Here's What You Can Substitute For Heavy Cream

When you're at a restaurant, and you ask your server what made your butternut squash soup so rich, or kicked your pasta bake to the next level, or took the dressing on your salad from "good" to "how-do-I-make-this-at-home?," the answer is often the same thing: heavy cream. Heavy cream, that delicious, buttery goodness that rises to the top of fresh milk, is defined by its high fat content, as it contains no less than 36 percent milkfat (via Undeniably Dairy).

So, what is a health-conscious or lactose-intolerant person to do when heavy cream is a key component of their recipe? Or what if you flat-out forgot to pick up heavy cream on your grocery run? Are your mashed potatoes ruined? It turns out there are plenty of ways to achieve the rich flavor of heavy cream without the cream itself, using ingredients you might already have in your fridge.

Healthline offers several alternatives to heavy cream — the simplest of which is milk and butter. A combination of one part melted butter to three parts milk, and you've essentially added that fattiness that makes heavy cream so delicious back into your milk. This alternative will be the closest in taste, but Healthline warns it won't whip as easily as true heavy cream. This makes the combo better suited for baking and cooking rather than a whipped cream topping. But there are several other routes you can take, too, when it comes to swapping it out.

Other heavy cream alternatives worth trying

Butter and milk aren't the only viable substitutes for heavy cream. Perhaps there is a carton of half-and-half in the back of your fridge, waiting to be called up? The Spruce Eats says to go ahead and use it in place of heavy cream. It's half whole milk, half light cream, so it should mimic the flavor of heavy cream, but with half the calories and half the fat. That way, you can half an extra helping (pun intended).

Maybe your reasons for leaving out the heavy cream are more health-related rather than a forgotten grocery list item. Good news: if you want to make your dish lower in fat, or vegan-friendly, there is a heavy cream substitute for you. Healthline recommends equal parts silken tofu (softer than regular tofu) and soy milk, blended together to form a thick, smooth consistency. As a bonus, this alternative is dairy-free and high in protein. 

Another vegan substitute for heavy cream that Real Simple likes is coconut milk, or evaporated milk for when you're trying to cut calories. (Or trying to figure out what to do with that can of evaporated milk that's been sitting in your pantry.)