Avoid rushing out to the grocery store with these easy substitutes for heavy cream.

By Kelly Vaughan
Updated March 11, 2019
Getty Images

Heavy cream is a common ingredient found in both sweet and savory recipes—but there are heavy cream substitutes if you need one. Perhaps you're cooking for someone who is vegan, or maybe you get halfway through your recipe before you realize you're out of this key ingredient. Heavy cream contains between 36 and 40 percent milkfat, which is double the amount found in half-and-half. While milk or half-and-half can sometimes fill the dairy void, it’s hard to achieve the same richness and decadence that heavy cream offers. While these heavy cream substitutes don’t work well for making whipped cream, they’re the perfect alternative in most other recipes.

RELATED: You Need to Know About This Difference Between Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream

You can make a foolproof heavy cream substitute at home whenever you’re in a pinch. Simply melt ¼ cup unsalted butter and slowly whisk in ¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half. This is the equivalent of 1 cup of heavy cream and can be used in place of heavy cream in most recipes. However, this won’t whip up into stiff peaks for whipped cream so save that for the real thing. The fat in the butter mimics the fat in heavy cream, while the milk is a seamless dairy substitute.

If you’re vegan, have a dairy allergy, or are just trying to cut down on your dairy consumption, you don’t have to deprive yourself of the creamy, rich decadence of heavy cream. The perfect dairy-free heavy cream substitute is coconut milk, which has the same consistency and thickness as heavy cream. It will blend seamlessly into recipes like soups and stews that call for heavy cream. You can also try it in some of our favorite coconut milk-based recipes like poached chicken soup, satay sauce, and coconut milk chocolate pudding.

Our other favorite substitutes for heavy cream include evaporated milk and half-and-half. Both have a similar creaminess and flavor to heavy cream, but with fewer calories and fat. Whipping cream also works as a heavy cream substitute, as it’s nearly an identical product with just 5 percent less milkfat. Know that your recipe may not taste as rich or be as decadent as it would be with heavy cream; however, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with these silky substitutions for heavy cream.

We were amazed to learn that the answer to whether or not you can freeze heavy cream is yes. While heavy cream stays fresh in the refrigerator for about a month, sometimes you end up with an overabundance of heavy cream, especially during the holidays. Freezing heavy cream is an easy way to preserve product: pour 1 Tbsp. heavy cream into each cube of an ice tray and freeze. Defrost the cream cubes in advance, or pop them right into hot soup for enhanced creaminess. Consider basic conversions if using this method: 4 Tbsp. per ¼ cup. You can also freeze an entire pint or quart of heavy cream in its package; just pour out about ½ cup of heavy cream to make a little room, as the cream will expand when frozen.