Is there a non dairy substitute for heavy whipping cream?

Heavy whipping cream, also known as heavy cream, is a dairy product used frequently in baking, cooking, and making whipped cream. It has a high fat content which allows it to be whipped into soft, billowy peaks. For those avoiding dairy due to dietary restrictions or lifestyle choices, finding a viable non-dairy alternative for heavy whipping cream can be challenging.

What is heavy whipping cream?

Heavy whipping cream, usually just called heavy cream or whipping cream, is a dairy product made from the higher fat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization. It contains at least 36% milk fat, whereas lighter creams like half and half contain only 10-18% milk fat. The high fat content gives heavy cream a thick, rich consistency and allows it to hold air bubbles when whipped, doubling in volume into smooth, stable peaks. Whipped heavy cream is commonly used as a topping for desserts like cakes, pies and hot chocolate.

In cooking, heavy cream is used to add richness, body, flavor and moisture to foods like soups, sauces, custards and ice creams. Its ability to emulsify also helps create smooth mixtures in things like cream sauces. Heavy cream can be used as a base for making butter and some cheeses. The fat content provides richness without watering down the other ingredients in recipes.

Why find a non-dairy substitute?

There are several reasons why someone may want or need to use a non-dairy alternative instead of regular heavy whipping cream:

  • Dairy/lactose intolerance – The lactose sugar in dairy milk causes digestive issues for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Milk allergy – Some people have a true allergy to the proteins in milk.
  • Vegan diet – Vegans do not consume any animal products, including dairy.
  • Plant-based diet – Some follow a plant-based diet for health or environmental reasons.
  • Religious/dietary restrictions – Some faiths prohibit consumption of dairy.

When a recipe calls for heavy cream, those with dairy restrictions or dietary preferences may need a replacement that can mimic the properties of heavy cream for a successful outcome.

Challenges finding a non-dairy substitute

It can be tricky to find an adequate non-dairy alternative to heavy cream because replicating its high fat content and whipping properties with plant-based ingredients can be difficult. Here are some of the main challenges:

  • Fat content – Heavy cream is at least 36% fat. Most plant-based milk alternatives have very little fat.
  • Richness – The high fat content makes heavy cream taste extremely rich. Low fat plant milks have a thinner, more watery taste.
  • Thickness – Heavy cream has a very thick, creamy texture. Plant milks are thinner in consistency.
  • Whipping ability – The high fat enables heavy cream to whip up into airy, billowy peaks. Most plant milks can’t replicate this.
  • Flavor – Heavy cream has a mild, slightly sweet dairy flavor. Plant-based substitutes may alter the flavor profile of recipes.

With some strategic tweaks, however, it is possible to modify plant-based ingredients to better approximate the properties of heavy whipping cream.

Non-dairy substitutes for heavy cream

Here are some of the most common non-dairy ingredients that can be used as substitutes for heavy whipping cream:

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream is a very thick, concentrated form of coconut milk that naturally has a high fat content. The fat content gives it better whipping abilities than thinner coconut milk. It can be skimmed from the top of full fat cans of coconut milk and whipped into semi-stiff peaks. For recipes where the flavor won’t be overpowering, coconut cream makes one of the best plant-based substitutes for heavy whipping cream.

Full Fat Coconut Milk

While not quite as thick and fatty as coconut cream, regular full fat coconut milk can also mimic some of the properties of heavy cream. Shake the can well before use and chill it thoroughly for better whipping results. The coconut flavor can be overpowering for some recipes, but works well in desserts and Thai dishes.

Cashew Cream

Blending soaked, raw cashews with water produces a thick, creamy milk that can be used in place of heavy cream. For a higher fat percentage, coconut milk or coconut oil can be added to the cashews while blending. Cashew cream has a neutral flavor and works well in both sweet and savory applications. This can be whipped into soft peaks.

Silken Tofu

Silken or soft tofu blended with a small amount of plant milk or oil can produce a thick cream-like consistency similar to heavy cream. Adding lemon juice or vinegar helps it whip up better. The neutral flavor allows it to blend seamlessly into dessert fillings, frostings, ice creams, etc.

Full Fat Soy Milk

With around 4-5% fat, full fat soy milk contains more fat than other plant milks, allowing it to be whipped up. Chilling it well helps it whip better. The flavor is quite neutral so it won’t overly impact the taste of recipes. Shake well before whipping.

Oat Cream

Oat milk can be turned into a thicker, creamier oat cream by blending old fashioned oats with the oat milk. Letting it soak for an hour or more allows the oats to thicken up the milk. For whipping properties, a small amount of coconut or olive oil is often added. This works well in sweets like pumpkin pie.

Tips for replacing heavy cream

When choosing a heavy cream substitute, tailor it to the specific needs of the recipe. Here are some tips:

  • For whipping, use coconut cream, chilled full fat coconut milk or cashew cream. They whip the best.
  • For baking, cashew cream, silken tofu or soy milk work well since they won’t add other flavors.
  • For soups and savory dishes, try oat cream, soy milk or silken tofu.
  • Start with less substitute than the heavy cream amount, and adjust to desired consistency.
  • If too thin, simmer to reduce or thicken with cornstarch or arrowroot.
  • If too thick, thin out with more plant milk or water.
  • For added richness, incorporate avocado, nut butters or plant-based oils.

Test out small substitutions in your recipes to see which non-dairy options achieve the best results. The specific ingredients, ratios and preparation techniques may require experimentation based on the recipe.

Non-dairy whipped cream

One of the most common uses for heavy cream is whipped cream. Because whipping relies so heavily on fat content, this application can be one of the most challenging to replicate with plant-based ingredients. Here are some recipes to try:

Coconut Whipped Cream

Ingredient Amount
Full fat coconut milk, chilled 1 cup
Confectioner’s sugar 2-3 tbsp
Vanilla extract 1 tsp

Whip chilled coconut milk with electric mixer until fluffy peaks form. Gently fold in sugar and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cashew Whipped Cream

Ingredient Amount
Raw cashews, soaked 3-4 hours 1 cup
Water 1/4 – 1/3 cup
Maple syrup 1-2 tbsp
Vanilla extract 1 tsp

Drain cashews and blend with water until smooth and creamy. Add maple syrup and vanilla. Whip on high speed until fluffy. Refrigerate before using.

Aquafaba Whipped Cream

Ingredient Amount
Aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas) 3/4 cup
Sugar 2 tbsp
Vanilla 1 tsp
Cream of tartar 1/4 tsp

Drain and reserve liquid from one 15 oz can of chickpeas. Whip on high speed for 5-8 minutes until fluffy peaks form. Beat in sugar, vanilla and cream of tartar. Use immediately.

Non-dairy options for cooking

In cooking applications, heavier, thicker non-dairy substitutes can often stand in for heavy cream. Here are some recommendations based on use:


  • Cashew cream
  • Silken tofu
  • Coconut cream
  • Full fat coconut milk
  • Soy creamer


  • Oat cream
  • Blended tofu
  • Cashew cream
  • Full fat coconut milk


  • Blended tofu or cashews
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oat cream
  • Full fat coconut milk
  • Pureed vegetables

Coffee Drinks

  • Coconut cream
  • Cashew cream
  • Full fat soy or oat milk
  • Blended silken tofu

For best results, opt for the thicker, higher fat options like full fat coconut milk, coconut cream, cashew cream or blended tofu to get the right consistency for cooking applications. Always taste and adjust seasoning when swapping in non-dairy alternatives.

Common issues with non-dairy substitutes

While plant-based substitutes can replicate some of the properties of heavy whipping cream, there are a few common issues to look out for:

  • Too thin – Won’t whip up and can lead to runnyResults
  • Too thick – Can alter texture and mouthfeel
  • Off flavors – Coconut, nuts or beans may be detectable
  • Curdling – Some plant milks curdle when heated acidic ingredients
  • Separation – Plant creams may separate more easily than dairy

Being aware of these potential pitfalls can help troubleshoot recipes. Adjusting ratios, using stabilizing ingredients like starch or emulsifiers, and selecting more neutral-flavored options can often compensate for differences between dairy and non-dairy products.

Commercial non-dairy heavy cream substitutes

In addition to making homemade versions, there are also some commercial plant-based products designed to function similarly to heavy whipping cream:


Made from coconut cream, this vegan whipping cream substitute whips up like heavy cream. It has a sweet flavor profile that works well in desserts.

Ripple Heavy Cream

This pea-protein based whipping cream has a more neutral, dairy-like flavor. It can whip up fluffy and be used like traditional heavy cream.

Good Karma Flaxmilk Creamer

This thick flax milk creamer has the fat content to whip up. It works well for making dairy-free whipped cream.

Califia Farms Better Half

This vegan creamer contains coconut oil and other fats for whipping ability. It makes stable whipped cream.

These commercial options provide convenience, but homemade blends can be more affordable. Check ingredients for allergens when using pre-made products.

Should you make or buy non-dairy heavy cream?

When deciding whether to make or buy a heavy cream substitute, consider the following factors:

Make at Home Buy Pre-Made
Cost Cheap if ingredients like canned coconut milk or cashews are affordable Can be pricey for some specialty creamers
Convenience Requires more hands-on prep time Ready to use out of the package
Control Can tweak recipes and ingredients to suit preferences Limited to what products are commercially available
Accessibility Pantry ingredients are likely on hand May need special trip to store to source

Ultimately it depends on your needs. Pre-made creamers offer convenience while DIY versions provide customization and affordability. Test options to find your perfect non-dairy heavy whipping cream substitute.

Finding the right heavy cream swap

Heavy cream has unique properties that can make it tricky to replicate with plant-based ingredients. However, with the right techniques and recipes, coconut milk, cashew cream, silken tofu and other alternatives can successfully stand in for heavy cream in vegan, dairy-free and restricted diets. Prioritize thick, higher fat options and allow some trial and error to find the perfect substitute for your specific application.

Whipping ability, richness, and cooking behavior will vary based on the exact ingredients and ratios used. Sample different non-dairy cream options to identify your favorites. With creativity and flexibility, you can achieve delicious results without dairy!

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