I stood in front of the shelves, carefully scanning each one. Box by box, tub by tub, row by row, from top to bottom… And three more times, just in case I missed it.
I pulled my sweatshirt’s sleeves down over my fingers and balled up my hands inside of the fleece. I had searched long enough that my skin was turning ghostly white and numb from the cool air emanating from the refrigerated section, yet my mind was hot and racing.
“How am I supposed to make cream cheese frosting… without cream cheese??”
In the months leading up to that day, I had walked down the dairy aisle during every trip I made to the store to look for my favorite light cream cheese, never spotting it yet refusing to give up hope…
Until that day arrived – the one I knew would come – and this classic carrot cake was on the menu. A cake that needed frosting. And not just any frosting… But cream cheese frosting.
Then I turned a little desperate.
I hadn’t found my preferred products ever since the cream cheese shortage from last fall. Although stores had begun stocking regular and flavored types again, the ones I loved never appeared.
I finally sighed, recognizing that standing there longer and losing the circulation in my fingers and toes wouldn’t make my favorite cream cheese magically appear, and I grabbed the grocery basket at my feet. As I strode towards the front of the store, an idea popped into my head.
“Maybe I can make cream cheese frosting without cream cheese… I mainly need its smooth texture and hint of tang. What if I tried…”
I doubled back, slipped two different products into my basket, and felt a glimmer of hope as I headed home.
When I served that carrot cake to friends later, not a single person guessed my secret ingredient… Or that I had figured out how to make cream cheese frosting without cream cheese – and that it tasted almost identical!
With how quick and easy this frosting recipe is – and how much everyone enjoyed it! – I’m already planning to use it more often!
QUICK OVERVIEW – “CREAM CHEESE” FROSTING (WITHOUT CREAM CHEESE!)
Difficulty: Easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Sweet – but not too sweet! – with a hint of cream cheese-like tang.
Texture: Fairly thick, smooth, and luxuriously creamy.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE “CREAM CHEESE” FROSTING (WITHOUT CREAM CHEESE!)
Let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make “cream cheese” frosting without cream cheese. They’re a little interesting and untraditional (no butter or powdered sugar in this frosting!), but if you’ve made any of my other frosting recipes before, this one is fairly similar.
Spreadable cheese wedges. This is the crazy (and possibly brilliant?) idea that popped into my head… Spreadable cheese wedges! My mom often bought them to smear across toasted English muffins for breakfast when I was in high school and college. It turns out they make fantastic frosting too!
I used The Laughing Cow Creamy Light wedges. Although I think they’re theoretically supposed to taste like Swiss cheese… I hate Swiss cheese – but I love these wedges! The Creamy Light wedges don’t have that sharp Swiss cheese taste that I avoid like the plague; it’s more of a mellow and creamy tang, similar to cream cheese’s flavor. (I also love their Creamy Aged White Cheddar wedges!)
These spreadable cheese wedges have a really soft and creamy consistency. Not exactly a surprise… “Creamy” is in their name! 😉
That actually means it’s even easier to make this frosting compared to regular cream cheese frosting. With the latter, it’s important to set out the cream cheese well in advance so it softens enough. With these spreadable cheese wedges, they’re naturally creamy and soft, even when chilled, so you can use them straight from the refrigerator. No softening time required!
Hint: I generally use a 1-to-1 ratio of cream cheese and the next ingredient to make frosting. To ensure this “cream cheese-less” frosting didn’t taste too much like Swiss cheese, I tested a few different ratios. I couldn’t detect quite enough of that cream cheese-like tang with a 1-to-3 ratio, but the 1-to-2 ratio turned out smooth, creamy, a little tangy, and absolutely perfect!
Greek yogurt. This is a staple ingredient in my healthier frosting recipes! It’s allows you to thicken frosting without any butter or powdered sugar.
Over the years, I’ve found that FAGE plain nonfat Greek yogurt produces the best frosting. It doesn’t have much of a yogurt tang, especially compared to other brands. It’s also incredibly thick, which helps create a more traditional frosting consistency.
Hint: Not all brands and products yield great frosting. I generally avoid using Greek yogurt that contains any ingredients besides milk, live active cultures, or cultured pasteurized milk (such as cornstarch, sugar, fructose, etc!) because those Greek yogurts tend to be thinner and a little runny, and they can often be more tangy or tart too.
Sweetener. There are a few different options! I use this liquid stevia or granulated sucralose the most (depending on who’s eating it and how sensitive or picky they are!).
Tip: Many stevia brands and products have different sweetness levels, so they’re not necessarily 1-for-1 substitutes for each other. For the best results, I highly recommend using the same one I do! I love it sweet flavor and don’t notice a strange aftertaste like with some other stevia products. I buy it online here because that’s the best price I’ve found, and you can use it to make all of these recipes of mine too. (I promise it’s not a one-time-use ingredient!)
If you don’t have (or like!) either of those, then some other granular sweeteners will work, including confectioners’ style erythritol, Truvia, and regular powdered sugar. However, I do not recommend substituting “regular” liquid sweeteners like honey, pure maple syrup, or agave. They’ll add too much liquid volume to the frosting and turn it into a thin, runny icing instead!
Instant pudding mix. This is what creates an almost buttercream-like consistency! To make your frosting taste even more like traditional cream cheese frosting, use sugar-free, fat-free cheesecake instant pudding mix. (It’s not always easy to find, but the vanilla flavor is a good back-up option!)
Hint: You just need the dry pudding mix. Don’t prepare it according to the package’s instructions!
Regular pudding mix, cornstarch, and traditional gelatin all require heat to activate their thickening properties. In contrast, instant pudding mix is special because its thickening properties are activated at room temperature – or even with cold ingredients! That’s key to making this frosting… It’s not exactly a good idea to heat up those spreadable cheese wedges or Greek yogurt! 😉
Tip: If you can’t find instant pudding mix or don’t want to use it, then you can omit it. Your “cream cheese” frosting just won’t be quite as thick!
HOW TO MAKE “CREAM CHEESE” FROSTING WITHOUT CREAM CHEESE
Now that you have your ingredients ready, let’s quickly talk about how to make “cream cheese” frosting without cream cheese. It’s really easy. You just need 5 minutes!
Use a mixer. I’ve found that regular hand-held electric mixers work the best. Although they’ll also work, stand mixers don’t always beat the ingredients quite as evenly, and you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl more often.
Set a timer. For exactly 2 minutes – no more and no less! That’s the amount of time that you need to beat the ingredients to fully activate the instant pudding mix’s thickening properties. When those 2 minutes are up, then it’s time to…
Chill. Cover the top of your bowl with foil, and slip your frosting in the refrigerator. It needs to chill for at least 2 hours to finish that thickening process and allow the flavors to meld. After that, your “cream cheese” frosting should have a wonderful flavor and almost buttercream-like consistency: thick, smooth, and deliciously creamy!
Note: Because the cheese wedges are softer than regular cream cheese, this “cream cheese” frosting doesn’t hold its shape quite as well as my other cream cheese frosting recipes when piped. However, it still works perfectly well for spreading on top of cakes, cupcakes, and cookies!
WAYS TO USE “CREAM CHEESE” FROSTING (MADE WITHOUT CREAM CHEESE!)
This frosting would be a delicious addition to lots of desserts! I’ve included some ways to use this “cream cheese” frosting below, but these are just ideas to get you started. There are plenty of other things you can frost with it too – the sky’s the limit!
- Healthy Classic Carrot Cake (seen in the photo above!)
- Healthy Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Healthy Pumpkin Cake
- Healthier Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Healthier Red Velvet Cookie Bars
- Healthy Carrot Cake Bars
- Healthy Gingerbread Cupcakes
- Healthy Cinnamon Roll Cookie Bars
- Healthy Banana Cupcakes
- Healthy Zucchini Cookie Bars
FAQS ABOUT “CREAM CHEESE” FROSTING (WITHOUT CREAM CHEESE!)
Is this “cream cheese” frosting sugar free, gluten free, low calorie, or clean eating?
Yes! This frosting is sugar free, gluten free, and low calorie. If you omit the instant pudding mix, then it’s also clean eating friendly.
I can’t find the exact same spreadable cheese wedges that you used. Can I substitute something else?
If you can’t find the Creamy Light wedges, then The Laughing Cow Creamy Aged White Cheddar wedges would be the next best thing! I haven’t tried any other brands or substitutions, so I can’t personally vouch for anything else. (But if you are able to find light cream cheese, then you can use it to make these regular cream cheese frosting recipes of mine instead!)
What’s the best Greek yogurt to use to make frosting?
FAGE plain nonfat Greek yogurt! It’s really thick, and it doesn’t have nearly as strong of a yogurt “tang” compared to some other brands. See the “Greek yogurt” header above for more information – and which Greek yogurt to avoid!
Can I substitute another sweetener in place of the liquid stevia?
Yes! I’ve shared the best alternatives in the Notes section of the recipe. Also, something to keep in mind… Many stevia brands and products have different sweetness levels, so they’re not necessarily 1-for-1 substitutes for one another!
Can I substitute something else for the instant pudding mix?
Unfortunately, no. If you’d like to make this “cream cheese” frosting as thick as traditional frosting, then you’ll need to use the instant pudding mix. See the “instant pudding mix” header above for more information!
Can I make this frosting ahead of time?
Yes – and that’s actually best! This “cream cheese” frosting needs to chill for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld and to make it as thick as traditional frosting.
How should I store this cream cheese frosting? And how long does it last?
Store the frosting in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It should keep up to a week (if not longer!). It mainly depends on how fresh your Greek yogurt and cheese wedges are!
Ready to make your own batch of “cream cheese” frosting – without cream cheese?? 😉 And when you do, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthier “cream cheese” frosting!
Healthier "Cream Cheese" Frosting
- 1 ⅓ cups (320g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt (see Notes!)
- 6 wedges (126g total) The Laughing Cow Creamy Light spreadable cheese wedges (see Notes!)
- 2 servings (16g) sugar-free, fat-free cheesecake instant pudding mix (see Notes!)
- ¾ tsp liquid stevia (or adjusted to taste – see Notes!)
- Add the Greek yogurt, spreadable cheese wedges, instant pudding mix, and liquid stevia to a large bowl. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer for 2 minutes. Cover the top of the bowl with foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. (If refrigerating longer, transfer the frosting to an airtight container with a lid instead.)
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting – 2 Ways!
♡ Healthy Chocolate Frosting – 3 Ways!
♡ Healthy Vanilla Bean Frosting
♡ Healthy Cinnamon Frosting
♡ Healthy Raspberry Frosting
♡ Healthy Strawberry Frosting
♡ Healthy Peanut Butter Frosting
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy frosting recipes!
What a brilliant idea! Love Laughing Cow since I found them in high school! Now I love them more….
Thank you so much! I feel the same way… There’s a LOT to love about The Laughing Cow wedges! 😉
Ashley Urke | Domestic Fashionista says...
I love that you come up with the most clever things Amy! This sounds delicious and I hate waiting for cream cheese to soften! haha!
You’re always the sweetest, Ashely! Thank you!! ♡ I hate waiting for cream cheese to soften too… I’m just too impatient! 😉
Thanks for this!! I’m so glad I found your blog!! One question though, what’s the pudding mix’s job? Is it the sugar substitute of a “normal” frosting?
(I don’t mean for sweetening but for thickening the frosting!)
Hello. Thanks for the recipe. I’m a bit confused on the pudding amount. It says 2 servings. Does that mean 1/2 the box? Thank you.