Food & Drink

The Ultimate Guide to Heavy Cream Substitutes

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 | 0 Comments
bottles of heavy cream

If you’re looking for a heavy cream substitute, you're in luck. There are tons of other options that can provide the same lush texture and creamy base. Do you have allergies or avoid dairy? These alternative swaps provide amazing results in a wide variety of tasty dishes.


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What Is Heavy Cream?

Many milk products are homogenized, meaning that the fat droplets in the liquid are thoroughly emulsified so they don’t separate from the thinner substance. When milk isn’t homogenized, these droplets separate and rise to the top of the container to form a fatty layer. This thick layer is known as heavy cream. The fat content allowed in certain dairy products is actually regulated by the FDA. In order for a product to carry the label “heavy cream,” it must contain 36% fat, per Healthline.

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Purpose of Heavy Cream in Cooking and Baking

Heavy cream is the perfect addition to savory cooked dishes. It brings a creamy dimension to soups and stews and thickens up rich sauces. It’s great for adding a luscious texture to these simmering recipes as its high-fat content keeps it from curdling. 

The thickness of heavy cream also makes it perfect for baking. It's a decadent addition to everything from pies to cheesecake. Plus, it whips up to a nice firm texture, making it ideal for decorating those baked goods.

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12 Heavy Cream Substitutes

Just because you can’t — or don’t — have heavy cream in your pantry doesn’t mean you have to forgo that recipe. You can easily swap it out with a heavy cream substitute for similar results. If you’re vegan, cooking for someone with a dairy allergy or simply forgot to grab a carton, you can still make that coveted dish happen.

1. Coconut Milk

If you’re looking for a vegan heavy cream substitute, this is your perfect go-to. Coconut milk has a high-fat content that mimics that of heavy cream. It’s delightful in baking recipes, but don’t let its sweet profile fool you. It can be equally tasty in savory dishes like alfredo sauces and Thai curries. Just make sure you’re using a full-fat version and not a reduced-fat variety.

How to make it: Simply swap coconut milk for the heavy cream in recipes cup for cup.

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2. Greek Yogurt and Milk Mixture

Greek yogurt makes a perfect surprise addition to many recipes. Many also rely on Greek yogurt for a healthy dose of probiotics. However, keep in mind that cooking temperatures around 115°F can destroy these probiotics, according to Cooking Light. But, if you’re looking for a heavy cream substitute in cold recipes like salad dressing, you can enjoy gut-boosting benefits with this swap.

How to make it: To thin Greek yogurt to the consistency of heavy cream, add equal parts of regular milk.

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3. Half-and-Half and Butter Combo 

To emulate the fattiness in heavy cream, you can use half-and-half combined with melted butter. This is one of the closest ways to achieve the richness that dairy fat provides. However, half-and-half only has about a 10% fat content according to WebMD. So, mixing in butter ups that level to closer to heavy cream.

How to make it: To make this heavy cream substitute, mix 3/4 cup of half-and-half with 1/4 cup melted butter. Make sure to incorporate it into your recipe quickly before the butter has a chance to solidify. 

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4. Plant-Based Milk and Oil

Luckily, you can make a vegan heavy cream substitute with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Grab your favorite plant-based milk and go-to cooking or baking oil. Soy, oat or almond all work — just make sure they are unsweetened for savory recipes. As far as oil goes, you can use sunflower, canola or even avocado if that’s your favorite. The trick here is using the oil to add fat to the plant-based milk to help it emulate heavy cream. 

How to make it: To create a cup of this dairy-free heavy cream substitute, mix 2/3 cup of plant-based milk with 1/3 cup of your chosen oil.

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5. Milk and Cornstarch

The point of heavy cream is often to thicken up recipes, and few kitchen staples can do that better than cornstarch — making this a great option for simmering sauces and soups. By whisking cornstarch into typical milk, you can also create a lower-fat heavy cream substitute. Plus, you likely already have both ingredients on hand. 

How to make it: Pour a cup of your normal dairy milk into a measuring cup and whisk in two tablespoons of cornstarch. Add it to your recipe before the powder has a chance to settle.

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6. Sour Cream

Sour cream is an easy replacement for heavy cream. It can be easily stirred into a dish and offers another flavor profile to soups, stews and sauces. Plus, using it as a heavy cream substitute is a great way to use up that lingering tub in the fridge. 

How to make it: Swap sour cream for heavy cream cup for cup, making it a simple swap.

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7. Coconut Cream

It can be tough to find a perfect heavy whipping cream substitute, especially one that’s vegan. Fortunately, you can use coconut cream to make homemade whipped cream and any other rich and fluffy recipes. This has a higher fat content than coconut milk, making it sturdy when you whip it. The key is to emulate the heavy cream separation process. Set the can out and allow the coconut cream to separate from the rest of the liquid. Then, scoop the fattiest part off and use it in your recipe. 

How to make it: You can use this separated coconut cream as a heavy whipping cream substitute, cup for cup.

coconut cream is a good heavy cream subsitute
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8. Evaporated Milk

Evavoparted milk is made by simply removing some of the water content from milk, resulting in a thicker consistency. This makes it a great heavy cream substitute for those watching their fat intake. Plus, it’s readily available and can easily be swapped in for cooking and baking recipes.

How to make it: Simply swap the evaporated milk with heavy cream in recipes in equal amounts.  

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9. Non-Dairy Milk and Arrowroot

Arrowroot is an awesome natural thickener that can be super helpful in recipes. When combined with vegan milk, it can be the perfect dairy-free heavy cream substitute. You can also tailor it to any allergies and select the best plant-based milk for your needs. 

How to make it: Stir two tablespoons of arrowroot into a cup of your favorite non-dairy milk and immediately add it to your recipes.

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10.  Cashew Cream

Cashews are a super popular way to create creamy textures in plant-based dishes. The fatty nut also makes an awesome non-dairy heavy cream replacement in a variety of recipes. Plus, cashews are a source of healthy fats, giving your dish a nutrient boost.

How to make it: Soak 3/4 cup of cashews in water for a few hours. Then, blend them with 1/4 cup of water to a smooth purée to make a cup of heavy cream alternative. 

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11. Cottage Cheese and Milk

You may not think of cottage cheese as an ideal ingredient in soups and sauces. However, it can add a perfect thickness to these recipes. You can blend it to remove the lumps first or use an immersion blender to mix it in. 

How to make it: You can use blended cottage cheese for heavy cream, cup for cup. 

cottage cheese and milk work as a heavy cream substitute
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12. Silken Tofu

Silken tofu can give you a great vegan replacement for heavy cream while adding a little extra protein to your dish. This texture of tofu is perfect for puréeing into anything from sauces to quiches and desserts. Its creamy texture can also give you an ideal heavy cream substitute that’s also dairy-free.

How to make it: Purée the tofu in a blender, adding non-dairy milk or water until it reaches the desired consistency. 

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If you come across a must-make recipe that calls for heavy cream, don’t worry, there are plenty of options out there. Whether you are looking for a dairy-free version, one with less fat or simply don’t have a container on hand, one of these subs can make an excellent stand-in. Each is readily available and will give you the creamy and decadent results you’re looking for in your next dish.

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