Heavy cream and pasta sauces are a match made in heaven – but sometimes, it is just better to substitute them for a healthier option.
What are the best heavy cream substitutes for pasta? To replicate the same creaminess and richness of heavy cream, you can substitute with whole milk, cream cheese, a combination of butter and milk, or just Greek yogurt. You can also go with vegan options like almond cream, cashew cream, and more!
Read below to learn more about the best substitutes for heavy cream and how to use them in pasta dishes!
Why Substitute Heavy Cream?
Heavy cream (or whipping cream) has a wide variety of culinary uses. From desserts, dressings, savory foods, and more!
With 36% butterfat, this ingredient will not just add a delicious flavor but also a silky smooth and rich texture to food.
This is why heavy cream is such a good fit for various pasta sauces. It thickens the sauce just enough to equally coat the pasta without making it taste too “heavy.”
But for all its good qualities, heavy cream is also vilified for its nutritional profile.
A tablespoon of heavy cream can contain as much as 50-70 calories and up to 5-8g of fat! But this isn’t the only reason why heavy cream doesn’t sit well with others.
Since it’s made from dairy, heavy cream is also not suitable for a lot of people with sensitivities or dietary restrictions. So, is there any substitute for this otherwise delicious and creamy ingredient?
The short answer is yes, there are several substitutes that you can use instead of regular heavy cream or whipping cream.
However, if the reason you’re substituting it is simply because you forgot you don’t have any in your fridge but you’re already half way through a recipe, here’s a tutorial for making your own heavy cream from wikiHow on YouTube.
How To Choose A Substitute For Heavy Cream In Pasta
Before we list all of our favorite substitutes, let’s first list the things that every substitute needs to have to pass as a viable substitute for heavy cream!
Here are a few characteristics that you need to look for:
- Richness and Texture
Heavy cream has a fatty and creamy flavor that resembles milk and butter. This is why dairy products make for the best close substitutes for heavy cream.
Milk products have the best chance of matching the flavor profile of whipping cream due to the presence of milk solids.
Keep in mind that heavy cream is also not sweet since there is no added sugar but it can meld well with several other ingredients.
For lactose intolerance, we recommend going for vegan options like cashew cream or almond cream. These nut milk and creams offer more or less the same flavor benefits and can add a similar richness to pasta sauces.
If you are doubtful about using vegan options then you would be surprised to know just how many recipes you can find for vegan-friendly pasta sauces made from nut or even seed products!
2. Richness and Texture
As mentioned above, heavy cream’s ability to add a creamy texture and thickness to pasta sauces is why it is the preferred choice for many people. But the good news is that these same characteristics can be replicated using many substitutes too!
The texture of coconut cream or cream cheese is a great example because even though one is made from dairy and the other is made from blended coconut shavings, they are both able to add more or less the same textural benefits as heavy cream.
The reason why it is easy to replicate heavy cream is because of its paste-like consistency. As a basic rule of thumb, the thicker or denser the ingredient, the better the substitute it will make for pasta recipes.
Nutrition is a big concern when choosing heavy cream. It’s loaded with calories and lots of fat. If you are looking for a “lighter”’ substitute or something easily digestible then we recommend going with plant-based substitutes.
If you do not have dietary restrictions and want to keep the nutrition of your pasta recipes at a similar level, then you can also opt for milk-based products like various types of cheese or even Greek yogurt.
Just remember that there are two types of substitutes for heavy cream: some are healthier while others are known to be more or less the same in terms of nutrition – but you should not base your choice on nutrition alone since the other characteristics on our list will have far more weight!
The number of recipes that call for heavy cream is a testament to its sheer versatility; which is why we recommend that you pick a substitute that provides the same convenience as heavy cream.
You wouldn’t want to pick an ingredient that fits just one type of food and is completely incompatible with the other.
For instance, you could go with cream cheese as a substitute, but you won’t get the same benefit from it when it is used in savory dishes or recipes that require a subtle flavor.
In this case, cashew cream would make for a better overall substitute since it can be used in the same way as heavy cream across the board, regardless of whether you use it for sauces, baking, or cooking!
The Best Heavy Cream Substitutes for Pasta
1. Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is an excellent substitute for heavy cream because it’s made from a mixture of sweet milk and cream.
This allows cream cheese to not just have the same richness and texture as heavy cream but it can provide a more developed flavor too.
Heavy cream has a neutral flavor with hints of milk and butter – but if you want to take it up a notch then we highly recommend adding cream cheese for pasta!
To substitute it, use 1 tbsp of cream cheese for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream. You can adjust the quantity according to your preference too.
2. Cottage Cheese
While it may not offer the same creamy and smooth texture as heavy cream, it can be used in several recipes as a healthier substitute.
Don’t bother heating cottage cheese because it will never fully melt and you will always be left with a few curdled pieces.
But if it’s flavor and health benefits that you are after then there is no better substitute than cottage cheese. Just top it off over pasta with a light sauce and enjoy!
Use 1 full tbsp of cottage cheese for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream!
Yogurt is loaded with probiotics and can offer the same creamy texture as heavy cream.
Several brands offer creamy and homogenized yogurt and while you can also use any homemade batch of yogurt, we recommend trying the commercial variety first for the best results.
Homemade yogurt is known to contain a fair amount of whey and can also curdle. If you don’t mind a slightly runnier consistency then you can use homemade yogurt.
Please note that yogurt will not provide the same flavor as heavy cream but it has the benefit of being able to meld with just about any ingredient – like heavy cream!
To substitute it, use 1 tbsp of whipped yogurt for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is perhaps the next best alternative to heavy cream. Made by straining whey, Greek yogurt is much creamier and richer than regular yogurt.
This means that it can be used in the same manner as heavy cream. The best thing about this substitute is that it offers the same versatility and better nutrition than heavy cream.
It can be used in multiple recipes and will help make a rich and creamy sauce for pasta recipes too!
5. Full-Fat Milk
Whole milk or full-fat milk has a fat content of about 3.25% which is why it is an excellent substitute for fat-laden heavy cream.
Full-fat milk can be reduced in sauces to make it slightly thicker which will allow you to get a better flavor, and somewhat the texture of heavy cream.
Sure, the sauce will end up being a bit runny, but you can add a bit of corn starch to make it thicker too!
This strategy is excellent for people who are looking for healthier and less dense alternatives to heavy cream and can also come in handy when you are out of cream but have whole milk in the fridge.
Use 2 tbsps. of whole milk for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream!
6. Butter and Milk
The simple combination of milk and butter will not only provide a rich flavor but will also add a lot of texture to your pasta recipes!
Milk and butter are the foundations of heavy cream which is why its constituents will make for excellent substitutes too. Combine 1 tbsp of melted butter with 250ml of milk and then use the mixture as needed for your pasta recipes.
The fat content from the butter and the richness and flavor from the milk will combine to create a heavy cream substitute that can also be nutritionally altered depending on your choice.
Swap out whole milk for skimmed milk and use flour or corn starch to create a thick and less fatty sauce!
Use 1 tbsp of butter and milk mixture for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream.
7. Evaporated Milk
Don’t mind using dairy? Then try evaporated milk next time you are out of heavy cream. Evaporated milk is shelf-stable and is usually canned.
By definition, it is just regular milk – but with considerably less water.
Evaporated milk has 60% of its water removed, making it creamier. It is not to be confused with condensed milk which is usually sweetened with sugar. Evaporated milk is just as thick and can be used in the same way as heavy cream!
We recommend going for equal portions of evaporated milk for every portion of heavy cream.
8. Coconut Cream
Coconut cream is simply blended coconut shavings. That’s right, you can make your very own batch of coconut cream by blending coconut shavings and water.
When processed at high speeds, the oils in the coconut separate, creating a milk-like mixture.
Coconut milk is made the way but has a bit more water which gives it its runny consistency.
Coconut cream on the other hand is thicker, has a higher fat content, and can be used as a substitute for heavy cream for pasta recipes and general cooking too!
For the best results, use a tbsp full of coconut cream for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream – but you may also have to adjust the quantity of the cream if you do not want a lot of coconut flavor in your pasta sauce.
9. Soy Milk and Olive Oil
Soy milk and olive oil make for an even healthier substitute for heavy cream. The biggest benefit of using this substitute is that it is vegan-friendly!
The richness from the soy milk along with the rounded flavor and viscosity of olive oil will mix well with just about any pasta sauce.
Reduce the mixture until you get the right consistency or add any thickener of your choice to make a creamy pasta sauce.
We recommend creating a soy milk and olive oil mixture separately. Start by mixing 1 cup of soy milk with 2 tbsp of olive oil and then reduce at low heat. Mix in a bit of corn starch or flour and thicken as needed.
Use 1 tbsp of this mixture for every 1 tbsp of heavy cream in your pasta recipes!
10. Cashew Cream
Cashew cream is another great vegan alternative to heavy cream. Made in the same manner as coconut cream, this substitute offers way more flavor and better overall nutrition than heavy cream.
It can be used for any type of pasta recipe and you can even drizzle it over spaghetti for presentation points and flavor! We recommend keeping a 1:1 ratio for cashew cream when substituting heavy cream!
11. Almond Cream
Almond cream is perhaps the preferred choice for a lot of health enthusiasts. Its counterpart, almond milk is just as famous and can be used in any type of cooking or baking recipe.
It can be prepared at home by blending soaked almonds until the mixture resembles milk or cream.
Almond cream is a thicker version of almond milk as it contains considerably less water. It’s readily available and you can even purchase it from a local store too. Substitute 1 tbsp of heavy cream with 1 heap-full tbsp of almond cream!
Best Heavy Cream Substitutes for Pasta Sauces
Here is a quick summary of some common pasta sauces that you can make with the substitutes above:
|Sauce||Dairy Substitutes||Vegan Substitutes|
|Alfredo Sauce||Cream cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, cottage cheese||Cashew cream, almond cream, soy milk, and oil with flour|
|Tomato Cream Sauce||Evaporated milk, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and milk, whole milk, yogurt||Almond cream, soy milk and olive oil, coconut cream, cashew cream|
|Cream-Cheese Sauce||Whole milk, Greek yogurt, cream cheese, butter and milk, evaporated milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese||Cashew cream, soy milk and olive oil, almond cream, coconut cream|
|Mac and Cheese Sauce||Whole milk, butter and milk, evaporated milk||Cashew cream, almond cream|
Heavy cream may be the default choice for many when it comes to making pasta but there is a whole range of better tasting and more nutritious substitutes that you can use for sauces, garnishes, and more!
Now that you know the best substitutes for heavy cream in pasta recipes, here are some related questions:
Can you mix different substitutes for heavy cream?
Yes. You can try mixing two to three substitutes for heavy cream for better flavor and richness. You can even try mixing dairy and vegan alternatives for an interesting texture and flavor too.
Will coconut cream add an overpowering coconut flavor?
Coconut cream tastes like unsweetened coconut which means that if you use it in large quantities, then it could end up changing the flavor of your pasta recipe. Always use this substitute in moderation and adjust as per your requirement.
Will heavy cream substitutes affect the shelf life of cooked pasta?
No. You will have to store all leftovers in the same way as you would store pasta made using heavy cream!