The Best Heavy Cream Substitute Depends On What You're Making With It

Heavy cream is a delicious ingredient in a lot of recipes, but it's not something you might have on hand all the time. If you're in a pinch, can you substitute it with something else? Food52 published a handy guide to answer this question and save you an extra trip to the store. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Can you replace heavy cream with light cream in a recipe?

Well, it all depends on how the recipe uses it. If it needs to be whipped, then sorry, light cream isn't going to cut it, as whipped cream needs a certain amount of fat to whip into a foam. Light cream hovers at around a fat content of 20%, heavy cream, 36%. Half and half won't work when whipping cream either, since it only has a fat content of around 12%. But if you're using the cream to enrich a recipe like mashed potatoes, tossing in the light cream should be just fine.


What’s the difference between whipping cream and heavy cream?

They're more or less the same. Whipping cream has to have a fat content of at least 35%, heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream) has to be at least 36%. For nearly all purposes they're interchangeable.

Can you sub in evaporated milk for heavy cream?

Not in baking. Evaporated milk is a cooked down version of milk that has lost roughly 50% of its water content and is full of lactose and protein, which won't behave the same way as cream in your recipe. Meanwhile, if you're making something liquidy, like a soup or a sauce, a 1:1 substitution of evaporated milk for heavy cream will work. (For more on the wonders of evaporated milk, head here.)


While these cover the basics, the Food52 piece covers a wide swath of different substitutes including vegan versions, like an onion "cream," which is about as intriguing as it sounds, so make sure to keep this link on hand the next time you forget the heavy cream on your grocery list.