With its soft consistency and mild flavor, ricotta cheese is great in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in cheesecake, tarts, and muffins, melted into pasta sauces, spread on bagels, added to salads, platters, and dips.
Whether you have run out of ricotta or need to prepare a vegan dish, there are many products to successfully substitute ricotta cheese. The replacement you choose will depend on whether you are using it in a cooked or uncooked preparation.
Here is a full guide to choosing the best ricotta substitute for delicious results.
What to Look for in a Ricotta Cheese Substitute
Cow milk ricotta, also known as ricotta di mucca, is the most common type found in general grocery stores. It is available in full cream and lower-fat varieties.
For those who cannot include cow milk products in their diet, sheep milk ricotta is a popular alternative, essentially yielding the same results.
Made with only sheep’s milk, it is also known as ricotta di pecora. There are cow and sheep milk blends, so make sure to check the label for the type of milk used if it is a concern for you.
If you are unable to get ricotta or unexpectedly need a backup, choose your substitute according to the dish you are cooking. Ricotta does not melt or form a crust. It is best for sauces and creamy liquid mixes.
Uncooked ricotta is moist and gritty with medium softness. Ricotta has a milky, slightly sweet taste, and mild aroma.
Since different replacements will present different key features of the ricotta in your dish, it’s important to know what you want the replacement for.
Consider whether the inclusion of ricotta in your recipe is for flavor, texture, or consistency. Then follow the tips below to choose the best alternative. All ricotta cheese alternatives can be replaced measure for measure.
Best Ricotta Cheese Substitutes
#1. Cream Cheese
Unlike ricotta, cream cheese is smooth, velvety, and fairly dense. Its soft consistency and mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile options as a substitute for ricotta in most dishes. When cooking with it add some sour cream to thin it out and increase the moisture content.
Suitable for: Spreading on bagels or bread, dips, cooked, uncooked, savory, and sweet dishes.
#2. Fromage Blanc
Fromage Blanc is popular in France and Belgium. The name means ‘white cheese’. It has a similar consistency to yogurt.
Fromage Blanc has a sweet to mild tangy flavor and does not become runny when heated. It can be whipped before using, making it a low-fat option to top off desserts. Fromage Blanc can also be combined with ricotta in recipes.
Suitable for: Cooked dishes, sauces, baking, spreads, pastry fillings, pasta, pizza, and dessert toppings.
#3. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese has a soft, lumpy consistency, but creamy texture. It has a neutral taste with a bit of tang, pairing well with sweet and savory flavor profiles. Cottage cheese is a healthier option if you are watching your fat and calorie intake.
Some brands of cottage cheese have a slightly watery consistency which makes it a little less rich than ricotta. It should be sieved before using as a substitute, to drain out the excess whey.
Suitable for: Savory dishes such as pasta and lasagna as well as spreads.
Mascarpone is like ricotta when it comes to flavor and its creamy richness. It is slightly tart, but not overbearing. Depending on your dish, you may need to thin out the mascarpone a little to prevent it from being too heavy.
Suitable for: Desserts, toppings, sauces, lasagna, cheesecake, cannelloni, spreads, and pairing with fruit.
#5. Fresh Goat Cheese
Goat cheese is best used as a substitute when it is fresh since it hardens as it matures. It is creamy with a similar texture to ricotta.
Goat cheese has a tangy, more intense flavor than ricotta which may require added sweetness, especially when used in desserts. Keep in mind when cooking with goat cheese that it melts faster than ricotta.
Suitable for: Lasagna, pasta, pizza, most savory dishes, and fruit platters.
#6. Pot Cheese
Pot cheese is creamy and crumbly. Being drier and firmer than ricotta you may want to mix it with a little cream or yogurt to help add moisture. Pot cheese is versatile for use in sweet and savory cooking.
Suitable for: Any ricotta-based dish.
#7. Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco is a Mexican fresh cheese. It has a mild and salty taste. With its grainy, breakable texture it can be sliced, crumbled, or grated. The cheese will soften when heated but does not melt and become runny like many other kinds of cheese. If you are watching your weight, opt for another alternative as Queso Fresco is higher in calories, fat, and sodium compared to ricotta.
Suitable for: Crumbling into enchiladas, soups, and casseroles, fillings, and fruit toppings with honey.
#8. Soft Mozzarella
Ricotta cheese is a by-product in the production of mozzarella cheese which makes them closely related. Mozzarella is not as strong in flavor. It is chewy and a little stringy when heated, softening well without melting.
Suitable for: Baked dishes from pizza to lasagna, and sandwiches.
Ricotta Cheese Substitutes for Cooked Dishes Only
Quark is popularly found in Germany or Austria. It is made from sour milk that is heated slowly until it curdles. It resembles a combination of ricotta and mascarpone, with sweet, creamy, gritty, and tangy features. Its creaminess makes it a good ricotta substitute in savory baked dishes.
Suitable for: Pasta, pizza, and lasagna.
Paneer is a popular Indian product similar to cottage cheese. Excess whey is removed before it is packaged making it firmer and dryer than regular cottage cheese.
To reconstitute a softer product, crumble and blend the paneer until it represents the consistency of ricotta. Add an egg when using it in baked recipes to moisten the mixture.
Suitable for: Cooked dishes, pies, pizza, pasta, and lasagna.
#11. Bechamel Sauce
Bechamel sauce is not cheese nor cheesy, but it can work well as a substitute when all you have on hand is flour, butter, and milk. It is smooth and neutral in flavor but adding in a little cheddar can give it a great cheesy taste.
Bechamel sauce can be made to the consistency you prefer depending on what you are using it for.
Suitable for: Lasagna, baked pasta, casseroles, and as a creamy topping for vegetables and potatoes.
Best Dairy-free and Vegan Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese
Silken tofu has a creamy texture, whereas regular tofu is slightly firmer and crumbly. The two types can be combined to resemble an even closer vegan alternative to ricotta. You can, however, just use regular tofu successfully on its own.
It has a somewhat bland flavor and is good at absorbing surrounding flavors. This makes it versatile to use in any dish as it will take on the flavor of the seasoning you add during cooking.
Suitable for: Most cooked or uncooked savory recipes, fillings in stuffed shells and pasta.
#13. Blended Cashews
Let raw, unsalted cashew nuts soak well in water and blend into a smooth creamy consistency. To thin out the paste and enhance moisture, you can add soy or almond milk.
Cashew nut paste has a nutty flavor but will adapt well to other flavors in most recipes. It may change the texture of cooked dishes and is best used in uncooked recipes. Season it to your preference.
Suitable for: Spreading on toast, uncooked cheesecakes, any uncooked dish that calls for ricotta.
#14. Coconut Cream
Coconut cream is rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. It lacks the grittiness that ricotta has. If you want to add a bit of grit to the texture, mix in some desiccated coconut and let it soak up the moisture.
Coconut cream is very versatile for use in sweet and savory dishes, although its pronounced coconut flavor will not pair well with Italian pasta flavors. It has high fat and calorie content.
Suitable for: Desserts, smoothies, curries, sauces, and dips.
Sour cream is not identical in texture and consistency, but it still works well as an alternative in certain recipes. Sour cream is made by fermenting natural cream with lactic acid bacteria, called souring. It is especially great when used in dips, topping baked potatoes, cakes, and fillings. It combines well with a variety of herbs and spices for an extensive flavor profile.
Sheep and goat milk products have a much lower lactose content than cow dairy which makes them much safer options. Some people can handle these replacements very well, however, this may depend on the severity of your intolerance. If you are overly sensitive to dairy and lactose products choosing an alternative from the vegan options may be your best option.
When choosing your ricotta replacement, consider the recipe first and what features of the cheese you wish to highlight. Keep in mind that all substitutes cannot necessarily be used equally well for all purposes. Bechamel sauce, for example, is a fantastic option for lasagna, but definitely not a good choice for fruit salad.
Using this guide should help you choose the perfect alternative for your meal providing all the creamy, soft textures and flavors your dish can’t do without.
*image by allmevl/depositphotos