The question I've always asked at fancy restaurants: mascarpone vs cream cheese—what's the difference? They have a similar appearance, both have a faint cheesy taste, they're definitely creamy, and both are white. Are they the same thing? Can they be used interchangeably? Does a mascarpone bagel exist? Can you use cream cheese instead of mascarpone when making tiramisu? I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery and this is what I found.

Mascarpone vs Cream Cheese

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Mehak Dhawan

The biggest difference between mascarpone vs cream cheese is the amount of milk fat each contains and where they originated. Mascarpone originated in Italy, whereas the cream cheese we know and love was created in America. By law, American cream cheese must contain at least 33 percent milk fat and no more than 55 percent moisture. Mascarpone is essentially Italian cream cheese, but it's made from whole cream.

Since mascarpone or "Italian cream cheese" has a higher fat content than "American" cream cheese, mascarpone has a much richer, creamier taste. The cream cheese we use on bagels has a slightly more acidic taste than mascarpone, which makes it perfect for cheesecakes.

Can You Use Them Interchangeably? 

Miranda Knight

It depends on the flavor you're looking for, but if you can't get mascarpone, you can substitute it for cream cheese if you do a few things. First, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and let it warm to room temperature. To make it the same consistency of mascarpone, stir and smash the cream cheese with a fork. 

Then, mix your cream cheese with heavy whipping cream or sour cream (if you don't have heavy whipping cream). If you use heavy whipping cream, use up to 1/4 cup per 8 oz. of cream cheese. If you use sour cream, use equal parts sour cream and cream cheese. 

#SpoonTip: The consistency will be slightly different than traditional mascarpone but it will be similar enough that it won't affect most recipes.

Simple Dessert Recipes

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Isabel Wang

Tiramisu is the most classic dessert when people think of mascarpone cheese. It's a rich coffee-soaked cake with mascarpone cream and cocoa powder on top. This lemon berry mascarpone tart is another beautiful dessert using mascarpone cheese. This tart with a shortbread crust has the perfect sweetness and is a happy medium between a cheesecake and a cream pie. 

When it comes to cheesecake desserts, think outside the box with these lemon cream cheese bars. These are a perfect combination of sweet and tangy. Cream cheese blondies are another drool-worthy dessert that combines two already incredible foods. Easy to make and a beautiful finish! It's also always an option to stick with a classic cream cheese frosting recipe with some red velvet cake (or any cake for that matter).

Now that you know the difference between mascarpone vs cream cheese, go brag to your friends and share some delicious mascarpone or cream cheese desserts with them!