Ricotta Cheese Substitutes

Ricotta cheese is a wonderfully versatile ingredient used in both sweet and savory dishes. Known for its mild, sweet flavor and soft, creamy texture, ricotta works well in recipes ranging from lasagna and pasta to cheesecakes and pancakes.

Ricotta Cheese Substitutes

However, you may sometimes find yourself without ricotta when a recipe calls for it. Whether you've run out or can't find it at the store, the good news is that several common ingredients can substitute for ricotta cheese in a pinch.

What Is Ricotta Cheese?

Ricotta cheese originated in Italy and is made from the whey leftover during cheese production. Most ricotta today uses cow's milk whey, but it can also be made from sheep, goat, buffalo or a combination of milks.

During production, the whey is heated, causing the proteins to coagulate into clumpy curds which are then drained and lightly salted – this is ricotta cheese. It has a fresh, mild, sweet and milky flavor with a creamy yet slightly grainy texture.

Ricotta imparts richness and texture to both sweet and savory dishes without being overly heavy. It also contains more moisture and is lower in fat and calories compared to many other cheeses.

Key Takeaway: Ricotta cheese is a fresh Italian cheese made by heating and curdling the whey leftover from cheesemaking. It has a sweet, milky taste and soft, moist texture.

What to Look for in a Ricotta Substitute

When choosing an ingredient to replace ricotta cheese, here are some key characteristics to consider:

  • Flavor – Look for substitutes with a fresh, sweet and milky taste similar to ricotta. Avoid strong or tangy flavors unless you adjust other seasonings.
  • Texture – Seek a smooth, spreadable texture and medium soft consistency. The substitute shouldn't be too firm or completely liquidy.
  • Fat content – Ricotta is moderately high in fat, so alternatives like Greek yogurt will be too lean. Pick fattier substitutes like cream cheese or mascarpone to replicate richness.
  • Moistness – Ricotta cheese has high moisture content. Substitutes like cottage cheese fit the bill. Drier replacements won't mimic the creaminess of ricotta as well.
  • Reacts similarly when cooked - Ricotta doesn't melt well or get very firm when cooked. Choose substitutes that behave comparably in baked recipes.

Keeping these attributes in mind will lead you to the best substitute based on the recipe.

Key Takeaway: Optimal ricotta cheese substitutes should have a sweet, milky flavor, spreadable texture, decent fat content, and moisture level similar to ricotta.

Best Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese

Let's explore some of the top recommended substitutes for ricotta cheese, both dairy and non-dairy.

Dairy Substitutes

Several types of dairy ingredients can mimic ricotta cheese nicely in certain applications. Here are the best dairy-based substitutes:

1. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is one of the most widely available and affordable substitutes for ricotta. Although cottage cheese has a chunkier, curd-like texture, its flavor profile is mild, sweet, and milky like ricotta.

To use cottage cheese as a ricotta replacement:

  • Blend it until smooth to mimic ricotta's creamier texture
  • Drain any excess liquid using cheesecloth
  • Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting for ricotta cheese

Cottage cheese works especially well in cooked dishes like lasagna, stuffed shells, and dips where its texture becomes smoother when heated. The high moisture content makes it suitable for no-bake recipes too.

Key Takeaway: Blending and draining cottage cheese produces a great substitute for ricotta with a similar fresh dairy flavor. Use it in baked pasta, lasagna, dips and more.

2. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese makes an excellent replacement in desserts and sweeter recipes that benefit from its rich texture. Although denser than ricotta, cream cheese has a mild milky taste and spreadable consistency at room temperature.

To use it as a ricotta swap:

  • Soften regular cream cheese and whip in mixer for airy texture
  • Reduce other acids like lemon juice in recipes
  • Combine with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for extra moisture
  • Replace ricotta 1:1 or use 3⁄4 as much cream cheese

Cream cheese works well in cheesecakes, cookies, pancakes, and as a base for creamy dips with herbs or spices added.

Key Takeaway: Whipped cream cheese stands in nicely for ricotta cheese in desserts, dips, sauces and other places you want extra richness.

3. Mascarpone Cheese

Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese perfect for swapping into sweet ricotta recipes. It has a rich, decadent texture closer to clotted cream and tastes mildly sweet with a subtle tanginess.

Since mascarpone is softer and fattier than ricotta, thin it out by:

  • Blending with cream cheese or cottage cheese
  • Adding milk, cream, or lemon juice to adjust consistency
  • Replacing ricotta 1:1 or using 3⁄4 as much mascarpone

This ricotta substitute works especially well in tiramisu, cheesecake, ricotta pie, pancakes, and pastry fillings.

Key Takeaway: Sweet and silky mascarpone cheese mimics ricotta wonderfully in desserts but may need thinning to prevent dense texture.

4. Greek Yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt makes a tasty substitute thanks to its tangy, creamy profile. Since Greek yogurt is more liquid than ricotta, it works better in small amounts or recipes where a firm set isn't necessary.

To use Greek yogurt instead of ricotta:

  • Start with whole milk yogurt for richer flavor and texture
  • Mix in cream cheese or mascarpone to improve spreadability
  • Replace ricotta 1:1 only for small quantities or reduce amount
  • Strain yogurt through cheesecloth for thicker consistency if desired

Greek yogurt shines as a ricotta swap in lighter dishes like smoothies, shakes, toast spreads, and salad dressings.

Key Takeaway: Greek yogurt mimics ricotta's tang well but needs fortifying with creamier ingredients to work in larger quantities.

SubstituteBest Used In
Cottage CheeseLasagna, dips, pasta bakes
Cream CheeseCheesecakes, desserts, dips
MascarponeTiramisu, ricotta pie, pancakes
Greek YogurtShakes, toast, small quantities

Non-Dairy Substitutes

Those avoiding dairy have ample options to substitute for ricotta cheese too. Here are great plant-based and vegan swaps:

1. Tofu

Both silken and regular tofu work remarkably well to mimic ricotta in vegan cooking. Pureed tofu gives a similar creamy factor while retaining moisture and neutral taste that takes on other flavors easily.

For best results:

  • Squeeze or drain any excess liquid from tofu first
  • Add spices, herbs, lemon juice to boost ricotta-like flavor
  • Blend in food processor until completely smooth
  • Use extra firm tofu for cooked recipes, silken for dips/spreads
  • Substitute tofu 1:1 for ricotta or add more tofu for firmer texture

Tofu makes lasagna, manicotti, dips, and cheesecakes possible without dairy.

Key Takeaway: Blended tofu impressively replicates ricotta's texture and neutral flavor necessary for both sweet and savory dishes.

2. Cashew Cream

Pureed cashews create a versatile vegan cream that excels as a ricotta swap in terms of richness. Soak raw cashews overnight then blend into a smooth paste adding water as needed. The nuts naturally lend a subtle sweet undertone similar to ricotta.

For ricotta-like cashew cream:

  • Add lemon juice or vinegar for tangy flavor
  • Include salt, pepper, herbs and nutritional yeast for savory flair
  • Use less water for thicker, cheese-like texture
  • Replace ricotta 1:1 or add more cashews for very thick mixture

Cashew cream shines in ravioli filling, lasagna, dips, spreads, and desserts wanting a decadent boost.

Key Takeaway: Smooth cashew cream makes an indulgent non-dairy ricotta thanks to its rich consistency and lightly sweet taste.

3. Coconut Cream

Canned coconut cream has an inherently sweet, subtle coconutty flavor useful for mimicking ricotta in desserts. It whips up light and airy for a similar mouthfeel too.

To use coconut cream instead of ricotta:

  • Chill cans overnight so the cream separates from liquid
  • Scoop out the solid cream into a mixing bowl
  • Whip until fluffy and ricotta-like
  • Add vanilla or sweetener to taste
  • Substitute 1:1 for ricotta in dessert recipes

Coconut cream makes an easy dairy-free topping for cakes, tarts, pancakes, and fruit desserts wanting richness.

Key Takeaway: Whipping coconut cream makes it an ideal non-dairy ricotta for desserts and sweets needing a fluffy texture.

SubstituteBest Used In
TofuLasagna, pasta, savory bakes
Cashew CreamRavioli filling, lasagna, sweets
Coconut CreamTopping for desserts

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

If you strike out finding a suitable ricotta substitute, consider making your own fresh ricotta at home. All it takes is milk, an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, and salt for flavoring.

The basic process is:

  1. Heat milk to 185-190°F
  2. Add acid which causes curds to form
  3. Drain the mixture through cheesecloth
  4. Enjoy fresh homemade ricotta!

DIY ricotta has a wonderful just-made taste and saves a last minute trip to the store. And since it takes about 15 minutes hands on time, homemade is easier than you think.

Best Ricotta Substitute for Popular Dishes

Certain ricotta substitutes work better than others depending on the type of recipe. Here are tailored recommendations:

  • For lasagna – Blended cottage cheese or extra firm tofu offer great texture and creaminess between lasagna layers. Cream cheese or mascarpone also work well.
  • For ravioli filling – Use tofu, part-skim ricotta, mascarpone, or 50/50 cottage cheese plus Parmesan cheese as substitutes here.
  • For dips – Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, silken tofu or a combo blended up makes easy, protein-rich dips and spreads to swap for ricotta.
  • For cheesecake – Cream cheese, mascarpone, or extra creamy cashew cream taste decadent in cheesecakes wanting ricotta's richness.
  • For pancakes or baked goods – Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, mascarpone, and especially silken tofu produce great lift and texture in ricotta pancakes and quickbreads.


Why does my recipe call for ricotta cheese?

Ricotta cheese is valued for the creamy texture, rich dairy flavor, and moisture it adds to both sweet and savory recipes without being overly heavy or high calorie. It tends to make recipes tender rather than tough and rubbery.

What's a quick substitute for ricotta cheese?

The quickest ricotta cheese substitutes on hand are likely cream cheese or Greek yogurt from your refrigerator. Blended cottage cheese also works in a pinch.

Can I make ricotta without cheese cloth?

Yes, it is possible to make DIY ricotta without cheesecloth. Use a fine mesh strainer lined with paper towels instead to drain the hot milk curds. It may take longer to release all the moisture but still lets whey drain effectively.

Is ricotta cheese the same as cottage cheese?

While they look somewhat similar, ricotta and cottage cheese differ in a few ways. Ricotta is creamier and smoother in texture vs the discernible curds in cottage cheese. Ricotta also tends to be moister and milder tasting whereas cottage cheese is more tart and salty. Both make excellent substitutes for one another though.


Ricotta cheese is valued for its versatility to make both sweet and savory recipes luscious and tender without adding tons of fat and calories. When you don't have fresh ricotta on hand, viable dairy swaps include cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, cream cheese and mascarpone.

For non-dairy cooking, blended tofu, cashew cream, and whipped coconut cream impressively stand in for ricotta as well. And if all else fails, try your hand at homemade ricotta – it's simpler than you might think!

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions