Walking through the dairy section can be kind of a nightmare. There are so many types of yogurts then milks and then the creams. You have heavy cream vs whipping cream vs half & half. But what's the difference?

Different recipes for the same meal, like fettuccine Alfredo, all use different types of cream or milk. But which one is correct? In this article I will try and explain to you the differences between heavy cream and whipping cream so you know which to use in the future.

The fat content in both

cake, whipped cream, cream, meringue
Allison Curley

Cream itself comes from the fat from unpasteurized whole milk, and the different types of cream you see in the supermarket come from the fat content. So the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream has to do with how much fat is in it. Heavy cream (and heavy whipping cream) has a fat content of at least 36%, while whipping cream has between 30 to 36% fat.  

How does this affect your cooking?

cheese, tortellini, spaghetti, cream, macaroni, pasta
Elizabeth Dieterich

Creams with more fat are more stable for whipping and sauce making. So if you're making an Alfredo sauce, it's probably best to use heavy cream since it takes less time to cook down than whipping cream.

If, however, you only have whipping cream and you want to make a fantastic cream of tomato soup, then you can use that. But be sure to cook it a bit longer than the recipe calls for. 

Which Is Better for Whipped Cream?

cake, chocolate, cream
Jaime Wilson

Now this comes down to a matter of what type of whipped cream you're looking for. If you would like to pipe a topping on a cupcake or a filling for a cream puff, then use the heavy cream for the whipped cream. Since heavy cream has more fat, it holds its shape better.

Because whipping cream is lighter, the whipped cream that you make will be lighter and less likely to keep its height. This type of whipped cream is perfect for spooning on top of toppings for sundaes and pies.

What About Half & Half?

cream, milk, tea, coffee, ice
Alex Frank

Half & half, according to the Kitchn, is one part whole milk and one part cream. It only contains 10-12% fat, which means that it is impossible to be used for whipped cream. The best uses for half & half are for mixing in coffee drinks, baking a delicious quiche, and making a perfect panna cotta.

#SpoonTip: Non-fat half & half is just milk with enough corn syrup and thickeners to make it creamier. While it does have less calories, it has twice the amount of sodium.

What's the Bottom Line?

cream, whipped cream
Zoe Malin

Heavy cream and whipping cream come from the same process of separating the the cream from the milk. The main difference between heavy cream vs whipping cream is the fat content of each. Heavy cream has over 36% of fat, while whipping cream has between 30% to 36%. 

Heavy cream is better suited to when you need a thickener in a soup or sauce, or a thicker whipped cream filling. Whipping cream, however, is better for a light topping on desserts. Whatever you're making, heavy cream and whipping cream will add the perfect touch.