Milk and butter to coconut cream
Heavy cream is a common ingredient that can be found in a variety of dishes. However, this doesn’t always mean that you have heavy cream readily on hand. If your fridge is looking a bit sparse, or if you’re on a low-fat or lactose-free diet, you might be looking to substitute heavy cream in a recipe.
When unpasteurized milk naturally separates, rich cream will rise to the top. This cream is separated from the milk and processed, and the result is the heavy cream (also known as whipping cream) found in stores today.
Heavy cream is high in fat, so it’s important that your substitute is as well. This way, you won't compromise flavor or texture in your recipe.
1. Milk and butter
One of the simplest ways to mimic heavy cream is by combining milk and melted, unsalted butter. These are two pantry staples you are likely to have if you happen to be out of heavy cream.
One tablespoon of heavy cream has about 5 grams of fat. One tablespoon of butter has about 12 grams of fat. In order to use butter to replace heavy cream, you have to dilute it with milk to lower the fat content.
For every cup of heavy cream, you can substitute 6 tablespoons of butter and 2/3 cup of milk. This substitution works great for dishes needing a rich base, like mashed potatoes or most cream sauces.
2. Milk and oil
If you find yourself without any butter, a combination of milk and oil can be a great substitute as well. Extra virgin olive oil has the highest amount of monounsaturated fats compared with other oils, so it's highly recommended when replacing butter in a recipe.
One tablespoon of olive oil carries about 14 grams of fat. In order to replace one cup of heavy cream, you'll need to use 1/4 cup of olive oil and 3/4 cup of milk.
This mixture likely wouldn’t work well for baked goods, but it would be a good substitute for stovetop dishes with creamy bases.
3. Non-dairy milk and oil
If you’re looking for a non-dairy replacement for heavy cream, consider combining olive oil with non-dairy milk.
Coconut milk and soy milk are great fatty alternatives to standard cow’s milk. If you use coconut milk, make sure you don't add any coconut cream to the mixture, as that would throw off the fat ratio.
If using soy milk, combine 2/3 cup with 1/3 cup of olive oil. If using coconut milk, use 3/4 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Again, this mixture likely wouldn't work well in replacing heavy cream in baked goods, but you can use it to help thicken sauces and soups.
4. Coconut cream
Coconut cream is a great alternative if you're looking for a non-dairy option for making whipped cream.
You can chill a can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight to help thicken it. When you're ready to use it, beat it with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks.
If you don’t have coconut cream on hand, you can use a can of coconut milk instead. Once chilled, the cream in the milk will separate. Then, you can spoon it out of the can to whip it up.
Half and half and butter to tofu and soy milk
5. Half and half and butter
Since half and half is made up of milk and cream, it’s an easy substitute for heavy cream. However, it only has about one-third of the fat content that heavy cream has.
You can combine 1/4 cup of melted, unsalted butter and 3/4 cup of half and half to get the same ratio of fat that's found in heavy cream. This substitute works great for most recipes, even ones that require whipped cream.
If you're working with a recipe that doesn’t require heavy cream as a thickener, you can just add half and half by itself to give your dish a splash of creamy goodness.
6. Yogurt and milk
Plain Greek yogurt and milk can be a great alternative to heavy cream. Yogurt has a thick texture that looks like heavy cream when diluted with milk.
As a bonus, Greek yogurt is also loaded with calcium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. These added nutrients give your heavy cream substitute a healthy boost.
You can use equal parts yogurt and milk to get the right texture and amount you are looking for. If you prefer your substitute a little thicker, you can try adding less milk.
Even if you use whole milk yogurt, you'll find that the fat content isn’t quite the same as heavy cream. Because of this, you won’t be able to use it in recipes that require a high fat content, but it’s great in recipes that need the texture of heavy cream.
7. Milk and cornstarch
If you’re looking for a substitute for heavy cream but need to match the thickness it provides, you can try adding cornstarch to milk instead. If you use whole milk, your mixture will have a higher fat content than skim or lower fat percentage milks.
Mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 1 cup of milk will give it a texture similar to heavy cream, especially if the milk is warmed. After mixing, you can let it sit for a few minutes, and the mixture will thicken.
To avoid clumps of cornstarch floating in the milk that are difficult to break up, mix 2 to 4 tablespoons out of the cup of milk into the cornstarch first until the mixture is smooth. Then, mix this slurry back in with the remaining milk.
If you don’t have any cornstarch on hand, you can use some flour to thicken the milk instead. If you do use flour, you will likely need to use heat to help the mixture thicken.
8. Tofu and soy milk
If you’re looking for another vegan alternative, you can use tofu to thicken soy milk and resemble heavy cream. The way tofu thickens milk is similar to the way cornstarch works.
You can take one cup of silken tofu and blend it. Then slowly add in soy milk until you reach your desired texture.
Although this mixture does not whip up, it is a great replacement in most dishes that have a creamy sauce base.
In addition to matching the texture of heavy cream, it provides plenty of nutritious benefits as well, since tofu is packed with protein, potassium, and calcium.
Powdered milk to evaporated milk
9. Powdered milk
If you find yourself short on heavy cream but you happen to have powdered milk in your pantry, try using it to give your dishes some added thickness and creaminess.
One or 2 tablespoons of powdered milk can help to thicken sauces and soups that have a liquid base of something other than cream. If you need a liquid substitute, you can rehydrate your powdered milk with a bit of water and use it in baked goods like scones.
Buttermilk is a complex option when substituting for heavy cream. Although the ratio is 1:1, buttermilk is more sour in taste and lighter in texture than heavy cream is.
If you use buttermilk in baked goods, you can counteract its sour taste with baking soda. This may not make it as sweet as heavy cream is, so it’s important to be careful when you use it. The combination of buttermilk and baking soda also acts as a leavener to give your recipe some extra rise. Keep this in mind if the recipe calls for another leavener, like baking powder.
In recipes that require a thickening agent, buttermilk likely won’t do the trick. However, it's a great option if you need some dairy in a pot of soup or in sauces that don’t rely on heavy cream for thickness.
11. Cream cheese
Cream cheese is a great ingredient for thickening soups, sauces, and other stovetop meals. So it can naturally be used to replace heavy cream in similar dishes.
However, if you're looking to replace the texture of heavy cream, you may need to soften the cream cheese and add some milk until you get the right texture.
The fat content of cream cheese is the same as heavy cream — 5 grams for every 1 tablespoon — so you likely won't need to add full-fat ingredients to your substitute, even if you do need to add some milk to change the texture.
12. Sour cream
Sour cream has a high fat content and can easily be used to replace heavy cream. Though its texture is thicker than that of heavy cream, it likely doesn't need to be altered before being used in a recipe.
Sour cream also has a handful of added health benefits. It's loaded with vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K, and it has a good amount of vitamin B12 as well.
You can use sour cream in a 1:1 ratio in recipes that call for heavy cream, but keep in mind the difference in flavor. You may want to limit sour cream as a replacement and only use it in savory dishes like chili or soups.
13. Evaporated milk
Evaporated milk is a great ingredient that can last a while in your pantry. It’s a bit thicker than normal milk, so it can be a great substitute in recipes calling for heavy cream.
A bonus of using evaporated milk is that you can purchase cans that are fortified with vitamin A. This can give your dishes a nutritious boost that other substitutes may not be able to provide.
In most recipes, you can use the same amount of evaporated milk to replace heavy cream. It is great in baked goods and sauces, but cannot be whipped.
Keep in mind, though, that evaporated milk is not as high in fat content as heavy cream is. If your recipe gets most of its fat from heavy cream, you may need to try another substitute.
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Cream Chargers: "12 Substitutes for Heavy Cream."
Environmental Working Group: "Hood Ultra Pasteurized Heavy Cream."
Foods for Better Health: "10 Simple Heavy Cream Substitutes for a Healthier Diet."
Prepared Cooks: "Can You Use Buttermilk Instead of Heavy Cream?"
U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Butter, without salt," "Cheese, cream," "Cream, fluid, half and half," "Cream, sour, cultured," "MORI-NU, Tofu, silken, firm," "Milk, canned, evaporated, with added vitamin A," "Oil, corn, peanut, and olive," "Yogurt, Greek, plain, whole milk."
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