What can I use instead of cream in tiramisu?

Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert made with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, sweetened mascarpone cheese, and cocoa powder. The key ingredient that gives tiramisu its rich, creamy texture is mascarpone. However, mascarpone can be difficult to find or expensive in some areas. Luckily, there are several good options for replacing mascarpone in tiramisu recipes.

The most common substitutes for mascarpone are cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and sour cream. All of these options can provide a similar creamy texture and tangy flavor. Greek yogurt is another alternative that adds protein. For those avoiding dairy, vegan cream cheese or coconut cream are good non-dairy subs. The ingredients can be swapped in a 1:1 ratio for mascarpone. With some simple ingredient swaps, you can still achieve the signature creamy layers of tiramisu.

What is mascarpone and why is it used in tiramisu?

Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a rich, creamy texture and a slightly sweet, tangy flavor. The high fat content gives it a smooth, spreadable consistency.

In tiramisu, mascarpone provides the signature airy, creamy layer between the coffee-dipped ladyfingers and cocoa powder. It is light and mousse-like, allowing the flavors of espresso and chocolate to shine. The soft texture melds into the ladyfingers without becoming soggy. Mascarpone is the essential ingredient that creates the pillowy layers that make tiramisu so decadent.

Unique properties of mascarpone

  • High fat content – around 75% milk fat, giving it a rich, creamy texture
  • Tangy, sweet flavor
  • Soft, spreadable consistency
  • Light and airy texture when whipped
  • Binds well with eggs and sugar

Best Substitutes for Mascarpone in Tiramisu

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese makes an excellent mascarpone substitute in tiramisu. Use a high-quality, rich cream cheese for best results. Philadelphia brand works well. Cream cheese provides a similar creamy texture and tangy flavor. Just like mascarpone, it whips up light and fluffy. For a more authentic tiramisu, use an Italian-style cream cheese. The fat content may be slightly lower than mascarpone, so the texture won’t be quite as rich, but it works wonderfully in the dessert.

Ricotta Cheese

Fresh ricotta cheese is an easily accessible and affordable mascarpone substitute. Part-skim or whole milk ricotta both work well. Drain the ricotta first to remove excess moisture. Then whip it with sugar to make it light and fluffy before folding into the tiramisu. The slightly grainy texture and mild flavor of ricotta gives a good approximation of mascarpone.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is a neutral-flavored dairy ingredient that mimics the texture of mascarpone. Make sure to choose full-fat sour cream. The thickness comes close to mascarpone, while the subtle tangy taste also works in tiramisu. Just like ricotta, drain excess liquid from the sour cream before whipping. Add a bit of sugar or vanilla to round out the flavor. The sour cream gives the tiramisu a nice richness.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a creamy, protein-packed alternative to mascarpone. Choose full-fat, strained Greek yogurt for the right consistency. Whip it with sugar substitute to sweeten it up. The yogurt needs to be thoroughly drained of excess liquid, since tiramisu won’t set up properly if it’s too wet. Greek yogurt provides a luxurious, pudding-like texture when whipped. The protein makes it extra satisfying too.

Vegan Cream Cheese

For dairy-free tiramisu, vegan cream cheese makes a solid mascarpone substitute. Brands like Tofutti and Kite Hill provide the rich texture needed. Many vegan cream cheeses contain coconut or cashew bases to replicate the creamy consistency. Whip the vegan cream cheese with sugar to get it light and fluffy before using. The flavor and sweetness may be slightly different from mascarpone, but it provides a similar silkiness.

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream gives tiramisu a delicious dairy-free makeover. Refrigerate cans of full-fat coconut milk overnight, then scoop out the solidified cream on top. Whip it until airy and use in the tiramisu as you would mascarpone. The coconut flavor pairs wonderfully with coffee and cocoa. For an even richer texture, blend some coconut butter into the whipped coconut cream.

How to Substitute Ingredients in Tiramisu Recipe

The mascarpone cheese can be replaced measure-for-measure with any of the substitutes. Here are some simple tips for getting the best results:

  • Drain liquid from ricotta, sour cream, or Greek yogurt before using
  • Whip substitute with sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy
  • Chill whipped ingredient to help thicken before assembling dessert
  • Fold in softly whipped cream for more richness if desired
  • Refrigerate assembled tiramisu 3-12 hours before serving
  • Dust with extra cocoa powder before serving

Sample Substitution Ratios

Original Ingredient Substitution
1 cup mascarpone 1 cup cream cheese, ricotta, or sour cream
1 cup mascarpone 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained overnight
1 cup mascarpone 1 cup vegan cream cheese
1 cup mascarpone 1 cup whipped coconut cream

How to Make Tiramisu with Mascarpone Substitutes

Making tiramisu with a mascarpone alternative is simple. Follow the same steps as a traditional tiramisu recipe, just swap in your substitute where mascarpone is used. Here is a basic recipe:


  • 3-4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 pound ladyfingers
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed espresso, cooled
  • 1 cup mascarpone substitute (drained if necessary)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Cocoa powder for dusting


  1. In a bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and thickened
  2. Fold in mascarpone substitute until well blended
  3. Whip cream to soft peaks in a separate bowl
  4. Gently fold 1/3 of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten
  5. Mix espresso and rum/brandy in a shallow bowl
  6. Working quickly, dip ladyfingers into espresso mixture (do not soak)
  7. Arrange dipped ladyfingers in a single layer in an 8×8 pan
  8. Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers
  9. Top with another layer of dipped ladyfingers
  10. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture on top
  11. Top with remaining whipped cream
  12. Dust generously with cocoa powder
  13. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting and serving

The substituted ingredient will give tiramisu nearly the same creamy texture and coffeehouse flavor. Let the dessert chill for several hours so the layers have time to meld together before enjoying this Italian classic.

Tips for Perfect Tiramisu with Mascarpone Substitutes

Follow these tips when making tiramisu with an alternative to mascarpone:

  • Whip it up: Whip your mascarpone substitute to make it light and fluffy.
  • Sweeten it: Add sugar or vanilla extract to boost flavor.
  • Thicken it: Drain liquid and chill whipped ingredient before assembling if too thin.
  • Soak briefly: Quickly dip ladyfingers so they don’t get soggy.
  • Layer evenly: Spread mascarpone mixture and whipped cream in thin, even layers.
  • Chill thoroughly: Allow tiramisu to chill in fridge at least 3-12 hours.
  • Dust generously: Add extra cocoa powder topping before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best mascarpone substitute for tiramisu?

The best substitutes for mascarpone are cream cheese, ricotta cheese, or sour cream. All provide a rich, creamy texture and tangy flavor similar to mascarpone. Cream cheese is the closest match while ricotta and sour cream are more affordable options.

Can I make dairy-free tiramisu?

Yes, it’s easy to make dairy-free tiramisu using vegan cream cheese or coconut cream in place of mascarpone. Whip until light and airy before using. Cashew cream is another dairy-free alternative that mimics the richness of mascarpone.

Do I need to drain the ricotta before using in tiramisu?

Draining excess liquid from the ricotta helps prevent tiramisu from becoming watery and improves the creamy texture. Place ricotta in cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer overnight in the refrigerator to drain prior to sweetening and whipping.

Can I use Greek yogurt instead of mascarpone?

Yes, Greek yogurt can be substituted for mascarpone. Make sure to use whole milk, full-fat Greek yogurt and drain off any extra liquid beforehand. Whip with sugar to sweeten just like mascarpone.

Will cream cheese make tiramisu too sweet?

Cream cheese adds a nice sweetness but won’t make tiramisu overly sweet. Use an unsweetened or lightly sweetened cream cheese variety. Taste the whipped cream cheese mixture before assembling the tiramisu to adjust sweetness as needed.


With a few simple ingredient swaps, you can create an authentic tiramisu experience using mascarpone alternatives like cream cheese, ricotta, or Greek yogurt. The preparation is the same, just substitute measure-for-measure in the recipe. Whip the ingredient well before layering into the dessert for a light, creamy texture. Any of these options make a delicious, decadent tiramisu that’s just as tasty as the original.

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