11 Amazing Substitutes For Ricotta Cheese That You’ll Love
If you’re someone who uses cheese in a number of your recipes, there’s a good chance that you’ve had your fill of ricotta.
Ricotta has a gritty texture that can overwhelm many dishes, and sometimes I prefer a bit more subtlety. There are also vegans, calorie cutters and people with lactose intolerance who simply can’t use ricotta.
Finding a reasonable substitute for ricotta cheese isn’t anywhere near as hard as you might expect. Here's a chance to forget the ricotta and try something a little crazier with your next recipe.
If you're looking for methods to store ricotta cheese, you can take my advice from Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese.
In many parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, yogurt is used to make sauces that a lot of cultures would create with white cheese like ricotta. If you’re willing to experiment, yogurt makes an excellent substitute.
On the upside, Yogurt is full of potassium, B12 and other essential nutrients. I’d like to include something about probiotics here, but things change once you throw your yogurt in the oven. All those friendly bacteria colonies that you thought were going to aid your digestion are in for a rough ride.
However, Yogurt brings a different flavor profile with it so it's really hard to replace ricotta’s flavor. Yogurt’s taste and texture exists somewhere in the gap between mayonnaise and cream.
It’s important to remember that you need to use plain yogurt. The stuff that’s made for eating straight out of the container isn’t precisely the same thing that the average Greek mama is cooking with at home.
- Yogurt is significantly lighter in calories and fat than almost all cheeses
- Hard to replace ricotta's flavor by using yogurt
- Remember to use plain yogurt
Moreover, if you're a vegan, you can try to make your own batch of yogurt on Easy Ways To Make Vegan Yogurt.
#2 Béchamel Sauce
The béchamel sauce is one of the five mother sauces of French cooking. The béchamel sauce is the basis of many other sauces, which is why it’s considered a mother sauce. It’s basically composed of cooked butter and flour, together known as a roux, mixed with a bit of milk or cream.
- Béchamel allow much greater control over the consistency of the sauce
- It also holds up to longer cooking time
About the consistency of the sauce, if you want something a bit runnier, just add more milk. If you want something thicker, dial down the milk.
Because it holds up to longer cooking times so it will reduces the chances you’ll end up with burned food as sometimes happens when you use ricotta.
Back in the day, a lot of recipes for foods like lasagna used to call for a béchamel. Somewhere along the way, recipes adapted, likely out of a need for convenience, and started including cottage cheese and ricotta where they once asked for a béchamel sauce.
#3 Tofu For Vegans
Before you recoil at the idea, try to consider just how versatile of a food tofu is.
Yes, a lot of bad vegan recipes have given tofu a terrible name. In this case, however, tofu comes very close to ricotta cheese. If you replace ricotta with tofu in a lasagna recipe, the difference will be negligible.
- Tofu has the same consistency, grit and wateriness as Ricotta
- Tofu makes a better base than a feature
Why Tofu makes a better base than a feature? For example, it’s likely to play better as a filling for stuffed shells than as a sauce for lasagna. You can mix in other flavors, such as basil, to make the dish sing.
#4 Goat Cheese For Ricotta Lovers
Of all the options on this list, goat cheese is probably the one that most closely approximates actual ricotta. Except for being a bit tangier, it’s an almost perfect substitute in terms of texture and mouth feel. If anything, a good goat cheese can come off as a stronger ricotta.
- It has a similar sharp flavor
- It melts faster than ricotta which can create problems with recipes that demand longer cooking times.
There is also goat’s milk ricotta. It’s cheating a little bit to call it a substitute, but it’s a popular option in parts of Italy where cow’s milk may be a bit harder to come by.
#5 Whey To Try Something New
Remember how I said you could make your own mozzarella? There may be some stuff left behind when you’re done with that process. The remnant is a watery fluid that’s called whey. Or you can learn more about how to make whey.
It turns out that you can in fact take that very same whey and turn it into a type of ricotta cheese. You’ll end up having to add a bit of fresh milk back into the mixture to give it some flavor and density, but the end product can be very impressive.
In the strictest sense, this is actually Ricottone and not Ricotta.
One advantage of this approach is that you have fine control over the final consistency of the product. Thanks to the drying process, you’ll also be able to get a texture that’s very close to what you might expect from ricotta cheese itself.
Yes, cashews. This is another one of those vegan ideas that non-vegans dismiss as crazy. But the funny thing is, it makes a lot of sense.
For the hardcore vegans, cashews are often the best way to get the right texture for stuffed shells. Mix in some spinach or bay leaves, and you can end up with a closer approximation than you might anticipate.
Cheese is heavy in protein, so are cashews. It’s not as big of a leap as you might think, especially when you consider how well the same theory works when using tofu as a substitute for ricotta cheese. The idea is pretty straightforward:
- Soak some cashews overnight to soften them up
- Once they've softened, place them in a food processor
- Mash to the same consistency as ricotta cheese
Or you can see this video to know more about details.
#7 Clabbered Milk
Go ahead and run to Google to look it up. I’ll wait here while you do that. Now that you’re sure I didn’t just make up a word in order to muddle through a game of Scrabble, let’s take a look at clabbered milk.
Clabber is an unpasteurized milk that curdles and sours over time, becoming rather cheese-like and flavorful. It ends up with a consistency that’s a bit thicker than crème fraîche and significantly less sour than sour milk.
You may live in a part of the world where unpasteurized milk is illegal or difficult to buy. If that’s the case, fear not. Your quest for clabber cream is not over. You can actually produce a close approximation using lemon juice and whole milk.
By stirring in one tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk, you can trigger a curdling process similar to that of clabbered milk. You can also achieve a similar result using vinegar.
If the idea of a lingering lemon or vinegar taste offends you, you can also cheat using cream of tartar.
#8 Queso Fresco
Queso fresco, sometimes also called queso blanco, is a type of fresh cheese made from raw cow’s milk in Mexico.
- Crumbly but also quite a bit creamier than Ricotta
- Have a bit of a salty-sour element because the making process is similar to the one of clabber milk
- Have a closer flavor profile to Ricotta
- Hard to find unless your area has a Spanish market
- Breaks down into a runny state very quickly
- Greater for lasagna but less desirable for stuffed shells
- Play well with the flavor of tomatoes
Queso fresco is a better substitute for Ricotta in instances where a bit of runniness is okay, as anyone who’s ever had a chimichanga served with it can tell you.
#9 Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is similar to sour cream, but it has a much less sour taste than anything a person from the English-speaking world would expect.
- It has a high desirable creaminess
- Excellent cheat for classic lasagna recipe that calls for béchamel sauce
- Thanks to the high fat content, it holds up better to long cook times than Ricotta
- It cannot closely approximate the grittiness of ricotta (good things for those don't want that texture)
- It's also heavy in fat, not suitable for anyone trying to cut calories
If you mix buttermilk and whole milk at a fairly conservative ratio, you can approximate crème fraîche.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of buttermilk to 1 cup of milk
- Heating the combination for a minute
- Cool the concoction for 12 hours in the fridge, and you’ll have a very similar product
It's a satisfying classic. On its own, Parmesan may not be enough, as it can end up being a bit too dry. However, you can mix it with different items on this list to create a very close approximation.
This is an especially good choice for people who want a bit of the grittiness of ricotta but would like to dial it back just a tad. A popular choice is to mix Parmesan with cottage cheese to arrive at the desire texture.
If you’re using it for stuffed shells or baked ziti, you may want to add a bit of a stringier mozzarella to better hold the concoction together.
#11 Mozzarella - Italian Treasure
Few cheeses are as creamy and delicious as fresh mozzarella. It’s important in this case to either make your own or go with a brand that’s creamier.
There’s a lot of really bad Mozzarella on the market these days, and it can end up being a bit dry and gross. You definitely want to steer clear of anything shredded and almost anything marked as skim mozzarella. However, there are some drawbacks about Mozzarella you should know.
- It doesn’t have as strong of a flavor as Ricotta does
- Even good mozzarella cheese is going to clump more and produce stringier results than Ricotta
Therefore, it will never be a perfect one-for-one substitute for ricotta cheese. You can use Mozzarella to replace Ricotta when your kitchen runs out all of these substitutes I mentioned in this list.
Ricotta is a wonderful product, but it has also been tasked to do a lot of jobs it wasn’t meant for, especially in quick recipes for lasagna and stuffed shells.
That's why you should consider these alternatives above and make your new recipes. Dairy products ,in general, have a lot in common and you can replace ricotta with theese amazing substitutes depending on how you want your dishes to be like.
Has this list inspired you? Do you use something that I didn’t think of ? Tell me about it in the comments section.
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