Is there a dairy-free alternative to whipping cream?

Quick Summary

Yes, there are several plant-based alternatives to dairy whipping cream that can be used for whipping, baking, and more. The most common dairy-free whipping creams are made from coconut, cashew, almond, and oat milks. When chilled and whipped, these creams can whip up just like traditional dairy whipping cream. Some perform better than others for whipping and baking purposes based on their fat and protein contents. Common brand names include So Delicious CocoWhip, Nutpods, Califia Farms Better Half, and Oatly. With some experimentation, dairy-free whips can be easily substituted in most recipes calling for regular whipping cream.

What is Whipping Cream?

Whipping cream, also sometimes called heavy whipping cream, is a high-fat dairy cream that whips up into soft peaks when chilled and beaten. It typically contains at least 30% milk fat. The high fat content is what allows it to whip up so easily compared to lower-fat dairy creams. When whipped, the fat globules in the cream incorporate air and expand in volume, turning the liquid cream into a light, fluffy whipped cream.

Whipped cream is commonly used as a topping on desserts like ice cream sundaes, pies, cakes, waffles, and more. It’s also used as a filling or component in desserts like cream puffs and eclairs. Beyond desserts, whipped cream can be used to top drinks like hot chocolate or milkshakes, make homemade whipped cream frosting, or fold into recipes from quiches to vegetable gratins. It’s a versatile pantry staple for any baker or dessert lover.

Why Choose a Dairy-Free Whipping Cream?

There are a few main reasons why someone may want to opt for a dairy-free whipped cream alternative:

Dairy Allergies or Intolerances

Those with lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or dairy sensitivities require dairy-free alternatives to participate in recipes and desserts involving whipped cream. Reactions can range from mild bloating and digestive upset to severe allergic reactions. Using a plant-based whip eliminates this problem.

Vegan Diet

Vegans avoid all animal products, including dairy. To enjoy whipped cream, they need a vegan alternative made without any animal ingredients. Plant-based whips make it easy to work whipped cream into a vegan lifestyle.

Environmental Concerns

Some choose to avoid dairy for environmental reasons. Dairy farming has been associated with issues like greenhouse gas emissions, land usage for grazing, and water pollution from cattle waste runoff. Opting for plant-based whips sidesteps these concerns.

Health Reasons

Some people simply feel better avoiding dairy, finding it causes inflammation or exacerbates skin issues for them personally. Plant-based whips provide a way to eliminate dairy while still enjoying whipped cream.


And of course, some choose dairy-free whipping cream alternatives simply because they prefer the taste, texture, or performance! The options have improved vastly, making plant-based whips a viable choice for any lifestyle.

Common Dairy-Free Whipping Cream Options

There are now many brands producing dairy-free whippable creams, with the most popular made from coconut, cashew, almond, and oat milks. Here’s an overview of the major types of dairy-free whipping creams available:

Coconut Whips

Coconut-based whips are one of the most prevalent dairy-free options. They’re made by blending the white flesh of mature coconuts with water to form a coconut milk/cream. Coconut cream contains a very high fat content, which enables it to whip up well. Popular brands of coconut-based whips include So Delicious CocoWhip and Let’s Do Organic Coconut Whipping Cream.

Cashew Whips

Cashew whips are made by soaking and blending cashews into a rich, creamy cashew milk. Cashews are starchy nuts containing healthy fats, which makes cashew milk perfect for whipping. Major cashew whip brands include Nutpods and Malk.

Almond Whips

Almond milk can also be formulated into a whippable cream. Like cashews, almonds contain enough healthy fat when blended into almond milk to make a whip. Almond-based whips remain less common than coconut or cashew, but Almond Breeze makes an almond whip cream.

Oat Whips

Oat milk has also recently become an option for making plant-based whipping cream. Oatly, the well-known oat milk brand, has an Oat Whippable Cream. It contains some coconut and sunflower oils in addition to oats for the fat content needed to whip up.

Other Whips

There are a few less common bases for dairy-free whips too. Soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and even chickpea liquid have been used to produce whipped cream substitutes. However, coconut, cashew, almond, and oat remain the most popular and widely available.

Comparing Dairy-Free Whipping Creams

Not all dairy-free whips are created equal when it comes to their whipping performance and how they work in recipes. Here are some key differences:

Fat Content

The fat content greatly impacts whipping ability. More fat means it’s easier to whip the cream into firm, stable peaks. Coconut whips tend to be highest in fat at around 25-30% fat, giving them excellent whipping properties. Cashew and almond whips have a bit less fat, around 15%, but still whip well. Oat whips are lowest in fat at around 5%, making them trickier to whip firm.

Protein Content

Protein also helps with whipping. Coconut and cashew whips have an advantage here too with 2-3 grams of protein per serving versus 0 in oat whips. The protein contributes to more stable whipped structure.

Stabilizers and Thickeners

Many dairy-free whips use added stabilizers like gums or starch to improve texture and help mimic dairy whipped cream. These should be checked for allergies or food sensitivities if present.

Natural vs. Conventional

Some dairy-free whips use only all-natural ingredients while others contain more conventional stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickeners. Reading the ingredients list can determine how processed or additive-free a product is.

Whip Base Fat Content Protein Content Texture Whipping Ability
Coconut High Moderate Thick, creamy Excellent
Cashew Moderate Moderate Rich, creamy Very good
Almond Moderate Low Thin, milky Good
Oat Low None Thin, milky Fair

As seen in the table, coconut whips tend to perform best for whipping and baking purposes due to their high fat and moderate protein. Cashew whips also whip up very nicely. Almond and oat whips work but tend to be thinner and may not whip as firmly.

How to Whip Dairy-Free Cream

Whipping up dairy-free cream takes a few simple steps:

1. Chill Completely

For best whipped texture, it’s crucial to chill cans of dairy-free whip in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours. This allows the cream to thicken to a spreadable consistency.

2. Check Fat Separation

Give cans a good shake before whipping, as some separation of fat and liquid can happen after chilling. Shaking redistributes the solids.

3. Pour into a Chilled Bowl

After shaking the can, empty the creamy contents into a large metal or glass mixing bowl. For best results, chill the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes before whipping.

4. Whip on High Speed

Use a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the chilled cream. Start on low to incorporate some air, then increase to high speed.

5. Whip Just Until Stiff Peaks Form

Whip the dairy-free cream for 2-5 minutes until it thickens and forms stiff peaks when you lift the beaters. Do not overbeat or it can become grainy.

6. Use Immediately or Refrigerate

For best texture and stability, use home-whipped dairy-free cream right away on top of desserts, drinks, etc. Refrigerate up to 2 days if needed.

Recipe Substitutions with Dairy-Free Whips

In most recipes calling for regular dairy whipping cream, dairy-free whips can be substituted 1:1 with excellent results. With a few adjustments, they perform wonderfully:

Whip the Dairy-Free Cream First

Recipes often call for lightly whipping cream. Always whip dairy-free cream fully first before folding it into batter, fillings, etc. so it holds its shape.

Expect Somewhat Softer Peaks

Dairy-free whips make beautifully firm peaks but they may not get quite as stiff as dairy cream. Expect a little more softness.

Add 2 Tbsp Sugar or Honey Per Cup of Whip

A touch of sweetener helps dairy-free whips maintain stability and structure. Just avoid over-sweetening.

Use More Stabilized Whips for Baking

Coconut or cashew whips hold up best when baked into pie fillings, cakes, and other recipes needing whipped cream.

Let Whipped Coconut Cream Soften Before Serving

Coconut cream whips up very thick. Let it sit at room temperature briefly to soften before piping or dolloping on top of desserts.

Storing Dairy-Free Whipped Cream

Dairy-free whipped cream tends to break down and weep liquid more quickly than traditional dairy whipped cream. For best quality, use it right after whipping. But it can be properly stored in the fridge:

– Place the whipped cream in an airtight container, smoothing the top to prevent air pockets. Plastic or glass both work.

– Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream before sealing the container. This prevents a skin from forming.

– Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Stir gently before using to reincorporate any liquid.

– For longer storage, up to 1 week, stabilizers can be added before whipping such as cornstarch, tapioca flour, or xanthan gum.

– Do not freeze, as dairy-free whipped cream becomes soggy once thawed. Always whip it fresh.

Troubleshooting Dairy-Free Whipped Cream

Problem: Thin, Runny Whipped Cream

– Chill cans thoroughly before whipping
– Use coconut or cashew based whips for best thickness
– Do not overwhip, which can cause separation
– Add 2 tbsp sugar/honey while whipping to stabilize

Problem: Grainy Whipped Texture

– Avoid overbeating once at stiff peak stage
– Use a large bowl with room for cream to expand
– Make sure cream and bowl are fully chilled

Problem: Weeping Watery Liquid

– Consume whipped cream immediately after whipping for best texture
– For storage, smooth top and press plastic wrap directly on surface
– Stir gently to reincorporate liquid as needed before serving

FAQs About Dairy-Free Whipped Cream

Is dairy-free whipped cream healthier?

Dairy-free whips often contain less saturated fat than dairy cream, since they rely more on healthy fats from plants. However, they may use oils or coconut milk which are still high in fat. Enjoy treats like whipped cream in moderation.

Do dairy-free whips contain lactose or casein?

No, dairy-free whipped creams contain no lactose or milk proteins at all, making them safe for those with dairy allergies. Always check labels to confirm dairy-free status.

Can dairy-free whips mimic the taste of regular whipped cream?

With the right brand and recipe adjustments, dairy-free whips can taste remarkably close to the real thing. Coconut whips in particular take on a sweet, creamy flavor.

What’s the shelf life of dairy-free whipped topping?

Unopened shelf-stable cans last 4-6 months. Once chilled and whipped, dairy-free cream lasts 3-4 days in the fridge. Do not freeze.

Do you need dairy-free whipping cream for a vegan diet?

No, there are other creative vegan whipped topping options like blended silken tofu or aquafaba. But dairy-free whips make following a vegan diet much easier.


Dairy-free whips have come a long way and offer an impressive plant-based alternative to traditional dairy whipped cream. With so many options like coconut, cashew, almond, and oat-based whips available, it’s easy to find one with the flavor, thickness, and whipping ability you need. Brands like So Delicious, Nutpods, Califia Farms, and Oatly offer quality dairy-free whips. With a little chill time and some energetic whisking, these plant-based whips can easily stand-in for whipped cream in everything from hot cocoa to berry pie.

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