A silky and decadent dairy free cream cheese frosting with just the right amount of tang. You can use this recipe to make cream cheese frosting with regular or dairy free alternatives! Perfect for pumpkin bars, red velvet cake, and healthy carrot cake.
When it comes to frosting, cream cheese frosting takes the cake. It’s silky, thick, slightly tangy, and so incredibly decadent. It’s just as good, if not better, than my vegan chocolate frosting recipe. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s really why people are so into red velvet cake and carrot cake, myself included.
Given that I’m a cake-for-the-frosting kind of person, I’ve had it on my list for quite some time to come up with the best dairy free cream cheese frosting. And I’m incredibly excited to share that’s it’s even better than I expected. It’s easy to make, easy to customize, and can be used in so many ways.
And the best bart? This recipe makes plenty of frosting so you can add enough to create a thick layer on top of sheet cakes, cookies, and lick some from the spatula!
Cream Cheese Substitutes in Baking
The best cream cheese substitute in baking is dairy free cream cheese. There are now plenty of dairy free cream cheese options available that are made from almond milk or cashews. You can easily swap in dairy free alternatives in baking and frosting recipes with one important distinction: dairy free cream cheese is available in a tub, so it’s softer and spreadable. When you make cream cheese frosting, you typically use block cream cheese because it’s thicker and has less water. This is why the texture changes slightly. Don’t worry—I’ve accounted for that in the recipe below and have some extra tips!
In our recipe testing, we tested this recipe with two dairy free options, including Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese and Miyokos Creamery Organic Plain Cashew Milk Cream Cheese. While both options work, I recommend Kite Hill because of the flavor and texture.
We also tested this recipe with regular cream cheese. I love Green Valley Creamery Organic Cream Cheese which is made with milk from pasture-raised cows. It’s silky and thick. It is lactose free, so if you’re sensitive to the lactose in dairy, it’s a great option.
Ready to dive right into a bowl of frosting? Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- Dairy free cream cheese (note: regular cream cheese also works)
- Organic vegetable shortening or ghee
- Organic confectioners’ sugar
- Pure vanilla extract
I like using healthier ingredients that use substitutes without lots of additives and vegetable oils. All you really need to do is swap out the butter for ghee or palm shortening (my favorite), and swap out the cream cheese.
How to Make the BEST Dairy Free Cream Cheese Frosting
Here’s how to make this frosting in two easy steps:
- Beat: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and coconut oil together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat until smooth and no clumps remain.
- Chill: Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For best results, chill the frosting for 30 minutes to help it firm up.
What is Ghee?
Ghee (or clarified butter) is butter that has been simmered and strained so that all of the milk solids have been removed. This means that ghee doesn’t contain lactose or casein. If you’re sensitive to dairy, ghee is a wonderful alternative to butter in baking. If you want to be completely dairy free or vegan, use organic palm shortening.
Mixing the Frosting
For best results, you’ll need to use either a hand mixer or stand mixer for this recipe. Use the flat beater attachment. If you have a KitchenAid mixer, the BeaterBlade is the perfect attachment because it scrapes the sides as it mixes. If you need to make a double batch, you will need a cover or pouring shield to stop the powdered sugar from decorating your entire kitchen (I speak from experience).
Paleo Cream Cheese Frosting
So, let’s talk powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is just sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. You can easily do this on your own. Just take your favorite sugar and throw it in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until broken down and fine. I personally love using this organic powdered sugar in this recipe, which is derived from organic cane sugar.
If you’re one of my OG paleo peeps, you’ll know that cane sugar isn’t exactly paleo. However, I personally always strive to use the most unrefined, wholesome ingredients in my baking. And coconut sugar is a great and paleo-friendly option for sweetened baked goods.
You can easily make paleo cream cheese frosting with powdered coconut sugar. Just add 3 cups coconut sugar and 3 tablespoons tapioca flour to a high speed blender or food processor and process for 1-2 minutes.
Coconut sugar has a deeper caramel flavor and color, so that may change the appearance and taste slightly.
Can I Use This Recipe With Layer Cakes?
You can use dairy free cream cheese frosting on top of my healthy pumpkin bars, or use it as a frosting for red velvet cake or carrot cake! It also makes an incredible spread or topping for spiced cake, banana bread, and sugar cookies! I also enjoy it with fruit or right off my finger.
When it comes to frosting a layer cake, less is more. If you try to do thick frosting layers in between your cake layers, your frosting will spill out. I recommend making the frosting ahead of time and chilling the frosting it in the fridge overnight. Then, whip it for about a minute in a mixer to get it smooth before frosting your cake. Use a thin layer in between cake layers, and chill the cake to let the layers set if needed before frosting the outside.
Can I Make Substitutions?
Sure can! The recipe list is short, but here are a few easy swaps you can make in this recipe:
- Dairy Free Cream Cheese: You can use regular plain cream cheese in this recipe, too!
- Organic Vegetable Shortening: Use ghee or unsalted butter. Just make sure it’s soft and room temperature.
- Organic Confectioners’ Sugar: I have not tried sugar substitutes or natural alternatives. If you have a food processor, you can make your own powdered coconut sugar to make this paleo.
Tips For Success
- Use a high quality dairy free cream cheese. I like Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese.
- Make sure your ghee or coconut oil is solid. Nothing should be melted!
- Have patience when whipping the frosting. Start slow, then increase the speed to make it light and fluffy.
- Add more powdered sugar if your frosting is too thin.
- Throw the frosting in the fridge for 30-45 minute before frosting cakes. You can mix it quickly in the mixer again to get it spreadable.
- Don’t add liquid. It will make the cream cheese too soft.
- If you want to use this recipe to frost a layered cake, let the frosting chill overnight to firm up, then whip it in a mixer for 1 minute before frosting. Use a thin layer in between layers.
Can You Freeze Cream Cheese Frosting?
Yes! You can freeze cream cheese frosting in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then let it rest on the counter to bring it to room temperature. Whip with a spoon before spreading on cakes, cookies, or fruit!
Stocking the Pantry
I personally use Thrive Market for most of my pantry needs because it saves me some cash—especially when it comes to commonly used items like blanched almond flour, maple syrup, and coconut oil. For a complete list of my recommend pantry items and what I use in my home, check out my favorite kitchen tools and pantry items.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
- 4-Ingredient Vegan Caramel Sauce
- Vegan Chocolate Frosting (Paleo, Dairy Free)
- Paleo Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Healthy Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free, Paleo)
- Healthy Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz dairy free cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup organic vegetable shortening or ghee (no dairy solids), softened to room temperature
- 3 cups organic confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Beat: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or beater attachment, beat the cream cheese and shortening together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat until smooth and no clumps remain.
- Chill: For best results, chill the frosting for 30-60 minutes to help it firm up. Whip it in the mixer for about a minute after chilling if needed. Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- I tested both Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese and Miyokos Creamery Organic Plain Cashew Milk Cream Cheese and both work great in this recipe. I prefer the flavor and texture of Kite Hill.
- If your ghee is hard, you may want to soften your ghee in the microwave for 5-10 seconds so it’s spreadable. Do NOT melt it.
- If you make the frosting the day before, just store it in the fridge and whip it again in the mixer for a minute or two to make it nice and spreadable.
- Yes, we tested regular cream cheese, and it works great in this recipe too!
- If you want to use this to frost a layer cake, I highly recommend letting it chill overnight in the fridge, then whipping it for about in a minute in the mixer to get it smooth. Only use a thin layer in between cake layers. Add a little more powdered sugar if your cream cheese frosting is too thin.
What did you think about this dairy free cream cheese frosting recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
Recipe by: Noelle Tarr / Coconuts and Kettlebells | Photography by: Casey Colodny / The Mindful Hapa and Noelle Tarr