Mascarpone is a fresh cheese from Italy which is made from cream coagulated with either citric or tartaric acid. Similar to cream cheese, this rich, creamy cheese can be used in desserts as well as savory dishes. Probably the most popular dish using mascarpone would Tiramisu. This dessert made with layers of ladyfingers, espresso, mascarpone, and cocoa powder.
Most of the mascarpone you find in grocery stores in the U.S. are made here, although some imports can be found in specialty stores as well as online. This fresh cheese product does not keep for very long, so it is best to purchase it right before use.
If you're looking for a mascarpone substitute and you need an alternative, replace with one of these options:
Additionally, you can use any of these quick mascarpone cheese substitute recipes that actually heat milk or cream with an acidic buttermilk to make a good approximation of the real thing. If you want to really make the cheese, see the recipe link below.
Cream, citric or tartaric acid
If you are up for the challenge (not a huge one) and you have a few cheesemaking supplies at home, try this making Mascarpone Cheese Recipe. Otherwise, see other replacements for mascarpone above.
Most well-stocked grocery stores sell at least one brand of mascarpone. Walmart stores stock the BelGioioso brand cheese, which you can purchase in-store or online. Most of the time, it is packed in a small plastic tub. Costco stores also stock mascarpone.
The two kinds of cheese are similar in the sense they are both types of fresh cheese and are soft and spreadable. Mascarpone has a buttery texture and a slightly acidic flavor. You can see the substitutes above for how to doctor up cream cheese to make a mascarpone substitute.
While ricotta cheese is creamy, it has a dryer texture and lacks the tart, buttery feel of mascarpone. Ricotta is more suitable for your lasagna than your tiramisu, so this is not a good alternative to mascarpone.