Need a recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting without butter? Then you're going to love this easy recipe! It takes minutes to prepare, and the creamy texture and rich, decadent flavor make it perfect for frosting all your favorite desserts!
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If you've ever made homemade frosting, then you probably know that many recipes are made with butter. That's because the fat in butter acts as a stabilizer, helping frosting to thicken and keep its shape. But you don't need always need it.
This Cream Cheese Frosting without butter is my favorite no butter frosting! It's quick to make, thick, creamy, and has a super scrumptious taste that's perfect for so many desserts. Best of all? It's ready in about five minutes.
You are going to love this recipe! It has the tangy flavor you crave from the classic frosting, but it uses fewer ingredients, making it even faster and easier to prepare. Trust me, you won't miss the butter!
This decadent frosting is perfect for topping all your favorite cupcakes, cookies, cakes, and other treats. You can even customize this basic recipe with different flavorings (like chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, and more!), making it super versatile.
Ready to get started? Then keep reading for the easy recipe, plus lots of helpful tips!
This easy frosting recipe uses just three ingredients (plus salt), and you can find them in any grocery store! Here's what you'll need:
- Cream Cheese - The star ingredient! Because there's no butter, you MUST use a block of full fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia). If you use a reduced fat cream cheese, neufchâtel, or whipped cream cheese (the kind that comes in a tub) your frosting won't turn out as thick and creamy.
- Sugar - You'll use powdered sugar to sweeten the frosting and to give it structure. As I talk about below under the Variations section below, the amount of sugar is actually adjustable. If you're using if to top something flat, like cookies, you can use less powdered sugar (if you prefer). But if you're decorating a cake, you'll need more sugar to give the frosting structural integrity.
- Vanilla - A little vanilla extract adds another layer of delicious flavor.
- Salt - A pinch of salt is the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness, and it brings out the tangy cream cheese flavor.
You'll Also Need
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting without Butter
This no butter Cream Cheese Frosting couldn't be easier to make! You'll find a detailed recipe card below, but here's a quick overview of the steps:
- Mix cream cheese. Start by using the paddle attachment on your mixer to mix the cream cheese just until it's smooth. Tip: Make sure to start with room temperature cream cheese, otherwise it will be too thick to mix properly.
- Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Next, you'll add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the cream cheese. Slowly blend the ingredients together until the powdered sugar is mostly incorporated, then increase the speed and continue mixing until the frosting is totally smooth. Do not over-mix.
Your homemade Cream Cheese Frosting without butter is now ready to use! Wasn't that easy?
Tips + Tricks
This easy frosting has always turned out perfectly for me! But here are a few tips and tricks that are important to keep in mind:
- Use full fat cream cheese at room temperature. You must start with a block of full fat cream cheese. Using low fat / reduced fat cream or whipped cream cheese (the kind that comes in a tub) will result in a looser, less flavorful frosting. It's also important to start with a room temperature cream cheese, otherwise the ingredients will not blend together well.
- Sift lumpy powdered sugar. If your powdered sugar is super lumpy, sift it into the mixing bowl using a fine mesh strainer. I don't usually find this is necessary, but if your sugar is older, this will help create a smoother frosting.
- Avoid over-mixing. Blend the ingredients together just until smooth. There's no need to keep mixing once everything is combined, and doing so could break your frosting.
- Refrigerate frosting to firm it up. If you'd like to pipe the frosting, chill it for about 30 minutes first. Just keep in mind that it won't be as stable as frosting made with butter, and it won't hold crisp edges as well. I personally prefer to spread it on desserts vs. piping it.
- Frosting must be refrigerated after decorating desserts. Because this recipe contains dairy, if needs to be refrigerated to stay fresh. If you won't be eating your frosted treats right away, make sure to refrigerate them as well.
- Make the frosting thicker or thinner. If your frosting turns out too thick, add a little milk (one teaspoon at a time) until you get the right consistency. If it's too thin, add a little extra powdered sugar.
This recipe is easy to customize with different flavorings, colorings, and more! Here are some ideas to try:
- Sugar - The amount of sugar in this recipe is adjustable. I've made this recipe with as little as one cup of powdered sugar and as much as four cups. The three to four cups called for in the recipe card is best for most desserts. But if you're frosting something flat (like cookies), you can use less. For recipes that require thicker frosting (like cakes), you can use up to four cups.
- Icing - If you'd prefer a thinner icing / glaze, start with two cups of powdered sugar. Then thin it with just enough milk (adding a teaspoon at a time) to reach your desired texture.
- Colored - You can easily add change with color of this frosting with food coloring. This Wilton Gel Food Coloring is my favorite, because you don't need a lot (add it with a toothpick, the colors are intense) and it won't add lots of extra moisture.
- Cinnamon + Other Spices - This recipe is super delicious with ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon added. You can also add other warm spices, such as nutmeg, pumpkin spice, or chai spice.
- Citrus - Add a citrus flavor to your frosting by mixing in one teaspoon of lemon, lime, or orange zest (I recommend using a microplane zester for the finest texture). You may also replace with vanilla extract with a citrus extract, or you may use one tablespoon of juice. Just keep in mind that if you add extra liquid you will need to use extra powdered sugar, too.
- Other Extracts - Swap out the vanilla extract with other flavorings, such as peppermint extract, almond extract, coconut extract, or maple extract.
- Peanut Butter - Combine ½ cup peanut butter with the cream cheese before adding the remaining ingredients. Other nut butters may also be used.
- Chocolate - For chocolate flavored frosting, mix in ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder along with the powdered sugar.
- Coffee - Mix one tablespoon instant espresso powder with one teaspoon cold water in a small bowl until totally dissolved. Add just enough to flavor your frosting as desired (you may not need it all). Tip: Do not add hot coffee to your frosting ... it will melt!
- Strawberry - Pulverize about ½ cup freeze dried strawberries in a food processor until powdery. Sift out any large chunks, then add to the frosting along with the powdered sugar.
How to Use
This recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting with no butter is super versatile! Use it for all your favorite treats:
- Cake - This frosting is a classic with cakes, especially favorites like carrot cake and red velvet cake. I also like using it to frost these adorable mini cakes! Tip: If you're making a large layer cake I would 1 ½ times the recipe, that way you won't have to skimp on frosting.
- Cupcakes - Spread it over your favorite cupcakes. It would be delish on these cute Bunny Cupcakes!
- Cake Pops - Use it to make homemade cake pops.
- Cookies - This recipe is super tasty on cookies. I flavored it with cinnamon to make these Pumpkin Spice Cookies, and it would work great on these Fruit Pizza Cookies, too.
- Cinnamon Rolls - Cream Cheese and Powdered Sugar Frosting + cinnamon rolls are a classic pairing. I used it to make this easy Cinnamon Roll King Cake, too!
- Brownies + Bars - Spread it over your favorite bars, like brownies, pumpkin bars, and more.
- Topping + Filling - Use it as a topping (or filling) for other desserts, like crepes or these yummy Pumpkin Tarts.
Store frosting in an airtight container for up to seven days. Let warm slightly at room temperature and stir well before using. You may also freeze the frosting in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to one month. Thaw it in your refrigerator and mix well before using.
Because the recipe contains dairy, make sure to refrigerate anything you frost, too. Then let your treats sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before eating them for the best taste and texture.
Looking for more dessert ideas? Try one of these easy cream cheese recipes next:
- Pumpkin Cheesecake (No Bake)
- Mini Black Bottom Cupcakes
- Red, White, and Blue Icebox Cake
- No Bake Cheesecake Tart
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake Parfait
- Berry Cream Tarts
- Cranberry Dessert Parfaits
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The fat in butter acts as a stabilizer, helping frosting to thicken and hold its shape.
To thicken cream cheese frosting, add more powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time. It's also important not to over-mix the frosting, and make sure you are starting with room temperature (but not warm) full fat cream cheese. Chilling the frosting helps thicken it, as well.
Frosting has a thick, fluffy texture that's perfect for piping or spreading over desserts, while icing has a thinner texture that's ideal for drizzling. However, the two words are often used interchangeably.
Yes, cream cheese should be refrigerated. It contains dairy, which may spoil if not chilled. Make sure to refrigerate the frosting itself, as well as any desserts your frost with it.
Runny frosting can result from using low fat cream cheese (full fat is a must) or over-mixing. It's also possible that you didn't use enough powdered sugar, let the cream cheese get too warm before making the frost, or that you used too much liquid flavoring. The thicken it up, add more powdered sugar. Refrigerating the frosting before using it may also stabilize it.
Cream Cheese Frosting without Butter
- 1 (8 ounce / 227 gram) block cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- Stand Mixer (or Hand Mixer)
- Mix cream cheese in stand mixer just until smooth.
- Add 3 cups powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to cream cheese. Mix until just until smooth, adding more powdered sugar if needed.
- Use frosting immediately or chill until ready to use. Enjoy!