Heavy cream is the wonderfully fatty stuff—up to 40% fat, to be precise—that rises to the top of fresh milk. A lot of us rarely buy heavy cream, unless a recipe specifically calls for it. The good news is, there’s no shortage of ways to add fat to a recipe and make your own heavy cream substitute. Here’s what to swap in—depending on what you’re cooking—and how to do it right.
Editor’s note: While you can replace heavy cream with ease in many recipes, you’ll see more consistent results with using alternatives in dishes like mashed potatoes, soups and sauces. Baking recipes, like cake and cookies, might take some trial and error to find the right texture and consistency.
Milk + Butter
Best All-Purpose Heavy Cream Substitute
Since butter is made of the fat removed from milk, you can make your own heavy cream by adding the fat right back into your milk:
How to make it: Melt 1/4 to 1/3 cup of butter, let it cool, then mix with 3/4 cup whole milk
It might not be a perfect doppelganger, but you can use it in most applications—including baking. Learn which brand is best in our butter taste test.
Best for Cooking
As its name suggests, this coffee companion is half heavy cream, half milk, so it’s considerably less fatty than heavy cream. It’s usually more likely to be in your fridge, too. You can use this in the 1:1 ratio, or start with about half of the heavy cream called for and work your way up to the full amount as needed.
Best for the Long Haul
With less than half the liquid of regular milk, this thick, cooked-down milk works well in place of heavy cream in cooking. Since it’s shelf-stable, you can keep it in the pantry for much longer than heavy cream in the fridge. Just keep its slightly toasty, caramel flavor in mind when substituting.
Best for Reducing Fat
Mix together equal parts milk and Greek yogurt to substitute for heavy cream in sauces and savory recipes. Protein-rich Greek yogurt will add richness and texture without as much fat as heavy cream—but heads up: it’s not ideal for baking.
Best for Whipping
This dairy-free, vegan option is unique in both flavor and origin. Use it in curries, sauces and desserts—basically, for recipes that you wouldn’t mind coconut flavor added to. It’s a full-bodied, fattier and less watery version of coconut milk, so the texture should be just right. Bonus: this is the one substitute you can use to make a whipped topping.
Best for Sweet Sauces
Think of this fatty dairy product (up to 75% fat!) as the Italian version of cream cheese. It’s made from whole cream, cultures and acids, and lends a mildly sweet flavor to sauces and desserts.
Best for Cheesecakes
Also made from heavy cream, this is a perfect option for achieving the texture you’re after (especially in cheesecakes)—as long as you don’t mind the slightly “sour” taste.
Best for Savory Sauces
You may not always carry this in your fridge, but when it is, you’re in luck. This heavy cream stand-in will do wonders for your mashed potatoes and much more. You can even make creme fraiche from scratch.
Powdered Heavy Cream
Best for Convenience
Powdered heavy cream ($12) will add richness to baked goodies, coffee, tea, soups and sauces. You can keep it in your pantry for last-minute additions, and it can be more cost-effective to use than heavy cream, especially if none is going to waste.
Check out these other quick baking substitutes to use in a pinch.