Imagine this: You’ve got guests coming over for dinner, and your famous homemade lasagna is on the menu. People who have tried your lasagna have nothing but praise about your cooking skills. You head over to the supermarket to shop for fresh ingredients but alas – the ricotta cheese that made your dish so delectable is out of stock! You quickly wrack your brains for a ricotta cheese replacement so you can still make lasagna without having to compromise its taste. You ask yourself, “What would be a good replacement for ricotta cheese?”
Ricotta cheese is a staple in many Italian dishes. However, not many people are aware of this European dairy product. Because of this, supply can be low. With this in mind, it is essential to keep a list of ricotta replacements handy.
Ricotta Cheese: Not Exactly Cheese-y
Ricotta is, technically, not a cheese. Meaning “recooked,” ricotta cheese is an Italian dairy by-product that uses leftover whey from the process of making other cheeses. With a texture and consistency similar to cottage cheese, ricotta lends a sweet taste to any culinary dish.
There has been evidence of ricotta cheese being made as far back as four thousand years ago when pottery from that period was discovered. These pots were used to boil the whey to make ricotta. There has also been ancient artwork detailing the use of ricotta cheese. It is incredible to see that the ricotta making process is still very much the same as it was a few thousand years ago!
In terms of its nutritional value, ricotta is a low-carb food which makes it an ideal choice for people who watch their diet. It is also good for those who have milk allergies since the process of making ricotta cheese denatures the proteins, making it digestible.
If in the unfortunate event ricotta is unavailable (or you just want to try out other alternatives), read on to see which of the following dairy products will work best for you and your recipe:
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
What is the best ricotta cheese substitute? Ricotta cheese too, of course. Confused? What we’re talking about here is homemade ricotta cheese that you can make practically anywhere, provided you have the right ingredients and some little time.
Homemade ricotta cheese ingredients include whole milk, heavy cream, fresh lemon juice, and salt. Aside from these ingredients, you would need a fine-mesh cheesecloth to drain the curds. All this procedure takes is several minutes of your time. Another plus to this alternative is that you know what’s in the ricotta you’re about to use. Homemade ricotta typically stays fresh for up to 2 days in the refrigerator and should be consumed immediately to make the most out of its freshness.
Perhaps the most common alternative to ricotta is cottage cheese. Both possess the same texture and taste, making cottage cheese a suitable substitute. Cottage cheese is lower in calories and has less fat content too, so you are making a healthier choice by choosing cottage cheese.
Since cottage cheese comes in small and big curds, you may opt to get the small curds as it resembles ricotta cheese the most. Another great thing about cottage cheese is the fact that it is more readily available in the supermarket than ricotta.
Just like ricotta, goat cheese is creamy and has a similar texture. Known by its French name Chèvre (meaning “goat”), this cheese gets its distinct flavor from capric acid, a fatty acid responsible for the development of good intestinal bacteria. In other words, it has probiotics that help improve immunity, promote digestive health, and can also lessen inflammation. Whew!
As you might have guessed, goat cheese comes from milk taken from a goat. Their milk composition is different than that of a cow’s, and due to its low lactose content, goat cheese is easier to digest and makes it a good choice for those who are lactose intolerant.
Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano is known to be a hard cheese. Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, it is considered to be one of the top cheeses by food experts. Savory, sharp, and nutty, the parmesan cheese has a distinct aroma. We grate parmesan over our pasta for an added kick of flavor. How does parmesan cheese become an alternative to ricotta?
When paired with other soft cheeses like mozzarella, or if you add it to bechamel sauce, parmesan cheese transforms into a ricotta replacement for any pasta dish.
Read Also: Can Your Freeze Cheese?
Born out of the Lombardy region in Italy, mascarpone is a white cheese that has a tart taste.
By curdling milk cream with citric acid or acetic acid, the end-product is a cheese that has a high-fat content – not necessarily good for the waistline. With a texture that is buttery and spreadable, mascarpone is an excellent replacement for ricotta for specific Italian dishes like tiramisu and cannelloni. Mascarpone is denser though so you might have to blend it first to be able to achieve the same consistency as ricotta.
Mozzarella is pretty much connected to any Italian dish (hello there, pizza) and is probably one of the most famous cheeses to ever come from Italy. But did you know that ricotta is made from the whey of mozzarella cheese? That’s right, ricotta and mozzarella are not that much different!
Mozzarella has a stringy consistency and is much milder in flavor compared to ricotta. If the opportunity presents itself and you decide to use mozzarella cheese, it’s best to find the creamiest brand in the market and mix it with cottage cheese to be able to achieve the right consistency and flavor similar to that of ricotta.
Requeson is ricotta’s Mexican cousin. Both dairy products go through almost the same process of recooking whey, with requeson having 10% milk. The heated mixture is skimmed then placed in wicker baskets where it will sit for some time until it is ready to be drained. What comes out is a creamy, spreadable cheese that has a short shelf life. It has a high protein content with low fat, making it another ideal choice for people who are watching their weight.
Raqueson’s salty flavor ranges from mild to strong and can be further salted or sweetened depending on how it will be used in a recipe. Requeson works best for dips and desserts that require ricotta.
Requeson is not the only ricotta cheese alternative from Mexico. Meet queso fresco, a cheese that is salty and has a milky flavor. Meaning “fresh cheese”, queso fresco is made from raw cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk. Since it is quite dry and crumbly, you should heat queso fresco for it soften and to resemble ricotta.
Queso fresco can be found in Mexican stores, as does requeson. Queso fresco is an ideal ricotta substitute for recipes that include fruit toppings with honey. However, it is a creamy addition to any dish so why not give this Mexican cheese a try?
Another great substitute to ricotta is buttermilk cheese. Guess what? You can also make it yourself! Though not entirely a popular alternative, what makes buttermilk cheese work for you is the fact that you can make this in the comfort of your own home. Heating buttermilk with whole milk and salt is all it takes to make this simple dairy product. Curds form while the mixture is heated and just like the homemade ricotta cheese mentioned earlier, a fine-mesh cheesecloth will be able to drain the liquid, leaving you with your own batch of buttermilk cheese.
By making this on your own, you have the liberty to adjust its consistency to resemble ricotta, as well as add spices and flavors to give it a unique flair. Buttermilk cheese is quite close to ricotta in a sense that it has a creamy finish and has a mildly sweet taste. This works well for pasta dishes.
Silken tofu, also known as Japanese tofu, will work wonders for any dish that needs ricotta because of its texture and creaminess. It can fall apart pretty easily if you don’t handle it carefully because out of all the kinds tofu available in the market, it has the highest water content. On the other hand, ordinary tofu can be tough and thick and won’t work as well as silken tofu in ricotta dishes.
If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, this is the best substitute for you. With the right blend of herbs and spices, silken tofu can mimic ricotta in almost every way possible.
The next time you’re in the hunt for ricotta cheese substitutes bear in mind that while this list can come in handy, nothing can entirely replace ricotta cheese. Its unique flavor and texture are unmatched. These substitutes are your next best bet if you want to have a low-fat dish, go vegan, or you just want to experiment in the kitchen.