10 Best Substitutes For Ricotta Cheese

Since ricotta cheese can be used in sweet and savory dishes, it's a great addition to dishes like pasta or pancakes. There are plenty of creative ways to use this fresh cheese, but what exactly makes ricotta unique?

Ricotta is made by recooking whey leftover from making other cheeses. It's also "usually mixed with a bit of whole milk or cream to boost the fat content and give the cheese more body and a creamier texture," according to The Cheese Professor. As a byproduct of cheesemaking, it's not surprising that ricotta actually means "re-cooked" in Italian. You can make your own ricotta at home, but the kind you're more familiar with is likely the store-bought variety in a plastic tub — with a sturdy and grainy texture and subtle, sweet taste that can stand up in hearty dishes. Ricotta does wonders in lasagna, casseroles, manicotti, omelets, and other pasta dishes, but it also finds its way into dessert recipes like cheesecake and cannoli. 

If you're in a pinch, there are also a number of substitutes for ricotta you can use to make your dish shine.

1. Cottage cheese

You may have heard that you should be eating more cottage cheese, and you can add some cottage cheese as a secret ingredient to dishes to make them thicker and add a boost of protein. Cottage cheese is one of the simplest substitutes for ricotta. Livestrong says that cottage cheese is runnier than ricotta, but if you have the time, you can blend cottage cheese then squeeze out any liquids through a cheesecloth.

You can use cottage cheese in lasagna or in stuffed pastas. Cottage cheese has a mild taste and also has a lower fat content than ricotta (via Foodstruct). If you're looking for a healthy alternative to ricotta, cottage cheese is a strong choice. Livestrong also mentions you can use a combination of cottage cheese and ricotta, so if you're running low on ricotta, add cottage cheese to make up for it.

To swap in cottage cheese for ricotta, you can use a 1:1 ratio.

2. Cream cheese

Cream cheese isn't just for bagels; it's also an alternative to ricotta cheese. Cream cheese has a slightly tangy taste and while it isn't a perfect match for ricotta, it's still going to add a creamy texture to your dish and more flavor. According to Chef's Pencil, cream cheese is a good swap for both sweet and savory dishes, and it's also going to work in any dip recipes that call for ricotta.

Since cream cheese is much thicker than ricotta, you can soften the cream cheese before using it or use whipped cream cheese, which has a fluffier texture that's more similar to ricotta. Alternatively, the blog A Couple Cooks suggests adding a little bit of water to your cream cheese when you're using it as a ricotta substitute. You can also use cream cheese as a substitute for sour cream, making it a really versatile ingredient and delicious spread.

You can use equal parts cream cheese and a bit of water to substitute for ricotta. Add a splash of water until you get desired consistency.

3. Tofu

Ricotta isn't vegan, but tofu is a common vegan ingredient. We've broken down the best ways to cook tofu, but tofu doesn't need to be the star of the dish. For this swap, make sure not to use firm tofu because ricotta is a very soft and fresh cheese. Depending on the texture you're aiming for in your dish, you could use a softer or silken tofu. Tastessence says that silken tofu, which is extremely soft, makes a great substitute. They also recommend pressing tofu to get water out of it before crumbling it and using it as a ricotta substitute.

According to Chef's Pencil, you can use tofu as a 1:1 ricotta substitute in both sweet or savory recipes, and you don't need to cook the tofu before — making it a quick, easy, and vegan swap.

4. Sour cream

Another option for a ricotta substitute is sour cream. Obviously, the texture of sour cream and ricotta are quite different. While ricotta is fairly thick and fluffy, sour cream has a much thinner and spreadable texture, and in comparison, it's more watery. (Here's why sour cream might get a little too watery.) However, according to My Recipes, if cheese isn't the main focus of your dish, sour cream works in place of ricotta, as Taste Essence recommends sour cream for dips. Though, if you need to add cheese into your lasagna, go for cottage cheese or goat cheese instead of sour cream.

You can use a 1:1 ratio of sour cream for ricotta for a dip, but skip this swap if you're making a pasta dish.

5. Fromage blanc

Fromage blanc might not be something you have in your fridge every day, but if you have it handy, it also works as a ricotta substitute. According to the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, fromage blanc is a buttery cheese that comes from France, and you can also use it as a ricotta substitute. When fromage blanc isn't drained, the texture is a little thicker than yogurt, and if you do choose to drain the cheese, it'll be more similar to the texture of cream cheese. So whether you decide to strain it or not may depend on your recipe.

Gourmet Sleuth says fromage blanc is often used as a dessert cheese, and you can use this cheese as a one-for-one swap in ricotta recipes that are cooked and baked as well as for pastry fillings, according to Chef's Pencil.

6. Mascarpone

Wondering how to use mascarpone? We've talked about how versatile mascarpone is and its different uses, from adding it to mashed potatoes to using it to sweet desserts like cake. While it's fantastic as its own ingredient, mascarpone is another cheese substitute for ricotta. Foods Guy says that mascarpone can swap in for other soft cheeses like ricotta, but mascarpone will need to be thinned out, and you can do this with cream.

Since mascarpone has a strong, tart taste, Tastessence writes that you shouldn't use mascarpone for recipes where ricotta maintains its mildness. Instead, Tastessence suggests using mascarpone in place of ricotta when you're making cannoli or in savory dishes with lots of garlic.

You can swap mascarpone for ricotta with a splash of cream to blend.

7. Goat cheese

A Couple Cooks says that goat cheese is one of the best substitutes for ricotta, after cottage cheese, and one of their cooking recommendations is adding it as a pizza topping. However, a Couple Cooks mentions that goat cheese has a stronger flavor than ricotta and more salt.

Foods Guy adds a critical note for anyone who is using goat cheese in place of ricotta. The website emphasizes that only fresh goat cheese will work in recipes like lasagna because goat cheese that's aged is too dense. There are varieties of goat cheeses with herbs or even jam and fruit added to them, so make sure you use a type of goat cheese that's compatible with your recipe. Plain goat cheese will never go wrong, and Foods Guy recommends this for anyone who's less familiar with using goat cheese. 

You can swap goat cheese for ricotta directly in savory recipes, but you might consider lowering the salt that's added to the recipe elsewhere.

8. Coconut cream

Aside from tofu, another vegan option for an alternative to ricotta is coconut cream. Although the texture isn't the same, Chef's Pencil has a tip for making it work. The website says that coconut cream is "sweet, creamy and fluffy, just like ricotta, and, if you add some coconut shaving to it, letting them soak up some moisture, you get a gritty texture as well."

If you have the time to put in a little more prep work, you can also make a vegan ricotta cheese with coconut cream. Loving It Vegan breaks it down a bit more, and the blog explains that you'll need a few other ingredients, like slivered almonds, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. The recipe from Loving it Vegan is a bit more time-intensive because the almonds need to soak in water for one hour, so don't forget that straight coconut cream is also going to work in some ricotta recipes. You can swap ½ cup coconut cream, plus almonds, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt, and white vinegar to get 1 ⅔ cup vegan ricotta.

9. Quesco fresco

According to Greedy Gourmet, another great option for a ricotta substitute is queso fresco, but the website says that since the cheese is salty, you should only use it for savory recipes. On the other hand, Tastessence says that queso fresco can be used with fruit or honey and describes this cheese as having a "mild, salty, and milky flavor." So can you actually use queso fresco with some sweeter ingredients?

Ultimately, this comes down to your individual taste preferences, and if you like your dishes extra salty, then try some queso fresco crumbled up instead of ricotta with some fresh fruit. With this option, Greedy Gourmet recommends finding queso fresco with a lower salt content. However, queso fresco won't work for sweet dishes like cannoli.

10. Clabber cream

Cooks Info describes clabber cream as "thicker, more like a smooth ricotta" when comparing the ingredient to créme fraîche, so based on this description, you can guess that it would be a strong ricotta substitute. Chef's Pencil explains that clabber cream is made from unpasteurized milk that has curdled and gone sour, and this website says it's a good fit for making a spread.

According to Cooks Info, to enjoy clabber cream, you spoon it over your food, and it pairs well with fruit, cinnamon, and sugar. Tastessence says clabber cream has a consistency that's quite close to ricotta, and it's also a little bit sour. This makes clabber cream a great one-for-one option for pasta fillings or as a spread.