- For cooked dishes, alternatives like cream cheese, fromage blanc, cottage cheese, mascarpone, fresh goat cheese, pot cheese, queso fresco, and soft mozzarella work well.
- For cooked dishes only, quark and paneer are suitable replacements.
- Vegans and those with lactose intolerance can opt for substitutes like tofu, blended cashews, and coconut cream.
- Each substitute offers a similar creamy texture and can be used in a variety of recipes, but the choice depends on the specific dish and desired flavors.
With its soft consistency and mild taste, 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 cheese, 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, vegetable and fruit 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 plain 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. It can also be combined with ricotta in savory and sweet recipes.
Suitable for: Cooked dishes, sauces, baking, spreads, pastry fillings, pasta, pizza, and dessert toppings.
#3. Cottage Cheese
Small curd 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 recipes. Cottage cheese is a healthier option if you are watching your fat and calorie intake.
Some brands of cottage cheese have a slightly wet 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. You can also blend it in a food processor to easily get a smooth consistency.
Suitable for: Savory dishes such as pasta and lasagna as well as spreads.
Mascarpone is an Italian cheese with a similar flavor and richness. It is slightly tart, but not overbearing. While it will make your dish equally creamy, you might 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’s cheese is best used to replace ricotta cheese when it is fresh since mature goat cheese hardens with aging. It is creamy with a similar texture to ricotta.
This soft 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, and almost any other savory recipe. It also pairs well with 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 Greek yogurt to help add moisture. Pot cheese is versatile for use in sweet and savory cooking.
Suitable for: Any ricotta recipes.
#7. Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco is a fresh Mexican 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 Cheese
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 any savory baked dish.
Suitable for: Pasta, pizza, and lasagna.
Paneer is a popular type of Indian 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: Baked and 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
This is the best ricotta cheese substitute for a vegan diet. Silken tofu has a creamy texture, whereas regular tofu is slightly firmer with a crumbly texture. 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: Cooked recipes, uncooked sweet dishes, pasta fillings, stuffed shells, and baked pasta pots.
#13. Blended Cashews
Cashew cream or cashew cheese also make a perfect substitute vegans.
To make these dairy free alternatives, let cashew nuts soak overnight in water. Then blend them until they have a smooth and creamy consistency. Add some of the soaking liquid to thin it out if needed. You can use the cashew cream as is or season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice for tang if desired.
Cashew cheese recipes often include some nutritional yeast to add a more cheesy, savory flavor.
Suitable for: Spreading on toast, uncooked cheesecakes, any uncooked dish that calls for ricotta. While you could use this in cooked recipes, keep in mind that it will develop a dense consistency.
#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.
You can substitute 1 cup of ricotta cheese with 1 cup of cottage cheese, strained Greek yogurt, or a mixture of equal parts silken tofu blended with lemon juice for a dairy-free alternative. Each option will provide a similar creamy texture and can be used in recipes like lasagna, pasta dishes, and desserts.
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. White sauce (or béchamel), for example, is a fantastic choice when making lasagna, but not a good choice for fruit salad.
Cottage cheese and cream cheese are easy to find in almost any grocery store which makes them easy ricotta cheese replacements.
Whether you’re making delicious cheesecakes, cooked mixes, baked goods, or Italian cuisine, using this guide should help you choose the perfect alternative for your meal, providing all the creamy, soft textures and flavors you can’t do without.
See more: Farmer’s Cheese Alternatives
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