Whether you’re looking for a dairy-free option or the carton of heavy cream in your fridge has gone bad, this heavy whipping cream substitute guide will help you find the perfect alternative!

A whisk from a stand mixer that has homemade whipped cream on it.
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Heavy cream is a staple in cooking and baking thanks to its magical abilities to thicken soups and sauces, whip into a fluffy cloud for desserts, and add richness to just about any recipe. But if you don’t have heavy cream handy, or just need a lighter option, there are some great substitutes that can work just as well. 

The key is to know which heavy cream substitutes work best for the recipe you’re making.

What Is Heavy Whipping Cream?

Heavy cream is a thick, creamy dairy product produced by separating the fat molecules from cow’s milk. If you’ve ever bought a bottle of non-homogenized milk with a layer of cream at the top, that’s heavy cream in its natural form!

Heavy cream contains at least 36% butterfat and it has a velvety texture that holds up well when whipped into peaks. While heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, and whipping cream all have subtle differences, for the purposes of a home cook, you can use them interchangeably.

A clear glass mixing bowl of a stand mixer filled with whipped cream.

Uses for Heavy Cream in Baking and Cooking

Heavy cream is a go-to ingredient for elevating desserts and savory dishes alike. Here are a few common uses:

  • Desserts – Whip heavy cream with sugar to create a fluffy topping for cakes, pies, ice creams, and other treats. You can also fold whipped cream into pie fillings to give them a light, airy texture, or combine it with chocolate to create rich truffles and ganache.
  • Sauces – Use heavy cream as the base for creamy sauces like Alfredo and bechamel.
  • Soups – Add a splash of heavy cream to soups and chowders like tomato soup for a creamy finish. 
  • Curries – Indian curries often use heavy cream to cut through the heat.

When you’re looking for a heavy cream substitute for cooking, you have a lot more flexibility than with heavy cream substitutes that need to be whipped for desserts. 

A whisk from a stand mixer that has homemade whipped cream on it.

Tips

  • Choose a heavy cream substitute that works with the flavors in your recipe. Yogurt and sour cream will add tanginess, while coconut cream will add coconut flavor, so you’ll want to add them to dishes where these flavors complement the rest of the ingredients.
  • If you’re looking for a heavy cream substitute that you can whip, only heavy cream powder, coconut cream, and sometimes light cream will work.

Best Heavy Whipping Cream Substitutes

Here are some tried-and-true heavy whipping cream substitutes for baking and cooking.

Heavy Cream Powder

Heavy cream powder is made by evaporating heavy cream until it forms a powder. It’s shelf-stable and you reconstitute it by stirring it into water or milk. This makes it a great pantry staple for baking and cooking. It ensures that you’ll always have heavy cream on hand whenever you need it.

Light Cream

Light cream, as you might guess, has less butterfat than heavy cream—usually around 20%. It has a thinner consistency, but it will still add richness to savory dishes and creamy desserts like chocolate pudding. If you find a light cream with a butterfat percentage well above 20%, you can try to use it to make whipped cream, but it won’t form stiff peaks; adding gelatin powder can help.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is cow’s milk that has been heated and condensed into a thick, creamy consistency. It has the same fat content as light cream, but it won’t whip up like heavy cream. Use evaporated milk in place of heavy cream in sauces, soups, and curries for a lower fat option, but take note: it does have a distinct flavor to it.

Half-and-Half (With or Without Butter)

Half-and-half is a combination of milk and cream with 10-18% butterfat. It’s thinner than heavy cream and you can’t whip it, but you can use it in sauces, soups, and other dishes that require dairy. If you want extra richness, whisk together 3/4 cup of half-and-half with 1/4 cup of melted butter. You can simply add half-and-half without the butter to keep it lighter, too.

A clear glass mixing bowl of a stand mixer filled with whipped cream.

Whole Milk (With or Without Butter)

Whole milk is the least fatty dairy option with only 3-4% butterfat. It won’t provide as much richness or body as heavy cream, but it will still add some thickness to soups and sauces. Just like with heavy cream, you can add butter for extra richness—use 2/3 cup of milk and 1/3 cup of butter to substitute for 1 cup of heavy whipping cream.

Plain Yogurt With Whole Milk

Plain yogurt and whole milk is an excellent substitute for heavy whipping cream in soups. You can use either regular yogurt or Greek yogurt; blend or whisk together equal parts milk and yogurt until the mixture is smooth, then stir into soups, sauces, and curries for extra body and a hint of tangy flavor.

Sour Cream With Whole Milk

Sour cream is a great heavy cream alternative in baking and cooking; it works just like yogurt in that you’ll blend equal amounts of sour cream and milk to create a tangy substitute to stir into soups and sauces.

Coconut Milk

Need a dairy-free heavy whipping cream substitute? Full-fat coconut milk is perfect! Use it in sauces, soups, and curries, or make chocolate ganache and truffles with it. Just be sure to use full-fat coconut milk, not lite.

Coconut Cream

Coconut milk cream is a dairy-free alternative made from canned coconut milk. Refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight and scoop out the solidified cream that forms on top. Beat the cream with sweetener to create a fluffy vegan whipped cream for topping desserts.

Cashew Cream

Cashew cream is another vegan-friendly option that you can make by blending raw cashews with water. It has a rich and creamy texture similar to heavy cream and it can be used in place of dairy in soups, sauces, curries, and more. Use a high-speed blender to blend 3/4 cup of water with 1 cup of raw cashews to make this heavy cream substitute at home.

A white bowl full of homemade whipped cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use milk instead of heavy cream in soup?

Milk can be used instead of heavy cream in soups and sauces; it won’t provide the same richness or body, but it will thicken the broth slightly and add some creamy dairy flavor.

Is half-and-half the same as heavy whipping cream?

No, half-and-half is not the same as heavy whipping cream. Half-and-half contains 10 to 18% butterfat and it will not whip like cream. Use half-and-half in place of heavy cream for a lower-fat option, but note that it won’t provide the same richness or texture. 

Can I use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream in pasta?

Yes, you can use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream in pasta dishes like Penne alla Vodka or Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta.

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1 Comment

  1. Very helpful information. Once, I used regular milk and now I know that it’s ok to do it. My dish
    still came out delicious. Thank you for the good information.