Heavy cream can sometimes be a challenging ingredient to work with. While some recipes allow you to just toss it in and mix it up, other recipes use it to thicken things up.
This high fat cream is used in a variety of different recipes from things like ice cream, sour cream, soups, and various sauces to even homemade butter.
When the heavy cream doesn’t thicken up like you need it to it can be incredibly frustrating. In most cases, heavy cream will thicken easily but there are times it might disappoint you.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help thicken your heavy cream if you find yourself struggling.
What are the best ways to thicken heavy cream? The best ways to thicken heavy cream include storing it in a cold place or boiling it. You can also thicken it by adding gelatin, flour, or cornstarch.
In this guide, we will detail the 5 best ways to thicken heavy cream. We have some helpful tips, including best practices as well as some things you can add to heavy cream for thickening purposes without changing the flavor of the cream.
Using these handy methods, you’ll be enjoying a cream thick enough to your liking in no time instead of wanting to toss the whole thing out in frustration.
Stick with us to learn the best ways to thicken heavy cream and more.
What Is Heavy Cream?
Heavy cream is typically found in the dairy section at your local grocery store.
You can find heavy cream, whipping cream, half and half, double cream, and evaporated milk and they are all somewhat similar and yet all still unique in their own way.
If a recipe calls for heavy cream, you probably need regular heavy cream or perhaps heavy whipping cream but you might also be able to use a substitute and then add a thickening agent to it as well. It really depends on what you are making.
Heavy cream is also commonly referred to as heavy whipping cream so these terms are primarily interchangeable.
When milk is made, there is certain fat content that rises to the top (because it has high fat content) and that part is removed from the milk. That is the heavy cream. It typically is 36-40% fat.
This is the dairy product with the highest fat content. The next closest is whipping cream but it only has about 30%, so it’s still significantly less.
It’s the fat content that gives heavy cream the ability to thicken up or be used to thicken things you might be making.
Because of the high fat content, heavy cream whips really well and it tends to hold its shape well also.
It is the best dairy product for thickness or whipping purposes compared to others. In addition, heavy cream is also known for a long shelf life and it can also be frozen and used later.
Here are some common uses for heavy cream.
- Sour cream
- Whipped cream
- Ice cream
- Biscuits and scones
- Chowder or bisque
- Various soups
- Creamy sauce
- Potato recipes
- Irish cream
- Homemade butter or cheese
These are just some examples but there are many other things that heavy cream might be used for as well, including fillings and casseroles, and more.
5 Best Ways to Thicken Heavy Cream Explained
Now, you know the basics about heavy cream and you know the types of things it is often used for. Let’s talk about the best ways to thicken it up if for some reason it isn’t thickening.
Some of these tips might include adding a thickening agent of some sort while others might include best practices for handling instead.
We’ve got plenty of options and you may want to consider checking them out even before you try to thicken your cream.
Before you start tossing in something to thicken the heavy cream, know your recipe and understand how it might affect it.
You may choose something specific to thicken your cream based specifically on the recipe you are using and the other ingredients in there as well.
1. Keep It Cold
One of the best practices that you can use is to make sure your heavy cream is nice and cold.
The best way to be able to thicken the cream as needed is to be sure you chill your cream and that you don’t pull it out until you need it.
When the cream becomes warm, it does something to the fat content so it causes it to bot thicken or stabilize in the same way.
In the end, you work and whip and kill your arm trying to thicken it up and yet it still disappoints you.
If you want that thickening to happen and a nice, fluffy texture your cream needs to be nice and cold.
One of the simplest steps you can take is to store your heavy cream in the fridge and don’t let it just sit out for long periods before you use it.
Cold cream thickens up much better overall. This is one of the most common mistakes with heavy cream handling and a lot of people don’t realize it plays a major role.
2. Boil It
You can boil heavy cream and then whip it into shape. However, you will need to be very careful if you decide to follow this process as it is not just as simple as just putting it on the stove and boiling.
Boiling heavy cream leaves you at risk for accidentally burning the heavy cream and potentially altering the flavor just a bit too.
While the flavor may be altered slightly, it will help you get that thickening going and any flavor change will be subtle.
If you pay close attention and monitor the heavy cream closely, you are probably not going to burn it but you will need to be cautious and mindful as it could burn fairly easily.
Boiling heavy cream is considered time-consuming and can sometimes be heavily involved as well. You have to baby the cream while you work and it requires close monitoring.
When you start heating the heavy cream, it is essential that you continually whisk it from beginning to end.
It is your constant whisking that will help reduce the likelihood of burning the cream and also ensure that your flavor is not affected by the process as well.
While this is a work intensive process that can be time-consuming, it’s also pretty simple as far as the steps involved.
You heat it up slowly to a boiling temperature and you whisk it constantly to get it to the texture and thickness that you need.
You will need to be mindful to heat the cream slowly in order to prevent issues with curdling. Once it does reach boiling temperatures, don’t stop whisking! This is when you will actually notice the thickening of the cream.
The cream thickens more as it remains at boiling with you whisking so just keep at it for as long as your whisking arm can stand or until you reach the thickness you are looking for.
Remember that your flavors could change slightly but probably not a ton. You do want to avoid burning the cream or else it will taste burnt.
3. Try Adding Gelatin
A common way to thicken heavy cream without adjusting the flavor is to use unflavored gelatin.
Most people never even think of this but it actually works quite well. You can typically purchase unflavored gelatin in the baking aisle.
If you want the truly easiest way to thicken heavy cream without altering the flavor, this is the best option out there. Be sure that you use unflavored gelatin for the best results.
The most challenging part of this process is figuring out just how much gelatin you do need.
Start by adding small amounts and you can always add more if it is still not thickening up as much as you need it to.
Most unflavored gelatins include instructions for adding them to heavy cream so it’s a good idea to refer to those instructions so that you don’t mess with your texture and you get consistent thickness results.
This could easily go bad if you don’t follow instructions or don’t get the right amount of gelatin added to the cream.
Some potential risks are a change in texture or thickness that is inconsistent and only thickens in certain areas of the cream instead of all over.
Obviously, if you run into either of those issues, it could be detrimental to your heavy cream and change it completely.
Most of the time when you add gelatin, you also need to add some water.
Finally, if you add gelatin to your heavy cream, mix it in slowly, and don’t mix it in all at once. This gives you the opportunity to mix it as you add it and it mixes better with smoother and more consistent results as well.
If you need an unflavored gelatin, Knox Unflavored Gelatin is a good option to consider.
This powder comes in a 1-pound package that seals so you can store it. It is great for thickening and comes as both odorless and tasteless as well.
4. Add Flour
Another common way to thicken heavy cream is to add flour. You most likely already have flour on hand in your pantry so this can be a great go-to solution if you’re in the middle of working with your ingredients and need something right now!
Adding flour is another simple process and it is not likely to mess with your flavor either. You can use all-purpose flour or some other flour variation, whatever works for you.
The results will be pretty similar regardless of what type of flour you decide to use. In general, your results with the heavy cream will be the same and the flavor should be fine so use what you have available.
Just like with the gelatin, you will need to mix both flour and water to really be able to thicken and not mess with your texture.
Be sure to use cold water. You will create almost a paste with your flour and cold water first and mix that together before you mix it into your heavy cream.
Once you have your flour and water mixture, you can slowly whisk it into your heavy cream.
It shouldn’t clump up since you mixed your flour and water before-hand. Whisk it as you add it slowly so you get smooth and consistent texture during the process.
We recommend adding your flour and water mixture using about 1 teaspoon at a time and you can add more as you go if you need it to be thicker.
Add and then mix and if you need more thickness, repeat the process until you get to what you need.
While this shouldn’t affect your flavor, some people simmer the heavy cream after mixing to reduce any flour flavor.
If you need a recommendation for all-purpose flour, King Arthur All-Purpose Flour is a great option.
This all-purpose flour is made with unbleached flour and it’s reasonably priced as well. It’s made with quality ingredients and doesn’t have any added preservatives in it.
5. Add Cornstarch
Finally, another option you can try to thicken your heavy cream is to add cornstarch. Adding cornstarch is done almost exactly in the same manner as flour.
Cornstarch might change your flavor of the heavy cream just slightly but it shouldn’t be a significant change.
Be sure to mix your cornstarch with cold water first and make a paste and mix it 1 teaspoon at a time to your heavy cream until you reach the desired thickness.
Again, if your flavor seems off, you can always simmer your heavy cream for a few minutes to help with that.
If you need a good cornstarch in your pantry, PURE Corn Starch is a great option.
This cornstarch is made with pure and organic ingredients. It is one of the best quality corn starches you will find because it is pure and natural in design.
We hope that you find this guide to the best ways to thicken heavy cream to be a valuable resource. There are many options you can try and any of these will work well for you.
We invite you to review our question and answer section for some additional details that might be helpful for you as well.
Why Is My Heavy Cream Not Thickening?
One of the most common mistakes with heavy cream is that it simply isn’t cold enough.
If you chill your heavy cream and use it when it is cold, you are far more likely to be able to thicken it without having to add thickening agents.
Apart from that, be sure you are whisking it enough and whisking it well, understand it will take time, and always use the proper ingredients in combination with the heavy cream.
Is Heavy Cream The Same As Whipping Cream?
The short answer is no. While they are similar, heavy cream has quite a bit more fat content with 36-40% fat while whipping cream only has about 30% fat content.
Heavy cream thickens better and holds shape longer because of the fat content.
Will Heavy Cream Thicken When Heated?
You can boil your heavy cream and whisk it constantly to get it to thicken. See our details above for instructions on how to properly use this method.
Up Next: Whipped Cream Without Heavy Cream