Among the sea of mild-flavored, soft-textured types of cheese, it’s often hard to pick one that has enough substance to make it stand out in a dish. I’m sure you’ve tried at least a dozen imported fetas, alpine, and fondue cheese packs and simply found them a bit underwhelming.
Not all mild cheeses fade away after being tossed in a bowl. Ricotta is the kind of cheese that will slowly overpower your taste buds, revealing its rich and colorful palette of undertones with each taste.
It is surprisingly light on fat, although it is not a lactose-free cheese. Depending on which milk it is made of (and on several other ingredients), Ricotta cheese can have up to 5.2% lactose content.
I’ve been looking for a cheese similar to Ricotta and wanted to give you a couple of ideas on how to substitute it in different dishes. But before we get to that, let me first give you a quick explanation about what Ricotta Cheese is.
Definition of Ricotta Cheese in a Nutshell
Ricotta is one of the most famous Italian cheeses widely known for its mild yet extremely intricate flavor and remarkably creamy texture. Its taste is mild with hints of nutty and sweet undertones.
Aged Ricotta is just slightly “harsher” in this department and may develop a slightly acidic note in its flavor.
If you ask several people living in different regions “what does Ricotta cheese taste like?”, you may get a different answer because it can be made of various kinds of milk; from cow, goat, and sheep’s milk to milk of water buffalos, its taste is largely defined by its age, base components, and manufacturing techniques & technologies.
Texture-wise, Ricotta is a very spreadable cheese with a thick, creamy, and sometimes even somewhat crumbly character.
7 Ricotta Cheese Alternatives
Ricotta is a mild, nutty, soft cheese with relatively low lactose content, but certain manufacturers use more milk to make it creamier. It can be replaced in nearly any meal with these seven kinds of cheese that are similar but different enough to give your dishes a unique touch.
|Mild, nutty, slightly sweet
|Mild, slightly salty
|Between mild and sharp; slightly salty and nutty
|Mild, slightly salty
|Soft-to-slightly sharp; nutty with earthy undertones
|Mild, somewhat sweet with subtle acidic aftertaste
|Slightly sharp, somewhat sweet and nutty
|Mild, nutty, slightly sweet
Best Dairy and Cheese Ricotta Substitutes
Ricotta has a very unique taste, and its creamy, curdy texture isn’t too convenient for every recipe in the book. That’s why I wanted to recommend healthy and tasty alternatives to ricotta cheese, such as mozzarella, Grana Padano, cottage cheese, Camembert cheese, and a few others.
Mozzarella is probably even more popular than Ricotta among casual cheese enjoyers, but true connoisseurs and gourmets who prefer subtly nuanced flavors know that Mozzarella is just as great, if not even better in certain dishes.
Ricotta can’t be replaced by Mozzarella in “all” dishes, mainly because its taste is not as diverse, but for meals that are largely defined by a melted topping, Mozzarella is probably an even better choice. This cheese has a slightly higher fat content but contains almost no lactose whatsoever.
The mildest of the three most popular types of parmesan cheese, Grana Padano is still a bit sharper-tasting than ricotta. Even though its flavor is distinctly different from ricotta, it can be used as an excellent alternative due to its rounded, intricate taste.
The main reason why I placed Grana Padano so high on the list of alternatives to ricotta cheese is that it has virtually limitless pairing options. Whether you’re making a dish with plenty of cheese at its center point or want an impactful appetizer, Grana Padano will fit both roles easily.
With around 22% fat content, Grana Padano is a bit heavier than Ricotta and as such is best combined with lighter foods, such as fruits, grains, or basic seafood recipes.
This might also be interesting for you: Grana Padano Substitute
Blended Cottage Cheese
As far as taste and texture are of concern, cottage cheese is almost a carbon copy of ricotta. If you haven’t indulged in these cheeses for years, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. So let me give you a few pointers – cottage cheese replaces ricotta’s slightly sweet undertones with a tad of salty flavors.
Other than that, this cheese is also remarkably low in fat, containing only 4% saturated fats compared to ricotta’s 10%. So, why is the closest 1-to-1 alternative to ricotta ranked third?
It contains a bit more lactose than some people are comfortable with (3.2%). It is still fairly safe for consumption for lactose intolerant people, but I don’t recommend risking it.
Although Camembert cheese does not hit the same spots as ricotta flavor-wise, both of these cheeses can be described as rich-tasting and relatively mild. With its creamy, soft texture, Camembert has quite a bit in common with ricotta, especially since both have interesting melting capabilities.
In dishes that contain several toppings, fills, veggies, or fruits, the nutty flavor of camembert can easily be confused with ricotta cheese. However, the latter is a lot sweeter and lacks the earthy, almost herbal properties of the former.
Camembert cheese, sadly, has more than twice as much fat content compared to ricotta cheese. On the bright side, it contains either zero or minimal levels of lactose and is safe for consumption by lactose-intolerant people.
Do you want to preserve your favorite cheese? Our guide on freezing Camembert can help.
People who adore the taste and texture of ricotta but want a slightly heartier alternative will find everything they need in Mascarpone cheese. Mild-tasting, sweet, and just a tad acidic, the flavor of mascarpone lingers for quite a while after each bite.
Just like ricotta, Mascarpone is highly spreadable but it isn’t nearly as lumpy. It can develop plenty of curds if you spend more time whisking it, though.
Although people who don’t mind extra calories often use mascarpone as a 1-to-1 substitute for ricotta, I should warn you that it has at least 60% fat while some cheese makers produce mascarpone with a whopping 75% fat.
It contains a low level of lactose but you should consult your doctor if you’re lactose-intolerant.
Mild Gouda Cheese
When it comes to flavor, texture, and fat level, ricotta and Gouda couldn’t be further apart. However, this only applies to aged Gouda; if you pick up a wheel as soon as the aging process is complete, you’ll have blocks of mild Gouda, which is almost identical to ricotta in all but the aesthetic department. It is just a tad sharper-tasting but just as soft.
Mild Gouda also has a nutty, sweet flavor profile and even less fat content than ricotta (9% compared to 10%). In terms of lactose levels, some mild Gouda products contain zero but it isn’t rare for certain wheels or slices to have up to 2.2%.
Best Non Dairy and Vegan Ricotta Cheese Alternatives
Despite having a relatively low level of lactose, ricotta isn’t the best cheese for lactose-intolerant people. If you’re looking for a vegan, non dairy sub for ricotta, I warmly recommend almond ricotta cheese.
The ultimate 1-to-1 non-dairy and vegan substitute for classic ricotta cheese is ricotta made of almonds instead of cow’s milk. It tastes almost exactly the same, although you may notice that it has a distinctly nuttier profile and just a bit more calories.
Best Ricotta Cheese Subs for Various Dishes
There are quite a few ricotta cheese alternatives, and since they aren’t necessarily too close to each other flavor and texture-wise, I wanted to help you use these substitutes in various dishes.
For lasagna: Mozzarella
You can use mozzarella, ricotta, or any kind of Parmesan in all lasagna recipes, mainly because all three types of cheese melt remarkably well. I should point out that mozzarella doesn’t taste exactly the same as ricotta, so you can expect your lasagna to be just slightly milder and a tad sweeter.
In terms of quantity, you can use the same amount of mozzarella where you’d normally use ricotta since they’re both low-fat cheeses.
For stuffed shells: Grana Padano
Grana Padano cheese and “any” pasta are perfect together. Since macaroni shells are virtually tasteless on their own, a cheese with such a colorful palette of flavors as Grana Padano can shape this meal into a hearty gourmet-worthy meal.
Since Grana Padano has twice as much fat as Ricotta, you may feel the need to use only half a cup where you’d normally use an entire cup of cheese. This isn’t necessary for stuffed shells since you’ll need a lot of cheese to define the meal’s flavor – I recommend using ⅔ cup of Grana Padano instead of ½ cup.
For baking: Blended Cottage Cheese
Just like ricotta, cottage cheese will never completely melt. Because it has a rich moisture content, blended cottage cheese will be creamy when exposed to high heat and as such is ideal for baking recipes.
Note, cottage cheese contains about 3.2 grams of lactose per 100g. If you’re lactose intolerant but want to safely use this cheese instead of ricotta in your baking recipes, use it in smaller quantities.
For ravioli: Camembert
There’s nothing better than using a slice of cheese with a varied “assortment” of flavors in a dish as gentle as ravioli. Commonly served with tomato-based sauces and plenty of veggies, the earthy flavor of Camembert will make your ravioli as tasty as a ricotta-made fill, or possibly even better.
Since it has a relatively high-fat content, most of which is comprised of saturated fats, you may want to use slightly less Camembert in your ravioli, up to ½ cup per 1 cup of ricotta.
For baked ziti: Mozzarella & Grana Padano
Cheese is a major component of any baked ziti, and if you’re typically using ricotta, you may want to spice things up a bit by marbling mozzarella and Grana Padano together for this occasion.
Since these two types of cheese are very similar in terms of taste and fat content while being slightly different texture-wise, you’ll get a bit stronger flavor and improved consistency for your topping.
For cannoli: Mascarpone
What’s great about cannoli is that you can make them sweet, salty, chilly, or a bit of everything. For what’s rightly considered one of the most versatile Italian dishes, I recommend mascarpone.
Sweet, spreadable, but remarkably high in fat, this cheese will be the perfect support for your cannoli, regardless of how simple or intricate your recipe is.
For meatballs: Mild Gouda
Some people may like eating meatballs topped with mild, weak-flavored cheese. I prefer using cheeses with a bit more character so that their flavor could augment the rich taste of the meat, and for that, I recommend mild Gouda.
Unlike “standard” Gouda, the barely-aged mild Gouda is a lot softer and milder when it comes to taste, but it’s still sharp enough for you to discern it from ricotta. Since it has almost the same calorie & fat level as ricotta, you can easily use it as a 1-to-1 substitute in your meatball recipes.
How to Substitute Ricotta Cheese
To replace ricotta in your favorite recipes, you’ll first have to know what kind of taste and texture profiles you’re looking for. Softer, firmer, stronger, sharper, weaker, more to-the-point, or even more varied flavors – these are just some of the attributes that the ricotta substitutes I listed above boast.
Since non dairy ricotta can be hard to find, I wanted to share with you a simple vegan recipe that you can use to make your own almond-based ricotta at home.
Vegan Ricotta Cheese SubstituteCourse: SidesCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
This is a simple vegan recipe that you can use to make your own almond-based ricotta at home.
Two cups of blanched almonds
Half a teaspoon of salt
Two tablespoons of lemon juice
Half a cup of water
A pinch of garlic powder
- Put blanched almonds and lemon juice into a processor with just a bit of water
- Gradually, add more water as the mix becomes mushier until you’ve placed half a cup
- Season with half a teaspoon of salt and a bit of garlic powder
- Blend the mix until it is barely smooth. Scrape the walls of your mixer and perform this process until the ingredients gel together perfectly.
- Optionally, add more water (or ingredients) if you aren’t satisfied with the texture.
Is Ricotta Cheese Similar to Feta?
In terms of taste, yes, but ricotta is moister and as such melts much better. Ricotta is also a bit sweeter.
Is Ricotta Cheese Similar to Paneer?
Yes, both ricotta and paneer are mild-tasting cheeses, but paneer is firmer and has a crumblier texture.
Is Ricotta Cheese a Substitute For Sour Cream?
While both ricotta and sour cream are soft and creamy, ricotta is mild and somewhat sweet in terms of taste while sour cream is tangier and slightly tart.
If ricotta had a slightly lower lactose level, I’m sure many people wouldn’t even look for substitutes.
Even though it’s a marvelous delicacy that can be used in a broad range of dishes, its largely mild flavor makes its presence somewhat small in hearty meals, especially meat-based dishes. I hope that this guide helped you find a worthy substitute for ricotta and that you’ve learned a bit about this gorgeous cheese in the process.