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Low Sodium Cream Cheese Alternative – Mascarpone

I discovered this cheese at a holiday gathering while the host was putting together another appetizer platter for the party. I had already tasted it earlier and thought it was a whipped version of cream cheese. But while conversing in the kitchen I saw the little tub of cheese she was using and noticed it wasn’t cream cheese as I was used to seeing. 

By the way Mascarpone is pronounced  (mahs-car-POH-nay) as I was rather curtly corrected. Just don’t bring Al Capone into the conversation and you should be fine…Haha!

Mascarpone a low sodium cream cheese alternative
Mascarpone a low sodium cream cheese alternative

I am not advocating for this particular brand, but seems to be the most common in the grocery stores around here

I was shocked to see how low the sodium was in it as compared to what I was used to with cream cheese. Yeah, the taste and texture was slightly different but if I had not found out, I would have thought nothing of it. It is creamier than and maybe not as rich as cream cheese, but with a slightly sweet taste it is very pleasing.

I have used it as an appetizer and in several dishes that call for cream cheese to be melted in with great success. You can count on me to use it as a low sodium cream cheese alternative from now on. It’s likely, if you didn’t know it replaced cream cheese you would never know the difference. And the sodium savings are significant as cheeses are among the hardest ingredient to cut sodium from.

A low sodium cream cheese alternative

The sodium in Mascarpone cheese makes it an easy choice as a substitute for cream cheese as a low sodium alternative. But like all good things of course it has a catch; it has a higher fat content. Mascarpone is even higher than original style cream cheese for fat. But the low sodium level would be a clear winner if I had to pick between the two. Check out the comparisons below:

Mascarpone nutrition label
Mascarpone nutrition label
Values per 1 oz./14g Sodium Total Fat Sat. Fat
Typical Cream cheese original 110 mg 10 g 6 g
Typical cream cheese low fat 120 mg 6 g 4 g
Mascarpone cheese 10 mg 14 g 10 g

Sodium in cream cheese

Original cream cheese nutrition label

Original type cream cheese contains 110 mg of sodium per 1 oz. and and the low fat version contain ever more at 120 mg.

Mascarpone – a low sodium cream cheese alternative with a catch

Mascarpone has a good bit higher fat content than regular cream cheese, which gives the richer luxurious melt on your tongue quality. Both can be used in place of the other, but there is a difference in flavor and texture. Regular cream cheese is more robust when spreading with what I would call a “twang” of a lemony finish flavor.

Where can I find mascarpone cheese?

It can be a little misleading to find mascarpone where you would initially think.  By the cream cheese right? Nope it’s usually up near the fresh cheese or deli section of the store. It usually comes in a little plastic container with a lid. The BelGioioso Mascarpone  brand seems to be the most common in the grocery store that I have seen. I had to ask if they carried mascarpone and when once told the location I now see that most stores carry it. It does cost a little more but since it’s not really used that much and when making a special meal it’s worth it.

What can mascarpone cheese be used for?

Just like cream cheese, Mascarpone can be added to both sweet and savory dishes, providing a backdrop of rich, creamy and velvety suave polished taste to a meal. Try in my Low Sodium Beef and Penne – Instant Pot recipe.

Use it on the side with a bowl of fruit or berries. Spread on a cracker with any other tounge tickling topping. There is no reason not to use it anywhere you would regular cream cheese.

Mascarpone makes an excellent appetizer
Mascarpone makes an excellent appetizer

How long will mascarpone cheese last once opened?

Mascarpone usually comes in little tubs and should be stored covered in the container in the fridge. Once opened it should be used generally within a week, or it can be frozen for up to 3-4 months.

Can you freeze mascarpone?

When freezing mascarpone, place original package or tub inside a freezer bag to help prevent any freezer burn.  Mascarpone that has been frozen can lose some of its creamy texture and flavor, and will be best incorporated (melted) in cooked dishes like casseroles, soups or other creamy savory dishes. But not on say a cracker or fruit by itself.  

Mascarpone cracker and rasberry
Mascarpone cracker and rasberry

Using cream cheese is not an everyday ingredient and not used that often. Mascarpone cheese will provide that creamy cheesy background flavor that many dishes need. But it will zip up your dish with a significant sodium savings.

What are your thoughts about Mascarpone cheese as a low sodium alternative to cream cheese; have you used and liked it? What about the trade off of lower sodium to a higher fat content?

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