When cooking there are sometimes ingredients which are going to be difficult to track down, and while recipes can often be quite specific about what they want, occasionally you will be able to substitute some of the ingredients if you still want to be able to make the recipe.
One ingredient which is ocassionally quite difficult to source for certain recipes is Mascarpone cheese.
It is used in both sweet as well as savory dishes and has a wide variety of uses, because of this you can find it being used in quite a wide variety of different contexts.
It is a super creamy and spreadable cheese, so their are products similar to it, however, it also has a specific taste, so working out if you need to so working out if you need to use it for its flavor or its texture is important when substituting this ingredient.
So if you want to use mascarpone but you just can not seem to find it, this guide has plenty of different options on how to substitute it so you have a wide variety of options next time you can not seem to find this ingredient!
What Is Mascarpone Cheese?
Part of the reason why mascarpone is something which people tend to not keep in is that it is a fresh cheese, this means it can go bad quite quickly, so unless you know that you have a use for it, many people do not tend to buy it.
Mascarpone originated in the northern regions of Italy and is a double or triple cream cheese.
It is known for how it has about twice as much fat content as a standard cream cheese, this means that it is generally considered to be less healthy, but it also makes it more flavorful so you tend to need less of it than cream cheese to get an impact.
As mentioned in the introduction, mascarpone is used in both sweet and savory dishes due to its flavro profile fitting both.
It also has a quite versatile texture, it can melted or softened into sauces, but it can also be whipped to be kept more solid, or even used as a frosting.
There is not specific information on how mascarpone was discovered, but there are commonlaities in how it is prepared in comparison to ricotta (this is part of the reason why ricotta is so commonly substituted for it in recipes).
There are also many famous baked ziti and lasagna recipes which use mascarpone.
While it is a fresh cheese (see also ‘9 Substitutes For Manchego Cheese‘), do not be discouraged to buy it for just one use, because even if the recipe only calls for a small amount of the cheese, you can still find plenty of uses for the leftover, and its distinctive taste is sure to become a favorite!
How Is Mascarpone Used?
As previously mentioned, mascarpone is used especially commonly in Italian dishes, and it is often one of the best ways to make a dish stand out more and be even more flavorful and decadent than before.
You can find mascarpone being used in a variety of different contexts whether it is in a risotto, or the base of a pasta sauce.
It is also commonly used as a thickening agent in certain dishes because of its super creamy texture.
Outside of Italy, one of the most common uses of mascarpone is as a key ingredient of tiramisu.
Tiramisu is a super popular dessert for many reasons, but using mascarpone as the basis of the creamy filling is part of what makes it so flavorful!
Mascarpone also has a distinctive nutty flavor which when paired with its creamy and spreadable texture, makes it something which can be enjoyed by itself as well!
The 10 Best Mascarpone Cheese Substitutes
1. Cream Cheese
Since mascarpone is in its nature a cream cheese, just using standard cream cheese is a great choice for a substitute.
It has a slightly thicker texture than mascarpone does so if you want it a bit thinner, some people mix in some cream to help with this.
It also has a quite similar taste to mascarpone, so it is overall one of the best substitutes for it available!
Furthermore, it might not work as well in savory dishes, but it will still work.
2. Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is one of the most commonly recommended substitutes for mascarpone and this is for many reasons, with one of them being how it is much more commonly available than mascarpone.
Crème fraîche is cultured meaning that it is full of good bacteria like many yogurts are.
It also has quite a similar consistency to mascarpone if not a little looser.
This means it is good for making dishes creamier and thickening like mascarpone is often used for.
As well as having a thinner consistency, it also has a lower fat content as well.
This is also a common stand in for making Italian desserts like panna cotta or tiramisu.
3. Sour Cream
Sour cream is a similar substitute to crème fraîche, but it has an even lower milk fat content and this means its texture is significantly thinner, but also a bit healthier.
This is perfect as a substitute in savory dishes especially with the flavor of the sour cream often being complimentary, however this is not always the best flavor for sweet dishes.
4. Clotted Cream
This is another good mascarpone substitute, its texture is surprisingly similar, if not slightly thicker, and it has a similar mildly sweet flavor, only without the nutty notes which mascarpone has.
This is not very easy to get in every country, but in some places like the UK, it is probably a lot more accessible than mascarpone can be.
5. Full Fat Greek Yogurt
This is perhaps one of the more commonly recommended mascarpone substitutes, it has a slightly tangier flavor, and it is cultured like sour cream and crème fraîche is, so it has the healthy bacteria which is good for you.
However, this healthy bacteria will get cooked off at higher temperatures, and also Greek yogurt can split if the temperature gets too high so keep this in mind.
However, it is still a great substitute with how similar its flavor and texture is to mascarpone.
6. Cottage Cheese
While this might seem like a strange substitution, this works surprisingly well with savory dishes, especially if you blend the cheese in a food processor first.
This is definitely only a viable stand in for savory dishes, but if you do this it will be much healthier, and its thicker consistency is preferred by some.
7. Vegan Cream Cheese
If you are vegan and need a good stand in for mascarpone (there are currently no vegan versions of mascarpone easily available) getting a vegan cream cheese can often work quite well.
These vegan cream cheeses are getting better at closely resembling the taste and texture of standard cream cheese, so if you want a good stand in for a vegan crows, this is a good option.
8. Coconut Milk And Cashew Butter
This one requires much more work than the others, but it works surprisingly well, and the best part is it uses ingredients which last longer, so you can mix this when you need mascarpone without being able to go out and get it.
All you have to do is blend the coconut milk with your cashew butter and some lemon juice and maple syrup (see also ‘8 Maple Syrup Alternatives‘) to taste. This is perfect for sweeter dishes especially.
9. Coconut Cream And Lemon Juice
Similar to the previous choice, this combination is easy to mix and the combination of the coconut cream with the lemon juice makes this dish taste surprisingly similar to mascarpone.
If you use coconut cream, this is a good choice to make!
10. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese and mascarpone are made in surprisingly similar ways, and they also have a relatively similar flavor profile.
The texture of ricotta is quite different, so while you can substitute it 1:1 with mascarpone, if you want to improve the texture you can mix the ricotta with whipping cream or cream cheese to improve the texture.
This has a great flavor and is healthier as well, so this substitution is definitely worth trying!
How To Make Mascarpone Yourself
While some of these substitutions might be able to suit your needs perfectly, of course none of them are identical to the real thing.
So because of this you are probably wondering how easy it is to make mascarpone yourself if there is no where available to buy it made already?
Luckily making mascarpone is not that difficult and all you need is a medium-sized pot, a rubber whisk, a food thermometer, cream, and lemon juice.
If you have all of these you should be able to make a homemade version of mascarpone!
You will want to heat your cream in the pot and stop it from burning by continuously stirring it with your whisk.
Using your thermometer you will want to take the cream off of the heat once it has reached 185 Fahrenheit, and then take it off and keep stirring until it gets down to 140 Fahrenheit.
Once this is done you put it back on the pot and heat it back up to 185 Fahrenheit.
Once this is done you will add your lemon juice and stir it continuously while maintaining the heat of 185 Fahrenheit.
After this you will again take it off the heat and down to 140 Fahrenheit.
Once you have done this you want to put the cream into a bowl and let it cool for 3 hours at least.
Once it has cooled you will need to strain all the liquid out using a folded cheesecloth (see also ‘5 Of The Best Substitutes For Cheesecloth You Need To Try!‘), and then you will be able to store your mascarpone in the fridge, just make sure to get as much of the excess liquid out of the cheese as possible.
Hopefully this list has put into perspective just how many different options you have when you can not find mascarpone to put in your recipe.
Make sure to keep in mind that not all of these substitutions will work in every context.
Some of these substitutions will not match the specific flavor of mascarpone, so do not use them in a situation where the flavor of the mascarpone is important.
And do not substitute something which only mimics the flavor of the mascarpone when what you need is the texture.
When reading the recipe which needs the mascarpone substitution, keep in mind, and read thoroughly the steps which use the mascarpone.
If it seems like the texture does not matter, or if the flavor does not matter, ensure this affects which substitution you choose!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Mascarpone Cheese Made From?
Mascarpone is traditionally using the freshest unpasteurized cream from cows, however it can be made easily using cream from stores.
It is then able to be turned into cheese using some kind of acid like lemon juice, or tartaric acid.
If you want to make your own mascarpone you will also need to make sure that you have a good quality accurate food thermometer as this is what is needed for making mascarpone properly.
What Does Mascarpone Taste Like?
Because of its texture and appearance, mascarpone is often compared to cheeses like traditional American cream cheese, as well as ricotta.
However, mascarpone does not taste identical to these cheeses, especially when considering that it is significantly less tangy than these cheeses.
The best way to describe the taste of mascarpone is like a mild sweet flavor with subtle nutty tones as well as a buttery flavor.
It is quite unique but is liked by most people who try it.
Growing to love mascarpone is great because it is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of different ways!
Where Did Mascarpone Originate?
While there is much which is not known about the specifics of the history of mascarpone cheese, what we do know is that it is Italian in origin.
It is now widely agreed that it originated in the Lombardia region in northern Italy which is very close to the lakes of the North.
This is part of the reason why mascarpone is so important to many Italian recipes, and while you can use substitutes in its place, for the most part you will be unable to recreate the amazing results of using actual mascarpone!
How To Store Mascarpone?
Whether you are using store bought or homemade mascarpone, you will want to make sure that your mascarpone is kept in an airtight container, this way it will not go bad as too quickly.
Because of its milder taste, if you leave it open in your fridge, there is a chance that it could also absorb some of the flavors or odors of whatever is being kept in your fridge.
You can freeze it in freezer bags if you want to, however this may affect its texture when it is defrosted.
You should try and use your mascarpone as soon as you can after buying it as the longer you leave it, the more likely its taste or odor will get tainted and go bad.
Some mascarpone will advertise quite a long lifespan compared to others, but take this with a grain of salt.
Is Mascarpone Healthy?
Mascarpone is definitely not one of the healthiest cheeses available because it has a much higher fat content than a lot of similar cheeses, this is why a lot of recipes which would traditionally use mascarpone are not recommending lower fat alternatives like Greek yogurt instead.
When choosing whether to include mascarpone in your recipes or not, consider the balance you want to strike between health and taste value.
If it is a special occasion, using mascarpone will get great results, however, using and consuming mascarpone in abundance will not be good for the health of your heart.
Difference Between Mascarpone And Ricotta?
While mascarpone and ricotta are often compared due to a similar appearance, taste, and method of making, they do have some key differences which set them apart.
The most noticeable difference between ricotta and mascarpone is the texture with mascarpone having a famously smooth texture, while ricotta is significantly more grainy and is more akin to cottage cheese when making comparisons.
This is also why mascarpone is much more commonly used for spreading than ricotta due to this texture.
Ricotta also has a noticeably more acidic taste than mascarpone which is more well known for its more sweet and subtle flavor.
Finally, perhaps the most significant difference is the fat content of each of the cheeses.
Ricotta is known for having a lower milk fat content of about 10% while mascarpone has a distinctively higher fat content with 75% butterfat.
Best Substitute For Mascarpone?
The best substitute for mascarpone depends on the situation which you are using your mascarpone in.
If the mascarpone is being used in the recipe for its texture, try and use a substitute that closely matches mascarpone, or look at different recipes for the same food to see if mascarpone is ever substituted for something else.
If you need the flavor of the mascarpone, try and find a substitute which has the closest flavor as well as a close enough texture/consistency, so you do not throw off the dish you are making.