Heavy cream is a versatile ingredient that can be used to enhance a wide variety of desserts and baked dishes. It’s a sweet fluffy foam that adds sugariness and a soft texture to baked goodies like cookies and cakes as well as to scrambled eggs, among other items. But in case you’ve run out, here are some ingredients you can use as a substitute for heavy cream.
What is Heavy Cream?
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Finding a perfect substitute for heavy cream is not that tricky because there are other foods that offer similar textures and flavors. But what is heavy cream you ask?
Heavy cream or whipped cream is the high-fat part of fresh milk that rises to the top when you simmer the milk or let it sit. It’s scraped off from the top and cooled to arrive at a soft foamy texture, after which it is pasteurized and homogenized.
The final product has a variety of culinary uses ranging from dessert toppings to additions to warm drinks like coffee or soup. It’s often turned into whipping cream by churning it with a whisk or mixer. This causes the fat molecules to clump together and makes the cream light and fluffy.
Heavy cream typically contains around 36-40% milk fat depending on the variety. It’s rich in nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin D, but its high-fat content also makes it high in calories. So, you have to consume it in moderation.
5 Best Substitutes for Heavy Cream
The key to picking a good substitute for heavy cream is to understand what function the cream is meant to serve in the original recipe.
1. Milk and Butter
If you ever run out of heavy cream at home but still have some milk and butter on hand, combining them gets you a pretty close version of heavy cream. Butter adds more fat to milk, bringing the fat percentage closer to heavy cream. Whole milk and half and half butter work best.
All you have to do is mix melted butter with milk in a 1:3 ratio and whisk it slowly. If you want to thicken the liquid, you could warm it up for some time or add a tablespoon of flour.
Just note that this recipe works best for recipes where the cream is meant to add flavor and texture, but it won’t whip the way heavy cream does.
2. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk can be an excellent vegan substitute for heavy cream because it has the same creamy richness. Although too much can alter the taste of a recipe, so should proceed with care.
If you’re looking for a whipped creamy topping, you can make cream from coconut milk. All you have to do is leave the coconut milk in the freezer overnight, then pour it out. You’ll find solidified fat that can be scooped out and used as a substitute for whipped cream on baked goods.
Heavy coconut milk cream can be whipped into a dollop, but it won’t expand the way cream does.
Yogurt is a dairy product that’s made by adding cultures of bacteria, typically lactobacillus, to milk. It breaks down the sugar lactose in milk and is responsible for the “souring.” This makes the milk runny with thick lumps that can be stirred into a delicious cream.
Yogurt is used in many desserts to add a bit of tang to the sweetness. Like whipped cream, it is also often combined with fruits for a variety of sweet dishes. For a thicker, heavier cream you could try using Greek yogurt. It’s much thicker than heavy cream so you might need to add some milk to thin it out until you match the texture.
This makes a good substitute for heavy cream in dishes like soups or sauces, but cannot be used as a substitute for whipping cream because it’s not fluffy.
4. Sour Cream
Sour cream is obtained by treating regular cream with lactic acid. The fermentation process sours and thickens the cream. It has around 20% fat content, making it an effective substitute for heavy cream as long as souring doesn’t offset the main flavors of the dish.
Sour cream can be used to give body to sauces or added on top of things like mashed potatoes, fries, and other savory dishes to give the dish a sour tinge. You could also make it sweet and add it to a bunch of desserts. It’s thick enough to lend the same texture as whipped or heavy cream.
5. Evaporated Milk
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Evaporated milk is milk that’s been kept at a boil long enough to remove around 60% of its water content to achieve a thick creamier liquid. It works best in recipes where the cream is added as a liquid ingredient such as soups since evaporated milk cannot be whipped into a fluffy cream topping. You can substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream in a 1:1 ratio.
Thanks to its long shelf stability, evaporated milk lasts longer in your pantry than heavy cream. It has a slightly toasty, caramel taste that goes great with all kinds of sweet baked dishes. For an enhanced flavor, add a few drops of vanilla extract to sweeten the cream.
How Can I Make Heavy Cream at Home?
Making heavy cream at home is simple. All you need is whole milk and butter. Here are the steps to follow:
#1. Make sure you have 1/3rd cup butter for every 3/4th cup of whole milk. Follow this ratio for any quantity of cream you seek to make.
#2. Melt the butter by placing it on your skillet and setting the heat to low.
#3. Let the melted butter cool down a bit, then add it to milk in the ratio from Step 1. If you’re using milk with low fat content, you might also want to add a tablespoon of flour to thicken the cream.
#4. Heat the butter/milk mixture on the stove and bring it to a boil. After boiling for about 10 minutes, you should notice the mixture start to thicken as water evaporates.
#5. Let it sit for a while until the mixture reaches room temperature, then refrigerate it. The cream will start to form at the top and can be scraped off with a spoon.
Watch a full-length video tutorial on how to make heavy cream at home below.
A Few Parting Words
There is a range of home or supermarket ingredients you can use as a substitute for heavy cream. In some cases, you may be substituting for lower calories, as a vegan alternative, or just for taste. Once you understand what role heavy cream is going to play in your dish, you’ll be able to choose the perfect substitute.