Meet Mascarpone: Italy's Luscious Cream Cheese (2024)

Mascarpone (pronounced mahs-car-POH-nay), an Italian double or triple cream cheese, may be best known as an essential ingredient in tiramisu, an Italian coffee and chocolate dessert. But this sweet and silky cow's milk cheese adds rich texture to savory dishes too, a quality achieved by its especially high percentage of saturated fat. Mascarpone originated in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy during the Renaissance.

Fast Facts

  • Origin: Renaissance Italy
  • Milk source: Pasteurized cow's milk
  • Texture: Exceptionally creamy, smooth, and thick
  • Aging: Fresh

What Is Mascarpone?

Mascarpone is an ivory-colored, exceptionally smooth, and easily spreadable fresh cream cheese. The flavor is milky and slightly sweet. The rich, buttery texture comes from the high butterfat content (up to 75 percent). Mascarpone costs more than domestic cream cheese, although products from U.S. brands producing it in the Italian style are less expensive than imported ones. You can find both in many large grocery stores in the dairy or cheese section or at specialty cheese shops.

Mascarpone vs. Cream Cheese

Mascarpone has at least twice as much fat as American cream cheese, which gives it a richer, almost melt-in-your-mouth quality. You can use the two interchangeably, but you should expect differences in both flavor and texture. American cream cheese tends to be firmer with a tangier flavor. Some dessert recipes call for portions of each.

How Mascarpone Is Made

Commercial producers use the same simple process you can employ at home to make mascarpone, but on a larger scale, of course. Basically, adding acid to fresh cream causes it to coagulate; the resulting curds get gently cooked over a steady heat until they reach the consistency of crème fraîche. Unlike many cheeses that rely on the thickening ability of rennet, an enzyme produced in the stomachs of ruminant animals, mascarpone uses citric or tartaric acid to solidify the cream. Lemon juice works in a home kitchen. After draining the whey, soft, fresh, buttery mascarpone remains. As a fresh cheese, it can be packaged and distributed immediately.


The closest cousins to mascarpone are English clotted cream and French crème fraîche. High-quality creamy ricotta (avoid ricotta with larger curds) or the generally firmer American cream cheese can also substitute for mascarpone, although the result won't be as rich and smooth. To compensate for some of the differences, you can blend the ricotta before you use it, add whipping cream and/or sour cream to American cream cheese, or squeeze a little lemon juice into the mascarpone to cut the richness a bit.


Mascarpone can be added to both sweet and savory dishes, providing a rich and creamy element. Use it instead of whipped cream to top a bowl of fruit or as a frosting for cakes or cupcakes. Bake it into a cheesecake or swap it for sour cream in banana bread or muffins. For a savory use, add mascarpone to pastasauce or use it in place of cream in nearly any dish. It can also be used to thicken soups, stuff chicken breasts, and as a bagel spread. Drop teaspoonfuls on top of roasted vegetables or mix it into your scrambled eggs. For an easy dip, whisk fresh herbs and garlic into the mascarpone. Or enjoy a big dollop of mascarpone as a light dessert with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, or a drizzle of honey on top. Serve it with fresh berries, figs, or simple cookies.


Mascarpone generally comes in tubs, and it should remain refrigerated. Check the "use by" date on the package for storage time, but it's generally a week. Mascarpone tends to go bad quickly, so use an open container within a few days; return any unused portion to the fridge with the lid tightly sealed. If it develops mold or if its aroma or color is off, discard the entire package.

You can safely freeze mascarpone for a few months, but it will affect the texture, and it might separate when you defrost it. It's best for use in cooked dishes.

Mascarpone Recipes

With mascarpone widely available in grocery stores, it can be your go-to ingredient to make any day feel special.

  • Baked Rigatoni With Mascarpone
  • Sweet Honey and Mascarpone Dessert
  • Mascarpone and Gorgonzola Two-Cheese Pasta Sauce
  • Limoncello Cake With Mascarpone Frosting
  • Blistered Blueberry Grilled Cheese With Mascarpone and Brie
  • Crepe Cake with Orange-Mascarpone Cream Filling

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Meet Mascarpone: Italy's Luscious Cream Cheese (2024)


Is mascarpone cream cheese the same as cream cheese? ›

Cream Cheese. Mascarpone is made from heavy cream, while cream cheese is made from whole milk. This gives mascarpone its high fat content and richer, creamier texture. The fat content of cream cheese is 30 to 40 percent, compared to mascarpone's whopping 60 to 75 percent fat content.

How do Italians eat mascarpone? ›

Mascarpone isn't just for panettone or tiramisù. Slathered on crostini or whipped into spaghetti, it's more sumptuous than butter — add a little sugar, and it's even more enticing than cream.

Is mascarpone Italian cream cheese? ›

Mascarpone cheese is a soft, slightly sweet and a tad bit tart, spreadable cheese often described as an Italian sweet cream cheese. Mascarpone is probably most well-known as the key ingredient in Italian desserts like tiramisu and cannoli.

Is mascarpone cream cheese healthy? ›

Mascarpone cheese is a high-fat product. It contains a good amount of fat that can increase cholesterol in your body. A single tablespoon of mascarpone cheese contains approx 20 mg of dietary cholesterol. Therefore, if you have high cholesterol, you should avoid consuming it.

Which is better for cheesecake cream cheese or mascarpone? ›

Upgrade Your Cheesecake With Mascarpone Cheese

Because mascarpone is made from heavy cream, it has a higher fat content than cream cheese which is made from whole milk. We're talking 60 to 75 percent vs. 30 to 50 percent, respectively.

Can I swap mascarpone for cream cheese? ›

Substituting Mascarpone For Cream Cheese

Mascarpone is richer and creamier than cream cheese, but works well in recipes like cake frosting. It's not as salty or tangy as some brands of cream cheese, so taste the frosting to see if it needs a pinch of salt or a few drops of lemon juice for balance.

Should mascarpone be refrigerated? ›

Mascarpone must be kept in the fridge at all times, even if you haven't opened the package yet. Unlike aged, hard cheeses, mascarpone is not shelf-stable. Alternatively, you can freeze mascarpone.

Does mascarpone need to be refrigerated? ›

Storage. Mascarpone generally comes in tubs, and it should remain refrigerated.

How long can mascarpone last in the fridge? ›

Unopened mascarpone typically lasts for about 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator and, if sealed and stored properly, it can be extended up to a month. Once opened, mascarpone must be consumed within approximately 5-7 days when refrigerated, as it's prone to spoilage due to its high moisture and fat content.

Is there mascarpone at Costco? ›

Bella Casara Mascarpone Cheese, 2 kg | Costco.

How long does mascarpone last once opened? ›

Keep refrigerated 0°C to +5°C. Not suitable for freezing. Once opened, consume within 3 days.

What do you eat mascarpone with? ›

We know that mascarpone cheese can transform sweet things like sorbet, carrot cake, lemon pie, cupcakes, and fruit blintzes. But what about creamy pasta, risotto, soups, and roasted vegetables? Turns out mascarpone can work wonders with savory recipes, too.

Can I eat mascarpone directly? ›

Mascarpone cheese seems to be more of a cooking ingredient than something consumed raw, even if it can easily act as any other spreadable cheese.

Can I eat mascarpone by itself? ›

Mascarpone cheese isn't very good to eat by itself (imagine eating a spoonful of butter), but it is perfect to use as an ingredient for savory and dessert recipes alike. Next time you want to try out a recipe calling for mascarpone cheese, give this recipe a try!

Can diabetics eat mascarpone cheese? ›

People with diabetes can safely eat cheese as part of a balanced, healthful diet.

Is Philadelphia cream cheese like mascarpone? ›

No mascarpone and cream cheese are not the same, they are both dairy-based and do have some similarities but they are made in different ways. They have a similar texture so can very often substitute each other but Philadephia is more savory while mascarpone is milkier in taste.

Is mascarpone more expensive than cream cheese? ›

Mascarpone costs more than domestic cream cheese, although products from U.S. brands producing it in the Italian style are less expensive than imported ones. You can find both in many large grocery stores in the dairy or cheese section or at specialty cheese shops.

Can you substitute mascarpone for soft cheese? ›

Any soft cheese or farmer's cheese would work. Yes, you can substitute mascarpone for cream cheese in cheesecake. Mascarpone cheese has a similar creamy texture but a slightly different flavor profile, so your cheesecake may have a slightly different taste compared to one made with cream cheese.

Can I use mascarpone instead of sour cream in cheesecake? ›

ADAM QUESTION: In your Cordon Rose Cheesecake, can I substitute some -- about 6 oz -- of mascarpone for an equal amount of the sour crream? ROSE REPLY: sour cream has 18 to 20% fat. mascarpone a has about 55% fat so it will be richer and also not quite as light, but it should make a very nice variation.

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