Whether you’re vegan or just lactose intolerant, heavy cream might not be an option for your diet when cooking.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect replacement you can buy in stores. You can use one of Silk’s creamers as a decent substitute for something like soup in a pinch, but it’s really intended as a coffee creamer, and not a heavy cream. Update: Flora (aka Becel) has launched a vegan heavy cream (source).
Alternatively, there are quite a few substitutes you can make yourself if you’re trying to make a recipe vegan-friendly, which I’ll share with you here. Most don’t whip very well, but are great in other recipes that call for heavy cream like pasta.
The heavy cream alternatives are based on 3 main types of ingredients:
Not surprisingly, these are also the main types of non-dairy milk alternative to regular milk.
Table of Contents
(Can be Whipped)
This is my go-to and most recommended substitute when possible (as long as you don’t mind the taste of coconut), and the only one that whips up well. It works really well because it has a high saturated fat content, just like dairy heavy whipping cream.
If you’ve ever looked at making your own vegan ice cream, you’ve come across coconut milk or cream as a main ingredient.
Coconut cream is just the thickened part of coconut milk. It’s also a decent vegan sour cream substitute or Greek yogurt alternative.
You can either buy cans of coconut cream (hard to find), or buy full-fat coconut milk (easy to find).
If you buy canned coconut milk, put it in the fridge overnight, and scoop out the thick parts on the top (that’s the cream). If it’s too thick (will depend on brand), mix in some of the thinner liquid that’s leftover in the can.
Alternatively, you can use the thin remaining liquid as a vegan substitute for evaporated milk.
You can substitute coconut cream with heavy cream in a 1:1 ratio.
How to Make Vegan Whipped Cream From Coconut Milk
This is my preferred substitute when it comes to making vegan whipping cream.
I’m not an expert baker, but it always turns out pretty well.
For detailed instructions, refer to this recipe for coconut whipped cream on Minimalist Baker (or the video below):
While you don’t need to add cream of tartar (which is vegan), it can make your whipping cream more consistent.
Soy Milk and Olive Oil
Heavy cream is made from milk and butter, and non-dairy milk is already comparable to dairy milk.
So all that’s left is the butter.
Heavy cream is defined based on having a butterfat content of 36% or more, so it’s important to add some source of fat (preferably with a good amount of saturated fat to mimic butter).
Well, there are quite a few vegan alternatives to butter, so we have a few options.
You could use a vegan butter or dairy free margarine, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy substitute, just use a vegetable oil like olive oil (other oils like coconut oil will work, but will affect the taste in different ways). Most good vegan butters are mostly olive oil anyways.
This cream will replicate the flavor and creamy texture of heavy cream well in baked goods, but won’t whip up like dairy cream will. If you want to add a little flavor, add a tablespoon of lemon juice.
To make this vegan heavy cream, mix soy milk with olive oil in a 2:1 ratio. So if you want 1 cup of cream, use 2/3 cup of soy milk, and 1/3 cup of olive oil.
Vegan Soy Heavy Cream
(Can Be Partially Whipped)
We’ve already seen that soy milk is a good base to start with.
It turns out that another soy product, silken tofu (that’s the really soft stuff) can be combined with soy milk to make a heavy cream alternative with lots of protein.
Note that you’ll want to get plain tofu. Flavored tofu will make it taste weird, and could be an issue if you’re trying to bake something gluten free (some flavored tofu have gluten added).
You simply blend together silken tofu and soy milk together (1/4 cup milk and 1 lb of tofu). Depending on the tofu you may need to add more or less milk, so add in the soy milk gradually until you get a decent texture.
Can Silken Tofu Be Whipped?
I said that it was partially whippable.
It’s not going to whip up into nice stiff peaks, it turns into more of a fluff, which is enough for certain recipes.
While I’ve done this myself, my pictures are terrible, so refer to this recipe for a clearer look.
Non-Dairy Milk and Cornstarch
This is an option if you don’t need to whip up your vegan heavy cream, and uses the most common ingredients. It’s more like a light cream than a heavy one though, and better in soup than any baked goods.
You start with any dairy free milk (e.g. almond milk or cashew milk), and then add cornstarch to it to thicken it up.
If you need 1 cup of heavy cream, start with 1 cup of non-dairy milk, then add cornstarch to it and mix as you add. In general, you’ll need about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per cup of milk.
Vegan Cashew Heavy Cream
The final lactose free cashew cream substitute is a nut-based option.
This one will take a bit of extra work, and you won’t be able to buy it anywhere that I know of.
While cashew cream won’t whip up well, it is another option for general cooking. Here’s the recipe.
In short, you’ll need to blend together raw cashews with water in a food processor and find the right consistency. You can then substitute the vegan cashew cream in a 1:1 ratio with heavy cream.
Vegan Heavy Cream Substitute Options Summary
So far, these have been the best vegan substitutes for heavy cream I’ve found that fit a vegan diet. If you try any of these, let me know how it went in a comment below.
Here’s a quick table of the dairy free heavy cream substitutes I’ve gone over in this post:
|Description||Ratio of Ingredients||Best to Use In…|
|Mix soy milk with olive oil||
1:2 ratio of milk to oil
|Baked goods, soups|
|Blend silken tofu with soy milk||
1:1 ratio of tofu to milk
|Baked goods, soups|
|Substitute coconut cream for heavy cream||Just coconut cream||Vegan whipped cream, baked goods, soups|
|Mix non-dairy milk (e.g. almond, cashew milk) with cornstarch||
2 tablespoons of starch for 1 cup milk
|Vegan cashew heavy cream||
Recipe: 1.5 cups cashews to 3.5 cups water
The best one for you will depend on the specific recipe (e.g. soup vs baked goods vs whipped cream) you’re following, the ingredients you have available, and any dietary restrictions.
Try to experiment and find the one(s) that you like best.
Eventually, I’m sure a company will release a vegan version of heavy cream that you can buy in stores that’s close to the version made from cow’s milk.