What is Mascarpone? (2024)

You're probably familiar with mascarpone as the creamy, decadent layer in tiramisu that makes it taste so good. But what is it? Is it cheese? Is it cream? Or both? And how is it different than cream cheese? Learn everything you need to know about mascarpone and get top-rated recipes to put it to use.

What is Mascarpone Cheese?

When people say mascarpone, they're most likely referring to mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone cheese is a type of cheese originating in Italy. It's made from only two ingredients: heavy cream and citric or tartaric acid. The cream is heated and then the acid is added to solidify and thicken the cream. It's then run through a cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. The fat content is typically between 60 and 75 percent, making it easily spreadable and super silky.

The taste of mascarpone is similar to that of cream cheese, ricotta cheese, creme fraiche, or clotted cream, but with a little more sweetness and acidity. This makes it a versatile cheese for both sweet and savory dishes.

What is Mascarpone Cream?

You might have heard mascarpone referred to as mascarpone cream. The difference between mascarpone cheese and cream is mascarpone cream is made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar that are whipped together. The result is the whipped topping that's used to make tiramisu. It's also used as a topping for cake, fruit, and coffee drinks.

Mascarpone Cheese vs. 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. Cream cheese is more acidic, giving it a more sour taste than mascarpone, but the two can generally be used interchangeably.

How to Make Your Own Mascarpone Cheese

We've already established that mascarpone cheese is made from just two simple ingredients: heavy cream and some form of acid. Although mascarpone is readily available in grocery stores, you can easily make your own from scratch.


  • 2 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Pour heavy cream into a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until the cream reaches a simmer.
  2. Add the lemon juice, and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens.
  3. Dip a wooden spoon into the mixture. If the cream coats the spoon, it's ready.
  4. Move the saucepan into an ice bath and allow to cool completely.
  5. Pour mixture into a strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth. Put a bowl underneath the strainer to catch the excess liquid.
  6. Place in the fridge for 24 hours. Dump the excess liquid. Bellissimo!

Get the recipe: Homemade Mascarpone

5 Ways to Use Mascarpone

1. Ham and Butternut Squash Spaghetti

"Despite the rich and decadent mascarpone, the sauce for this spaghetti is actually pretty light; much of the sauce is chicken broth and squash," says Chef John.

2. Authentic Tiramisu

"On my first trip to Italy to meet my husband's family back in 1995, I didn't speak a word of Italian. But I did learn how to make great 'dolci' from his sister, Maria," says recipe creator Kim's Cooking Now. "This was her recipe and now when we go back they ask me to make it!" Mascarpone cream is used to make this authentic recipe.

3. Pumpkin Cannoli

"These are really yummy, and they taste like a pumpkin pie cannoli...These would be a great dessert for Thanksgiving. I used mini chocolate chips on the ends, rather than sprinkles. Would make these again," says reviewer Kim's Cooking Now.

4. Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes

This savory dish has an Italian twist. Reviewer Meg Mae says, "The mascarpone is a genius addition. I used more than the recipe called for. My potatoes came out decadent, creamy and delicious."

5. Mascarpone Brulee with Fresh Berries

Put your summer berries to use or make this refreshing dessert year-round. Chef John says, "This dessert is so fast and easy and looks cooked because we brulee sugar on top of the mascarpone. I'm not a big dessert person but this is my idea of the perfect finish to that early summer dinner."

What is Mascarpone? (1)

What is Mascarpone? (2024)


What is mascarpone made of? ›

It is a fresh cheese that is most commonly made with pasteurized cow's milk. Unlike some cheeses, which have animal-derived rennet added, mascarpone is vegetarian. It's made by heating heavy cream and adding an acid like tartaric acid (aka cream of tartar), citric acid, or lemon juice to solidify and thicken the cream.

How would you describe mascarpone? ›

What is Mascarpone 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.

What if I don't have enough mascarpone for tiramisu? ›

What can you use as a substitute for mascarpone cheese: cream cheese, heavy cream, a mix of cream cheese and heavy cream, full-fat sour cream, crème fraîche, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, requeson cheese, full-fat greek yogurt, English clotted cream, vegan mascarpone, silken tofu and vegan cream cheese, coconut cream ...

What is mascarpone like? ›

The fat content is typically between 60 and 75 percent, making it easily spreadable and super silky. The taste of mascarpone is similar to that of cream cheese, ricotta cheese, creme fraiche, or clotted cream, but with a little more sweetness and acidity.

What kind of cheese is a mascarpone? ›

Mascarpone (/ˌmæskɑːrˈpoʊn(eɪ), -ni/, US also /ˌmɑːsk-/; Italian: [maskarˈpoːne]) is a soft Italian acid-set cream cheese. It is recognized in Italy as a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale ("traditional agri-food product"; PAT).

Is mascarpone good or bad for you? ›

No, mascarpone cheese is not healthier than cream cheese as it contains 25% more fat than cream cheese. Yet mascarpone cheese is only preferred for its extra smooth texture. You can use cream cheese and mascarpone cheese for salty and sweet dishes.

What can I use instead of mascarpone? ›

Crème Fraîche and sour cream bring unique tastes and handle heat like pros. Then there's ricotta, Mascarpone's flavor buddy, perfect for cheesecakes and spreads. Cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese are also the go-to for rich textures.

What is special about mascarpone? ›

Mascarpone contains 70 to 75% milk fat, giving it a smooth, creamy texture and pale ivory color. Unlike other cheeses, mascarpone is made by coagulating cream (rather than milk) with acid and heating it.

Can I use Philadelphia cheese instead of mascarpone for tiramisu? ›

Philadephia cheese has a more acidic taste and a consistency that make it suitable for cheesecake but absolutely not for tiramisu. Its very easy to make mascarpone at home (500g fresh cream, 10g lemon juice and 82 degrees centigrade) so look up one of the dozens of recipes and don't try to substitute it.

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

Are you a fan of tiramisu? Here's a slightly different recipe that uses sour cream instead of mascarpone cheese; It's a wonderful combination of a light, soft, and slightly tangy cream layered with biscuits soaked in dissolved coffee, topped with a dusting of cocoa powder; It's a gentle twist on the Italian classic.

Can I use cream cheese instead of mascarpone? ›

Yes, cream cheese makes a great substitute for mascarpone. There are two methods to substitute mascarpone: Substitute 1 cup of mascarpone with 1 cup of a cream cheese and whipping cream mixture. To make this mixture, use 1/4 cup of cream for every 8 oz.

Does mascarpone taste like butter? ›

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).

Can I use Philadelphia instead of mascarpone? ›

3) Use your cream cheese — either plain or mixed — exactly as you would have used mascarpone. The flavor and texture will be slightly different than that of mascarpone, but similar enough that it will not adversely affect most recipes.

Does mascarpone taste like sour cream? ›

Mascarpone is a sweet Italian cream cheese that is versatile and delicious. At a quick glance, it seems similar to sour cream and crème fraîche, but it's a departure from its cultured lookalikes. While sour cream and crème fraîche are thick, tangy cultured dairy products, mascarpone is not cultured.

How is mascarpone different from cream cheese? ›

Cream cheese contains at least 33% milk fat, and mascarpone may contain 60-75% milk fat. Mascarpone has a buttery flavor that makes it particularly suitable for desserts. It adds richness and a creamy texture, while cream cheese brings a creamy consistency and slightly tangy taste to dishes.

Is mascarpone healthier than cream cheese? ›


Mascarpone is a high fat variety of cream cheese that's typically made using cream rather than milk. In addition to being higher in fat and calories than cream cheese, it has a richer, more velvety texture that works well in many recipes — particularly fillings, spreads, frostings, and desserts ( 5 ).

Is mascarpone a healthy cheese? ›

Mascarpone is an ingredient of some famous Italian desserts like tiramisu. Mascarpone is not the best choice for your heart health as it's one of the highest fat cheeses (44 per cent, of which 30 per cent is saturated).

What's the difference between mascarpone and ricotta? ›

Ricotta has a grainy texture, like cottage cheese, and mascarpone has a smooth, creamy texture, similar to heavy whipping cream. Mascarpone is a more spreadable cheese than ricotta. Taste: Ricotta is brighter and more acidic than mascarpone. Mascarpone has a slightly sweet, milky flavor.

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