Cream Cheese Alternatives

Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient used in many recipes like bagels, dips, desserts, and more.

Cream Cheese Alternatives

But what can you use when you don't have cream cheese on hand or want a lower calorie or dairy-free option?

Luckily, there are several excellent cream cheese substitutes to choose from.


Greek yogurt is one of the most popular and readily available substitutions for cream cheese. It has a similar tangy flavor and rich, creamy texture.

The probiotics in yogurt provide extra health benefits as well. Just be sure to choose a whole milk Greek yogurt for maximum creaminess and avoid nonfat or low-fat versions.

For a bagel schmear or veggie dip, plain Greek yogurt can typically be swapped 1:1 for cream cheese. To use in baked goods, strain the yogurt first by lining a strainer with cheesecloth and letting the liquid drain out.

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup plain, whole milk Greek yogurt

Recipes to use:

  • Bagel spreads
  • Vegetable dips
  • Cheesecake
  • Frosting

Key Takeaway: Greek yogurt works perfectly in place of cream cheese for spreads, dips, and baking when thick, whole milk yogurt is used.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is another cultured dairy product that mimics some properties of cream cheese. It has a rich texture and a tangy, acidic taste.

However, sour cream is thinner than cream cheese. It also has a stronger sour flavor that can overwhelm some recipes.

For these reasons, sour cream works best in savory dishes like dips, sauces, soups, and casseroles. Avoid baking with sour cream as the texture isn't quite right.

Start by substituting a smaller amount of sour cream for cream cheese and adjust to taste:

Try substituting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese with 2-3 tablespoons sour cream

Recipes to use:

Key Takeaway: Sour cream can replace cream cheese in savory recipes, though the tangy flavor may need adjusting with herbs or lemon. Only use small amounts in baking.


Ricotta cheese is an Italian cheese made from whey. It has a similar creamy, yet grainy texture to cream cheese.

Ricotta on its own is not thick enough to mimic cream cheese perfectly. Try mixing ricotta with Greek yogurt or cream to make it more spreadable.

For baking, drain the ricotta first by lining a strainer with cheesecloth. Let it drain in the fridge overnight. Then blend or process until smooth.

The mild flavor of ricotta also makes it a good choice for both sweet and savory dishes:

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup drained ricotta blended with 2 tablespoons yogurt or cream

Recipes to use:

  • Cheesecake
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Dips

Key Takeaway: Draining and blending ricotta gives it a smoother texture for replacing cream cheese in recipes.

Cottage Cheese

Just like ricotta, cottage cheese is not an exact match for cream cheese's rich consistency straight out of the container.

The curds in cottage cheese also give it a grainier texture. Make sure to choose small or medium curd cottage cheese, not large curd.

To use cottage cheese for cooking and baking, first puree it in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. For extra richness, mix in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream.

When smooth and creamy, cottage cheese can stand in for cream cheese in both sweet and savory recipes:

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup cottage cheese pureed with 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

Recipes to use:

  • Quiche
  • Pasta bakes
  • Pies
  • Cookies

Key Takeaway: Blending small or medium curd cottage cheese produces a smooth puree that mimics cream cheese well for baking and cooking.


Mascarpone is an Italian triple cream cheese made from heavy cream. It is very close to cream cheese in rich, creamy texture, though slightly sweeter in flavor.

The thick, spreadable consistency of mascarpone allows it to be used in place of cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio. For added tanginess, mix in a pinch of salt and lemon juice.

Mascarpone works beautifully in baked goods, frosting, fillings, dips, and more. It provides the same luxurious mouthfeel and tender crumb as cream cheese:

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup mascarpone

Recipes to use:

  • Cheesecake
  • Tiramisu
  • Frosting
  • Spread for bagels or crackers

Key Takeaway: With its high fat content, mascarpone mimics the rich creaminess of cream cheese for baking and cooking.


Neufchâtel cheese is actually a type of cream cheese made in France. It's lighter than regular cream cheese with about one-third less fat and calories.

The taste and texture is nearly identical to traditional cream cheese. Neufchâtel has a smooth, spreadable consistency perfect for schmears and dips.

You can swap Neufchâtel into any recipe that calls for cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio. Its lower fat content gives a slightly lighter texture in baked goods:

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup Neufchâtel

Recipes to use:

  • Cheesecake
  • Bagels
  • Frosting
  • Dips

Key Takeaway: Neufchâtel delivers all the creaminess of cream cheese with less fat, making it a slimmed-down substitute.

Vegan Cream Cheese

Following a vegan or dairy-free diet? Then your best bet is to use a vegan cream cheese alternative.

Many brands like Tofutti and Daiya make plant-based cream cheese spreads that mimic the real thing. They have a smooth, creamy texture and tangy flavor perfect for spreads, frosting, and baking.

Be sure to read reviews and test a few brands to find your favorite dairy-free option. You can typically swap vegan cream cheese 1:1 in recipes.

For homemade, try blended tofu or soaked cashews mixed with lemon juice and salt. The texture won't be as creamy, so use vegan cream cheese in small amounts in baking.

Try substituting:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese

Recipes to use:

  • Cheesecake
  • Frosting
  • Vegetable dips
  • Bagel schmears

Key Takeaway: Vegan cream cheese products provide the most authentic replacement for cream cheese in plant-based recipes.


Silken tofu is a great vegan cream cheese substitute when blended smooth. Make sure to use silken, not firm or extra firm.

Puree the tofu with lemon juice, salt, and any other flavorings like garlic or herbs. It will still be thinner than cream cheese, so use sparingly in baking and adjust consistency as needed.

Blended tofu works wonderfully in dips, savory dishes, and desserts like vegan cheesecake or pumpkin pie. It provides protein and nutrition in a dairy-free, creamy base:

Try substituting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese with 2-3 tablespoons blended silken tofu

Recipes to use:

  • Vegan cheesecake
  • Dip
  • Vegetable spreads
  • Pie fillings

Key Takeaway: Silken tofu pureed with lemon and salt offers a dairy-free cream cheese swap, though the texture is thinner.

Cashew Cheese

For a homemade vegan alternative, try making cream cheese from raw cashews.

Soak raw cashews overnight, then drain and puree with fresh lemon juice and salt until completely smooth and creamy. Add herbs or spices as desired.

The cashew cream cheese won't be quite as thick as dairy cream cheese. But the richness of cashews gives a similar luxurious feel.

Use cashew cream cheese in savory recipes and frostings. Start with smaller amounts in baked goods as the consistency is looser.

Try substituting:

  • 1/3 cup cream cheese with 1/4 cup cashew cream cheese

Recipes to use:

  • Vegetable dips
  • Spread for bagels
  • Frosting
  • Fillings

Key Takeaway: Blending soaked raw cashews produces a dairy-free cream cheese ideal for spreads, dips, and frosting.

Butter or Oil

In a pinch, you can use butter or oil in place of cream cheese in some recipes. Obviously the flavor will be different - butter is sweeter while oil is more neutral.

When baking, substitute an equal amount of softened butter for the cream cheese. The consistency is similar enough that butter can provide the right moisture and fat content.

For savory recipes, use a mild tasting oil like canola or avocado oil. Mix the oil with some lemon juice for tanginess. The texture won't be as creamy, so only use small amounts of oil.

Try substituting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese with 2 tablespoons melted butter or mild oil

Recipes to use:

  • Cookies
  • Quick breads
  • Dips
  • Dressings

Key Takeaway: Butter or oil can work in a small amount for baking or cooking when you're in a pinch without cream cheese.

Comparison Table of Cream Cheese Substitutes

SubstituteBest UsesNotes
Greek YogurtSpread, dip, bakingUse whole milk yogurt
Sour CreamDip, sauce, dressingTangy flavor
RicottaCheesecake, dip, pizzaDrain and blend
Cottage CheeseQuiche, pie, pastaPuree until smooth
MascarponeCheesecake, frosting, tiramisuAdds richness
NeufchâtelCheesecake, dip, bagel, frostingLower fat
Vegan Cream CheeseCheesecake, dip, frostingCheck brands for baking
TofuDip, filling, cheesecakeBlend silken tofu
Cashew CheeseDip, spread, frostingUse raw cashews
Butter or OilCookie, bread, dipSmall amounts only


What is the best cream cheese substitute for cheesecake?

For baking creamy New York style cheesecake, look for a full-fat substitute like mascarpone, Greek yogurt, or softened cream cheese. Vegan cream cheese also works well.

What can be used in place of cream cheese for frosting?

Mascarpone, ricotta, and vegan cream cheese all provide the rich consistency needed for cream cheese frosting. Butter can work in a pinch.

Is cottage cheese a good cream cheese substitute?

Yes, when blended completely smooth cottage cheese mimics the texture of cream cheese. Mix with heavy cream or milk for extra richness.

Can I replace cream cheese with oil?

You can use a small amount of mild oil mixed with lemon juice to replace cream cheese in dips and dressings. Butter is better for baking.

What is the healthiest cream cheese substitute?

Greek yogurt is one of the healthiest swaps for cream cheese thanks to its protein and gut-healthy probiotics. Low or nonfat cottage cheese is another good option.


With so many options like yogurt, ricotta, and cottage cheese, you can find a easy cream cheese substitute for any recipe. Consider the use and flavor profile to pick the best option.

A thick, full-fat dairy like mascarpone or Greek yogurt works wonderfully in place of cream cheese for spreading on bagels or using in baking. For savory cooking, tangy sour cream or blended cottage cheese are great choices.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!