What's a Good Substitute for Ricotta Cheese?

Ricotta Getty 4/10/20

No ricotta? No problem. Here’s everything you need to know about the fluffy cheese—and what you can use if you don’t have any on hand:   

What Is Ricotta? 

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Ricotta Getty 4/10/20

Ricotta, which means “recooked,” is an Italian cheese made from the whey (the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained) leftover from the production of other cheeses.

It can be made from pretty much any kind of milk—sheep’s, goat’s, water buffalo’s, etc.—but the ricotta you buy at the store is most likely made from cow’s milk. 

Ricotta is light, fluffy, and uniquely moist. This moisture comes from the cheese’s age (or lack thereof). As cheese grows older, it becomes dense. That’s why Parmesan, which has been aged at least a year, is quite hard. 

The airy texture comes at a price: Ricotta spoils much, much faster than other cheeses.  

So how is ricotta typically used? Well, for starters, it’s an essential ingredient in lasagna. It has been known to make appearances in all types of pasta, in fact, and can frequently be found in calzones. 

Ricotta is commonly used in all types of cuisine, from salads to desserts. 

Ricotta Substitute 

Cottage Cheese Getty 4/10/20

If you don’t have ricotta on hand, here are six totally solid substitutes: 

  1. Cottage cheese: As far as ricotta substitutes go, light and mild cottage cheese is your best bet. In fact, some people prefer to use cottage cheese because it has a similar flavor and fewer calories. However, it’s important to remember that they’re not quite the same: Cottage cheese is runnier and less creamy than ricotta. Opt for a small-curd cottage cheese—the large-curd form is a bit too lumpy.  
  2. Goat cheese: Fresh goat cheese is an acceptable substitute for ricotta. Key word: Fresh. Aged goat cheese will be much heartier and strong-tasting. 
  3. Sour cream: The textures are obviously quite different. But, in a pinch, sour cream can pass as a ricotta alternative in a dish where cheese isn’t the star of the show. If you’re looking for a sub for lasagna, though, reach for cottage or goat cheese instead. 
  4. Cream cheese: Cream cheese is made with milk and cream, while ricotta is made with just milk. The lower fat content makes the latter cheese slightly less creamy. However, cream cheese can still be substituted for ricotta. 
  5. Queso fresco: Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese, is a good alternative to ricotta in dishes where the cheese is uncooked. 
  6. Mascarpone: Another Italian cheese, mascarpone makes a great ricotta substitute. However, since mascarpone is more tart and flavorful, you should only use it in dishes with other strong flavors. It may overpower milder ingredients.    

Ricotta Recipes

Does all this ricotta talk have you craving the light and fluffy cheese? We’ve got you covered. 

  • Nicole’s Best Lasagna
  • Air-Fryer Cannoli
  • Spiced Pear Cobbler with Ricotta-Thyme Biscuits
  • Creamy Four-Cheese Pasta With Spinach
  • Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Stromboli Ring

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