11 Cream Cheese Substitutes to Try if You're All Out of Schmear

No cream cheese? Whether it's a good schmear for your bagel or making a dessert, these cream cheese alternatives could be a perfect choice.

If cheesecake or dip is on your party menu, but you or your grocery store are out of cream cheese, you're in luck. There are a variety of substitutes for cream cheese that offer the same creamy vibe, including some tasty plant-based alternatives if you're looking to go dairy-free. Just stock up on a cheesecloth, a few lemons, and plan ahead; some options require a little extra time and effort to be perfect for your recipe.

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Neufchâtel Cheese

Cream cheese's lower-fat cousin is often used interchangeably with regular cream cheese and works beautifully in most cream cheese recipes.

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Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt in a Bowl with Spoon

Plain Greek yogurt has the same creaminess and tang as cream cheese—and straining it overnight gives it a more solid texture. It's a great alternative for many recipes requiring cream cheese.

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Mascarpone Cheese

Jar of mascarpone with an open-faced tomato sandwich on the side
Chef John

This sweeter, creamier cheese is an easy swap in most recipes—in fact, cream cheese is often cited as a mascarpone substitute. If you miss the tang, add a little squeeze of lemon.

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Vegan Cream Cheese

Homemade vegan cream cheese
vanillla / Getty Images

Vegan cream cheese is a good substitute (we love Kite Hill, in particular). For best results in baking, use a recipe specifically for vegan cheese. (The manufacturers' websites have some great options!)

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Overhead view of a plate of labneh with zatar pita chips surrounded by a grocery store container of labneh, a bowl of zatar, and a plate of pita chips

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

This tasty, creamy Middle Eastern cheese made of thickened yogurt is a wonderful replacement for cream cheese. (Try our tasty labneh dip recipe.)

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Cottage Cheese

Cottage Cheese and Pineapple in a Pink Bowl with a Metal Spoon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The texture may not seem right, but a quick whirl in the blender or food processor gives cottage cheese a smoother texture. Add lemon for a little tang and drain in a cheesecloth if it's still too runny. (Using full-fat cottage cheese helps with thickness.)

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Ricotta Cheese

tight shot of mound of ricotta cheese on blue earthenware plate

Just like cottage cheese, this swap requires a little effort to be cream-cheese perfect. Blend, drain, and add a squeeze of lemon and a few pinches of salt to make it more cream cheese-like. Bonus: Make ricotta cheese at home with milk and ingredients you probably already have on hand.

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Silken Tofu

Package of silken tofu

Lori Rice

Another plant-based alternative to cream cheese, silken tofu needs a little lemon and salt to achieve the same flavor profile. For cheesecake, swap your usual recipe for a vegan one that calls for tofu.

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Goat Cheese

Goat cheese varieties on a black board

Danielle Daly

Goat cheese tends to be more crumbly than cream cheese. For it to work as a substitute, mix in a little heavy cream to get that cream cheese consistency.

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Bowl of roasted and salted cashew nuts on slate
Westend61 / Getty Images

Nuts seem like an odd choice to replace cream cheese, but once they're softened and blended, you get that same creamy texture. To soften cashews: Soak them overnight or, if you're in a hurry, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. (Check out our cashew ricotta recipe, which makes a nice substitute.)

Many vegan cheesecake recipes use softened cashews—and it's best to follow one of those rather than your favorite dairy cheesecake recipe.

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Sour Cream

Cream, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt beaten until stiff inside a bowl using a wire balloon whisk.

Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

Sour cream makes a great cream cheese substitute in dips and spreads—but it may not be suitable for dessert recipes.

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