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. Read ahead for common dairy items that make excellent substitutes for this special ingredient in case you run out.
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. Therefore, you'll need to do a thorough examination of your recipe to choose the substitute that will work best.
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 fat. However, combining half-and-half with a bit of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a final note, a worthy mention is a mixture of milk and olive oil as other substitutes. 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.