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7 Genius Substitutes for Heavy Cream
Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

So, you’re about to whip up a delicious cardamom cream-filled bundt cake when it hits you—you forgot to pick up a carton of cream from the grocery store. Or maybe you’d like to make chicken alfredo for dinner tonight but your vegan friend is coming over. Don’t sweat it—there’s no need to change the menu. Here, seven easy—and delicious—substitutes for heavy cream.

First up: What is heavy cream?

With at least 36 percent fat, heavy cream is the rich dairy product that makes recipes extra velvety and decadent. Its fat content sets it apart from other milks and creams you might spot at the grocery store. Whipping cream, for example, has at least 30 percent fat, while half-and-half has between 10.5 percent and 18 percent. Due to its high fat content, heavy cream is great for whipping (it’s even better than whipping cream for holding its shape) as well as using in sauces, where it’s more resistant to curdling. 

7 Substitutes for Heavy Cream

1. Milk and butter. Milk on its own won’t have the fattiness that you’re after but add in a little bit of butter and you’re in business. To make one cup of heavy cream, mix 1/4 of melted butter with 3/4 of a cup of milk. (Note: This substitute is best when you’re adding a liquid to recipes, since it won’t whip up the same way as heavy cream.)

2. Coconut cream. This substitute is ideal for vegans or for those who are avoiding dairy. You can buy coconut cream on its own and use it the same way you would use heavy cream (you can even whip it) or make your own from coconut milk. Here’s how: Chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge until firm and pour into a bowl or container. The stuff that’s left in the can (a thick, solid substance) is coconut cream and makes an excellent replacement for heavy cream.

3. Evaporated milk. You can sub in this canned, shelf-stable milk product for equal amounts of heavy cream. But, like some other substitutions, this one’s best used in recipes as a liquid ingredient since it won’t whip up well. Also, keep in mind that evaporated milk tastes slightly sweeter than heavy whipping cream.

4. Oil and dairy-free milk. Here’s another non-dairy alternative to heavy cream: Use ⅔ cup of your favorite non-dairy milk (like rice, oat or soy) mixed with ⅓ cup extra-light olive oil or melted dairy-free margarine. Easy peasy.

5. Cream cheese. Got a tub left over from brunch yesterday? Swap in equal amounts for heavy cream in your recipe—it will even whip up (although the texture will be more dense). The flavor isn’t the exact same, however, so the finished product might be slightly tangier.

6. Tofu. It sounds weird but it totally works, especially in savory recipes (although tofu doesn’t have a distinct flavor so you can use it in desserts, too). To replace 1 cup heavy cream, puree 1 cup tofu until smooth. Use in sauces, soups and more the same way you would cream.

7. Cashew cream. Another vegan alternative? Cashew cream. To replace 1 cup of the dairy ingredient, soak 1 cup unsalted cashews in water for a couple of hours. Drain the nuts and then add to a blender with ¾ cup water and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and refrigerate overnight. Use in sauces or whipped up in desserts.

RELATED: Is Heavy Cream the Same Thing as Whipping Cream?

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