Heavy cream is made from the layer of milk fat that sits on the top of whole milk. To qualify as heavy cream, the cream must have a minimum of 36 percent milk fat. The only problem with heavy cream is that you might not always have it on hand. Whether you're looking for a dairy-free alternative or simply don't have any heavy cream at home, these are the best substitutes for heavy cream.

1) Coconut Milk

If you need a dairy-free vegan substitute for heavy cream, use full-fat coconut milk. Coconut milk has a similar texture to heavy cream, but it does have a noticeable coconut flavor. It's good for making whipped cream, too!

2) Half and Half

Half and half is made from half milk and half cream, so it's an excellent heavy cream substitute in recipes like soups, sauces, in your coffee or tea, or certain desserts. Because it has much less fat compared to heavy cream, it makes a great substitute for anyone trying to cut calories without completely sacrificing that lush texture.

3) Yogurt

If you don't have cream, full-fat plain yogurt is a protein-rich substitute you can use in place of heavy cream. Look for Greek or Icelandic yogurt. If the consistency is too thick, you can thin it out with milk. It'll make your recipes slightly tangier, but you'll get a similar texture. The best part is that it's healthier than cream.

4) Butter and Whole Milk

One of the easiest ways to make a heavy cream substitute is to combine 4 tablespoons (or half a stick) of melted butter with ¾ cup of whole milk. Whisk the mixture until smooth. It's a pretty good option when you don't have heavy cream, but your recipe won't turn out as smooth and the milk-butter mixture won't hold its shape the same way as heavy cream would.

5) Light Cream

Although it has less milk fat than heavy cream, light cream is a great substitute in a pinch. You'll be able to get a similar, although not quite the same level of silky smoothness in your recipes. Light cream ranges from 18 to 30 percent fat, so the results may vary depending on what brand you buy.

6) Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk has a thicker texture than regular milk because it has been cooked to have over half its water content removed. It's a good substitute in soups and stews, added to coffee, tea, or other hot beverages, and in oatmeal.

7) Milk and Cornstarch

cornstarch

Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 cup of milk to make a simple heavy cream substitute on the fly. Like yogurt, the milk and cornstarch combination is another excellent option if you're looking for a low-calorie, low-fat alternative to heavy cream.

8) Sour Cream

When making sauces or whipping up a batch of mashed potatoes, sour cream is a killer heavy cream substitute. Sour cream can curdle when added to a hot dish, so be sure to temper it before stirring it in. Creme fraiche will also work if you're looking for a substitute with a less obviously sour flavor.

9) Silken Tofu and Soy Milk

Another great vegan heavy cream substitute is silken tofu and soy milk (or any other plant-based milk). Use 1 cup of tofu and add soy milk until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. It's best used in soups and sauces as it doesn't whip well.

10) Soy Milk and Oil

Soy and other plant-based milk can be made creamier with a dash of oil. Whisk 2/3 cup plant-based milk with 1/3 cup oil or melted margarine and use it as a heavy cream substitute in sauces, soups, stews, and desserts. The soy milk and oil mixture doesn't whip well, so bear that in mind if you're looking to make vegan whipped cream.