Deliciously creamy and luxuriously thick, cream cheese is delicious with almost anything. Smear it on bagels or use it for frosting, this popular cheese tastes just as great. But while delicious, it does pose various cardiovascular issues.
So, if you enjoy the richness and creaminess of cream cheese but not its saturated fat content, don’t worry. There are a variety of healthier alternatives to cream cheese that can provide the same decadent taste without sacrificing your health! Here’s our pick of some of the most delicious and healthy substitutes for cream cheese.
1. Neufchâtel Cheese
A classic French soft cheese, Neufchâtel is arguably the closest alternative to cream cheese you can find. It has a similar texture as well as flavor to American cream cheese but is lighter and much healthier. It has lower fat content than cream cheese, and one ounce of Neufchâtel has 70 calories.
To substitute cream cheese with Neufchâtel, you can go ahead and use it just as you would cream cheese. One cup of Neufchâtel is perfect for replacing a cup of cream cheese. Just keep an eye on whether you’re buying fresh Neufchâtel cheese or a mature version.
Aged or mature Neufchâtel will have a sharper, more intense taste, while younger Neufchâtel will taste similar to cream cheese. Neufchâtel is great on both savory and sweet dishes and tastes especially great in a cheesecake or when used as a spread.
2. Brie Cheese
Brie is a naturally ripened cheese and packs more flavor than cream cheese due to its slow aging process. It also has a lower fat content than cream cheese, making it an ideal choice if you’re looking to enjoy the flavor without the calories or fat. One ounce of brie has 95 calories.
When substituting brie for cream cheese, a good ratio to follow is one part brie for two parts cream cheese. This will ensure that your dish still has the desired creaminess and texture that you’re looking for. When melted, brie produces a luxurious and velvety texture that pairs exceptionally well with fresh fruits or vegetables like avocado and sun-dried tomatoes. It also makes an excellent appetizer when paired with crackers or assorted nuts.
3. Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a natural source of protein that contains almost no fats and significantly fewer calories, with one ounce of plain Greek yogurt containing only 15 calories. It provides a creamy texture that can fit nicely into your recipes. Moreover, yogurt provides a boost of probiotics, which aid in digestion and gut health.
The key to using Greek yogurt as a substitute for cream cheese is to find the right ratio. Typically, use three-quarters of a cup of plain Greek yogurt for every cup of cream cheese in your baking recipe.
You can also adjust the amount according to taste if you would like a richer or more subtle flavor. Greek yogurt is also great as a spread on toast or crackers or as a dip for vegetables. It can also be used directly in recipes that call for cream cheese, such as macaroni and cheese or lasagna.
4. Sour Cream
Compared to cream cheese, sour cream is naturally lower in calories (only 43 calories per ounce) as well as fat than cream cheese, so it can be used in many recipes as a healthier alternative. Make sure to use it within a few days, though, since its shelf life is much shorter.
When using sour cream instead of cream cheese, the ratio is one cup of sour cream to every three-quarters of a cup of cream cheese. This allows for a similar thick consistency and flavor in recipes that use cream cheese. For baking, you can use equal parts sour cream instead of cream cheese for a uniquely tart flavor. You can even use sour cream as a substitute for other dairy ingredients, such as yogurt or even mayonnaise.
5. Avocado Cream Cheese
Avocado cream cheese is the perfect healthy substitute for regular cream cheese. Avocado adds a creamy, buttery texture along with a delightful flavor to a variety of dishes. Plus, it’s packed with monounsaturated fat and other essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and improve your heart health. Additionally, avocados are low in calories, making them an excellent choice for those trying to watch their weight.
To use avocado as a substitute for cream cheese, simply mash the flesh of an avocado until it is creamy and smooth. Give it a good stir before adding a pinch of salt to taste. You can also add other ingredients, such as minced garlic. Spread the avocado cream cheese over toast, crackers, omelets, and even pasta dishes like lasagna. For something extra special, try mixing equal parts avocado and Greek yogurt to whip up a delectable dip or spread.
6. Almond Ricotta Cheese
Almond ricotta cheese has a creamy texture and mild flavor, making it an ideal choice when looking for a replacement ingredient in a recipe. Unlike cream cheese, it is much lower in fat and cholesterol, with only 0.3 grams of saturated fat per serving. Moreover, almond ricotta cheese contains more protein and fewer calories than its traditional dairy counterpart.
Depending on the dish being prepared, swap out the same amount of cream cheese for almond ricotta cheese. To add extra richness and flavor to a dish, you can add up to 50% more almond ricotta compared. You can also use almond ricotta cheese as a topping on pizzas or grain bowls, adding rich flavor and creamy texture without all the added fat.
7. Cashew Cream Cheese
Cashew cream cheese is another excellent option for those looking to ditch cream cheese and try a healthier substitute. This plant-based product is made from cashews that have been soaked, blended, and strained to create a creamy, spreadable consistency. Not only is it free of animal products, but it also contains many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorus.
To use cashew cream cheese as a substitute, simply blend two parts raw cashews with one part water. (The water should be boiled beforehand to help soften the cashews.) Once combined and blended into a creamy paste, strain out any large pieces and store the creamy mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Cashew cream cheese can be used on sandwiches, crackers, toast, or any other snack you like. With added herbs and spices, it’s even more flavorful than your typical cream cheese!