Heavy cream is one of those products that is exactly as advertised. It has an ultra-creaminess, rich viscosity, and oh boy is it heavy. The special characteristics of this dairy product lead to it being a key ingredient in many recipes--not so ideal if you are following a vegan diet or prefer to eat plant based.
Happily though, there are many vegan substitutes for heavy cream out there! Some of them are quite straightforward, while others require a bit of creativity and elbow grease. Whichever vegan heavy cream substitute you are looking for, we’ve got all of the options covered right here!
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How to Replace Heavy Cream in a Recipe
Before we get to all of the different choices for vegan heavy cream substitutes, let’s take a moment to discuss the specific characteristics of dairy cream and how they affect what we’re looking for in a vegan heavy cream substitute.
Implementing a vegan cream option can be tough because heavy cream is no mere liquid, it actually has at least a 36% milk fat content as per the FDA. Recipes that call for heavy cream depend on it to not only impart moisture, but to also add that rich mouthfeel that is associated with high-fat products. In addition, heavy cream will lend some emulsification-like properties to any dish it is added to--whether creamy soups or baked goods. Therefore, replacing the ingredient with just any plant-based milk or other liquid won’t quite do the trick as these items tend to be too low in fat to tick all the boxes.
Nevertheless, non-dairy milk still plays an important role in the world of vegan substitutes for heavy cream! As you’ll find out, many of our favorite options consist of a liquid ingredient plus the addition of a thickening ingredient to achieve the right texture.
The 8 Best Vegan Heavy Cream Substitutes
Many of the best vegan substitutes for heavy cream rely on the use of dairy free milk, whether it be almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, cashew milk, or any other! However, if vegan milk is not a part of your diet, there are some options towards the end of our substitute list which can be made without the use of any plant-based milks.
- Store-Bought Vegan Heavy Cream
- Plant Based Milk + Oil (or Vegan Butter!)
- Plant Based Milk + Cornstarch
- Plant Based Milk + Plant Based Yogurt
- Plant Based Milk + Silken Tofu
- Coconut Cream
- Homemade Cashew Cream
- Creamed Rice
Read on to find out how and when to use which combinations of ingredients to replace heavy cream in your favorite dishes, allowing you to make any recipe suitable for a vegan diet!
1. Store-Bought Vegan Heavy Cream
Let’s start with an easy replacement for heavy cream: store-bought vegan heavy cream substitutes! Due to the rapid expansion of plant based eating, there are now many more options for ready-made vegan heavy cream than there were even just a few years ago. Most of these brands and varieties contain a type of vegan milk--or a combination of a few--plus thickeners, sweeteners, and/or added flavorings.
Products labeled “vegan heavy cream” may be used as an easy substitute for heavy cream in any recipe, as well as many types of vegan coffee creamer! Just be sure to consider any other flavorings which may be in the recipe such as vanilla or caramel, as well as additional sugars, and adjust the other ingredients in your recipe as needed. Most of these products are unlikely to whip up, so if you require whipped cream for your recipe, be sure to check opt for one of those dairy-free whipped toppings--often already in the characteristic whipped cream canister!
How to Use it:
A simple 1:1 ratio here--substitute any amount of heavy cream a recipe calls for with an equal amount of dairy-free heavy cream or vegan creamer.
2. Plant Based Milk + Oil (or Vegan Butter!)
As discussed above, regular heavy cream has an incredibly high percentage of milk fat. So, how can you make any plant based milk into a great heavy cream substitute? Fatten it up! The difference here of course is that you will not be adding milk fat, rather, you can add any other plant based fat you like.
When making this vegan heavy cream substitute, you want to opt for a mild tasting oil which will not come across too strong, taste bitter, or otherwise greatly impact the taste of the final dish. Some of the best oils to use for this substitute option are coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Melted vegan butter is also a great option! This mixture will not whip up like heavy cream, but it will certainly add richness and thickness to recipes for creamy soups and baked goods.
How to use it:
To make 1 cup of vegan heavy cream, simply mix ⅔ cup non-dairy milk with 1⁄3 cup oil or fat of your choice. This will give your vegan heavy cream roughly the same fat percentage as regular heavy cream (which, as we mentioned before, is around 36%).
You'll want to make this mixture as homogeneous as possible so best to toss everything in the blender, use an immersion blender, or whisk vigorously until the ingredients are smooth and cohesive. Then, substitute any amount of heavy cream your recipe calls for with an equal amount of this plant based milk + oil mixture.
3. Plant Based Milk + Cornstarch
If you’ve never worked with cornstarch before, you’re in for a treat! This starchy powder forms an incredibly thick but smooth consistency when dissolved into almost any liquid, making it an excellent score in the quest for a vegan heavy cream substitute. Plus, an added benefit of this substitute option is that it is much lower in fat than the oil based option as rather than being thickened by upping the fat ante, it is thickened by the power of starch.
This vegan substitute for heavy cream won’t become light and fluffy like heavy whipping cream, but it is great recipes where you want some viscosity such as cream sauces, chowders, and casseroles. The amazing thing about cornstarch is that once activated, it maintains its texture, therefore you can cool and re-warm the finished dish without experiencing clumping or separation of ingredients that you may experience with other vegan heavy cream substitutes.
How to Use it:
To make about 1 cup of vegan cream, you’ll need 1 cup of non-dairy milk and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Gently heat the milk on your stovetop sprinkle in the cornstarch, whisking vigorously. As you cook the mixture on medium heat for several minutes (while stirring often!), you should see it start to thicken. If you do not detect any textural changes, you may need to bump up the heat a bit.
Remember, corn starch needs to come to a temperature just below boiling to activate! Once thickened, you can substitute an equal amount of the prepared cornstarch mixture for any amount of heavy cream your recipe calls for.
4. Plant Based Milk + Plant Based Yogurt
Making use of plant based yogurt is a great idea when it comes to replacing heavy cream in a recipe as it has a great thickness on its own. There are many vegan yogurt options out there, from yogurts made from almond milk--such as our easy to make Instant Pot Almond Milk Yogurt--or others made from coconut milk, cashew milk, soy milk and beyond! The texture of any yogurt however is much thicker than actual heavy cream therefore you'll need to thin it out using plant based milk as well.
Another benefit of this substitute option is that it is a much healthier choice in terms of fat content as opposed to the oil based options, not to mention real heavy cream. Most plant based milk products, including yogurt, are nice and low in saturated fat yet also contain some healthy monounsaturated fat. And of course, yogurt comes with that gut-healthy probiotic boost!
How to use it:
To make 1 cup of vegan heavy cream, combine ⅔ cup of dairy-free yogurt with ⅓ cup of plant based milk. Stir until the mixture is cohesive and check the consistency for a texture similar to that of heavy cream. You can always stir in another splash of milk as needed!
This yogurt mixture makes a great 1:1 replacement for heavy cream in creamy rice dishes, sauces, and baked goods. For any amount of heavy cream called for in your recipe, use an equal amount of the prepared yogurt mixture.
5. Plant Based Milk + Silken Tofu
Tofu as a vegan substitute for heavy cream? Who knew! When you think about it though, it does actually make perfect sense as tofu has a lovely smooth yet thick texture which is comparable to that of dairy cream. The key point here is to be sure to use silken tofu as opposed to firmer tofu options, as silken tofu will produce a smooth, creamy texture while firm tofu will likely result in some lumpiness.
As soy products, we think that tofu and soy milk make an especially good combination here, but in reality you can use whichever type of non-dairy milk is your favorite or whatever you happen to have on hand. This option won’t whip up like heavy cream does, but it is an amazing healthy substitute option thanks to all of that soy protein, and is the perfect texture for delicious vegan cheese sauces and thickened soups or stews.
How to Use it:
To make 1 cup of vegan heavy cream, combine ¾ cup silken tofu with ¼ cup non-dairy milk. Use an upright or immersion blender to mix the two ingredients until a uniformly thick mixture is produced.
Then, replace the heavy cream in your recipe with an equal amount of the blended tofu mixture. Nice and easy!
6. Coconut Cream
As far as vegan substitutes for heavy cream go, coconut cream is undoubtedly one of the best. Not only is it a one for one replacement--that’s right, no mixing of multiple ingredients here!--but it naturally has a very similar makeup as compared to heavy cream. While heavy cream contains about 36% fat, coconut cream contains anywhere between 25-35% fat. The most important point of distinction though is that these fats are saturated fats, meaning they are solid at room temperature (just like the milk fat found in cow’s milk!) which imparts the same buttery richness to your recipes as heavy cream would.
When using coconut cream as a substitute, you want to be sure to get “coconut cream” and avoid anything that says “cream of coconut” as these are two different products! The former is pure coconut and extremely thick in texture while the latter is heavily sweetened, has a lower fat content, and is typically used for making cocktails.
No coconut cream to be found? Go ahead and grab a can or two of full fat coconut milk as there is actually plenty of cream hidden inside! Simply put the sealed can(s) of coconut milk in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Once thoroughly chilled, open the cans and you’ll see that the rich coconut cream has collected at the top. Scoop off this thick stuff--that's what you're after--and reserve the remaining liquid-y coconut milk for another use.
The potential downside to using coconut cream as a vegan heavy cream substitute is that your recipe will, of course, taste heavily of coconut. Not much of a problem if you love the taste of coconut. But if the addition of coconut isn’t complimentary to the overall flavor profile of your recipe, or if you simply don’t enjoy the taste, you may have a hard time using this as a replacement.
How to use it:
Easy peasy here, just use an equal amount of pure coconut cream for any amount of heavy cream the recipe calls for.
BONUS: Coconut Cream is the Best Vegan Whipped Cream Substitute!
These structural characteristics of the fats found in coconut cream mean that if air is whipped into it, it will hold, meaning yes, you can use it to make vegan whipped cream!
When making whipped cream of any kind, colder is always better. Just chill your coconut cream beforehand, then use a chilled metal bowl and a hand mixer (or whisk by hand if you feel up to a workout!) to whip the cream to your desired consistency.
You may opt to add a few drops of vanilla extract or sweeten the deal with powdered sugar, honey, or a bit of maple syrup to taste.
7. Homemade Cashew Cream
Cashew cream is an excellent vegan heavy cream substitute as it hits the right textural notes as well as contains some richness thanks to those natural oils present in cashew nuts. Luckily for you, we have our very own version of Sweetened Cashew Creamer which can be used to replace heavy cream in most circumstances.
It starts by soaking raw cashews in boiling hot water, then blending them with liquid and flavorings. Depending on the type of recipe you plan to use the heavy cream substitute in, you can omit some or all of the sweetener and/or skip the vanilla if desired to make this vegan cashew heavy cream suitable for savory recipes as well as sweet!
The cashew cream will not take in air like whipping cream does, but it will add wonderful thickness to soups, purees, sauces, baked goods, and beverages.
How to Use it:
Our cashew cream is a 1:1 substitute for heavy cream, just use an equal amount of cashew cream for any quantity of heavy cream your recipe calls for!
8. Creamed Rice
Our last and final option for replacing heavy cream in your favorite vegan recipes: creamed rice. This option will add a wonderfully thick richness to your recipes and is perfect in dishes where you want some body (without the use of any fats!) in addition to a creamy texture. We also love that it makes use of that leftover cooked rice that always seems to be lurking in the refrigerator.
You can use any type of cooked rice for this substitute option, and are free to use any liquid of your choice such as plant based milk, veggie stock, or just plain ol’ water. For example, if using creamed rice to substitute heavy cream in a baking or dessert recipe, you may want to opt for plain white rice and coconut milk. On the other hand, if you're looking to thicken a savory soup, you might enjoy the result produced by brown rice and vegetable stock.
How to Use it:
It’s tough to say exactly what your cooked rice to liquid ratio will depend on how the rice was cooked as well as the fact that different varieties of rice have different starch contents and textures. Your best bet is to start with about ¾ cup cooked rice in a high speed blender and add about ¼ cup of your liquid of choice. Blend until the mixture is cohesive, check the consistency and add more liquid if needed until a heavy-cream like texture is achieved.
For any amount of heavy cream your recipe calls for, use an equal amount of the prepared rice cream.
Best Vegan Heavy Cream Substitute
Whether you are looking for a quick fix using items you already have on hand in your fridge and pantry, or you are seeking a new go-to solution for replacing heavy cream in recipes, we hope that one of our top vegan heavy cream substitutes has struck your fancy!
If you have any type of plant based milk in your fridge, you can use it in one of several different ways to produce a wonderful stand in for heavy cream. Or, if you have a bit more time for experimentation, try your hand at crafting some cashew cream or tofu puree. Whichever path you choose, may all of your vegan heavy cream substitute dreams come true!