Tofu ricotta is a dairy-free alternative to classic ricotta made using tofu and a handful of pantry staples. It's ready in just 5 minutes and is perfect in vegan lasagna, stuffed shells, or as a pasta sauce!
If you're looking for a dairy-free or vegan ricotta substitute, look no further than this easy tofu ricotta!
I'll admit that I'm used to using tofu mostly in recipes like General Tso's tofu or sesame tofu, but tofu is delicious in more varieties than just baked tofu or air-fried tofu (like in this vegan french onion dip!).
In this post, I'm sharing how to make basic vegan ricotta and how to make an herby vegan ricotta that stands on its own.
- Quick recipe: Easy to make in just 5 minutes using less than 10 main ingredients. The tofu doesn't even need to be pressed first.
- Flavors: This recipe includes a plain ricotta option and an herby ricotta option. I originally made tofu ricotta years ago for my pesto lasagna recipe. Since then I've tweaked and improved the recipe into the creamy, sweet-yet-savory dairy-free ricotta that it is today.
- Equipment: Vegan ricotta cheese can be made with a food processor or by hand, though using a food processor is quicker.
- Where to use: Perfect in lasagna, pasta, and dips! This tofu ricotta works as a 1:1 replacement for dairy ricotta in most recipes, and it's fantastic in vegan lasagna.
- Tofu: Choose firm or extra-firm tofu. Silken and soft tofu do not work. The tofu does not need to be pressed but I recommend patting it dry before crumbling.
- Olive oil adds creaminess. You can use an equal amount of any neutral oil like avocado oil, canola, etc.
- Nutritional yeast adds depth and cheesiness.
- Miso adds saltiness and a lot of flavor. Use leftover miso in vegan mac and cheese, sweet potato grain bowls, and even vegetarian caesar salad.
- Lemon juice adds brightness. One lemon usually provides 3-4 tablespoons of juice.
- Sugar may seem like a less intuitive addition, but traditional ricotta is naturally on the sweet side. We add just a touch of sugar to imitate that sweetness.
- Parsley and basil can be added for an herby twist. I also add salt-free Italian seasoning to really drive home the herby flavors.
Step by step instructions
For smooth ricotta: This is the way that I make ricotta. Use the first speed/low speed on the food processor to blend until smooth.
For chunky tofu ricotta: Pulse the food processor instead of leaving it running. Or mash the tofu by hand.
- Remove tofu from its package. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to gently blot off any excess liquid. You do not need to press the tofu. Use clean hands to crumble large tofu pieces into the food processor (similar to how you would make a tofu scramble).
- Add the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Process on low speed until ultra-smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Whisk together miso and water in a small bowl. This helps to better distribute the miso in the ricotta. Add in remaining ingredients: sugar, nutritional yeast, miso.
Plain: For plain ricotta, stop after step 3.
Herby: Add in ½ cup fresh parsley, ½ cup fresh basil, and 1 tablespoon salt-free Italian seasoning. Pulse until just broken down for textured ricotta or process until the ricotta is green for a smooth result.
Yes, crumbly tofu ricotta can be made by hand but it will be more difficult to make super smooth ricotta. In a large bowl, mash the tofu using a potato masher or a strong fork until it is broken down and crumbly. Mix in the recipe ingredients and stir to combine.
Yes, you can make this recipe up to 3 days in advance of using. Stir the tofu ricotta before using, as some liquid naturally pools on the top after refrigerating.
Storage: For best quality, keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. You may notice some liquid pooling on top of the ricotta after refrigeration. This is normal, just stir the ricotta again before using it.
Freezing: Tofu ricotta cheese freezes well. The mixture will thicken up and become more crumbly after freezing and thawing. You can enjoy the tofu as-is after thawing or add it back to the food processor to make it smoother.
Tofu ricotta works best in recipes that use ricotta as a flavor component and not for structural integrity. For example, I love using it in pasta but I wouldn't recommend using it as a baking swap in pancakes or muffins.
- Lasagna is the most obvious place to use ricotta. I developed this recipe for vegan pesto lasagna and let me tell you: you do not want to miss this recipe!
- Pasta sauce: My tortellini with roasted butternut squash and ricotta is an example of how to use ricotta as a pasta sauce. Use tofu ricotta in place of the ricotta in the recipe for a dairy-free option.
- Stuffed pasta shells are another delicious way to use ricotta.
- Dollop on pizza in place of cheese. Try it on these pesto pizzas in place of mozzarella or make your own homemade vegan pizza.
- Spread on toast for breakfast. Drizzle with agave syrup, cinnamon, and pumpkin seeds for a sweet option or try with mushrooms and garlic for a savory twist.
Looking for more plant-based basics?
Check out my tofu 101 guide if you're interested in learning more about how to use tofu in everyday cooking.
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Basic Tofu Ricotta
- ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon salt-free Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic
- Remove tofu from its package. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to gently blot off any excess liquid. Use clean hands to crumble large tofu pieces into a food processor with a standard blade attachment.
- Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Process on low speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed.
- Whisk together miso and 1 teaspoon water. Add in remaining ingredients: nutritional yeast, salt, sugar, and the miso mixture. Process until well-combined. Taste for salt, sugar, and lemon juice.
- To make herby ricotta: Add parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, and garlic to the ricotta. Pulse until just combined to keep a neutral color, or process on low until completely smooth for a green color. Taste for herbs and garlic.
- Tofu: Use firm or extra firm tofu. This recipe does not work with silken tofu.
- Storage: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. Some liquid may appear on the surface after refrigeration, this is normal. Stir before using.
- Freezing: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge. It may need to be processed again because tofu texture can change after freezing.
- For more textured (chunky) tofu ricotta: Pulse the food processor instead of leaving it running. Or mash the tofu by hand.