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Delicious dairy-free alternatives for cream cheese


Cream cheese is a beloved culinary staple known for its creamy texture and mild, tangy flavor. It’s an essential ingredient in a myriad of dishes, from luscious cheesecakes to savory spreads.

However, finding a suitable alternative can be challenging for those avoiding dairy due to allergies, dietary preferences, or a vegan lifestyle. This guide explores dairy-free cream cheese substitutes, their unique properties and how to use them in cooking to achieve delightful results.

Substituting non-dairy alternatives for cream cheese

Cream cheese is versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory recipes, thanks to its rich texture and ability to complement a variety of flavors. Dairy-free alternatives, made from sources like almond, soy, coconut and oat milk, offer similar textural benefits and can be a great addition to various dishes.

Coconut milk-based alternatives

Coconut milk-based cream cheese alternatives stand out for their excellent heat stability and creamy texture. This makes them a fantastic choice for both cooking and baking. 

These alternatives carry a hint of coconut flavor, which can enhance the overall taste of both savory and sweet dishes.

The creamy consistency of coconut-based cream cheese substitutes makes them particularly appealing on bagels or crackers. In baking, they seamlessly blend into recipes, adding a moist, dense quality to cakes and pastries.

Don’t have coconut-based cream cheese on hand? Here’s how to make it. Blend together one cup of thick coconut cream and one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Next, add a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of nutritional yeast for a cheesy tang. Chill the mixture to firm it up, and you’ll have a terrific dairy-free cream cheese substitute.

Cashew milk-based alternatives

These alternatives are particularly heat stable, making them suitable for recipes that require baking or cooking. Cashew milk-based cream cheese bring both a creamy texture and a subtle nutty flavor.

Their natural creaminess also makes them an excellent choice for creating indulgent spreads or dips. This quality allows them to blend into various culinary creations, enhancing flavors without overpowering them. 

You can use them in a savory mushroom stroganoff or as a base for vegan frosting. No matter what you try, cashew cream cheese substitutes add a richness that’ll satisfy your craving for something creamy and comforting.

To make cashew-milk-based cream cheese, soak one cup of cashews in water overnight, then blend with a quarter cup of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Next, add a pinch of salt and blend until you achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. The result works wonderfully in dips, as a spread or even as a base for creamy sauces.

Almond milk-based alternatives

Almond milk-based cream cheese substitutes offer a smooth texture and a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. This makes them a versatile ingredient in cooking — especially in recipes that work best with a mild, creamy element. Its versatility extends to various cuisines, adding a touch of creaminess to Mediterranean dips or a smooth finish to Asian-inspired sauces.

This alternative also shines in desserts, where the almond flavor complements the sweetness of the dish without overpowering it. 

Additionally, almond milk-based cream cheese can be a delightful addition to your morning toast or bagel. It offers a dairy-free option without sacrificing flavor or texture.

Create an almond cream cheese by blending one cup of soaked almonds with a quarter cup of almond milk. Next, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a dash of salt. 

Soy milk-based alternatives

Of all the dairy-free cream cheese substitutes, soy milk-based cream cheeses most closely resemble traditional cream cheese. They’re versatile in both savory and sweet dishes, providing a creamy, slightly tangy flavor that can elevate a recipe. 

Their smooth consistency makes them ideal for blending into mixtures where you desire a uniform texture, such as in creamy soups or velvety cheesecakes. In savory dishes, soy-based alternatives provide a great base for rich, flavorful spreads and dips. 

In sweet dishes, their subtle tanginess complements the sweetness, making them perfect for frosting cakes or filling pastries.

To make this versatile substitute, blend one cup of tofu with a tablespoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Guidelines for cream cheese substitutions

When substituting dairy-free cream cheese in traditional recipes, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Adjusting flavor profiles: Since dairy-free alternatives can have distinct flavors, you may need to adjust the seasoning or add some different ingredients to your recipe.
  • Consistency: Dairy-free substitutes may have a different moisture content. Adjust your other liquid ingredients to dial in the right level of creaminess.
  • Common pitfalls: Be careful not to over-blend nut-based substitutes. They can become too runny. Also, some dairy-free alternatives might not brown or puff up like traditional cream cheese when baked.

A few of our favorite recipes to try with dairy-free cream cheese

Below you’ll find a few of our favorite recipes in which you can substitute cream cheese with a plant-based alternative for a delicious result.

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf  

This dairy-free delight is a refreshing take on dessert with the Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf, using Pacific Foods Hemp Original Plant-Based Beverage for a moist, flavorful base. Ideal for those seeking a plant-based treat without compromising on taste.

See the full recipe: Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Mushrooms

This dish combines creamy spinach and artichoke dip with the earthiness of mushrooms, using Pacific Foods Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup for added depth of flavor. It’s a tasty, easy-to-make option that’s perfect for any gathering.

See the full recipe: Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Mushrooms

French Onion Zoodle Bake

Enjoy a savory twist on a familiar comfort food with this French Onion Zoodle Bake, featuring caramelized onions and zucchini noodles in Pacific Foods Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, topped with melty fontina cheese.

See the full recipe: French Onion Zoodle Bake

Explore more dairy-free options

Experimenting with dairy-free cream cheese substitutes opens up a world of culinary possibilities. Whether you follow a vegan diet, are lactose intolerant or simply want to explore new dietary options, these substitutes ensure you don’t have to miss out on your favorite creamy dishes. 

Incorporate these alternatives into your recipes and discover new ways to expand your cooking. Stock up on your favorite Pacific Foods products today to get started.