it as a substitute in a sweet recipe to ensure it’s what you’re looking for.
If you want to have stocks ready at all times, you can opt to freeze ricotta cheese.
Substitute Quantity: Use ricotta in equal quantities. Add a little sweetener when used as a replacement in sweet recipes.
Suitable to use in: Lasagne, pancakes, pasta dishes, vegetable dishes, dips, and spreads.
#6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is tangier and has a thinner consistency with less creaminess. It is a much healthier option with lower fat and higher protein. Since it’s not quite as thick it is best used in recipes where it is not required to set, be layered, or hold a firm texture.
With the lower fat content, it is also not suitable to cook at high temperatures as it will curdle. When adding it to soups or cooked sauces, add it at the end of the cooking time, just before serving.
Substitute Quantity: Replace full-fat Greek yogurt in equal amounts. Add a sweetener or honey when paired with sweet dishes.
Suitable to use: As a topping for pancakes and fruit, to dollop in soups, curry, and stews.
#7. Lactose-free Mascarpone
Lactose-free mascarpone does still contain dairy, so it is not vegan, but it is suitable for people who are lactose intolerant and cannot have the regular version.
Although this is not as readily available in all grocery stores, you may be able to find it at a health store, specialty store, or online. This is a great mascarpone cheese substitute for any dish and can be used in equal amounts.
Best Dairy-free and Vegan Substitutes
#8. Coconut Cream
Coconut cream has a pronounced coconut flavor which makes it unsuitable for Italian dishes. It is, however, a deliciously creamy ingredient with a thick consistency that works well in other applications as a vegan and non-dairy alternative.
The great thing about coconut cream is that it pairs well with sweet and savory flavors and even though it is a high-fat product, the fat content is still lower than mascarpone. In addition, it won’t curdle when exposed to high temperatures.
For the best consistency, blend coconut cream in a food processor or blender before using it.
Substitute Quantity: Use coconut cream in equal amounts as a mascarpone cheese substitute
Suitable to use in: Stews, soups, sauces, dips, toppings, and desserts. Ensure your recipe flavor profiles match the coconut taste when using it as a replacement.
The great thing about tofu is that you can choose different types of tofu depending on the consistency you need.
Silken tofu has a soft creamy texture, while regular tofu is firmer and a little crumbly. You can either combine the two or just blend one type on its own to give it a smoother consistency. Make sure to drain off all the liquid and pat the tofu dry before blending it.
Extra firm tofu is a good choice for vegan cheesecake while soft tofu is ideal for adding creaminess to soups, stews, and sauces.
Tofu has quite a bland taste and will take on the surrounding flavors. It is suitable for sweet and savory dishes and can be used cooked or uncooked. It has to be combined with other flavors and serves mainly as a blank canvas for the profile you want to create.
Substitute Quantity: Replace tofu in equal quantities. Only measure after blending.
Suitable to use in: Desserts such as mousse and cheesecake or cake frosting. It’s also ideal for sauces, soups, stews, mixed with vegetables, and even in pasta fillings.
Recognizing spoiled tofu can sometimes be tricky. Here’s all the information on the tofu expiration.
Cashew cream or paste has a very different taste. However, it can make a great vegan mascarpone replacement in recipes where the nutty flavor pairs well with other ingredients.
Let raw unsalted cashew nuts soak for a few hours in water and then blend them into a smooth and creamy consistency. If it’s too thick, add a splash of almond or coconut milk. This can make a lovely spread, dip, or topping.
There are different methods for making your own mascarpone cheese. The easiest way is simply by simmering heavy cream and then adding lemon juice to allow it to coagulate and slowly thicken. Refrigerate overnight and once cooled, strain it through cheesecloth to remove all the excess liquid.
Yes, this creamy cheese can certainly make for a very indulgent spread. Pair it with blistered tomatoes and salt or drizzle with honey.
Yes, its buttery taste and creamy texture makes English clotted cream a good choice as a replacement in many dishes, especially as a topping.
There are few ingredients with the richness, creaminess, and versatility of mascarpone. However, you can replace it quite easily depending on the dish you are making.
For tiramisu and cheesecake, cream cheese and Crème Fraîche are good options. If you’re watching your fat intake and counting calories, opt for cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Even vegans can have their fill of delicious creamy indulgence by using coconut cream or tofu instead.
Remember to make sure the flavor profiles and consistency of the replacement match the requirements of the dish you’re making. Happy cooking!
*image by wirestock_creators/depositphotos