Is there a dairy free alternative to mascarpone?

Mascarpone is a soft, creamy cheese that originated in Italy. It has a rich, buttery flavor and is often used in desserts like tiramisu. However, mascarpone contains dairy, so it is not suitable for vegans or people with dairy allergies or sensitivities. Thankfully, there are several mascarpone substitutes that can be used to recreate the texture and flavor of mascarpone in dairy-free recipes.

What is mascarpone?

Mascarpone is a triple-cream cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a fat content of approximately 75% and a smooth, rich texture. Mascarpone is lower in moisture than other soft cheeses like cream cheese or ricotta. This contributes to its thick, spreadable consistency.

Traditionally, mascarpone is produced by curdling heated cream with citric acid from lemon juice. The curds are separated from the whey, then cooked down into a smooth paste. No starter cultures are added during the process. This gives mascarpone a fresher, milder taste than aged cheeses.

Mascarpone has a higher fat content than cream cheese but less fat than butter. It is not aged like other cheeses and is instead fresh and creamy. The flavor of mascarpone is subtle – it tastes mildly sweet and milky. When served on its own, it is often enhanced with sugar, coffee, liquor, or fruit.

Thanks to its rich texture and neutral flavor, mascarpone is used in many desserts. It is most famously used in tiramisu, adding creaminess between the coffee-soaked ladyfingers. Mascarpone can also be whipped into dessert fillings, swirled into ice cream, or dolloped onto slices of cake or pie.

Why find a non-dairy alternative?

There are several reasons why someone may want or need a non-dairy alternative to mascarpone:

  • Dairy allergies or intolerances – Some people are allergic to casein or whey found in dairy products. Others lack the enzyme lactase needed to properly digest dairy.
  • Vegan or vegetarian diets – Vegans and vegetarians exclude all animal products, including dairy, from their diets.
  • Preference for plant-based foods – Some people simply prefer to limit their dairy intake and want plant-based options.
  • Environmental concerns – Dairy production generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based foods have a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Ethical reasons – Individuals opposed to practices in the dairy industry may wish to avoid dairy products.

Using non-dairy ingredients ensures that more people can enjoy creamy desserts and dishes typically made with mascarpone cheese. When selected properly, these alternatives can mimic both the flavor and texture of mascarpone.

Non-Dairy Mascarpone Substitutes

There are a variety of ingredients that can be used as mascarpone substitutes in recipes. Here are some of the most common options:


Silken tofu offers a great plant-based substitute for mascarpone thanks to its smooth, creamy texture. Silken tofu is made from soy milk which is curdled and pressed into soft, white blocks. It has more moisture than traditional tofu varieties. Silken tofu can be blended into a rich, creamy base to replace mascarpone in dips, sauces, dessert fillings, and more. Choose a neutral-flavored variety to let other ingredients shine. Extra firm tofu can also be crumbled or whipped as a substitute.

Cashew Cream

Blending soaked raw cashews creates a dairy-free “cream” that mimics the richness of mascarpone when thickened. Cashew cream is naturally substantive and can be whipped into creamy peaks for dessert fillings. Soak cashews overnight, then drain and blend into a smooth puree. Strain if a silky texture is desired. Add lemon juice or vinegar to thicken the cashews further into a spreadable cream. Agar powder can also be used to stabilize cashew cream for sturdier applications.

Coconut Cream

The thick, fatty cream that rises to the top of full-fat coconut milk offers a great alternative to mascarpone. Refrigerate cans of full-fat coconut milk overnight, then scoop out the solid coconut cream from the top. Whip it into sweet or savory dips and spreads. Combine it with agar powder or cornstarch to help it hold its shape. Coconut cream provides a rich texture and natural sweetness like dairy cream. Just note that it will impart a subtle coconut flavor.

Coconut Butter

Also called coconut manna, coconut butter is a dairy-free alternative with a texture remarkably similar to mascarpone. It is made by pureeing coconut flesh into a smooth, spreadable cream. Coconut butter contains fiber and healthy fats. Use it straight from the jar in place of mascarpone or whip it with air to lighten the texture. The natural sweetness of coconut complements desserts but can also work in savory dishes when combined with spices and herbs.

Vegan Cream Cheese

There are many brands of vegan cream cheese on the market made from nuts, soy, coconut, or other plant milks. These nutritionally-similar alternatives mimic the tangy flavor and smooth texture of dairy cream cheese. Look for varieties without any added gums or stabilizers. Whip plain vegan cream cheese into dessert fillings as a great one-to-one mascarpone substitute. For savory dishes, choose vegan cream cheeses with added garlic and herbs.

Extra Firm Tofu

Tofu comes in a variety of textures. Extra firm or super firm varieties can be crumbled, whipped, or blended to create a thick texture similar to mascarpone. This works best with plain non-flavored tofu. Drain excess liquid from the tofu, then process or whip it until smooth and creamy. Add lemon juice or white vinegar to increase the tangy flavor that mascarpone provides. The neutral flavor profile also allows other ingredients to shine.

How to Make Dairy-Free Mascarpone

In addition to buying ready-made alternatives, it is easy to make vegan mascarpone at home with just a few ingredients:

With Cashews

Soak 1 cup raw cashews overnight, then drain and blend into a smooth paste with 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Add more lemon juice or nutritional yeast for extra tanginess. Chill the cashew cream in the fridge to firm it up before whipping.

With Tofu

Blend 12 oz silken tofu with 2 tablespoons lemon juice until completely smooth and creamy. You can add sweeteners, vanilla, or spices to flavor it. The tofu-based mascarpone will thicken up when chilled.

With Coconut Cream

Refrigerate full-fat coconut milk overnight. Scoop out the solid cream, leaving the liquid behind. Whip it until light and fluffy, 5-10 minutes. For thicker cream, add agar powder or cornstarch dissolved in water.

With Vegan Cream Cheese

Beat one 8-ounce package of plain vegan cream cheese with 2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Whip on high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and creamy. Add vanilla extract or honey if desired.

Tips for Using Dairy-Free Mascarpone

When swapping in non-dairy mascarpone alternatives, keep these tips in mind:

  • Adjust thickness as needed by blending in non-dairy milk or cream to thin, or adding lemon juice or agar to thicken.
  • Whip or blend well to achieve a light, creamy texture similar to dairy mascarpone.
  • Add natural sweeteners if needed to mimic mascarpone’s mild sweetness.
  • opt for unflavored varieties to avoid competing flavors.
  • Substitute at a 1:1 ratio in recipes unless adjustments are needed for thickness.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to develop and texture to set.
  • Look for certified vegan brands to ensure no hidden dairy ingredients.
  • Culture non-dairy mascarpone overnight to develop more complex flavor.

Recipes Using Dairy-Free Mascarpone

Here are some delicious recipes that use non-dairy mascarpone substitutes:

Dairy-Free Tiramisu

Swap mascarpone for cashew cream or coconut cream whipped with vanilla and sugar in this classic Italian dessert.

Vegan Cheesecake

Silken tofu, cashew cream, and vegan cream cheese all make great smooth, tangy cheesecake fillings without dairy.

Toasted Almond Amaretto Mascarpone

Blend almonds and amaretto liqueur into coconut butter for a sweetened mascarpone substitute.

White Bean Mascarpone Dip

Puree white beans with garlic, lemon, and olive oil for a dairy-free spin on artichoke spinach dip.

Berry Mascarpone Tart

Whip cashew cream with a bit of honey and vanilla to fill this fresh fruit tart.

Vegan Mushroom Risotto

Stir in lemon-spiked tofu mascarpone at the end for a rich, creamy dairy-free risotto.

Mascarpone Herb Spread

Blend coconut cream cheese with fresh herbs like basil for a flavorful sandwich spread or dip.

The Best Store-Bought Options

If you don’t have time to make it from scratch, there are many store-bought mascarpone alternatives made with plant milks. Here are some top options to look out for:

Kite Hill Vegan Mascarpone

This brand uses almond milk and coconut oil to create a smooth, spreadable cultured vegan mascarpone. It works well in both sweet and savory recipes.

Miyoko’s Vegan Mascarpone

Cultured cashew cream gives Miyoko’s mascarpone a tangy, complex flavor. It whips up light and fluffy too.

Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Mascarpone

For those who just avoid dairy, Green Valley makes a cow’s milk mascarpone that’s lactose-free and easy to digest.

Daiya Dairy-Free Mascarpone Style Spread

Daiya uses a blend of plant-based oils and gums to create a smooth, rich mascarpone alternative.

Treeline Vegan Mascarpone

Nut cheeses like Treeline offer cheese-like texture and flavor. Their cashew-based mascarpone makes a convinving substitute.


Mascarpone may be a traditional dairy cheese, but there are many delicious plant-based alternatives available. With options like cashew cream, silken tofu, coconut butter, and vegan cream cheese, anyone can recreate the unique flavor and texture of mascarpone. Homemade or store-bought, these non-dairy mascarpones allow more people to enjoy their favorite desserts and dishes. With some creative substitutions, you can make practically any recipe completely dairy-free without sacrificing on taste or texture. So next time a recipe calls for mascarpone, don’t skip it – swap in one of these fantastic mascarpone alternatives instead.

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