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Best Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese

Diane Westphal
Last Updated on
by Diane Westphal

Ricotta is a highly adaptable cheese. It sweetens cheesecakes and enhances lasagnas. It has a light, creamy taste and spongy texture that blends well with a variety of dishes.

It’s a staple in dishes such as:

  • lasagne
  • Gnocchi
  • Cannelloni
  • Salads
  • Cheesecake

Few cheeses are as versatile or blend as ably with sweet and savory ingredients. But what to do if you can’t find the ricotta cheese you need for the recipe you’re following?

Luckily, ricotta’s culinary flexibility means there is a selection of cheeses you can substitute for ricotta.

You can use Cream Cheese as a ricotta cheese substitute because it has the closest taste to ricotta cheese, although you might need to add sour cream or an extra egg to balance the higher density of cream cheese. Other ricotta cheese alternatives are Cottage cheese, Mascarpone and Pot cheese.

1. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese
Cream Cheese

The great advantage of cream cheese as a ricotta cheese substitute is that it too is highly versatile. In a pinch, you can substitute cream cheese for ricotta in savory and sweet recipes, as well as in hot and cold dishes.

As the name suggests, cream cheese works well as a substitute for ricotta cheese because of its inherent creaminess. Like ricotta, the taste it evokes is sweet and milky. Unlike ricotta, however, it’s denser, more spreadable, and has a markedly different texture. It’s also more prone to melting in hot dishes.

With all that in mind, if you’re going to use cream cheese for a ricotta cheese substitute in a cooked dish, the best thing to do is to add in a bit of sour cream and an extra egg. This counterbalances the higher density of the cream cheese. It will also prevent the dish in hand from becoming too thick.

2. Cottage Cheese

Cottage Cheese
Cottage Cheese

If you’re trying to reproduce the particular texture of ricotta cheese, then cottage cheese is the best ricotta replacement you’re likely to find.

Cottage cheese shares ricotta’s lumpy, coarse texture, making it an ideal substitute for ricotta cheese. Additionally, it possesses a similar taste. It’s still rich and sweet, albeit less so. Even better, as another soft cheese that is both moisture-rich and light, it has a similar consistency to ricotta.

If you’re still looking for reasons to substitute cottage cheese for ricotta, it has fewer calories and reduced fat content.

It’s an ideal substitute for ricotta in savory dishes. In particular, it is a highly effective substitute in lasagne. 

However, no match is perfect, and while it’s a good substitute for ricotta, cottage cheese possesses a wetter and coarser consistency. It’s also less sweet, something that may be reflected in the taste of the dish you’re preparing.

3. Mascarpone

Mascarpone
Mascarpone

Mascarpone is another rich, decadent soft cheese that works well as a substitute for ricotta. It shares a similarly sweet and creamy taste to ricotta, though it’s markedly tarter.  However, the tartness isn’t enough to spoil a recipe, and since it’s a highly adaptable cheese, it makes a fast and efficient substitute for ricotta.

It works especially well in cheesecakes, dips and is an excellent substitute for ricotta in lasagne. But mascarpone is not only significantly thicker than ricotta; It’s also heavier, creamier, and buttery by comparison.

Accordingly, if you use mascarpone as a substitute for ricotta you will want to thin it out first. 

4. Pot Cheese

Pot Cheese
Pot Cheese

Pot cheese has much in common with cottage cheese, which goes some way to explaining why it works so well as a substitute for ricotta cheese.

It’s a soft, readily crumbling cheese with a sweet taste much like ricotta. But because more whey drains from pot cheese than ricotta, it is also much drier. This can affect texture and density.

While pot cheese is an excellent substitute for ricotta, if you decide to use it, you’ll want to add more cream or yogurt to give your recipe the additional moisture it would usually derive from ricotta.

That said, pot cheese is highly versatile and suitable as a substitute for ricotta cheese across a range of recipes, whether sweet or savory.

5. Fresh Goat Cheese

Goat cheese
Goat Cheese

Finally, fresh goat cheese makes an excellent alternative to ricotta. It is similarly creamy and some of the same textural properties. This means it works effectively as a substitute for ricotta in savory dishes and is an ideal substitute for ricotta in lasagne. It also does well in pasta, pizzas, and cold, savory dishes.

Health-wise, it has fewer calories than cream cheese, which makes it an even better substitute for ricotta for the healthy eater.

There are two considerations if you choose to use goat cheese for a ricotta cheese substitute. Firstly, goat cheese, unlike its Italian equivalent, hardens as it ages. This hardening noticeably changes the texture and consistency; With time it develops a stringent, tangy flavor. For this reason, it’s vital that if you use goat cheese as a ricotta alternative, you select fresh goat cheese.

Secondly, goat cheese is markedly more acidic than ricotta. If you do use it as a ricotta substitute you may want to add a sweetener to balance out the natural tartness of goat cheese.

Related Article: Best Substitutes For Goat Cheese

What is Ricotta Cheese?

Ricotta
Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta is a soft cheese with a range of culinary purposes. Its name comes from an Italian word that translates into English that means recooked. This is because, while many cheeses derive from milk, ricotta atypically derives from repurposed milk, yogurt, or kefir. 

To better understand what this means for ricotta it’s worth taking a look at the cheesemaking process.

How Cheese Is Made

Typically, you make cheese by combining the curds or the solids found in milk with the whey or liquids. Cheesemakers heat the well-mixed curds and whey and use a coagulant to thicken the mixture. Depending on the cheese, salt and auxiliary ingredients are added as required.

But ricotta is made from neither curds or whey, but the tiny, fragmented, leftover curds in other dairy products such as

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

In other words, this versatile cheese is the cheesemaker’s answer to what to do with the leftover, unusable parts of the cheesemaking process.

Now, however, store-bought ricotta is often made from milk. The variety of milk ricotta can come from reflects the cheese’s adaptability. These include

  • Cow Milk
  • Goat Milk
  • Sheep Milk
  • Buffalo Milk

Standard issue ricotta, though, most likely has its base in whole cow’s milk.

However it’s made, the important thing to understand about ricotta is that it is a fresh cheese and has, therefore, retained much of its moisture. Other cheeses harden and dry with age, which gives them their individual tastes, but it’s the freshness and softness of ricotta that keeps it creamy, crumbly, and delicious.

That establishes what ricotta is and why it’s so popular in recipes. But what to use if you need a substitute for ricotta?

Finding a Substitute for Ricotta Cheese

To find the best substitute for ricotta cheese, there are several things to keep in mind.

Part of ricotta’s culinary appeal is that it neither melts nor forms a crust. This potent combination is what makes it such an asset to sauces and other recipes.

When choosing the best substitute for ricotta cheese, consider:

  • Texture
  • Consistency
  • Taste

Texture

Neither overly moist nor highly granular, ricotta has a distinct texture that can be difficult to replicate with other cheeses.

Consistency

Although ricotta is a soft cheese, it isn’t the most spreadable cheese, either. On its own, it retains liquid but also forms hard, occasionally gritty pieces. They crumble beautifully when pressed, but they don’t spread smoothly.

Taste

There are strong cheeses out there, but ricotta isn’t one. It’s gently aromatic and has a moderately creamy, sweet flavor to it.

While there are several popular substitutes for ricotta cheese, it’s necessary to understand none will mimic it exactly. Some capture the creaminess, others the texture, and still other cheeses replicate ricotta’s sweetness.

When substituting for ricotta cheese, then, you want to consider your recipe and choose the substitute for ricotta cheese that works best for your purpose.

Related Cheese Substitutes:

 Conclusion

Because ricotta cheese has a variety of culinary purposes, it isn’t hard to find a replacement for it. Substitutes for ricotta cheese can include:

  • Cream Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Mascarpone
  • Pot Cheese
  • Goat Cheese

All have their different merits and emphasize the different aspects of ricotta cheese. As you consider options for ricotta cheese substitutes, think about:

  • Texture
  • Consistency
  • Taste

These will impact the cheese you choose to work with. A sweet recipe may require a different substitute for ricotta cheese than a savory, a cooked dish from a cold one, and so on.

Remember that depending on the recipe and the substitute for ricotta you choose, you may need to sweeten, thicken or lighten the dish as required.

But whatever you choose, the most important thing is that you enjoy your creation. If it tastes good, you’ve done your work well.

About Diane Westphal
Diane Westphal
Diane lives with her husband and 2 children on a small ranch in Southern California, where she's able to grow a good portion of the food that she prepares for her family in a variety of kitchen creations.Diane has been formally trained and has spent stints in multiple noted restaurants in her region and currently consults with commercial catering businesses. She enjoys writing about food as much as she engages in making her creations.
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