Ricotta cheese is unlike any other cheese. It’s light and fluffy, and instantly gives any recipe a hint of class.
You can use it in main dishes to give your savory dishes a creamy touch or add it to desserts for a perfect low-carb base.
If you don’t normally cook with ricotta cheese or if you don’t have it in hand, then you can use one of these substitutes in its place.
Here is everything you need to know about ricotta cheese, including the best ricotta cheese substitutes and how to use them.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese is a high-moisture, unpressed cheese similar to cottage cheese. It is usually made up entirely of whey or a blend of whey and milk.
You can also make ricotta cheese with whole milk and no whey. When ricotta cheese is made with a blend of 95% sweet whey and 5% milk, it contains 68%-73% moisture, 4% lactose, 16% protein, and 4%-10% fat (1).
Ricotta is unique because, unlike other cheeses, it does not melt. You can count on it to keep its form even when cooked.
Most people say that ricotta has a mild, pleasant flavor. It has a soft and creamy texture, and is usually eaten as a spread. Ricotta is very popular in Italian dishes, such as lasagna or ravioli.
There are three primary types of ricotta cheese (whole milk, part-skim and a blend of whey and skim milk) and their nutritional information varies depending on its contents.
For example, 100-gram serving of whole milk ricotta cheese contains (2):
- 150 calories
- 10 grams of fat
- 7.3 grams carbs
- 7.5 grams of protein
How is it Made?
Ricotta cheese is made by a batch process. This includes using open kettles and heating them, either through a direct process or by using steam jackets to transfer heat (1).
Manufacturers must pay attention to the cheese’s pH levels as it dictates the cheese’s level of sweetness. Italian cheese can be used to make sweet whey ricotta as long as it has a pH of 6.2 or higher.
From here, 10% to 25% milk is blended into the whey until the desired yield and curd cohesiveness is achieved. The mixture is then heated up to up to 93 °C.
Lactic acid, acetic acid, or citric acid is added to the mixture to reduce the pH to 5.9-6.1. Sometimes, cultured whey or milk is used as a source of lactic acid.
The curd is collected in a muslin bag and allowed to drip until it’s cool. The curds can also be strained and then allowed to dry.
What’s left is a fragile, soft, and grainy mixture that is pressed until the desired texture is achieved.
Benefits of Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese has several health benefits. We’ve listed some below.
- It’s a good source of protein
A 100-gram serving of ricotta cheese made with whey contains around 7.5 grams of protein.
Research shows that protein tends to be more satiating than other macronutrients, which can help you eat fewer calories per day (3).
Protein also helps you build lean muscle to increase your metabolic rate and burn more calories.
- It’s a good source of several vitamins and minerals
Ricotta cheese contains 20 different vitamins and minerals per 100-gram serving (4).
It’s a good source of calcium, which has been linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease in postmenopausal women (5).
- It supports post-exercise protein metabolism
Ricotta cheese than contains whey can help boost your protein levels after you exercise.
One study found that whey protein enhances whole-body anabolism and may improve exercise performance recovery after a hard workout (6).
Is Ricotta Cheese Keto-Friendly?
Yes, ricotta cheese is keto-friendly provided you keep your portion sizes small. You’ll also want to pay attention to the ingredients in your ricotta cheese as these can vary among different brands.
Look for ricotta cheese that contains the fewest carbs. A 100-gram serving of whole milk ricotta cheese contains between 3-7 grams of carbs depending on different brands.
What Can I Substitute For Ricotta Cheese?
When picking out ricotta, pay attention to the fat content. Research shows that fat-free ricotta tends to be whiter and harder than reduced-fat or full-fat ricotta (7). This can impact your recipe’s texture and flavor.
According to the US Dietary Guidelines, one serving of ricotta cheese is ½ cup. If you don’t have that on hand, then try these keto-friendly ricotta cheese alternatives.
Cream cheese is soft, creamy, and mild. It pairs well with the same foods that ricotta does, including meats, vegetables, and desserts.
The thickness of cottage cheese differs depending on what type of milk fat is used. For the best ricotta replacement, look for a brand of cheese made with whole milk.
Sour cream has a soft and creamy texture, similar to ricotta. It’s an excellent replacement for ricotta, but remember that it has a sour taste that ricotta does not have due to the addition of lactic acid.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Spinach and artichoke dip would make an excellent dip to use in place of ricotta, especially for low-carb vegetables or crackers.
It would not pair well with desserts, but you could use spinach and artichoke dip in meat-based dishes or a marinade. Spread some on a piece of grilled chicken or stuff some inside before cooking. You can also try zucchini dip too.
Brouse is a soft cheese made from goat’s or sheep’s milk. This tends to be easier to digest than cow’s milk for those with sensitivities. Brouse contains a similar taste and texture to ricotta cheese, making it an ideal replacement.
Chèvre is a goat’s milk cheese with a slightly salty and tart flavor. It’s soft, just like ricotta. It features a stark white color due to the carotene in goat’s milk, which gives off a yellow pigment.
Research shows that chèvre contains the same amount of fat as cow’s milk, but it has more MCTs. These are responsible for the cheese’s distinct odor.
Roquefort is another sheep’s milk cheese that has a distinct flavor and odor. It is often aged in caves and is a popular cheese in France.
Mascarpone is very similar to ricotta. It’s a soft, creamy Italian cheese that can be used in exact measurements as ricotta.
Whipped cream has a lighter texture than ricotta, but its sweet flavor would be an excellent replacement for ricotta in desserts. You can also use some as a base for dips.
Queso blanco means “white cheese” in Spanish. It has a soft and delicate taste and texture, similar to ricotta. Use it in meat-based dishes or as a dip for your favorite savory appetizers.
Crème fraîche is a sour cream based cheese that has a sour taste. However, the texture and color are similar to ricotta and you could use this in sweet recipes or as a dip.
Greek yogurt tends to have fewer carbs than regular yogurt. It also contains less lactose, which makes it a good substitute to ricotta if you’re sensitive to dairy.
Regular Full-fat Yogurt
Regular yogurt tends to be sweetener than Greek yogurt. It also contains more carbs.
Many people use yogurt in dips, smoothies, or eaten raw as a snack with berries. Be sure to look for a brand of yogurt with low-sugar.
Fromage blanc means “white cheese” in French. It’s commonly eaten in France and Belgium, and has a buttery, fresh flavor that would make an excellent base for a dip with your favorite herbs and spices in place of ricotta.
Quark is a type of cheese that is made by warming sour milk until a curd-like consistency is achieved. It has a similar taste to sour cream, and its creamy consistency would work well in place of ricotta.
Kefir is a fermented drink made with cow’s milk or sheep’s milk. If you have some in your fridge, then you can use it in place of ricotta. Note that kefir is a liquid drink, so it won’t provide the same thickness as ricotta.
Be sure to look for a brand that contains no added sugar and keep your portions down if using it on the keto diet.
Coconut cream is a great non-dairy alternative to ricotta. It’s sweet, creamy, and fluffy, just like ricotta. Use it in desserts, dips, or smoothies.
Butter would be a great replacement for ricotta cheese in just about any recipe, including main dishes and desserts. You might not be able to use as much butter as you would ricotta, but the flavor and creaminess will be similar.
Heavy cream is thicker than most liquids. However, it’s not as thick as ricotta.
Keep this in mind if you’re using it as a ricotta replacement. You may have to combine heavy cream with other ingredients to match the desired volume.
Cheddar cheese is yellow. This means you won’t fool anyone by switching the two out.
However, you can use cheese in just about any main dish or vegetable-based dish and we don’t think anyone will complain!
Pesto looks and tastes nothing like ricotta cheese, but it can be a good substitute if you’re making an Italian dish, such as pasta. Pesto would also work well on top of meat with Italian seasonings.
If you aren’t on the keto diet, then you can use these ricotta cheese substitutes:
Tofu is made with soy, which is a legume that isn’t traditionally eaten on a strict keto diet. However, tofu has fewer carbs than most legumes and some people eat it on a vegan and vegetarian keto diet. You could use a small amount of tofu in place of ricotta cheese especially if you’re pairing it with low-carb vegetables.
Buttercream has a sweet taste that would be an excellent replacement for ricotta cheese in a dessert. Try using it as a frosting for cakes and cookies.
We don’t think anyone will complain if you trade cheesecake for ricotta cheese! Use cheesecake filling in place of ricotta in sweet treats or desserts.
Condensed milk is a thick, sweet, creamy milk that comes in a can. It’s a great addition to any non-keto dessert, but it’s not as thick as ricotta.
How To Use Ricotta Cheese Substitutes
Here are some recipes that you can use ricotta cheese or one of its substitutes in:
- Easy Zebra Ricotta Cheesecake
- Keto Collagen Strawberry Ricotta Parfait
- Strawberry Ricotta Muffins
- Baked Ricotta Dessert with Raspberry
- Ricotta Cheese and Parsley Omelette Rolls
Ricotta cheese has a decadent flavor that is usually added to desserts. It pairs well with fruits, such as berries, and acts as a great dip for your favorite snack foods.
However, if you don’t have any on hand, then you can use one of our ricotta substitutes. We suggest using cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, or whipped cream if you’re on the keto diet.
You can also use sheep’s milk cheese as a substitute, including chèvre, roquefort, or brousse. These may be easier to digest than cow’s milk cheeses.