No heavy cream? No problem.
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Anderson Erickson Heavy Whipping Cream cartons on purple background
Credit: Dotdash Meredith

Heavy cream, also referred to as heavy whipping cream, is a simple ingredient that makes a big difference in recipes. A splash of heavy cream can enrich the flavor and texture of a sauce or soup, and combining heavy cream and a little work with a whisk creates whipped cream — a decadent element that can be incorporated into pastries, puddings, and other desserts. But don't fret if your personal stash of heavy cream has gone sour — you can get the same effect using one of these substitutes for heavy cream.

The Best Heavy Cream Substitutes

Different ingredients have different strengths, so consider how you intend to use your heavy cream substitute. For example, one substitute may be a great thickener for soups and sauces, but won't whip well. Examine your recipe and choose the substitute that will work best.

1. Half-and-Half and Butter

A combination of half-and-half and butter makes the best all-around heavy cream substitute. Both heavy cream and half-and-half are made from cream — the distinction is that half-and-half is a mixture of cream and milk and has about a third as much as fat. However, combining half-and-half with a little butter works well. Substitute for 1 cup of whipped cream by mixing 7/8 cups half-and-half and 1/8 cup melted butter. If your recipe doesn't require whipping, you can simply substitute an equal amount of half-and-half.

Best for: just about everything, but you can't whip it into stiff peaks.

2. Milk and Butter

Similarly to half-and-half, milk makes a good heavy cream substitute when it's combined with melted butter. Combine 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup melted butter for every cup of heavy cream. This mixture is not suitable for whipping.

Best for: cooking and baking.

3. Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is an ideal heavy cream substitute in recipes that use heavy cream as a liquid. It won't whip well, but it's a great way to add moisture to baked goods. Substitute an equal amount of evaporated milk for heavy cream.

Best for: baking.

4. Coconut Cream

Coconut cream makes a great heavy cream substitute for two reasons: it's non-dairy, bypassing any issues for people with dairy sensitivities or special diets, and it can actually be whipped. Since coconut milk is naturally sweet, it adds a nice flavor and works well in desserts.

Best for: desserts, whipping.

5. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese may not be the first heavy cream substitute that comes to mind, but that doesn't mean it should be overlooked. Cream cheese may be too heavy to whip, but it's a good thickening agent for foods like soups, sauces, and frostings — just be sure you use it in foods that agree with its thick texture and tangy taste. Use in a 1:1 ratio. If you can't find cream cheese, try mascarpone.

Best for: sauces, soups, frosting.

6. Greek Yogurt and Milk

When you really need to thicken a dish, Greek yogurt gets the job done — in fact, it's much thicker than heavy cream. Combine equal parts Greek yogurt and milk for a substitute closer to heavy cream's thickness. Be sure to add it while your dish is off the heat to avoid curdling, and don't use it for whipping.

Best for: sauces, soups, some baking.

7. Soy Milk and Olive Oil

Combining 2/3 cup soy milk with 1/3 cup olive oil makes a shockingly creamy non-dairy heavy cream substitute. However, it won't replicate heavy cream's taste and does not whip well.

Best for: cooking and baking.

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