Updated March 2019
If you’re like me who loves cooking with cheese, I am pretty sure you’ve had your deal of ricotta cheese since it is a popular ingredient for several pasta dishes and some desserts. Technically not a real cheese, it's created from a by-product of cheese-making.
I’ve come up with a list of substitutes for ricotta cheese if you want a low-calorie or vegan-friendly alternative or you simply don’t have ricotta cheese on hand. You can easily get your hands on these and some can even be made in your own kitchens.
9 Wonderful Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese
Fun Fact: The original ricotta is made of whey with the addition of a small amount of milk, but more recently, ricotta has been made of whole milk as well. Whole-milk ricotta is primarily popular in the USA, where whey ricotta is known by the name ricottone.1
It is a staple ingredient in a lot of Italian and Italian-inspired dishes because it can be used as a filling, a complement to pasta dishes and even in desserts because of its distinct sweetness and smooth texture.
This is why, when looking for substitute to this staple ingredient, you’ll need to think of what use your ricotta cheese should be. Do you need it for filling? Perhaps, for a pasta dish or for a dessert? Depending on its function, you’ll find a good substitute here on the list.
# 1 Goat Cheese for the same Ricotta feel
You don’t need to look far to find a substitute to ricotta dish. It being a dairy by-product also means that the closest alternative is also of a dairy origin.
The goat cheese is tangy and is known for its distinct flavor. Like ricotta cheese, it is also creamy and has a similar texture with ricotta.
If you need an alternative with a stronger flavor for your dish, then goat cheese is for you. You’ll need one part of your goat cheese for every one part of needed ricotta in your recipe. Goat cheese can also be a great choice for those who have sensitivity to cow milk.
Goat cheese has a stronger flavor than ricotta but both have similar texture and mouth finish.
# 2 Parmesan
Another dairy substitute, Parmesan cheese is a good alternative for your next lasagna dish.
Because of its tendency to come off as dry, Parmesan cheese works best when mixed with other cheese variants like Mozzarella and Béchamel Sauce to bring out the same ricotta cheese feels in your lasagna.
It doesn’t leave your lasagna dry and cracked at the surface. Instead, it adds a salty and nutty flavor to your lasagna dish making it a perfect alternative to ricotta cheese that could come off as too dry for some lasagna recipes.
If you’re also a fan of ricotta’s grittiness but want to keep it down a notch, mixing Parmesan with some cottage cheese also works.
Parmesan alone cannot work as a substitute for ricotta. It is only when paired with other cheese variants can it become a close alternative with the same taste and texture.
#3 Mozzarella, Ricotta’s Italian Fella
Following the same logic as to #1, Mozzarella does not come off far from the tree where ricotta came from. In fact, ricotta is mostly made from the whey left behind in making Mozzarella cheese.
When using Mozzarella as an alternative to ricotta, you have to bear in mind that it has a tendency to become clumpy and therefore be stringier compared to the result when ricotta is used. In terms of flavor though, it is not as strong as ricotta.
Just like Parmesan, it needs to pair up with some of these in the list to end up with a closer approximation to ricotta cheese.
Nonetheless, when using Mozzarella as a ricotta substitute, you need to make sure to go with the brand that’s creamier as much as possible to lessen the chances of it being clumpy and stringy.
- Mozzarella, among all the possible choices, should not be your first go-to alternative as it needs a partner for it to closely approximate ricotta’s flavor and texture. They are both sweet, but the texture varies wildly.
# 4 Cottage Cheese to go Low-Fat
The closest approximation to ricotta cheese, perhaps among all these ingredients mentioned in this list, is cottage cheese. The name cottage cheese is even used interchangeably with ricotta cheese outside Italy because of its very close similarities.
It has the same flavor and texture to ricotta. Since ricotta has a smoother and creamier consistency, you might need to process your cottage cheese first in a blender or rub it through a strainer (or a cheesecloth like this one. Or this one.)before using it in recipes that heavily depend on ricotta’s consistency.
Cottage cheese is also a low-fat, lower-calorie alternative, with the closest flavor of ricotta. If you are on a calorie cutoff, cottage cheese could be a great alternative as it has the closest texture and taste to ricotta cheese.
However, its lower fat and calorie content is compromised with its lower calcium content. For those that are more interested in a calcium-rich diet, you could add in some dairy ingredients like milk or mix in other cheese variants to compensate. Italian food may not be your best source for calcium in this case, but if you track your nutrients closely, it's something to consider.
Cottage cheese has the closest texture and flavor to ricotta. Ricotta is even nicknamed as a fine-textured cottage cheese because of its smoother consistency.
#5 Pot Cheese
Also coming from the dairy tree like cottage and goat cheese is the pot cheese which is often described as dry curd cottage cheese. It contains some whey just like ricotta, making it a possible alternative.
It works best as a substitute to ricotta cheese in lasagnas or in stuffing pasta shells. Coming from dry curd, pot cheese is even drier and firmer than its father cottage cheese. In order to replicate ricotta’s smooth consistency and texture, you might need to add in moisture to your dish.
You can easily make your dish moist by adding a bit of cream. Just like the cottage cheese, pot cheese is also a good alternative for those who want to cut their fat intake since it also contains lesser fat and salt.
Not only that, it is also rich in protein making it perfect for those who are into muscle-building. It might be a challenge though to look for it in stores near you because it is not readily commercially available. Instead, you can actually make it easily in your own kitchen.
You can check out this YouTube tutorial to make your own pot cheese using only 3 ingredients - milk, sour cream, and salt.
Pot cheese is similar to cottage cheese and can be used as a good alternative for ricotta for lasagnas and pasta stuffing.
#6 Raquesón Cheese, The Hispanic Ricotta
Hailing from Mexico, Raquesón cheese is very similar to ricotta. It earned its title as “The Hispanic Ricotta” because just like ricotta, it is made by mixing milk with some leftover whey.
This milk-whey mixture undergoes heating, skimming and draining before it becomes the lumpy yet creamy off-white cheese. This series of processes results in a smooth consistency close to that of ricotta, making it a very good substitute in dip and dessert recipes.
In terms of tartness and saltiness though, raquesón has lower intensity than its Italian cousin ricotta.
A Mexican equivalent to Italy’s ricotta, Raqueson cheese’s rough, creamy texture can replace ricotta in recipes for dips and desserts.
Mascarpone has the same historic lineage with ricotta as it is also another cheese hailing from Italy. In preparing this cheese, cream is used as protein source. The protein is then coagulated at high temperature and then added with tartaric acid to form the curd.
As a result, its slightly sour flavor is stronger than that of ricotta. Because of this, it can be a great ricotta substitute when you need to combat the strong flavor of garlic in recipes. Mascarpone can also be used as an alternative to ricotta in cannoli dishes.
If ricotta’s texture and consistency is required in your recipe, you might need to do some blending with mascarpone first because it is much denser. If you’re looking for a low-fat alternative though, then you need to steer away from Mascarpone because it contains much more fat than Ricotta.
Mascarpone has a stronger flavor and contains higher fat than ricotta. It works best as an alternative in recipes where garlic is used and requires blending first to match Ricotta’s smooth consistency.
#8 Buttermilk Cheese
If you’re looking for a good substitute for ricotta to fill your pasta, Buttermilk cheese is your next best choice. It is also perfect as a substitute for cheesecake recipes because of its creamy finish and sweet taste. Its mild, acidic, and creamy flavor is quite close to that of ricotta.
If you need to improve its consistency, you can easily do so by retaining some of the whey during the process of making it. Just like pot cheese, you can’t easily find this cheese in stores near you but you can easily make this in the comforts of your own home.
You can go ahead and check this homemade buttermilk cheese recipe and make your own version of buttermilk cheese by using simple techniques and easy-to-find ingredients.
If you need a ricotta substitute to fill in your pastas, buttermilk cheese is the one for you.
#9 Tofu Ricotta for the Vegans
As its name suggests, Tofu Ricotta is a perfect alternative for our vegan dishes. It is a variant of tofu that is created to mimic ricotta’s texture and taste when mashed.
Although there may be a stigma at the family meat-eating dinner table for dishes containing tofu, using it in vegan-friendly lasagnas is actually a testament to its versatility. With the right seasoning, tofu actually fits as a substitute to any dish where you need Ricotta.
Its texture when mashed has the same soft-sand consistency as Ricotta. By using the tofu ricotta variant, the result is a milder taste to actual ricotta. Using the ordinary tofu alone is also perfect as substitute to ricotta for filling in stuffed shells and pasta.
Tofu, especially its Tofu Ricotta variant, is a perfect substitute to Ricotta for vegan-friendly recipes. Its consistency is similar to ricotta and you can improve its taste by adding in some seasoning and mixing other flavors like basil. Try simple additions like gourmet flavored olive oils with crushed garlic and a spoon of sundried tomato with a crudite platter.
Nothing can completely replace ricotta cheese exactly as it is for its unique flavor and texture.
For whatever reason you’re looking for a substitute - whether you’re running out of ricotta in your kitchen supply, or looking for an alternative for stronger flavor or for lower fat content, the ones listed here are your next go-to ingredients.
If there are any other ingredients I’ve missed on this list that still worked for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. There are so many delightful ways to experiment with soft cheeses and maybe even level-up your favorite recipe. Until your next cooking adventure.
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1 Wikipedia.com. Ricotta - Fresh variants. Retrieved March 26, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricotta