Heavy cream is an incredibly useful and versatile ingredient used for both savory and sweet recipes. It helps add creaminess, moisture, some nutritional value, a beautiful browned color, and can even add airiness to recipes (when whipped).
However, sometimes getting your hands on whipping cream isn’t always possible. Or, you simply need a lactose-free alternative. Whatever your reason may be, it is very hard to know exactly when to use which.
So, what are the best substitutes for whipped cream? If you need a whipped substitute, we would recommend using light cream or coconut cream. If you simply need an ingredient to substitute the moisture and creaminess with, you can look at substitutes like crème fraiche, cream cheese, whole milk and butter, mascarpone, or silken tofu and soy milk.
In today’s jam-packed article, we will be looking at the many substitutes you can use for whipping cream, (heavy cream). But, even more importantly, we will discuss exactly when and how to use each of them!
This will enable you to choose the best substitute without having to experiment first.
What Is Whipped Cream?
Whipped cream is a thick cream liquid that is whipped with either a hand or electric mixer until it produces a light and fluffy product.
This final form can hold its shape and is often used as a way to incorporate air into products, or as a garnish for many dishes and beverages.
Whipped cream is made from whipping cream, also known as heavy cream or double cream. This cream has an extremely high butterfat content (roughly between 30-36%).
This is what makes it different from regular cream, as more fat particles will help create a fluff and airy product.
Basically, as the heavy cream, is whipped, the fat molecules create a very stable network within which the air molecules are trapped.
This is why you will sometimes see that when whipping regular cream, it very quickly deflates and “leaks” water.
Functions Of Cream In Cooking And Baking
Cream has quite a few functions in cooking and baking. This list of functions will help you determine exactly which substitute will work best and which ones won’t work at all. Let’s get to it!
First and foremost, heavy cream is the perfect ingredient to use to help incorporate air into a recipe.
This isn’t something a lot of ingredients can do—extremely few actually, which is why heavy cream is so highly favorable (especially instead of egg whites).
Whipped cream is light and fluffy and adds that airiness to the recipe it is incorporated into. It is commonly used in desserts like frostings, cake batters, cream-based puddings, and even as-is as a creamy topping.
Adds Creaminess To The Texture
Fortunately, whipping cream (heavy cream) has more functions than just being whipped and adding air.
Another fantastic function it has is adding creaminess and richness to the texture of your recipe. This is thanks to the high-fat content it has.
Now, usually, the word “lactose” doesn’t have many good connotations. However, for those who aren’t lactose-intolerant, heavy cream is a fantastic ingredient that will add lactose to the recipe.
Lactose contains sugars and proteins. These sugars and proteins are essential for browning to occur.
Increases Moisture Content
Whipping cream, being a liquid, does add moisture to your recipes. The reason it is favorable above something like water is because of the flavor it adds and its enriching abilities.
Cream, despite having a pretty neutral flavor, still adds sweetness to dishes.
Especially when making baked (or heated) dishes, the sugars inside of the cream caramelizes which browns the product, but also adds a more caramel-like flavor to the recipe.
You can also use cream or whipped cream as a base ingredient to add extracts or other flavorings (like juices, essences, spices, etc.).
How To Choose A Substitute
Now, when deciding which substitute will work best, first look at how the whipping cream is used in your recipe.
If it is whipped it is used to help incorporate air into the dish. Therefore, you will need a substitute that will be able to do the same.
If the cream is simply added as-is, it is most likely used to simply add moisture and creaminess to the dish. For baked goods, it will then also aid with the browning effect of the item.
Here is where you have some room to play with when choosing substitutes.
But as we always say, experiment as much as you’d like, but always take notes so that you can refer back to what exactly happened when you made certain substitutions for specific recipes.
Other lactose products will arguably be your best bet when whipping cream is added to a recipe as-is. They have the most similarities between them.
How To Substitute Heavy Cream
Luckily, the substitutes for heavy cream are pretty close in characteristics to the cream itself. You will find that more often than not, you can substitute the ingredients in equal parts.
If you are using whipped cream, again, just make sure that the whipped substitute is equal in volume.
If you are using a very thick substitute, like sour cream or cream cheese, you may need to thin it a bit first. But this is very easy.
If you are using an ingredient that is much thinner compared to heavy cream (like milk), you may need to use a little less in some recipes.
The 9 Best Substitutes For Whipping Cream
Now that we know what we’re looking for in a substitute, let’s check out some of the best ingredients you can use to swap out whipping cream!
1. Regular Cream
Regular cream, also known as light cream, is the closest substitute to heavy cream. The biggest difference between these two creams is their fat content.
Light cream has a fat content of about 20%, whereas heavy cream contains between 30-36%.
The high-fat content is what gives heavy cream its whipping abilities. Light cream will be able to whip, but not as well (but it will still do in a pinch).
The best place to use light cream is unwhipped in recipes like batters, sauces, or to soften purees (like mash). It can also just be used to add creaminess to dishes like stews and curries.
You can use light cream as a substitute in equal ratios—no need to make any adjustments. A fantastic tip for whipping light cream is to chill your cream before using it (it whips much better).
Then, once whipped, immediately use it or chill it again. Do not let it stand as it will deflate.
2. Milk & Butter
Okay, so for this substitute you can also use milk as-is, but by simply adding some butter, you will have a much closer substitute.
You can use milk as-is to help thin purees, in cake batters, and maybe in some sauces. With sauces, you can cook out and reduce the moisture content of the sauce to mimic the consistency heavy cream would have added.
So, by adding butter (fat) you are adding the richness that heavy cream has. This is perfect for recipes like cream puddings (crème Brulee or bread and butter pudding), curries, most cake batters, and rich sauces.
To make this mixture, you can combine ¼ cup melted and cooled unsalted butter with ¾ cup whole milk. This makes about 1 cup of heavy cream.
Always use whole milk. It has a higher fat content compared to other types of milk. You can use this substitute in equal parts.
This mixture, however, will not whip. So, you may want to look at different substitutes (like light cream) for this.
Yogurt is a lactose product that is made with whole milk that has been fermented using healthy (and safe) bacteria. The sugars inside of the milk are converted into lactic acid by the bacteria while giving plain yogurt its unique tangy flavor profile.
As a substitute for heavy cream, always use plain double-thick (or Greek) yogurt. You can also use double cream yogurt.
These yogurt products are naturally thick in consistency and will work better to add creaminess compared to whole milk.
As with the whole milk and butter mixture, yogurt cannot whip. While it will add some texture, it won’t be able to help aerate batters. It is best used as-is.
You can also thin it with some whole milk if you want a closer texture to that of regular heavy cream.
You can use plain double thick yogurt (as-is or thinned) in a one-to-one ratio. Especially in sauces and savory dishes, we would recommend using the yogurt as-is.
4. Heavy Coconut Cream
Heavy coconut cream is an excellent substitution that can be whipped! And, what makes it even better than heavy cream, is that it is completely vegan and naturally lactose-free.
Now, heavy coconut cream won’t necessarily whip to stiff peaks, but it will definitely whip to soft or medium peaks, which can still be used in many recipes. Do not use light varieties of coconut cream as they don’t whip at all.
You can use light or reduced-fat coconut cream and even coconut milk if you are using it as-is. It will help add the creaminess that heavy cream has, will help with the browning effect, and will add richness and moisture to your recipes.
One thing to definitely take into consideration is that coconut cream (and milk) has a coconut-like flavor. While we are personally big fans of coconut flavors, not many people are and it may affect the final flavor of your dish.
You can try and hide it with extracts or when using it in heavily spiced dishes like curries.
5. Crème Fraiche
Crème Fraiche is also labeled as “cultured cream” in some countries. This cream, as the name suggests, has an added culture (bacteria) to it.
This bacterium, much like with fermented yogurt, helps add a tanginess to the ingredient that is very favorable to help balance out the sweetness in dishes.
Crème Fraiche has a fat content of at least 40%, much higher than whipping cream. Unfortunately, it still cannot be whipped and is much thicker in consistency than heavy cream.
To help adjust the consistency, you can beat the creme fraiche with some regular milk, light cream, or even water (but don’t use water as it dilutes the flavor).
If you are using the crème Fraiche as-is, you will still need to beat it to help make a smooth consistency. This form will work best in recipes where it will melt away, like heated sauces, stews, soups, and so on.
6. Cream Cheese
Everybody loves cream cheese! And, it is usually easier to find than most other soft cheeses, not to mention cheaper because of how common it is. Cream cheese is a soft fresh cheese made from a combination of cream and milk.
It has a fat content between 33% and 55%—you can determine this by looking at terms like “reduced-fat” or “full-fat”.
Cream cheese is very thick in consistency, so as with creme fraiche, it is best used as-is in recipes where it will melt down.
Otherwise, you can beat it to help remove any lumps before adding it. Cream cheese makes an excellent substitution in frostings and dips—recipes where you want a thick creamy consistency.
Our best advice would be to thin it with some water or milk before adding it anywhere. Cream cheese can also not whip. However, you can still aerate it slightly!
When we first learned about mascarpone cheese, we were fascinated! This is an Italian acid-set cream cheese. What this basically means is that it is made by using an acid to curdle the milk.
The whey is then removed to produce a thick soft cheese. The cheese curdles are then blended to create a smooth product that can easily be spread.
Mascarpone cheese has a slightly sweet and acidic flavor to it—sweeter compared to cream cheese and creme fraiche, but pretty much close to it.
And to use it, you can also slightly aerate it by whipping it with an electric mixer. It will also not create a very aerated or whipped mixture (like whipped cream) but will provide some lightness to your product.
You can also thin mascarpone if you’d like with some light cream or whole milk.
8. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is also called “unsweetened condensed milk”. It is a type of canned cow’s milk product that is highly concentrated.
About 60% of the water has been removed through evaporation. This product contains varying amounts of fat, usually at least 7.9%.
While this is very low compared to heavy cream, try choosing a product with the highest amount of fat that will mimic that of heavy cream.
The reason evaporated milk works as a substitute for heavy cream is because of its nutritional value and the effects it will have on the recipe’s browning process and texture. It enriches, adds moisture, nutritional value, and a creamy texture.
You can substitute heavy cream with evaporated milk in equal ratios because evaporated milk has a very similar consistency to heavy cream. Keep in mind that it will not whip.
You can also use condensed milk, an extremely sweetened version, but you will have to adjust the recipe a lot, which in our opinion, isn’t worth the effort.
9. Silken Tofu Blended With Soy Milk
Silken tofu is made from soy milk, a plant-based milk alternative. It is made using condensed soy milk that has been pressed into white solid blocks.
This naturally means that the consistency of the substitution is completely different from that of heavy cream.
However, silken tofu is an incredibly rich and creamy substitute that is also vegan, making it a great option for savory recipes.
To use this substitution, you will have to blend the silken tofu with some soy milk. The added soy milk merely helps adjust the thick blended consistency to something a little closer to heavy cream.
This is a very flavorful substitution that we highly recommend giving it a try.
Up Next: 5 Best Ravioli Stamps