single and double cream

What Is the US Equivalent of Single and Double Cream?

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Single and double cream are two ingredients found in many European recipes, used to make desserts, meals, and more, but if you are in the US, you might not find these two ingredients at your local grocery store.

The reason you won’t find these ingredients in the grocery store in the US is that there are different milk and cream standards in the US, and you will have to find the equivalent products.

What is the US equivalent of single and double cream?

In the US, the closest thing to single cream would be light cream, and the closest equivalent to double cream would be heavy cream. These have the most similar fat contents, which should do well to replace single or double cream in a recipe.

Keep reading to learn more about the US equivalent of single and double cream, and the various options you have to use in its place.

What Is Single Cream?

Single cream is a richer version of full cream milk, having around 20% fat content. Single cream is most commonly used to pour over desserts such as puddings and fruit and enrich different dishes such as soups and sauces.

cream soup

Single cream does not whip up, as it doesn’t have a high enough fat content, but it can curdle if it is boiled or added to certain hot meals.

As it has a lower fat content and is thinner, single cream does not make a good substitute for double cream or whipping cream.

What Is Double Cream?

Double cream is a much thicker cream compared to single cream. It has a fat content of around 48%, which makes it quite versatile, thick, and rich.

It is great to pour over different desserts, but it can also be whipped and used as a topping or piped onto different baked goods.

For savory dishes, double cream can add richness and creaminess to many different meals, such as sauces, soups, and pasta dishes.

Double cream can be used in place of single cream in most cases.

What Is the US Equivalent of Single Cream?

Single cream has a fat content of around 20%, and there is no direct equivalent in the US, but the closest substitute you can find would be light cream, which has around 18% fat content.

Light cream is a cream that has a fat content above 18%, but it will not have more than 30% fat content. When finding a light cream to use in place of single cream, you should look for one that has as close to 18% fat content as possible.

However, there will not be too much of a difference if you use a higher fat content than this, and there should not be too much of a change in the recipe you are making.

What Is the US Equivalent of Double Cream?

Double cream has a fat content of around 48%, and this is quite high compared to the equivalent in the US.

The closest equivalent to double cream in the US is heavy cream, but heavy cream only has a 36% fat content. 

Heavy cream is also known as heavy whipping cream, and it is the thick part of the milk that rises to the top. While most heavy cream has a fat content of 36%, it can range between 36% and 40%, but this is still lower than double cream.

However, it is the best option to use in place of double cream, and while it might not be as thick, it does work much the same way as double cream would in a recipe.

Why Is Cream Different in the US and the UK?

There are many differences between food items available in the US and the UK, with cream options being one of these.

The reason that there are differences in cream options, as well as why there are no direct equivalents for single cream and double cream in the US, is that the US has very stringent pasteurization standards.

These stringent pasteurization standards mean that the cream in the US cannot be made with as high a fat content as UK cream, so they do have generally lower fat content.

The Various Cream Options in the US

To find the best equivalent for single and double cream, it helps to know the various cream options available, to choose the one that would be best with your recipe or pudding.

Half and Half

Half and half is a mix of whole milk and light cream and has a fat content range between 10.5% and 18%. Most commonly, half and half is used as creamer in coffee. It does not whip up, but it can be used in place of whipping cream when you are trying to lower the fat content in a meal.

half and half cream

Half and half is quite fluid, because it does have a lower fat content, but this makes it very pourable, and easy to mix into hot beverages.

Light Cream

Light cream is used in a similar way to half and half, but it is not diluted with milk and is made of light cream alone. Commonly, light cream is used as coffee cream or a table cream to pour over desserts, but it can also be added to sauces and soups.

The fat content of light cream ranges from 18% to 30%, but generally, it contains around 20% of fat. Light cream does not whip, but if it has a higher fat content of around 30%, it might whip slightly, although it won’t be stable.

Whipping Cream

Whipping cream has a fat content of around 30%, which allows it to whip up and thicken, and be stable once it has been whipped.

whipping cream

It does not whip as well as heavy cream, but it does work well as a topping for desserts and baked goods, and it works well as a filling too.

Whipping cream is mostly ultra-pasteurized, which helps to extend its shelf-life quite a bit, by removing bacteria and enzymes.

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is thicker than most other creams and has a fat content of between 36% to 38%, and it is the closest equivalent to double cream in the UK.

heavy whipping cream

Heavy cream is also known as heavy whipping cream, as it is perfect to make whipped cream with stiff peaks, which is more stable.

It adds richness and creaminess to different meals too, being great to use for both sweet and savory dishes.

Sour Cream

Sour cream has a tart flavor, due to the fermentation process it undergoes. It has a similar fat content compared to light cream, around 18%.

sour cream

Sour cream is treated with lactic acid, and it is a good cream to use as a topping for nachos, cheesecakes, dips, soups, and sauces. It does not whip, and it might split when boiled.

What Is Single Cream Used For?

Single cream, with around 18% fat content, is a common ingredient used for pouring over fruit and puddings, as well as a common ingredient used to enrich soups and sauces.

It is a good cream to use when you do not want to thicken a sauce or topping too much, and it is best used when you do not need to bring the cream to a boil, as it will split. Single cream will also not whip up.

If a recipe calls for single cream, then light cream would work best in its place. If you are looking for something to add a little tang to a recipe, mostly for savory recipes, then sour cream could also work well in its place.

What Is Double Cream Used For?

Double cream is thick, and it is super versatile too. It is the ideal pouring cream, as it has a thick viscosity, but is still easy to pour. It is great to top fruit or desserts with a simple pour.

Alternatively, double cream can be whipped and used as a topping, or it can be piped onto different desserts too.

For a more savory side, double cream can be added to many different dishes, and it can be boiled along with other ingredients and not split.

If you need an equivalent that whips and which can be boiled like double cream, then heavy cream would be as close as you can get, although it does have a slightly lower fat content, it performs many of the same functions.

What Is the Best Way to Store Cream?

Cream, whether light cream, heavy cream, whipping cream, or sour cream, needs to be kept in the refrigerator.

Both opened and unopened, cream is a dairy product, and it does have a fairly short shelf life. It definitely needs to be stored at the back of the fridge, in the coolest part, and not in the door, as the temperature might fluctuate too much.


It is fine to keep the cream in its original packaging if not opened, and once opened, you can still keep the cream in the original packaging if it closes properly, otherwise, it should be transferred to a fridge-safe, sealable container.

Make sure that you keep a check on the best-by date on the cream, to make sure that you use it before it turns sour or begins to spoil.

Can You Freeze Cream?

Cream, as it is a dairy product, does have a limited shelf life. You need to make sure you use it within the best-by date on the packaging, but if you do not think you will, then you can freeze the cream.

When freezing cream, it will expand in the freezer, so you need to make sure that there is some room for expansion in the original packaging, to avoid it exploding all over. If not, then you can pour the cream into an airtight freezer container or a resealable plastic freezer bag.

Cream can be left in the freezer for up to 3 months, so make sure to label the date of freezing so you can keep a check on when to use the cream by.

When it is time to use the cream, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. You might have to stir it before using it, as some of the fats may have separated, but it will be fine to incorporate into soups and sauces.

How to Tell if Cream Is Off

Double cream, heavy cream, single cream, and light cream can all spoil after being left in the fridge for too long, or if they were not stored properly.

cream is off

It helps to know the signs to look for that cream has expired:


Cream which has spoiled will likely have a sour, rancid smell to it. As you open the container, you will notice a sour, tangy smell to it. It might smell similar to sour cream, but this is definitely a sign that it is no longer safe to eat.


When cream starts to spoil, it might begin to separate and discolor. It is common for spoiled cream to develop mold, which will look like green, black, or gray spots which might even be fuzzy, on the surface of the cream or on the inside of the container.

If you notice that the appearance of the cream has changed, then it is a clear sign that it has started to spoil.


If you do not notice any other signs of spoiling, and unfortunately land up tasting the cream and experience a sour or rancid taste, then it is a clear indication that the cream has begun to spoil, and you should not eat anymore.

Obviously, this is slightly different for sour cream, which already has a tangy flavor to it from the addition of lactic acid, but it should not taste rancid.

Finding the Right Cream

If you are using a recipe that calls for single cream or double cream, then you will have to look for an equivalent, as there is no exact substitute to use.

The best way to do this would be to look at the fat content of other cream options available to you, to find the one that would be closest to what you need.

The fat content makes a huge impact on how the cream pours, how thick it is, how it reacts to heat, and whether it whips well or not, so it is definitely what you should be looking for in a substitute.

What Is the US Equivalent of Single and Double Cream

The US equivalent of single cream would be light cream, and the equivalent of double cream would be heavy cream. These have similar fat contents, although the fat contents are not exact.

However, for the purpose of cooking or pouring, these work well as substitutes, and there shouldn’t be much change to the recipe at all when using light cream in place of single cream and heavy cream in place of double cream.

Related Questions

Can I Substitute Single Cream for Double Cream?

Single cream does not work well as a substitute for double cream, as it does not whip up and it splits when it is boiled.

Does Creme Fraiche Work in Place of Double Cream?

Creme fraiche can be used in place of double cream, mostly when making savory dishes, such as pasta, sauces, or soups. It is similar in consistency but has a fresher, slightly tangier flavor to double cream, but this does work well in various dishes and meals.

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