Mascarpone cheese is one of the most popular cheese variants. Known for its silky smooth and creamy texture, this cheese is ideal for sweet and savory dishes and can improve the taste of just about anything.
However, many have also sought substitutes for mascarpone cheese based on a wide array of reasons.
What is the best substitute for mascarpone cheese? Among the many options, cream cheese is the best substitute for mascarpone cheese. They differ in taste and texture, but they work in the same types of dishes. Using cream cheese is also relatively easy, and it is more readily available than mascarpone cheese.
An Overview of Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone cheese is a type of cheese that originated in Italy. It provides a sweet, silky, and creamy hint to both savory and sweet dishes, although it has become especially famous for its use in tiramisu. Mascarpone cheese helps to make your dishes even creamier, and it offers a lot of benefits for anyone looking to spruce up a meal.
Mascarpone is made from cow’s milk, allowing for a silky and smooth feeling in any dish. It is produced by curdling acetic acid, as opposed to the regular rennet. When you subject the ingredients to high temperatures, you get the creamy and smooth consistency that the cheese is famous for.
Beyond its use in tiramisu, mascarpone cheese also works for dishes like fruit salads, mushrooms, shrimp, and even cake ganache.
Why Replace Mascarpone Cheese?
- Non-availability: For all its benefits, mascarpone cheese isn’t always readily available. So, if you can’t find it, you will need something else to stand in.
- Health reasons: While mascarpone cheese tastes lovely, its decadent nature means a high content of calories and saturated fats. Many people have to watch their intake of these materials, so they might not be so willing to use mascarpone cheese. However, there are healthier substitutes available.
- Taste differences: If you would like to switch your taste buds or try something new from time to time, a substitute for mascarpone cheese will work well for you.
Options for Mascarpone Cheese Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Mascarpone Cheese: Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is the ideal substitute for mascarpone cheese for several reasons. However, the most prominent is that cream cheese is much more readily available than mascarpone cheese. Instead of going for something you won’t find easily, a more available alternative is always great.
To begin, you should keep in mind that cream cheese won’t exactly give you the same taste as mascarpone cheese. The latter has a much creamier and fuller flavor than the former, but cream cheese still works pretty well as a substitute. This is especially true when you mix cream cheese with other ingredients that can help you out.
Cream cheese also works in the same dishes as mascarpone cheese. They have slight differences in their texture and flavor, but the differences are relatively mild and won’t affect your dishes.
To use cream cheese, you merely need to get it out of your fridge and let it warm up to the average room temperature. Use a fork to smash and stir it – a process that will give it a more similar consistency to mascarpone cheese. Smashing will also help you to stir the cream cheese much better.
You can mix cream cheese with sour cream or whipping cream if you want to improve its flavor. If you use whipping cream, you can use ¼ of a cup per 8 ounces of cream cheese. For sour cream, mix it in equal parts to your cream cheese. Keep in mind that your mix will need to be thorough so you can blend them optimally.
Best Substitute for Possible Health Reasons: Crème Fraîche
Many believe that crème fraîche is the French iteration of mascarpone cheese. While there is a bit of truth to that, the two also differ across several parallels. For one, crème fraîche isn’t as rich and fatty as mascarpone cheese. So, it doesn’t have the same rich texture as the latter.
There are also some taste differences. Crème fraîche is notably more acidic in flavor than mascarpone cheese, and it has a bit of a tang to it. However, you can use it in mild amounts if you need it to serve as your mascarpone cheese substitute.
Crème fraîche works incredibly well in pizzas, dense stews, and sauces. You can also use it in making cheesecakes, although that will require some additional skill in mixing. Considering that it contains half the calories in mascarpone cheese, you will find that crème fraîche could be an even healthier choice than mascarpone cheese.
Best Substitute for Easy Cooking: Whipped Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is significantly similar to mascarpone cheese. For one, both originate from Italy. There is also the fact that they are both spreadable. So, working with them is pretty straightforward.
However, like the other two options, ricotta cheese also has a slight difference in taste from mascarpone cheese. It has a grainy texture, and it has a more cheesy and moist feeling. So, while mascarpone cheese is rich, decadent, and non-watery, ricotta cheese is soft, milky, and sweet.
Ricotta has less fat content than mascarpone cheese, so feel free to take it if you have health concerns or worries. It doesn’t have the same buttery taste, but you can mix it with whipped cream or cream cheese to improve that. As a side benefit, ricotta cheese works for the same dishes as mascarpone cheese.