Chances are, if you’ve ever cooked, you’ve probably used heavy cream before. By definition, heavy cream contains 38% milk fat. It’s also considered an emulsion— that is, a suspension of fats in water— which is why it tastes creamy without feeling too oily or “fatty." Because of its fat content and its thickness, heavy cream can easily be whipped into stable peaks. It’s also a popular ingredient to use in baked goods and cream-based dishes like mac and cheese. 

If you’re short on heavy cream or just want to alter a recipe to make a lighter and healthier dish, here are some great heavy cream substitutes you can use. What you decide to use, however, really depends on whether you want to use the substitute as an ingredient in a recipe or as a whipped cream topping for desserts.

Substituting Heavy Cream as a Topping

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If you need heavy cream to make whipped cream, your best bet is to use coconut cream as a replacement. You can buy it in a can or make it yourself by chilling a can of coconut milk overnight to separate the cream from the liquid. The key before whipping is really to make sure your coconut cream is cold. Otherwise, coconut cream is an awesome substitute for whipped cream, especially if you can’t tolerate dairy.

Another quicker option is to buy a frozen whipped cream topping, such as Cool Whip. While this is certainly a simpler alternative to making your own, keep in mind that it’ll taste different than freshly whipped cream.

Substituting Heavy Cream in Recipes

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If you’re planning to use heavy cream as an ingredient in recipes instead, you’ll have more options to choose from. Any other dairy milk, such as whole milk, half-and-half, and skim milk, can replace heavy cream. You may want to mix some cornstarch into the milk to replicate the thickness of heavy cream.  If you’re dairy-free, you can also try using non-dairy milks, like coconut, soy, almond and cashew.

You can also try making your own heavy cream substitute by combining 3/4 cup milk with 1/3 cup butter for every 1 cup heavy cream the recipe calls for. Another great heavy cream substitute is a blend Greek milk and yogurt. It's a healthier heavy cream substitute and is super easy to make. Your cook times likely won’t change, but using heavy cream substitutes that have less fat will make your final product less rich and have a thinner consistency.

Hopefully this guide helps you understand what heavy cream substitutes you can use in case you don’t have any on hand. Remember that while you have a range of options to choose from, your final products may not turn out the same as if you used actual heavy cream. Nevertheless, happy cooking!