Cream cheese is a soft, mild-flavored cheese used in both sweet and savory dishes. However, if people run out of it or do not eat dairy, they may wish to use a substitute.

People choose to use a substitute for cream cheese for a variety of reasons. They might:

  • have run out
  • not be able to find it at their local supermarket
  • not eat dairy
  • want a healthier option

There is a range of substitutes that can be used in different recipes. While some of these may work well for baking, others may be better suited for savory pasta dishes. People should consider what type of recipe they are making when deciding which alternative to use.

Read more to learn about the different cream cheese substitutes a person can use, their respective nutritional information, and considerations when cooking or baking.

A picture of an everything bagel with cream cheese.Share on Pinterest
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Cream cheese is often used in coffee cakes, scones, and cheesecakes. Its thick, creamy texture and slightly tangy taste can create a moist and tender crumb.

When baking, creamy dairy products tend to work best. Their similar consistency and acidity level mimic cream cheese in recipes, and they can usually be used at a 1-to-1 ratio.

People can try using:

  • Neufchatel cheese: This nearly identical substitute has less fat and calories than cream cheese. The two are effectively interchangeable in most recipes.
  • Mascarpone: This rich, creamy cheese is often used in Italian cuisine. A pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice create a flavor profile very similar to cream cheese. It is an excellent substitute in most desserts, including frosting.
  • Ricotta: This airy cheese works best as a substitute when it is strained to make it thicker and creamier. Salt and lemon juice can also enhance its mild flavor profile.

Cream cheese is frequently used in creamy pasta dishes. If a person does not have any on hand, they can easily substitute it with another common ingredient.

People can try using:

  • Cottage cheese: This mild cheese comes in several different fat content percentages. Although it is a combination of liquid and curds, it can be pureed, then strained to create thickness. A drop of lemon juice and salt can enhance its flavor. It also works well in dips and spreads.
  • Greek yogurt: This thick, fermented yogurt has a slightly tangy taste. It is a good substitute for cream cheese in pastas, sauces, and dips. It also provides probiotics, which may promote good bacteria in the gut.
  • Sour cream: This fermented dairy product has a tangier taste than cream cheese. Although it provides rich creaminess in pastas, it can break down under high heat.

Many people choose to avoid dairy for ethical, digestive, or allergy reasons. There is a growing range of dairy-free products that are excellent substitutes for cream cheese.

People can try using:

  • Hummus: This vegan product can be used as a spread, in sauces, and in savory dishes. It is a combination of:
    • chickpeas
    • tahini
    • olive oil
    • lemon juice
    • salt
    • garlic
  • Tofu: Also called bean curd, this vegan product is made from soybeans. It comes in a variety of firmness, ranging from firm and dense to light and soft. Pureed silken tofu will provide a texture like cream cheese, and it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Nut cream cheeses: These vegan options are made from cashews or almonds. They are versatile, but almond cream cheese usually works better in sweet dishes, and cashew butter is better in savory dishes.

Cream cheese is made by adding lemon juice or lactic acid bacteria to milk or cream. This gives it a distinctive tangy flavor. When using a substitute, consider adding lemon juice to replicate the flavor.

Some substitutes will need to be whipped or strained to provide a similar texture to cream cheese.

When cooking or baking with cream cheese substitutes, it is important to be aware that the texture and taste of finished products may be affected slightly. People may want to experiment to get the desired results.

The table below provides a comparison of the nutritional information of the products discussed above.

The amounts given are for 100 grams, which is a bit less than half a cup (depending on the products). Values are averaged and rounded to the nearest number.

People may choose a substitute for cream cheese for a variety of reasons. There are many choices suitable for different recipes, preferences, and dietary restrictions.

Some are nearly identical to cream cheese, while others are nondairy or lower-fat alternatives.

Keeping in mind the nutritional information, and the expected texture and flavor profile of the finished dish, people can choose the best alternative for them.