Using ricotta cheese in your favorite dishes be it pasta, salad, a dessert, or just in sauces or dips, elevates their flavor profile. This fresh cheese which is often made at home from leftover whey has a rich, creamy consistency that’s unmatched by any other cheese, and a hint of sweetness that’s to die for!
But what happens when you’re midway through cooking your pasta, and head over to the fridge to grab some ricotta and realize you’ve run out? Easy! Substitute it with one of these alternatives and enjoy.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese, or “recooked cheese” is a cheese of Italian origin, which derives its name from the way it’s made – leftover whey. Whey is nothing but the liquid that is leftover once you’ve left your milk to curdle, and have strained it to make some other type of cheese.
There’s no limitation to the kind of milk it can be made from, be it milk from cows, goats, or water buffaloes. However, store-bought ricotta is likely made from the ever-abundant cow’s milk.
What makes ricotta so popular is that it is light, fluffy, and still creamy. This texture can be attributed to its freshness because as cheese gradually grows older it becomes denser. However, its fluffiness comes at the hefty price of a reduced shelf-life, which is why it’s always a good idea to have some alternatives within your hand’s reach!
Ten Substitutes for Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese finds its place in the ingredient list of many recipes – pasta, lasagna, desserts, fillings, pizzas, dips, and more! So, needless to say, if you want to pick the perfect substitute from this list, you need to first identify the role it will play in your dish. Will you be using it in a salad, or will you be making pasta with it?
1. Cottage Cheese
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to ricotta cheese, then cottage cheese is your best bet. It is pretty much similar to ricotta cheese in terms of its mild flavor and fluffiness. However, it is less creamy as compared to ricotta.
What makes it a good substitute for ricotta cheese is that it has a low calorie and fat content, which makes it super healthy. Cottage cheese comes in large and small-curd forms.
The latter is closer in consistency to ricotta, so you can opt for that, to use in your pasta and other recipes that call for a mild flavor. Keep in mind that cottage cheese is a bit lumpy, so you’ll have to sieve and then drain it before using it.
If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to ricotta cheese, then you can try the silken goodness named tofu, which is made from soy milk. Tofu is also a great option for those who have lactose intolerance. As opposed to cottage cheese, tofu has the same creamy texture as ricotta, but you still need to drain it before you proceed to the blending stage.
Tofu works great in dishes that have spices and herbs in them, as this softens its egg-like flavor. You can use it in pasta dishes or even in recipes that call for baking like cannoli. The best part is that tofu has a low fat and cholesterol content, and is rich in proteins, making it a great choice for health enthusiasts.
3. Goat Cheese
If the creamy, rich texture of ricotta cheese is what you desire in your dish, with some added tartiness, then fresh goat cheese has got you covered. Fresh goat cheese has a milder flavor profile, as compared to its aged version which is much stronger in taste.
The latter also is more solid and chewy, as compared to the soft, creamy texture of the former. You can use the same portion sizes of fresh goat cheese to substitute in place of ricotta. It works especially well as a dessert topping made from fresh fruits, or a fruit salad.
Why not substitute the pride of Italy, ricotta, with another Italian favorite? Mascarpone is a white cheese that best substitutes ricotta in desserts like Tiramisu, pastries like cannoli, or savory dishes like risotto.
It is also super easy to make at home! All you need to do is add a citric, tartaric, or acetic acid to the cream during the coagulation process. Since it is made using a sharp base flavor, mascarpone tastes a little more sour and flavorful as compared to ricotta.
It also has a thicker consistency, so you may need to blend it a little to achieve your desired texture. It’s recommended to use mascarpone in recipes that have a strong flavor, such as those that use garlic, so that the milder ingredients can still shine through.
5. Pot Cheese
Pot cheese has a dry, crumbly texture, and is similar to cottage cheese, but isn’t as soft or creamy. It gets its name from the way it is made, that is in a pot on a stove. It is drier than ricotta and cottage cheese because it doesn’t have a high whey content.
It’s quite rare to find pot cheese in stores, so this is a great alternative only if you can make it at home. Pot cheese is rich in protein and contains low fat and salt content. It has a mild taste, similar to that of ricotta.
However, keep in mind that it spoils quite fast, so you need to consume it within a couple of days. The best way to use pot cheese is a spread over some toast with a homemade blend of herbs and spices.
6. Cream Cheese
Perhaps one of the most popular and readily available substitutes for ricotta cheese, cream cheese has a smooth, creamy, and fluffy texture. The only difference between the two is that while ricotta cheese only requires milk for its preparation, cream cheese also requires cream.
Cream cheese works well in desserts that don’t require baking, such as you guessed it – cheesecake. You can even add cream cheese to your lasagna or pasta dish, as a readily-available substitute for ricotta.
7. Sour Cream
This alternative might seem a bit odd because sour cream and ricotta cheese have different textures. But, in some dishes where cheese isn’t the star of the show, like dips or sauces, it’s the perfect alternative and it’s readily available.
When natural cream ferments due to the production of lactic acid by bacteria, it gets a sour taste and is therefore called sour cream. If the flavor is still a bit bland for a dip, you can add a few herbs and spices of your choice, to give it a kick.
In addition to dips for crackers, chips, or veggies, sour cream is a great substitute for ricotta cheese, for fillings or toppings that go over cookies, french fries, or cakes. But, if you’re looking to substitute it in something like lasagna, try another alternative like goat’s cheese or cream cheese.
8. Queso Fresco
As you might have figured out, queso fresco is a cheese of Mexican origin. Its mild flavor is similar to that of ricotta cheese, which is why it is a perfect substitute, should you have some on hand.
While it’s usually used as an alternative in dishes where the cheese remains uncooked, it can also be used in soups, Mexican delicacies like enchiladas, or casserole dishes. It’s perfect for use in these dishes as the heat can soften it, without making it runny or too sticky. So, if you fancy a change from the usual ricotta, then grab some queso fresco!
9. Soft Mozzarella Cheese
Ricotta cheese and fresh mozzarella are closely related – you can make ricotta out of the whey that’s left after preparing the latter! Of course, mozzarella is more clumpy or stringy as compared to ricotta, and also has a milder flavor.
But, if you pair mozzarella with some other type of cheese, like cottage cheese, you’ll be able to find the right blend eventually. You can also try to look for a brand that offers the creamiest mozzarella. If you’re in a tight spot and need an alternative urgently, mozzarella cheese has got you covered!
10. Buttermilk Cheese
Buttermilk cheese is considered the foremost substitute for ricotta cheese in cheesecakes and pasta fillings. It’s quite a task to find this cheese in groceries, but, the good news is that it is super easy to make from scratch,
First, you’ve to pour buttermilk through a colander that’s been lined with cheesecloth. Ensure that there’s a container right below the colander, to catch the liquid that’s been strained. Keep draining the liquid till the curd in the cloth reaches a favorable consistency.
Apart from pasta fillings, you could also try it as a sandwich spread, since it has a mild, acidic flavor, but is delightfully creamy, so it can spread evenly.
Ricotta cheese has a heavenly texture, taste, and appearance, that’s no doubt, hard to match. The substitutes mentioned above come the closest to matching ricotta cheese, depending on the dish you’re making. If you’re craving the light and fluffy cheese and don’t have some in your pantry, you know what to do!
For more information, you can visit bostonlocalfoodfestival.com.