Let’s face it, cream cheese is delicious. Whether smeared on a classic bagel or added to a decadent frosting recipe, nothing beats the creaminess and richness of the spreadably cheese.
But as we all know, cream cheese is made from milk (certainly not a bad thing, unless you’re intolerant) and is packed with calories. Unless you are strictly adhering to a specific food plan that encourages it, cream cheese is certainly no diet food.
Luckily, there’s ways to replicate the texture (and maybe even the flavor) without succumbing to the massive calorie count. Here are five fantastic substitutes for cream cheese that will satisfy the craving without stretching your stomach.
Cottage cheese is a high-protein, extremely versatile milk fat product that is lower in fat and calories than cream cheese. It is also sold “naked” quite often, meaning without processed flavorings or sweeteners that cream cheese brands use to entice bagel lovers.
The texture of cottage cheese makes some people hesitate, but you can easily blend the chunks in a blender with some lemon juice to make a smooth, savory spread or dip. And if you plan on baking with cottage cheese? Add a little heavy cream to give it some body — it’s still better for you than a processed cream cheese, even with the cream.
No, you probably won’t spread Greek yogurt on your bagel. But you can use it for any of the other many recipes you love that call for cream cheese. A cream cheese frosting for a carrot cake made with greek yogurt, instead, will knock your socks off. You can also use the yogurt to thicken up cheese sauces like queso blanco.
Ok, so this ingredient is not a healthier substitute for cream cheese — but it elevates any dish that calls for cream cheese into something truly special. And remember, we’re talking about substitutions, not necessarily just healthier alternatives.
Mascarpone is richer, more velvety, and denser than cream cheese. It’s high fat and calorie count make it the pro’s preference in any dessert that calls for cream cheese. To take it to the next level, add a pinch of salt or some lemon juice to your mascarpone for restaurant-quality flavor.
Kefir with “everything” seasoning
Remember how you wouldn’t spread Greek yogurt on your bagel, but you would cook with it? Kefir is the opposite. You don’t want to cook with it, but you can make a killer bagel spread with this probiotic delight.
Kefir is a sour, fermented beverage that’s made by adding kefir grains — clusters of lactic acid bacteria and yeast — to milk. To make the spread, just add your favorite bagel toppings (chia seeds, dried onion, etc.), and let the kefir sit on the counter for a half hour or so. It will thicken naturally, and provide much more calcium and protein than cream cheese alone.
The dairy-free crowd will appreciate this addition to the list, as it is made with nuts, nutritional yeast, and spices. The nutritional yeast is also a good source of vitamin B12, making it a healthy substitute for cream cheese.
You won’t want to bake a dessert with cashew cheese, but you can easily add it to soups, sauces, or spreads for a dairy-free, tangy flavor. You can even make your own cashew cheese at home by food processing cashews, the yeast, lemon juice, and some garlic powder.
Try experimenting with all of the cream cheese substitutes above and let us know which worked best for you.