Finding The Right Ricotta Cheese Substitute: Barbara’s Italian Fairytale

On our tenth wedding anniversary, my hubby took me to Italy. He planned a romantic vacation, but I decided to turn it into a romantic expedition instead. I was determined not to leave that beautiful country until I’ve visited all of the places I’ve dreamt about.

Venice, Milan, Rome, Verona, Florence, and Turin were main destinations I wanted to check out, but I wasn’t giving up on my idea to experience the everyday life in picturesque Italian villages.

That is how we ended up living in Tuscany for three months! 🙂

Yes, I have to admit I am a stubborn adventurer, but this side of my personality gave me a chance to spend three glorious months, with the love of my life in my dreamland. How could I ask for more?

During that period we enjoyed Italian food as much as we could, and we gained a few pounds.
One of the best things I learned about was Ricotta cheese. It was a regular part of my breakfast and I even learned how to make it

Unfortunately, when we came back to America, I realized it is not so popular here which means it was rarely available. I missed the taste of Ricotta so much that I had to come up with a substitute!

Today, fellow Ricotta lovers, I will present you with my findings. Even though I know nothing can replace its creaminess when you need to include Ricotta in a recipe, or you are just dealing with a strong craving, this will help.

What is Ricotta Cheese?

Let’s start with the basics. 

Ricotta cheese is creamy white, has a soft texture and mild, fresh taste with a hint of sweetness. Traditionally, it is made from cow, goat, sheep, or water buffalo milk whey that is left behind in the production of Provolone or Mozzarella.

Ricotta has a certain level of firmness, and when you eat it, you can feel tiny, delicate granules on your tongue. In comparison to other cheeses, you could say it closely resembles cottage cheese. However, Ricotta has a finer texture and five times more calcium.

If you are a true cheese lover, eating Ricotta with a little salt, fresh herbs or pepper can be a delicacy on its own. If you want to make your taste buds happy, I would recommend combining it with Prosciutto and melon.

However, this cheese is most commonly used as a part of various pasta dishes or desserts. Salads and dips benefit from it too, due to its texture and nutritional value. You can often come across Ricotta in Lasagna, Cannelloni or Manicotti recipes.

If you want to include it in sweets, Ricotta will work well with honey, fruit, or chocolate, especially in Cannoli. At last, you can use it to make low-fat cheesecake.


Alternatives to Ricotta Cheese

While I was choosing the best Ricotta substitute, I realized that it is crucial not to match only Ricotta’s flavor, but its consistency too.

You will notice some of the alternatives I recommended below are firmer than Ricotta, which means you will need to blend them and make them smoother. Yogurt can be an excellent consistency and taste modifier, for this purpose. 

Without any further ado, I present you the best Ricotta cheese substitutes:

1. Cottage Cheese

  • I already mentioned how cottage cheese is very similar to Ricotta, so it shouldn’t surprise you that it found its place on this list. Cottage cheese has the right, mild taste but it is less creamy. You can buy it in small-curd and large-curd forms, but if you are aiming for the best Ricotta resemblance, small-curd is a better choice.
  • Cottage cheese will replace Ricotta without any problem in various mild-flavored dishes, like lasagna for example. However, you will realize it needs a little blending to achieve the characteristic creamy consistency because it is lumpier and runnier.
  • If you decide to use cottage cheese as a substitute, don’t forget to sieve it first, to eliminate the excess whey.

2. Fromage Blanc

  • Fromage Blanc (White Cheese in French) is a buttery, fresh cheese that has a consistency of yogurt. Unfortunately, it is rare to find. It can be used as a low-fat alternative for Ricotta. There are a certain sweetness and sharpness to its flavor, which makes it a great cheese spread.
  • Due to its taste, Fromage Blanc is often used in various desserts or simply eaten with fruits. When you cook it, it doesn't become runny, and you can whip it if necessary. This cheese can substitute Ricotta in sauces, if you add some herbs and spices, or as a part of different desserts.

3. Buttermilk Cheese

  • Are you planning to make a pasta filling or a cheesecake but want to skip Ricotta? Add buttermilk cheese instead! It has a mild, creamy, acidic flavor that will serve you right. You won’t find it in stores, but you can make it at home in a few quick steps.
  • Start by lining a colander with cheesecloth folds and pour some buttermilk in it. Put the colander in a large container, place it in a refrigerator and wait for the liquid to drain. Once moist is completely removed, it should have a cheese-like consistency. You can modify the texture even further by pressing the curd or retaining whey.

4. Fresh Goat Cheese

  • Goat cheese is one of the best substitutes for Ricotta, but only if you are using it fresh, not aged. Aged cheese has tougher consistency and much stronger flavor than ricotta. Fresh goat cheese is rich and creamy which means its texture is appropriate. The taste is mild but slightly tart.
  • Goat cheese can be used instead of ricotta over fresh fruit or as a dessert topping. Also, it is an ideal choice for people who have cow milk intolerance or sensitivity.

5. Pot Cheese

  • Pot cheese is soft, mild-flavored, fresh, crumbly, and has some whey content but it’s still a little bit dry to be ideal Ricotta substitute. It is similar to cottage cheese, only less creamy.
  • In fact, pot cheese is super healthy, it is high in proteins and at the same time, low in fat and salts. This is another substitute you can prepare at home. You can use it for spreads or change its flavor by adding herbs or spices.

6. Cream Cheese

  • Cream cheese is an excellent substitute for Ricotta, because of its freshness, mellow flavor and similar creamy texture. However, cream cheese is higher in fat, due to the fact it is made from cream and milk combined.
  • This cheese will work well in place of Ricotta while making lasagna or cheesecake, but also other desserts and dips. It comes in low-fat and non-fat versions, so you can choose what suits you the best.

7. Queso Fresco

  • Queso Fresco is a fresh cheese that comes from Mexico, with a mild, salty yet milky flavor. Its consistency is dry, grainy and breakable. Traditionally, it is crumbled over enchiladas, casseroles, soups and so on. When heated, this cheese softens but doesn’t become runny.
  • You can buy Queso Fresco in Mexican food stores. It can serve as Ricotta substitute for recipes that call for fresh cheese - fruit toppings and different fillings. In comparison to Ricotta, it is higher in proteins, calories, fat, and salt.

8. Requesón

  • Another Mexican cheese found its place on my list. It is Requesón. This fresh cheese has a yellowish-white color and lumpy, creamy texture. It is prepared similarly to Ricotta - by mixing milk with leftover whey.
  • Requesón's flavor is strong and salty, which makes it perfect for tacos fillings or topping for tostadas. Its taste can be modified by adding salt or sugar, depending on your needs. As a substitute for Ricotta, Requesón can work well in dips and desserts.

9. Mascarpone

  • Mascarpone is Ricotta’s neighbor cheese, as it comes from Italy. It is prepared by coagulating cream with acetic or citric acid, lemon juice or vinegar. Mascarpone is white-colored and has a mildly tart flavor. 
  • Due to the sharpness of mascarpone’s taste, I recommend you to use it as Ricotta substitute only in strongly-flavored dishes. Recipes that call for garlic are a good example. You can also put it in cannoli. Be aware that you might have to blend it a little bit, to match Ricotta’s consistency.

10. Paneer

  • Paneer has a fresh, mild taste and it doesn’t melt. It is an Indian-origin cheese and locals make it by heating a cow or buffalo milk, and adding lemon juice or any similar acid. The preparation of paneer requires a higher cooking temperature than ricotta, but if they are both made from cow milk, they can be quite similar.
  • You will notice, this cheese is commonly used next to spinach and peas in traditional Indian dishes. You can place it in stuffing, curries, and desserts.

11. Clabber Cream

  • Clabber cream (or clotted cream) is a yellow-colored product, with slightly sour taste and Ricotta-like texture. It is made by letting milk (both unpasteurized and pasteurized) to go sour. This cheese is an excellent alternative for Ricotta in different pasta fillings.
  • If you want to make clabber cream at home using pasteurized milk, add a spoon of buttermilk, commercial clabber cream or sour milk and voila – it is done.

12. Sour Cream

  • Sour cream is one of the simplest and best substitutes for Ricotta cheese. It is created through souring - the natural fermentation process of cream, caused by lactic acid bacteria.
  • You can use it instead of Ricotta when you want to make various dips for vegetables, potato chips, and crackers or topping for cookies and cakes.

13. Tofu

  • If you are looking for a vegan substitute for Ricotta, tofu is here to solve all of your problems. As you probably know, tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into blocks. However, you should be looking for silken tofu. It has the same creamy consistency as Ricotta, while the regular tofu can be too dense. However, its taste is neutral, which means you’ll have to add different spices and herbs to make it suitable for your recipe.
  • Before using tofu instead of Ricotta, press it a little bit to drain out any excess water and blend it. Tofu will be an excellent filling for lasagna and other pasta dishes. Even if you decide to make ravioli, manicotti, or cannoli, tofu will serve you right.

Conclusion

I gave you thirteen potential Ricotta substitutes. I believe that is plenty.

Make sure to check what you want to cook and what the characteristics of each alternative are before choosing the right one. 

However, don’t miss a chance to travel to Italy, buy real Ricotta and enjoy its pure taste at least once in a lifetime. I promise it is worth it!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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