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The Best Ricotta Cheese Substitutes for Lasagna

The Best Ricotta Cheese Substitutes for Lasagna

Is there anything better than a good old fashioned fresh lasagna? It is a delicious Italian dish, full of flavor and fills us up, and puts a smile on our faces.

However, it is a recipe that requires a lot of time and effort, so imagine the frustration when you forget to grab something as simple as ricotta.

So what are the best ricotta cheese substitutes for lasagna? To substitute cottage cheese in lasagna, it’s best to choose ingredients with similar textures, flavors, and colors. Most soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, and goat cheese, work well.

There are also other substitutes that are a bit more daring but will get the job done. Among them are tofu, paneer, Fromage blanc and even a béchamel sauce.

In today’s article, we will see the many substitutes for ricotta cheese, specifically to make lasagna. We will see their characteristics, why they work and how to substitute ricotta with each of them.


Before we dive into ricotta substitutes, it’s important to understand what it is and what its role is when making lasagna.

Ricotta is a type of Italian whey cheese, made from, you guessed it, whey! It can be made from Italian cow, goat, sheep or buffalo milk.

The process of making ricotta is quite simple and, unlike many other cheeses, this one is also very easy to make at home.

Ricotta means “recooked” or “refined” and perfectly describes the production process. To make several different cheeses, there is usually a process of heating and cooling the milk.

This process releases whey as a by-product, which is usually discarded. Ricotta is made from this whey and undergoes a subsequent heating and cooling process to finally produce ricotta cheese.

Ricotta is made by allowing the whey to ferment or by adding an acidic ingredient.

Once fermented or an acidic ingredient is added, the whey is heated to near boiling, which helps the proteins to denature and eventually form rennet.

This curd is cooled and left to hang on a fine cloth. Gravity helps remove as much whey as possible to ultimately produce a solid piece of creamy white curd.

The ricotta in the lasagna

As you know, lasagna is known for its cheesy character, so it’s not just ricotta, but often topped with another cheese like mozzarella, parmesan, gouda, or even cheddar.

The ricotta is used inside the lasagna, not as part of the topping. It is mixed with eggs and is usually seasoned with pepper, herbs, and sometimes salt.

This mixture of ricotta and egg is essentially used as the “sauce” for the dish, providing not only a rich creamy flavor, but also moisture.

Lasagna can turn out to be very dry if the elements are not balanced, so this sauce is extremely important and irreplaceable in the dish.

While the lasagna is baking, the egg is what helps to curdle (or thicken) the mixture so that the dish is not runny. Many recipes do not use eggs, but we recommend doing so. They prevent excess water from seeping in and creating a soggy dish.

Substitution criteria

Due to the unique texture of ricotta, it is the most important element to consider when deciding which substitute to use.

The texture of the ricotta is very smooth, soft and creamy, which are the elements that give the mixture its moisture.

You can’t substitute cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, or Swiss (any type of hard or semi-hard cheese) as they don’t contain the right amount of moisture like ricotta.

The next important element is the taste. Of course, lasagna is a very flexible and tolerant dish. However, many people prefer specific flavors and therefore must choose suitable substitutes.

If you choose a goat’s milk ricotta, your best substitutes will be other cheeses made from goat’s milk. The same goes for other types of ricotta; many people hate the taste of goat cheese and opt for cow’s milk.

Finally, we will look at the color. Now, while most people don’t mind the color of the cheese, if for some reason you want the sauce to be perfectly white, choose a white substitute.

For example, when cheddar is used in sauces, it tends to give the sauce a yellow cast. To avoid this, use white cheddar or mozzarella.

The best substitutes for ricotta

In summary, the best and safest substitutes for ricotta in lasagna are the ones with similar textures, flavors, and colors.

If you’re feeling experimental, try using different substitutes to find new and interesting flavor combinations with your recipe.

1. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is our personal favorite substitute for ricotta cheese, not just for lasagna but in general.

This cheese is very similar to ricotta; it is also made by adding acidity to whey, which is then heated, cooled, and allowed to hang so that excess whey can drain off this second round of rennet.

The main difference between the two is that cottage cheese is much thicker in texture and has a lot more liquid in it, making it moister than cottage cheese.

This is mainly due to the hanging process; the longer the whey cheese hangs, the more moisture is lost, the more it dries out, and the curds become softer and more combined.

Cottage cheese has various textures, from the finest to the coarsest. Since you have to mix it with an egg, we recommend that you use cottage cheese with a fine or medium texture, since they are the most similar to ricotta.

We also recommend choosing a cottage cheese that is as dry as possible. You can try straining the cottage cheese to remove more water, but it’s optional.

If you find that the cheese is much wetter than the cottage cheese, add another egg to the mixture so that the liquid thickens up and doesn’t seep everywhere, creating a moist lasagna.

There are plenty of flavored cottage cheeses available, which you can either avoid or fully accept.

They can add a ton of interesting flavor elements that can take your lasagna to a whole new level. We love cottage cheese with chives or basil with our lasagna.

2. Cream cheese

Cream cheese is the next option. It is a very soft fresh cheese made with milk and cream.

Its consistency also varies slightly, but not as much as cottage cheese, or even cottage cheese. It has a silky, spreadable consistency, even creamier than cottage cheese and cottage cheese.

This extra creaminess is due to the higher fat content, which is due to the added cream. Regular cream cheese has a neutral but delicious flavor that closely resembles that of cottage cheese.

Also, there are a wide variety of flavors that can make your lasagna more interesting and flavorful, especially if you don’t use a very flavorful base.

Plus, you can easily find fat-free or low-fat options if you want to make a healthier lasagna.

If you use cream cheese instead of ricotta, you will probably need to use more due to its extremely thick consistency. The addition of the egg will help make it more spreadable and have more volume.

However, the egg can make the sauce too thick and almost rubbery once baked (not necessarily, but we’ve seen it with certain brands of cream cheese).

To prevent this from happening, try thinning it slightly with cream instead of adding an egg, or just add less egg.

3. Goat cheese

Goat cheese, or chevre, is a soft cheese made from goat’s milk. The process of elaboration of this cheese is similar to that of any type of soft cheese; an acid is added to the milk, which is then heated, cooled and strained.

The result is a very soft and creamy cheese that is also very easy to spread; its consistency is between that of cream cheese and that of ricotta.

The key word with this type of substitute is fresh. Use only fresh goat cheese! Aged layer cheese has a much denser consistency that won’t work as a substitute in lasagna.

Another very important factor to take into account is the taste. Fresh goat cheese has a very mild and slightly acid flavor that mimics that of ricotta.

However, it also has a very unique “goat flavor” that makes a world of difference and that some may describe as gamey.

Goat cheese has a unique flavor that is not for everyone, although we must say that when used correctly in a well-balanced recipe, it is hardly noticeable!

This cheese comes in many forms, usually in the shape of a long log, and is also often flavored or coated. This, of course, can be used to add flavor, but if you are new to this type of cheese, use the plain version first.

4. Mascarpone

Mascarpone is one of our favorite cheeses for its versatility. Not only is it used very often in recipes, but it is also the perfect substitute for almost any soft cheese, both in savory and sweet recipes.

This Italian cheese is a close cousin of cream cheese, the main difference being the ratio of ingredients used. The result is a product that is richer and creamier than cream cheese.

Compared to ricotta, it has a slightly more acidic flavor, so use it only in strong-flavored lasagna recipes to balance that element.

Like cream cheese, it has a much thicker consistency than cottage cheese, so it will have to be thinned down somehow.

You can also dilute it with more cream, or add less egg to the mixture.

5. Tofu

Tofu is a vegan meat substitute, made with soy milk, which can also be substituted for cheese or egg.

The process of making tofu is similar to that of soft cheeses, but instead of straining the coagulated soy milk, it is pressed to form the curd.

It comes in blocks of white, but also in a variety of consistencies, from silky, soft, firm, or extra firm.

As a substitute for ricotta in lasagna, choose the silky or soft version that most resembles ricotta. Regular tofu is too dense and hard to be a good substitute.

You may need to lightly blend the tofu before using it as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna, but only if it is too firm to use as is.

Tofu is a good substitute if you are lactose intolerant or if you are making a vegetarian or vegan lasagna. It is very healthy and has a neutral flavor that will mix easily with the rest of the ingredients.

6. Bread

Coming to the hardest to find ingredients, paneer is the best of them. It is also very often known as Indian cottage cheese.

This is because it is made literally in the same way as cottage cheese. The biggest and often only difference is that it is fired at a higher temperature and then pressed, rather than strained and hung.

The added pressure helps release excess whey. This cheese-making method also results in a much firmer, drier cheese. However, paneer is not pressed for a long time to dry it, but rather to make it firm.

Paneer doesn’t have the same consistency as cottage cheese, so you’ll need to beat, crumble, or chop it like you would tofu - it depends on its consistency.

It is not necessary to add an egg to the paneer for the lasagna, although the egg does help to add richness.

This soft cheese is very neutral in flavor and is a great substitute if you can get your hands on it. You can probably find it in stores, but it’s not as easy to find compared to other cheeses.

However, you can make your own paneer, just like you would with cottage cheese.

If you are interested in paneer, we have another whole article dedicated to talking about the difference between cheese and paneer .

7. Fromage Blanc

You may have heard of this fresh French cheese, or you may not have a clue what we are talking about. It is a yogurt-based cheese with a very buttery, fresh and slightly acid flavor.

It is made exactly the same as cottage cheese and ricotta, except that yogurt is used as the base ingredient instead of milk. It has a very smooth and spreadable consistency, like cream cheese.

When substituting it for ricotta in lasagna, it’s not a bad option, as it doesn’t turn runny when heated or cooked. You don’t necessarily have to add eggs, unless you want a much thicker sauce.

The main problem with this fantastic cheese is its availability. It is not an ingredient that you are going to find easily, but we recommend that you try it if you do.

Luckily, it’s very easy to make Fromage blanc at home if you have the right ingredients and cultivars, which are more accessible.

8. Béchamel cheese sauce

Technically, this isn’t a cheese substitute, although it does contain cheese. Béchamel sauce, or white sauce, is a classic French sauce.

Actually, using a white sauce instead of the traditional mixture of cottage cheese and egg is very popular in many other countries, it is even preferred.

Béchamel sauce with a little cheddar added to thicken and add more cheese is a great substitute for ricotta in lasagna. It adds a lot of creaminess, a silky texture and an incredibly neutral, yet tasty element.

The consistency of the sauce can be easily adjusted, from thin to thick, and you can season it pretty much however you like.

The next time you’re going to make lasagna and you’re missing some ingredients, go check out some white sauce based lasagna recipes – they’re a game changer!