Cheesecloth is primarily used during cheese making and cooking. The material is a loose woven gauze-like cloth that is very much like cotton.
Cheesecloth is a versatile kitchen tool commonly used for straining liquids, making sachets for herbs and spices, and even wrapping certain foods during cooking. However, there may be instances where you don’t have cheesecloth on hand or simply prefer an alternative. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options available to substitute for cheesecloth in the kitchen.
Whether you need a substitute for cheese making, straining broth, or baking, knowing which alternative is best suited for your specific needs can save you time and keep your recipes intact. Many of these replacements are either already in your kitchen or can be easily found at your local grocery store. The key is to understand which substitute is the right choice for your particular use and how to properly use it in place of cheesecloth.
While it was primarily used to wrap homemade cheese, it has since evolved into a helpful tool that can be used in other recipes.
While initially designed for storing cheese, people have found many ways to use cheesecloth that extend far beyond cheese. Many use them for feeding fruitcakes, bundling herbs, thickening yogurt, wrapping citrus, printmaking, and straining liquids.
Before using a cheesecloth, you should always first wash and sterilize it to remove lingering stains or bacteria in the fabric.
Washing the cloth before and after every use will also preserve the cloth, thus allowing you to reuse it. To clean, just rinse using warm water, soak in baking soda, sterilize in boiling water, then wring it out and hang it up to sun-dry.
If used during cheesemaking it helps to form the cheese by removing the whey from the curd. Now it is often used to keep meats moist or as a strainer for fine ingredients.
It is commonly used as little pouches for holding different spices.
Cheesecloth is reusable and when washed following use it can then be left to try ready for the next time that it is required.
Because cheesecloth is loosely woven with air holes, it offers great breathability while also allowing liquid products to drain with ease.
Despite its versatility, it isn’t something that is found inside everyone’s kitchens.
For some, this may be because they haven’t required its use until now, for others it may be due to the cost of cheesecloth and potential difficulties when trying to purchase it.
If you are on the lookout for a cheesecloth substitute you will be pleased to know that there are plenty of alternatives available, many of which can be easily found inside your kitchen.
The first and possibly easiest substitute to locate is a kitchen towel. Found in the kitchens of most, kitchen towels have a similar weave to cheesecloth.
Ensure that the towel doesn’t have any dyes that could transfer.
Also, ensure that they have been thoroughly cleaned before use. The only drawback to note with using a kitchen towel is that they are more prone to collecting moisture.
Because of this, you will need to ensure that it is thoroughly rinsed to get rid of this moisture.
Reusable or disposable coffee filters can be used as a replacement for cheesecloth, especially if required for straining.
Coffee filters have a very similar weave to cheesecloth, hence why it is a great option for straining other foods besides coffee.
If you are going to be using a filter from your coffee machine ensure that it is washed thoroughly before or after use as this will remove the taste of coffee and the food that it has been used to strain.
A minor drawback of these filters to be aware of is that they are made of people and when exposed to moisture they are more likely to begin tearing.
Fine Mesh Bags
Fine mesh bags serve many uses in the home although they are most commonly used to strain nut milk and whole grains. They can also be used for laundry purposes.
Most are made from nylon and they are available in different styles e.g laundry bags and nut milk bags. If you are going to be using a fine mesh bag, the process is pretty straight forward.
Simply place the bag into the strainer and doing so will allow you to remove the solids from the liquids simply using a spoon.
There are many benefits associated with using a fine mesh bag, not only do they retain their shape, but they also resist staining and maintain their quality too.
For many, the thought of cleaning cheesecloth can be a chore but the use of a fine mesh bag eliminates this concern.
Paper towels may not offer the longevity of other options but they can be great when used to strain soup or stews.
Some may find the use of paper towels slightly problematic as it tends to absorb liquid and depending on the quality of the paper, some will be more prone to tearing than others.
Fine Wire Sieve
If you intend to use cheesecloth for straining, you may find the use of a fine wire sieve sufficient.
Due to the design of a sieve, you will likely find that it struggles to retain the smaller particles, however, it can still work for broths and cheeses.
The use of a sieve is going to depend on the recipe and whether the presence of these finer particles is going to affect the overall taste of the food.
Muslin fabric works very well as a cheesecloth substitute. Muslin is a cotton-like weave material that will allow the liquid through while preventing any unwanted particles from seeping through too.
As it is neutrally colored, similar to cheesecloth, it isn’t going to transfer any dyes onto the food either. The only problem that you may be confronted with is sourcing muslin fabric as it can be hard to come by.
A cotton handkerchief provides another viable option. Typically they are made from linen and they are also often free of dyes and colors.
As most handkerchiefs tend to have a thinner weave, they are ideal for softer cheeses in particular.
Aside from this, there are many benefits of using a cotton handkerchief as a replacement for cheesecloth, the first being the inexpensive price tag and the second being how easy they are to wash.
Although this may sound like an unusual suggestion, socks can be used as a substitute for cheesecloth, of course, make sure that they are clean beforehand.
The use of socks works particularly well for straining. You can even use stockings too.
Again, it may seem odd using a fashion garment for kitchen purposes but stretching the tights over a bowl can work well for straining.
They are also easy to wash after use and can be used again in the future.
Straining cloths are essentially an alternative version of cheesecloth with the most noticeable difference being between the thickness and strength of the cotton thread.
A great thing about straining cloths is that they tend to be available in a range of sizes so you can select the best option for your needs.
Most of us will likely find medical/sterile gauze inside the medicine box. Although it generally tends to be looser and thinner than cheesecloth, you can use multiple layers to achieve a similar effect.
The gauze will need to be cut to the appropriate size thus allowing you to select the amount required to strain certain foods.
As cheesecloth is a cotton fabric you will likely find that most other types of cotton work well too. Whether this is a flour sack towel, pillowcase, or random scrap of fabric you will likely find it a worthy substitute.
When choosing what you are going to use it is worth remembering that even though most can be washed and then reused again in the future, straining often causes the material to become stained.
Regardless of the substitute that you opt for, most can be easily secured to the bowl using rubber bands.
Choosing The Best Substitute
The substitute that you choose is going to depend on the recipe requirements. You may need larger pieces of material for different types of food.
These replacements also tend to differ in thickness too, for example, straining cloths are likely to be thicker than medical gauze.
Also, remember that when using a sieve you will need to consider the impact of the hole sizes upon the outcome.
A sieve with bigger holes is likely to struggle to stop smaller particles from passing through and if this is going to be problematic it may not be suitable for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you strain stock without cheesecloth?
If you don’t have a cheesecloth to hand, there’s no need to worry because you can use lots of other things to strain stock. Cheesecloth is made using cotton, so you can use pretty much anything that is made using cotton to strain stock if you don’t have cheesecloth.
One of the most common alternatives that people use is a kitchen towel as you will always have these in your kitchen. The majority of kitchen towels are made of cotton, but it is always best to check that the one that you have is made of this before you use it to strain stock.
Alternatively, you can use muslin fabric, fine mesh bags, coffee filters, and even socks to strain stock. In fact, the material doesn’t have to be made of cotton as paper towels also make a great alternative. But for the best results, we would recommend using a material that is made of cotton.
What can I use instead of cheesecloth for Cannabutter?
If you usually use cheesecloth to make Cannabutter, but don’t have any available, there are lots of alternatives that you can use. Pretty much anything that is made from cotton will be able to do the job, however this can still make it difficult to know what to use.
So, if you don’t have cheesecloth available, we would recommend using either paper towels or coffee filters to strain your Cannabutter. You may also choose to use these alternatives if you are looking to save a bit of money as cheesecloth is a lot more expensive than both paper towels and coffee filters.
So if you have started making Cannabutter, only to find that you don’t have cheesecloth available, there’s no need to worry. Simply use a coffee filter or a paper towel, and it will do the job excellently.
What can I use instead of cheesecloth to strain yogurt?
If you are looking to strain yogurt, but don’t have cheesecloth available, there are some alternatives that you can use. These alternatives include lots of different items that you may already have in your house. Including a nut milk bag, a mesh bag, and even a paint strainer bag.
All of these bags have alternative purposes, but they can double up excellently as a great replacement for cheesecloth. There are some other types of alternatives that you can use, but when it comes to straining yogurt these options are the best.
However, if you cannot find any of these alternatives, pretty much anything that is made with cotton will do the job. This includes handkerchiefs, and even medical gauze.
So, if you find that you have no cheesecloth available, there will be plenty of alternative options you can use that you probably already have in your home.
Can you use pantyhose instead of cheesecloth?
This is definitely an alternative method, but if you have no cheesecloth at home you can use pantyhose to do the job. Generally speaking, pantyhose are constructed using nylon rather than cotton. But, for the sake of straining foods, pantyhose can do the job just as well as cheesecloth.
If you have no cheesecloth available, pantyhose are a great alternative. To use them, all you need to do is stretch a clean pair of pantyhose across the top of a large mixing bowl. The act of stretching the fabric will create a natural drain which will help you strain whatever you are making.
So, if you can’t find any cheesecloth in your home, there’s no need to worry. Simply dig out a clean pair of pantyhose, and they will be able to do the job perfectly.
As you can see, there are many options available that can be used as a substitute for cheesecloth and it is likely that you already have most of these to hand in your homes.
Regardless of the dish that you are going to create, it is likely that one of these mentioned substitutes is going to work just as well.
Ensure that the substitute you use is free of dyes and impurities that could transfer onto the food and affect the flavor. Also check out: https://thekitchencommunity.org/where-to-buy-cheesecloth/
Cheesecloth Substitutes That Are Just as Effective
- Kitchen Towel
- Coffee Filters
- Fine Mesh Bags
- Paper Towel
- Fine Wire Sieve
- Muslin Fabric
- Cotton Handkerchiefs
- Straining Cloths
- Medical/Sterile Gauze
- Anything Cotton
- Try our kitchen tested cheesecloth substitutes.