Cream cheese is a soft, spreadable cheese that’s a staple in many dishes, including sauces, spreads, soups, and sweets.
However, it’s made from milk and cream and is relatively high in fat and calories.
Therefore, if you’re looking to cut your calorie intake or avoid dairy, you may want to find alternatives. You may find yourself out of cream cheese and need a quick replacement.
Here are 11 simple swaps for cream cheese.
1. Cottage cheese
Cottage and cream cheese have similarities, but cottage cheese is slightly lower in fat and has a chunkier texture.
You can easily make the texture smoother by pureeing cottage cheese with a dash of lemon juice.
Use cottage cheese instead of cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio for dips and spreads. Before using it for baking or cooking, consider mixing it with cream or half-and-half to add thickness.
2. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is an excellent alternative to cream cheese.
It also gives your favorite dishes a healthy twist because it’s rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin B12.
Use an equal amount of Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese to make dips, spreads, frostings, and baked goods. You can also strain Greek yogurt overnight using a cheesecloth — this can thicken it to match the texture and consistency of cream cheese.
Ricotta is a cheese known for its soft texture and sweet, tangy taste.
Like cream cheese and other dairy products, it’s a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin.
Although it isn’t as thick as cream cheese, it works well as a filling or an ingredient in sauces and spreads. You can also combine it with an equal amount of heavy cream or yogurt and add it to baked goods and desserts.
Mascarpone is a high-fat variety of cream cheese typically made using cream rather than milk.
In addition to being higher in fat and calories than cream cheese, it has a richer, more velvety texture that works well in many recipes — mainly fillings, spreads, frostings, and desserts.
Try adding a dash of salt and a spritz of fresh lemon juice to give your mascarpone a tangy taste similar to that of cream cheese.
Still, you’ll want to save this product for special occasions if trying to cut your calorie intake.
While hummus isn’t a suitable swap for cream cheese in sweet items like frosting or cheesecake, it’s a delicious substitute for spreads.
In addition to being dairy-free and vegan, it’s an excellent source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients such as manganese, copper, and folate.
Hummus is available in various flavors, so you can easily vary your morning bagel routine.
6. Kefir with chia seeds
Kefir is a sour, fermented beverage that’s made by adding kefir grains — clusters of lactic acid bacteria and yeast — to milk.
In addition to its impressive protein, calcium, and phosphorus content, kefir is packed with probiotics, a type of beneficial bacteria that may support gut health.
To make a cream cheese substitute, combine 1 cup (240 mL) of plain kefir with about 1/4 cup (43 grams) of chia seeds and let it sit for 10–20 minutes until the mixture thickens.
While this substitute is unsuitable for cooked dishes and most baked goods, it makes a tremendous probiotic-packed replacement for bagel spreads.
Suggested read: Coconut milk substitutes: 11 delicious alternatives
Neufchâtel is a soft, spreadable cheese that originated in Neufchâtel, France.
Compared with cream cheese, it’s lower in fat and calories but still a great source of nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and protein.
You can use an equal amount of Neufchâtel in place of cream cheese in almost any recipe, including cheesecake, frosting, sauces, and spreads.
However, it has a grainier texture and isn’t quite as rich as cream cheese, so the flavor of your final product might change slightly.
8. Silken tofu
Although you may have to experiment with spices and seasonings to achieve the right flavor, silken tofu makes a fantastic vegan substitute for cream cheese in specific recipes.
It’s often blended to make vegan cheesecakes and bagel spreads, thanks to its soft, creamy texture.
Tofu is also highly nutritious, packing protein, manganese, selenium, and calcium into each serving.
Opt for recipes that already call for tofu in place of cream cheese to ensure that you get the ratio right, and try adding a squeeze of lemon juice if you want an extra tangy taste.
9. Cashew cheese
Whether you’re following a dairy-free diet or looking for an easy way to boost the nutritional value of your dishes, cashew cheese is a terrific cream cheese substitute.
Suggested read: Top 13 lean high-protein foods
Typically made from cashews, nutritional yeast, and a mix of herbs and spices, cashew cheese provides substantial fiber and protein in each serving.
Nutritional yeast, a common component of cashew cheese, is also a good source of vitamin B12.
While cashew cheese is unsuitable for sweets and baked goods, it works well in a 1:1 ratio in savory dishes such as soups, sauces, and spreads. Plus, it’s easy to make at home by blending raw cashews with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and a bit of lemon juice.
10. Sour cream
Sour cream is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cream, and this results in a thick, tangy product that works well in many recipes in place of cream cheese.
Because it’s lower in fat than cream cheese, sour cream may also give your favorite dishes a low-calorie twist.
Remember that sour cream is more acidic than cream cheese, so it’s best for use in soups, sauces, and dips instead of in sweets.
Quark is a creamy, spreadable cheese famous in many regions of Europe.
It has a mild flavor and soft texture closely resembling cream cheese, and it’s also highly nutritious, boasting a hearty dose of protein and calcium in each serving.
You can use an equal amount of quark to replace cream cheese in nearly any dish, including cheesecakes, frostings, cookies, sauces, and spreads.
Note that quark is slightly more sour than cream cheese, so be sure to adjust the other ingredients in your recipe accordingly.
Cream cheese is not only a tasty spread but also a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes.
However, if you’re trying to cut your calorie intake or avoid dairy products, there are plenty of substitutes that you can use instead.
Try experimenting with some of the ingredients listed above to find what works for you.