Heavy cream is considered a staple ingredient — and for good reason. It’s used in a wide variety of recipes, including soups, sauces, homemade butter, ice cream, and sour cream.
Sometimes called heavy whipping cream, it’s made from the high-fat part of fresh milk. When fresh milk is left to stand, a heavy cream rises to the top and can be scraped off.
Consisting of 36–40% fat, heavy cream is higher in fat than other cream varieties, including whipping cream, half-and-half, and light cream.
However, because heavy cream is high in fat and contains dairy, it may not be a suitable option for everyone.
If you’re looking to replace heavy cream with a lower-fat or dairy-free alternative, plenty of substitutes are available.
This article reviews 10 of the best substitutes for heavy cream.
1. Milk and butter
Combining milk and butter is an easy, foolproof substitution for heavy cream that’ll work for most recipes.
The butter adds extra fat to the milk, making its fat percentage similar to that of heavy cream.
Combine 1/4 cup (57 grams) of melted butter with 3/4 cup (178 mL) of milk and mix thoroughly to make 1 cup (237 ml) of heavy cream. You can also add a tablespoon (8 grams) of flour to thicken the liquid, especially if you’re using low-fat milk.
Keep in mind that this substitute works well for cooking and baking recipes in which heavy cream is used to add flavor and creaminess. However, it will not whip the same way that heavy cream does.
Summary: To substitute for 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream, mix 1/4 cup (57 grams) of melted butter with 3/4 cup (177 mL) of milk. This stand-in is best for cooking and baking, not whipping.
2. Soy milk and olive oil
For a vegan, dairy-free alternative to heavy cream, try mixing soy milk with olive oil.
Much like the pairing of milk and butter, olive oil adds fat to the soy milk for a flavor and function comparable to heavy cream.
To replicate the flavor and thickness of 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream, combine 2/3 cup (159 mL) of soy milk with 1/3 cup (79 mL) of olive oil.
This substitute is best for adding tenderness and taste in cooking and baking, but it should not be used in recipes that require whipping.
Summary: Combine 2/3 cup (159 mL) of soy milk with 1/3 cup (79 mL) of olive oil to substitute for 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream. This stand-in is best for adding tenderness and flavor in cooking and baking, not for whipping.
3. Milk and cornstarch
If you’re looking for a low-fat, low-calorie alternative to heavy cream, this combination may work well for you.
Cornstarch is used to thicken milk to help reproduce the texture of heavy cream.
To replace 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream in your recipe, add 2 tablespoons (19 grams) of cornstarch to 1 cup (237 mL) of milk and stir, allowing the mixture to thicken.
You can use whole milk or opt for skim milk to help slash the calories and fat content of your recipe.
This substitute is especially useful in cooking, but it may alter the texture of baked goods and will not whip as well as heavy cream.
Summary: To replace 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream, add 2 tablespoons (19 grams) of cornstarch to 1 cup (237 mL) of milk and whisk thoroughly. This lower-fat, lower-calorie substitute is best used in cooking. However, it may alter the texture of baked goods and will not whip as well as heavy cream.
4. Half-and-half cream and butter
In a pinch, half-and-half cream combined with butter can be a simple substitute for many recipes that require heavy cream.
Half-and-half cream is made from whole milk and cream, but it has about a third of the fat of heavy cream.
Adding butter helps increase the fat percentage of half-and-half, making it a suitable alternative to heavy cream in almost any recipe, including those that require whipping.
You can also use half-and-half to replace heavy cream without adding butter in certain recipes, such as sauces and soups.
To substitute for 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream, mix 7/8 cup (232 grams) of half-and-half with 1/8 cup (29 grams) of melted butter.
Suggested read: Coconut milk substitutes: 11 delicious alternatives
Summary: To substitute for 1 cup (237 mL) of heavy cream, combine 7/8 cup (232 grams) of half-and-half with 1/8 cup (29 grams) of melted butter. This substitute works in virtually any recipe, including those that require whipping.
5. Silken tofu and soy milk
Like regular tofu, silken tofu is made from condensed soy milk that has been formed into solid white blocks.
However, silken tofu has a softer consistency and can easily be blended into a high-protein, dairy-free replacement for heavy cream.
Blending it with soy milk helps give it a smooth texture to remove lumps. You can also use regular milk or another plant-based milk instead of soy milk.
Combine equal parts silken tofu and soy milk and blend thoroughly in an immersion blender or food processor until the mixture reaches a smooth, thick consistency. Then use it in place of an equal amount of heavy cream to thicken your favorite recipes, such as soups or sauces.
Because it can be whipped like heavy cream, you can also add a bit of vanilla extract or sprinkle of sugar to make it into a homemade vegan whipped topping for desserts.
Summary: Mix equal parts silken tofu and soy milk and blend thoroughly to make a high protein, vegan substitute for heavy cream. This mixture works well to thicken soups and sauces. It can also be whipped like heavy cream.
6. Greek yogurt and milk
A mixture of Greek yogurt and whole milk is another alternative to heavy cream that will help you thicken up your recipes.
Greek yogurt is high in protein and can provide a healthy twist to your finished product by increasing the protein content.
It’s thicker than heavy cream, but you can add milk to thin it out and achieve a texture similar to that of heavy cream.
Blend equal parts Greek yogurt and whole milk and use it in place of the same amount of heavy cream.
Note that this substitute can add thickness to dishes like soups or sauces, but it shouldn’t be used in recipes that require whipping.
Suggested read: Vegan baking guide
Additionally, Greek yogurt is lower in fat and may not provide the same tenderness or flavor as heavy cream in baked goods or desserts.
Summary: For a higher-protein alternative to heavy cream, combine equal parts Greek yogurt and whole milk and use the mixture in place of the same amount of heavy cream. This combination is great for thickening soups or sauces but cannot be used for whipping.
7. Evaporated milk
Evaporated milk is a canned, shelf-stable milk product with about 60% less water than regular milk.
Thus, it’s thicker and creamier than milk and can be an easy lower-calorie alternative to heavy cream in some recipes.
Evaporated milk is best for recipes in which heavy cream is a liquid ingredient, such as in baked goods, since it will not provide the same thickness as heavy cream and does not whip as well.
For best results, substitute heavy cream with an equal amount of evaporated milk. If you’re making a dessert, you can also add a few drops of vanilla extract to sweeten it.
Summary: Evaporated milk can be used as a substitute in recipes in which heavy cream is used as a liquid ingredient, such as in baked goods. However, it does not whip well. Substitute the heavy cream in your recipes with an equal amount of evaporated milk.
8. Cottage cheese and milk
Cottage cheese is made from the curds of cow’s milk. It’s high in protein and many micronutrients, making it a healthy substitute for heavy cream.
Cottage cheese alone can be a good substitute for heavy cream to help add thickness to recipes like sauces. Simply remove the lumps by blending them with an immersion blender or food processor.
You can also mix it with milk to help replicate the smooth, creamy texture of heavy cream for use in other recipes.
Combine equal parts cottage cheese and milk and blend until all the lumps have been removed. You can use this mixture in place of an equal amount of heavy cream.
Be sure to pick recipes that are compatible with the distinct, cheesy flavor of cottage cheese, such as savory soups and sauces.
Additionally, remember that cottage cheese can be high in sodium. If you’re salt-sensitive, you may want to opt for a lower-sodium variety or adjust the amount of salt in your recipe if you use this substitution.
Summary: Cottage cheese can be a protein- and nutrient-rich substitute for heavy cream. Combine equal parts cottage cheese and milk and blend until all lumps are removed. You can use this mixture in place of the same amount of heavy cream in recipes in which the flavor is compatible.
9. Coconut cream
Coconut cream is a versatile ingredient that makes an excellent vegan substitute for heavy cream.
Suggested read: 9 scrumptious mayonnaise substitutes (including vegan options)
While it can be purchased pre-made, it’s also simple to make at home using coconut milk.
Simply chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, open it and pour the liquid contents into another container. The thick, hardened coconut cream that’s left can then be scooped out of the can and used as a substitute for heavy cream.
Swap an equal amount of heavy cream for coconut cream and use it in recipes for your favorite sweets and baked goods. You can even use it to make coconut ice cream or whip it and use it as a tasty topping for desserts.
Although coconut cream has properties similar to those of heavy cream, keep in mind that it may alter the flavor of your final product and should be used only in suitable recipes.
Summary: You can substitute an equal amount of heavy cream with coconut cream and use it as a dairy-free alternative in recipes that call for heavy cream. It can be baked, cooked, and whipped, but it does have a coconut flavor, so choose your recipes accordingly.
10. Cream cheese
Cream cheese is a type of fresh cheese made from milk and cream. Though it’s most often used as a spread for bagels and a star ingredient in cheesecakes, it can also make a good substitute for heavy cream in some recipes.
In particular, cream cheese makes a good substitute for frostings and can help thicken cream-based soups and sauces. However, it should not be used as a replacement for heavy cream in recipes that require whipping.
Cream cheese will work as a one-to-one substitute for heavy cream.
Keep in mind that cream cheese may alter the taste and texture of the final product, so make sure to use it in suitable recipes in which the flavors will work together, such as in creamy soups or cheesy sauces.
Summary: Cream cheese can be used in place of an equal amount of heavy cream in soups and sauces. It’s not suitable for whipping.
Heavy cream is found in a wide array of recipes, both savory and sweet.
Luckily, if you’re out of heavy cream or prefer a low-fat or vegan alternative, there are many substitutes.
Some even pack in added protein or cut out calories. These include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and silken tofu.
However, replacing any ingredient in a recipe can modify the taste and texture, so be sure to use these substitutes in compatible recipes.