Medical News Today: What are the best substitutes for heavy cream?

Heavy cream is a popular dairy ingredient that adds richness, flavor, and body to many dishes, including soups, desserts, and casseroles. Some people are unable to use heavy cream, but they can try various substitutes instead.

In a pinch, people can replace heavy cream for a mixture of milk and butter. People who are unable to eat dairy or high-cholesterol foods can use substitutes, such as non-dairy butters, coconut cream, or pureed tofu.

Among those who may not be able to eat heavy cream are people who have lactose intolerance or are following a vegan diet. Heavy cream is high in saturated fat, so people following a calorie-controlled diet may also wish to avoid it.

In this article, we discuss dairy, vegan, and healthful substitutes for heavy cream, and explain which ones will whip in a similar way to cream.

1. Butter and milk

Milk and butter
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Mixing milk and butter creates a substitute for heavy cream.

Heavy cream contains more fat than milk does, so a combination of butter and milk can act as an excellent replacement in many recipes.

When there is no heavy cream to hand, people can use the following mixture in its place:

  • three-quarters of a cup of milk
  • one-quarter of a cup of melted unsalted butter

This substitute will not whip in the same way that heavy cream does. It can, however, replace heavy cream in baked goods and creamy sauces.

2. Oil and dairy-free milk

To make the equivalent of 1 cup of a dairy-free heavy cream substitute, try the following recipe:

  • measure out two-thirds of a cup of rice or soy milk
  • mix well with one-third of a cup of extra light olive oil or melted dairy-free margarine

This substitute will not whip like heavy cream. People can try using these substitutions in a variety of dishes to determine which combinations work best for them.

3. Full-fat coconut cream

Full-fat coconut cream has a creamy texture. It whips in a similar way to heavy cream, and the two are close in consistency.

To make coconut whipped cream, follow these steps:

  • chill a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight or until firm
  • open the can and pour away the liquid, leaving just the solid coconut cream
  • scoop the cream into a chilled bowl and whip with a handheld mixer or blender

Coconut whipped cream can substitute dairy whipped cream as an accompaniment to desserts. This non-dairy substitute has a distinct coconut flavor, which means that it will not be suitable for use in all dishes.

Coconut cream is an alternative to full-fat coconut milk that people can use in both sweet and savory dishes.

4. Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is thicker and creamier than regular milk. People wanting a more healthful substitute for heavy cream can try using evaporated milk instead to reduce the number of calories and the amount of saturated fat in a recipe.

Evaporated milk contains 338 calories per cup, compared to 809 calories per cup of heavy cream.

However, evaporated milk does not whip like heavy cream.

5. Brown rice and low-fat milk

For savory dishes, such as soups, people can use a mixture of brown rice and low-fat milk to create an alternative to heavy cream. Unlike other healthful substitutes, such as low-fat milk and yogurt, this cream substitute will not curdle when people add it to hot food.

Use the following steps to make 3 cups of a healthful, savory substitute for heavy cream in soups:

  • mix 2 cups of unsalted chicken stock and a half-cup of uncooked instant brown rice
  • bring to the boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 25 minutes
  • let it stand for 5 minutes then blend in 1 cup of 1-percent low-fat milk until smooth

Using the brown rice mixture in place of heavy cream will significantly reduce the number of calories and the amount of fat in the dish.

6. Cashew cream

Cashew cream in bowl with ingredients
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Cashew cream is useful in a variety of dairy-free recipes.

Cashew cream is a versatile substitute that people can use when making sweet or savory recipes.

To make cashew cream, use the following recipe:

  • soak 1 cup of raw cashews in water for 2 hours
  • drain the cashews
  • mix the cashews with three-quarters of a cup of filtered water and a pinch of salt
  • blend until smooth
  • store in the fridge in an airtight container to allow the cream to thicken

To whip cashew cream, chill it first and then lightly whisk it using a handheld mixer or blender. This cream can act as a vegan alternative to whipped cream on desserts.

People can also use cashew cream instead of heavy cream to thicken creamy soups or tomato sauces.

7. Pureed tofu

Pureed silken tofu can replace heavy cream in many recipes, although it will not whip. Add 1 cup of pureed tofu in place of 1 cup of heavy cream.

Silken tofu adds an extra protein boost to a meal. A 100 gram (g) portion provides 4.8 g of protein and only 55 calories.

8. White beans

Pureed pulses can replace heavy cream in soups and stews. They will thicken the dish and add nutrients, protein, and fiber.

Add 1 cup of pureed pulses in place of each cup of heavy cream.

Blended white beans are a high-protein addition to savory recipes, providing 19.02 g of protein per cup and 299 calories.

Summary

People who are unable or unwilling to use heavy cream can try a range of possible substitutes. There are dairy-free, vegan, and healthful alternatives that can take the place of heavy cream and provide savory and sweet dishes with a thick, creamy texture.

Alternatives to heavy cream include a butter and milk mixture, evaporated milk, cashew cream, and pureed tofu or beans. For an alternative to whipping cream, it is best to use chilled full-fat coconut milk.

Aim to choose a substitute that is suited to the specific meal. Substituting heavy cream can make a dish much lower in saturated fat and calories, often without sacrificing taste or texture.

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