Cream cheese has always been a staple ingredient in many recipes. Its tangy and sweet flavor adds a distinct taste to your sauces, cheesecake, and many other dishes. You can also use it with your favorite bagel for a hearty breakfast!
Yes, cream cheese is versatile and super creamy but it entails some health risks. Its high-fat content can clog your arteries and cause cardiovascular disease. However, we can’t ignore the fact that cream cheese is a good source of vitamin A and riboflavin.
It’s up to you to weigh the benefits and downsides, but it’s also nice to know some good substitutes for cream cheese in case you’ll want a healthier option or simply ran out of it in the kitchen.
So, what makes a good cream cheese alternative?
A good substitute for cream cheese is those healthier ones, like Neufchatel and Ricotta cheese. They have low-fat content but still demonstrate the same distinct flavor and texture of cream cheese. Keep in mind the purpose for which you need to use this type of cheese so you’ll know what suitable alternative to choose.
Before we get into details, let’s get to know more about cream cheese.
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Cream cheese is a fresh cheese with at least 33% fat and moisture content of around 55% as required by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It became popular in the 1800s and was manufactured mostly in Philadelphia. While made in the US, cream cheese is consumed around the world these days.
The texture of cream cheese is soft and smooth. The flavor is mildly sweet, milky, and slightly tangy. It’s meant to be consumed fresh because it’s not naturally matured.
This fresh cheese is made from cream or sometimes a mixture of milk and cream. They separate into curds when you add lactic acid bacteria. The cream is formed after you drain the whey, heat the curds, and add some stabilizers.
There are many types of cream cheese available in the market, such as regular, whipped, and double-cream. Hence, the nutritional profile may vary depending on the product and brand of cream cheese. But generally, an ounce of regular cream cheese offers 99 calories, 2 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 5% of the Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin B2, and 10% of the DV of Vitamin A.
Cream cheese has small amounts of antioxidants to fight the damaging effects of free radicals. It may also have some probiotic effects because lactic acid bacteria are introduced to the cream as a starter culture. However, cream cheese is low in protein and has a fairly short shelf-life.
Cream cheese is very versatile. You can use it in many recipes and dishes, like:
Whether you run out of cream cheese in your kitchen or want to have a healthier option, here are some good substitutes of cream cheese that you can try.
Also known as triple cream cheese, mascarpone contains almost all similar health values of regular cream cheese. Mascarpone is creamier and contains more fat while cream cheese is slightly more acidic. But the bottom line is, they have the same flavor and almost the same texture.
The taste of mascarpone is slightly sweet and milky. Its texture is uncommonly creamy, thick, and smooth. In fact, mascarpone has double the amount of fat than American cream cheese which almost melts in your mouth.
Mascarpone is rich in calcium and low in sodium. However, it’s high in fat content making it dangerous for those with cardiovascular disease. It’s a good substitute for texture and flavor but not for your health.
Mascarpone is naturally sweet and smooth making it a good cream cheese substitute in frosting and desserts. More specifically, it tastes good as a frosting for cupcakes and cakes. Use it on top of your fruit bowl as dessert if you want to add a creamy element.
Swap cream cheese with mascarpone in cheesecake to give a richer taste. Thicken your soup or stuff chicken breasts with this versatile cheese. With its smooth texture, you can also use it as a bagel spread and a tasty dip.
Mascarpone also works well in savory dishes because of its rich texture that comes from its high butterfat content. It can be used as pasta sauce, in scrambled eggs, and nearly anything!
Because of its high saturated fat content, mascarpone isn’t recommended for people who deal with high cholesterol and hypertension. You can look for other healthier options or use them in moderation.
You can find mascarpone in the dairy aisle of many large grocery stores or specialty shops. We recommend Gelmini Mascarpone because of its freshness and great taste.
This semi-soft cheese is made from cow’s milk which develops a more pungent flavor when aged. The young, fresh variant is what you need to substitute cream cheese in many recipes. The young, fresh Neufchatel has the closest flavor and texture with low-fat cream cheese.
The texture of Neufchatel is somewhat firm, spreadable, and grainy. The flavor is kind of nutty, sharp, and salty. Compared to cream cheese, this semi-soft cheese has ⅓ less fat making it a healthier option. It’s creamier and grainier but slightly less rich in flavor
Just like any type of cheese, Neufchatel is high in calcium to aid for better bone health. However, it’s high in sodium making you high at risk for high blood pressure when consumed in high doses. The American Neufchatel has fewer calories than cream cheese and is moister.
Neufchatel cheese is a good substitute for recipes that call for low-fat cream cheese. You can use it for the low-fat frosting for cakes and cupcakes. It also works great with mashed potatoes.
A grainy Neufchatel is a healthier substitute for cream cheese in your morning toast and bagel. Both kinds of cheese have a tangy flavor and spreadable consistency. You can also substitute it in recipes for dips with good results, although you might see a difference in texture.
The American Neufchatel cheese is a healthy substitute for cream cheese in cheesecake recipes. Unlike the French Neufchatel, the American version has a closer texture and flavor to cream cheese. If you like the fattening flavor of cream cheese, simply throw in a little butter.
Yes, we have mentioned that Neufchatel can be used as a cream cheese substitute in cheesecake recipes but not for quick cheesecake recipes. These fast cheesecake recipes depend on the firmness of cream cheese and using Neufchatel might only produce an output that’s softer than desired.
Ricotta cheese is another great substitute for cream cheese because of its flavor and availability. It’s less sweet, harder, and has a grainier texture than cream cheese. It still has quite a bit of fat and cholesterol, so this isn’t a healthy option for you.
If you want to cut back on high cholesterol, choose low-fat ricotta which offers many health benefits. It’s rich in calcium and protein, which is important for healthy growth. It contains less sodium making it perfect for those with hypertension problems.
When selecting the freshest ricotta cheese, look at the color and make sure that it’s snowy white. Yellow is an indication of old age and deterioration. You can store the ricotta up to six months in the freezer for extended use.
The flavor and texture of ricotta are best for baking. It also works great in savory food recipes. Try adding equal amounts of plain yogurt if you want to make the texture creamier.
Mix equal amounts of heavy cream and ricotta cheese to get the right texture and flavor when making cheesecake or cake frosting. You can try to add some sugar to add sweetness to this mild-tasting cheese. For gravies, you can use the ricotta cheese as-is.
Substituting cream cheese with ricotta in a baking recipe means a result that’s a little dry and less smooth in texture. It lacks the tang flavor so you may add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to solve the problem. To add more moisture, consider adding some mashed avocado into the recipe.
Ricotta is made from lactose-rich whey so it’s not recommended for lactose-intolerant people. Since it has a firm texture, it’s not ideal for spreading either.
Made from whole milk, Galbani is one of the best ricotta cheese brands you can find on the market today. Pastacheese Ricotta Salata is saltier and offers a unique freshness for extra sharpness and milky taste.
If you want to cut down on unhealthy saturated fats, cottage cheese is your ideal cream cheese substitute. Cottage cheese is rich in potassium, calcium, and folic acid. However, it’s high in sodium so you better consume a low-sodium variety to prevent the risk of high blood pressure.
Cottage cheese has a chunky texture with creamy wetness. The taste is somewhat milky or creamy, depending on the milk fat levels used in production. The higher the milk fat content, the creamier the taste will be. Non-fat cottage cheese versions can have a bit of sour taste as an extra flavor.
Cottage cheese lacks the sweetness, thickness, and smoothness of cream cheese, so it works best on desserts and baking recipes. To get a smooth texture, mix this fresh cheese with plain yogurt and strain overnight with a cheesecloth.
You can use the smooth cottage cheese in dips and gravies. It also makes a nice spread for your bagel.
To use for cheesecakes, strain the cottage cheese and add a similar amount of heavy cream. It will make the cake more compact and less crumbly. For frostings, you can run the cottage cheese on a food processor and make a nice cheese frosting.
Cottage cheese isn’t recommended for people with lactose intolerance because it can cause digestive issues. You might want to reduce the salt when using cottage cheese for savory recipes. The high sodium content might cause bloating, water retention, and weight gain.
The Breakstone’s Low Fat Cottage Cheese is a good purchase because it’s almost as good as fresh cottage cheese. It contains 2% of milk fat which makes it a healthier option than regular cream cheese.
Greek yogurt also makes a good substitute for cream cheese because it’s fat-free and packed with protein. It also offers many health benefits such as improved bone health, enhanced metabolism, and a healthy digestive system. Compared to regular yogurt, the Greek style is thicker and creamier.
Do you know that you can turn plain Greek yogurt into cream cheese? It’s actually easy and here’s how-
In a bowl with strainer, put some yogurt in a cheesecloth or coffee filter to let the excess whey drip out into the bowl. Do this overnight and you’ll be amazed at how the yogurt becomes thicker when you see it in the morning! One cup of Greek yogurt creates about ½ cup of cream cheese substitute when drained for 8-12 hours.
Strained Greek yogurt is less sweet but creamy. It works best as a spread on your bagel and dips for your favorite chips. Try adding shallots and chopped onions onto the thick yogurt to add more flavor.
You can use this yogurt in frostings and baked recipes. Simply add some honey or maple syrup to add a little sweetness for frosting. Greek yogurt also works well with savory dishes.
The low-fat content of yogurt is good for your health, however, it’s not good for classic cheesecake recipes. You need high-fat content to make rich and delicious cheesecakes. If you like to make a cheesecake that’s something light and fluffy, you can use this recipe.
The best Greek yogurt that makes a good cream cheese alternative is the plain version. Upstate Farms and Chobani are two of the best brands that we can find on Amazon right now. Upstate Farms contain 0% fat while Chobani has 4% fat for that extra milky taste.
Made from pinto beans, hummus is another good substitute for cream cheese. It’s low in fat and packed with many nutrients, like vitamin B and iron. It’s also a good source of fiber and protein making it a healthy option for vegetarians.
Yes, hummus does contain some fat but of the healthy kind which helps in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Supermarkets are selling hummus in bulks, so it is easily available.
The best hummus is incredibly creamy, yet in some way light and fluffy. The taste is slightly nutty and tangy because of the tahini with hints of garlic and lemon juice. You can make your own hummus or buy from a store.
Although the taste isn’t exactly the same with cream cheese, hummus is best used as a healthy spread for hot bagels and English muffins. Simply mix plain hummus with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, minced garlic, minced onion, and sesame oil. See the exact measurements here.
You can also substitute hummus for cream cheese in dips. Get creative and pair it with your favorite vegetables and chips.
It might sound odd to you, but you can actually make a cheesecake with hummus. Use coconut milk instead of water to give a creamy taste. Sweeten it with a tiny amount of maple syrup and vanilla for that extra aroma. Lastly, add some lemon juice and sea salt to give the cake a tangy taste.
Hummus isn’t recommended for desserts because the taste is way different than cream cheese. It also won’t work well as cake frosting.
The quality of store-bought hummus is subpar to homemade ones. But if you don’t want the hassle of making hummus from scratch, try these two brands: Sabra and Baba. Sabra adds ingredients that make the hummus delicious while Baba is organic and available in different flavors.
Sour cream is a good substitute for cream cheese because it brings a tangy taste that will make your dips and sauces taste delicious. It’s sour and thick, thanks to the efforts of the lactic-acid producing bacteria that increase the lactose levels of the cream. Many store-bought sour creams use additives to make it thicker.
The US Food and Drug Administration requires that the sour cream should have a milk fat content of not more than 18%. Anything higher than that is considered as a high-fat product. Lighter versions of sour cream are made with 10.5% milkfat.
Sour cream is a good substitute for cream cheese in dips and sauces because it’s rich and thick. It brings a subtle tangy flavor that will refresh your palate. Using it as a topping or salad is also highly recommended.
As for baked goods, sour cream is a decent substitute for cream cheese in blueberry cakes. The flavor of the cake would be different but you can make some adjustments. Simply add two tablespoons more flour to make the cake firmer.
Use sour cream right out of the container. It can be added to the dish without cooking, which is why it suits best as a frosting ingredient.
You can’t use sour cream in soups because the heat will make the cream curdle. You can, however, add sour cream after the soup is cooked. It’s also not recommended for cheesecakes because it loses the structure.
Fat-free sour creams may not be recommended for cooking or baking. They utilize different forms of stabilizers to make a sour cream-like product and the nonexistence of fat can influence the cooking process of the dish.
Kraft Breakstone’s All-Natural Sour Cream and Land O Lakes Sour Cream are two of the best brands available out there. Breakstone’s is all-natural and extra creamy while Land O Lakes offers a classic flavor that everyone loves about sour cream.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that tastes similar to a yogurt drink. Though made similar to yogurt, kefir has more protein, probiotics, and fat. Chia seeds, on the other hand, are small black seeds packed with many nutrients making it worthy of its title as a superfood.
This cream cheese alternative is best for your health because it helps combat several diseases, such as candidiasis, gastrointestinal issues, and allergies. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Kefir is a good source of calcium, B vitamins, and protein.
The combination of organic chia seeds and kefir is another good substitute for cream cheese. Simply mix a bowl of kefir with ¼ cup of chia seeds. Leave them for about 30 minutes or so to allow the seeds to absorb all the water from the fermented milk drink.
The kefir cheese cream substitute makes a good spread for your bagel. It can be used in frosting and desserts to provide more nutritional punch. If you want your cheesecake to be light and fluffy, you can use the kefir and chia seed mixture to substitute for cream cheese.
This kefir cheese combination isn’t recommended for recipes that require heating because the heat will make the mixture curdle.
There’s no product that offers a combination of these two ingredients so you’ll have to purchase them separately. Lifeway Kefir is one of the best brands out there with its blueberry flavor. For kefir, we recommend the NutriBioPlanet which are certified organic and raw.
If you run out of cream cheese in your kitchen, you can improvise with these three ingredients- tofu, margarine, and lemon juice. The tofu will mimic the soft texture of the cream cheese while the lemon juice and margarine will give the tangy, creamy flavor that the cream cheese is known for. It provides all the right nutrition without compromising taste and texture.
The tofu cream cheese substitute is a vegan-friendly option. Tofu is rich in minerals, like calcium, iron, and zinc. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C while margarine contains unsaturated fat that’s good for the heart.
To prepare, add 1-1/2 cup of tofu and 1/2 cup of margarine with a tablespoon of lemon juice in a blender. Push the tofu towards the blade to distribute evenly. Chill the mixture in the fridge to get the right consistency.
This tofu cream cheese alternative works great with savory and sweet recipes. Make a vegan frosting without the margarine, like this recipe here. You can also replace cream cheese with tofu to make a vegan cheesecake like this recipe here.
Spread it over your morning toast or bagel to enjoy delicious food without feeling the guilt. With twice the protein and ½ less the fat of regular cream cheese, you can put an extra schmear on top of your bagel. Tofu spreads can also double as a dip for your chips and tacos. Add some herbs, onions, and vegetables to bring more flavor.
Firm block tofu is quite versatile. Other varieties have limited uses, like for example, the soft block tofu isn’t recommended for shallow-frying because it sputters. Medium-firm tofu doesn’t work well on stir-frying and pan-frying because they easily break up.
The best tofu to substitute for cream cheese is the firm or extra-firm water-packed variety, like Mori-nu Silken Tofu (Extra Firm). If you want something organic, choose this Mori-Nu Silken Tofu variety.
The combination of coconut milk, coconut butter, and nutritional yeast makes a good cream cheese substitute. The full-fat coconut milk gives the rich creamy texture while the coconut butter gives the natural sweetness on the mix. The nutritional yeast will give the cheesy flavor that’s reminiscent of cream cheese.
This non-dairy cream cheese alternative contains high-fat content because of coconut milk. On the good side, coconut milk is rich in nutrients including iron, vitamin C, and magnesium. Coconut butter is rich in fiber while nutritional yeast adds extra protein to the recipe.
The taste of this cream cheese alternative will be sweeter than cream cheese because it’s made with coconut. The consistency will be rich, smooth, and creamy.
The combination of coconut milk, coconut butter, and nutritional yeast is best for desserts and frosting because of its sweet flavor. It can be used to replace cream cheese in dips, spreads, and even cheesecakes.
This coconut milk combination isn’t recommended for savory recipes because of its sweet flavor. But if you want to get experimental about flavor, go ahead and try this nut-free cream cheese alternative.
Native Forest Coconut Milk is our favorite because it’s unsweetened and organic. Kevala is one of the best brands for organic coconut butter. For nutritional yeast, we recommend Sari Foods because it’s all-natural.
Let’s have a look at what people are asking about the best substitutes for cream cheese.
Cream cheese is versatile so you may need different items to substitute it. If you want to mimic the texture of cream cheese, you can use cottage cheese or plain yogurt strained overnight. These two alternatives are lower in fat and ideal for cooking or baking.
If you want something sweet, consider using mascarpone cheese which works great for desserts and frostings. You can also try ricotta cheese, though it will be harder and grainier in texture. Ricotta is a better choice over mascarpone when looking for a good cream substitute in baking.
For dairy-free cream cheese substitutes, try tofu spreads and coconut milk with coconut butter and nutritional yeast. Hummus, Neufchatel cheese, and Kefir are other good substitutes for cream cheese.
Cream cheese is slightly tangy, salty, and creamy. It has a mild, sweet taste that goes well with desserts and baked products. It’s perfect for vegetarians because it uses acid to coagulate the milk.
Mascarpone tastes similar to cream cheese. Like cream cheese, mascarpone is vegan because it uses citric or acetic acid to curdle the milk cream. The buttery, creamy, and milky flavor of mascarpone makes it ideal for savory and sweet dishes.
Boursin is another cheese that tastes like cream cheese. It’s buttery, smooth, and sometimes herbaceous. You can use this soft cheese on top of your crackers and create a smooth pasta sauce.
Yes, there’s dairy-free cream cheese. These varieties use coconut cream instead of milk. The best dairy-free brands out there are Miyoko’s Vegan Cream Cheese and Daiya. Miyoko is available in two flavors- Un-Lox and Sensational Scallion.
You can also make your own dairy-free cream cheese in your kitchen. All you need are raw cashews soaked for 12-24 hours, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, water, coconut cream, and salt to taste.
First, dredge the cashews in a food processor until they turn coarse. Next, add the rest of the ingredients and process until completely smooth. It will last in the freezer for a week.
Yes, you can substitute cream cheese for sour cream depending on the desired consistency. If you want something thinner, dilute cream cheese with milk. If you need it to be thicker, swap cream cheese for sour cream.
Now, the taste would be different but it’s still delicious! You can use cream cheese instead of sour cream when making dips to enhance the results. For cheesecakes, you can mix cream cheese with some heavy cream to substitute for sour cream. Whisk the mixture to loosen it up.
However, plain yogurt is a better substitute than cream cheese when it comes to certain recipes where sour cream is important, like dressings. Strained yogurt is also a good substitute for sour cream in baked products.
Yes, you can substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese. Greek yogurt will make any dish healthier and is rich in protein. Use the same amount of cream cheese as required in the recipe.
Using Greek yogurt as a replacement for cream cheese in cheesecake may result in a different texture, but it still has that nice cream cheesy flavor.
The yogurt makes the cheesecake lighter and fluffier. It offers a subtle lemony flavor without making you feel bloated.
To get close to the taste of cream cheese, use plain Greek yogurt that doesn’t have a sharp flavor. Greek-style yogurt has a tangy flavor that makes it suitable for both savory and sweet recipes.
Yes, you can use cream cheese instead of butter in recipes to add a unique flavor. Replace butter with cream cheese in spreading your bagels, toast, and pastries. Though cream cheese and butter taste different, the former offers a nice creaminess due to its high-fat content.
For cream sauce recipes, substitute butter with half cream cheese and half vegetable oil. For example, if the recipe requires 2 cups of butter, use 1 cup of cream cheese and 1 cup of vegetable oil.
Replace butter with cream cheese in your cheesecake filling and you’ll get a more decadent result. Cream cheese in chocolate chip cookies may make them less crispy but it lowers fat while increasing protein into your diet.
Cottage cheese is a good substitute for cream cheese in baking. It’s healthier than cream cheese because it contains a negligible amount of saturated fat that clogs the arteries. It contains many essential vitamins such as calcium, potassium, and folic acid.
Use equal amounts when replacing cream cheese with cottage cheese. One cup of cream cheese can be substituted with one cup of cottage cheese. Pour the cottage cheese into a mixer and then chill in the freezer.
Since cottage cheese tends to have curds, you can smoothen it with the addition of half-and-half cream. If you can’t find half-and-half in your kitchen, use cream and a little bit of butter.
Yes, there are many possible substitutes for cream cheese in cheesecake. Strained yogurt is one of them but it offers a more tangy flavor than cream cheese. Greek yogurt in honey flavor almost tastes the same as cream cheese.
Cottage cheese is another good substitute for cream cheese in cheesecakes but you have to puree it in a blender to eliminate the lumps. Jello also creates a good cheesecake flavored pudding. It will taste different but will suffice for a sweet version.
Neufchatel cheese makes a creamier cheesecake with less fat. For the no-bake cheesecake, sour cream works great. Another way is to make your own cream cheese – simply boil fresh milk and salt, then stir in white vinegar.
You can combine milk, powdered sugar, and instant pudding mix to substitute cream cheese in the frosting. Simply beat these ingredients with a whisk, then add whipped cream. Mix until the consistency has gone thicker.
If your pastries don’t overly depend on cream cheese flavor, you can use powdered sugar as a simple substitute to cream cheese frosting. Just sift powdered sugar on top of your pastries and you’re good to go. Powdered sugar works best on pastries that have moist surfaces.
For a dairy-free version, use cashews together with lemon juice, agave, water, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Blend all ingredients until the consistency becomes smooth. Chill in the fridge until it has set.
Although you can’t achieve the same flavor, cream cheese can be a good substitute for mascarpone. Mascarpone provides a rich, creamy flavor to recipes. It can be hard to find and is often more expensive than common foods, like cream cheese.
Plain cream cheese works adequately well but mixing it with other ingredients can enhance its flavor and texture. To start, smash the chilled cream cheese with a fork to soften it. Next, mix it with heavy whipping cream or sour cream.
Sour cream is a good substitute for cream cheese in soups. It gives a tangy flavor but it won’t really thicken the soup much. To thicken the soup, cook down or minimize the liquid in your soup before adding the sour cream.
Dense Greek yogurt would also work in replacing cream cheese in soups. If what you have is regular yogurt, you need to strain it in the sink for about 60 minutes or so. The taste would be slightly tangier but the texture would be very good.
Yes, you can substitute cream cheese for heavy cream in some recipes. More specifically, you can use cream cheese in frostings and as a thickener for soups and sauces. However, it’s not recommended to use cream cheese in recipes that demand whipping.
Use the same amount of heavy cream when replacing it with cream cheese. If a recipe calls for one cup of heavy cream, use one cup of cream cheese. Keep in mind that the taste and texture may be different so make sure that you only use it in recipes that work with its flavor, like creamy soups and cheesy sauces.
Yes, there’s a dairy-free substitute for cream cheese. Tofu spread is a non-dairy substitute for cream cheese in bagels. You can use tofu spread more generously on top of slices of bread because it contains less fat and twice the protein than regular cream cheese.
The blend of coconut milk, coconut butter, and nutritional yeast also makes another good substitute for cream cheese. It’s creamy and naturally sweet making it suitable for desserts.
Hummus is a good vegan substitute for cream cheese in your bagel spreads and dips. It’s mainly made of pinto beans which are packed with protein and fiber. To ensure that you’re eating hummus in all its natural glory, try making your own at home.
Hummus is considered vegan because it doesn’t contain animal products. The main ingredients are chickpeas, tahini, and extra virgin olive oil. Other ingredients may include garlic and lemon juice.
Cashew cream cheese is a good cream cheese substitute for pasta. When added with nutritional yeast, it offers the desired cheesy flavor that you get with actual cream cheese.
Goats cheese has a rich flavor that also works well in pasta sauce. It’s fairly expensive but it resembles the tanginess and smooth texture of cream cheese. Substitute ¾ cup of goat cheese with one cup of cream cheese.
That wraps up our top 10 substitutes for cream cheese. People may want to have other alternatives to cream cheese due to dietary issues and personal preferences.
Most often, people avoid cream cheese because of high-fat content. On the other hand, some people look for substitutes when they have run out of cream cheese in the kitchen.
Whatever your reason may be, we have done our best to compile all the alternatives. Now that you know all the right cream cheese substitutes, go ahead and try them out!