How to Substitute Cream

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Most of the information below on how to substitute cream for dairy-free diets is excerpted from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I’ve also added product reviews and a few fun recipes that are here on the website.

How to Substitute Cream - Dairy-Free options for Coffee Creamer, Sour Cream, Light & Heavy Cream, and Whipped Cream

Quick Tips to Substitute Cream

This is a quick list of easy substitutes. For many more cream alternative ideas and recipes from my own kitchen, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. The 2nd Edition has been massively expanded!

Half & Half

Coconut Creamer: Allow a can of full fat coconut milk to settle for about 1/2 hour. If your room temperature is warm, place it in the refrigerator. The coconut cream will rise to the top and can easily be skimmed off. Blend one part coconut cream with one part unsweetened or plain soy, rice, or oat milk to create the desired amount of half and half.

Instant Soy Creamer: Blend one part silken tofu with one part unsweetened or plain soy, rice, or oat milk to create desired amount of half and half.

Light Dairy Cream

Low Fat Soy Cream Alternative: Blend silken tofu until smooth. This works as an excellent substitute for milk and cream when a thickener is needed in sauces and soups. Choose soft varieties for a lighter “cream.” Pureed tofu can be substituted for light cream using a 1:1 ratio and is a much healthier, lower fat option.

Milk + Oil Light Cream Equivalent: Blend 3/4 cup of soy or rice milk with 1/4 cup of melted dairy-free margarine or oil (we like extra light olive oil for cooking). This will equal 1 cup of light cream for your recipes.

Heavy Dairy Cream

Coconut Cream: Such a versatile food! Allow a can of full fat coconut milk to settle in the refrigerator (about 1 hour). The coconut cream will rise to the top and can easily be skimmed off. To substitute cream in recipes, use equal parts coconut cream for the dairy cream. This work particularly well in sauces for seafood and poultry.  You can buy coconut cream, but it still needs to chill and settle and sometimes yields less cream than good quality coconut milk.

Low Fat Soy Cream Alternative: Blend silken tofu until smooth. This works as an excellent cream substitute when a thickener is needed in sauces and soups. Choose firm or extra-firm firm varieties for a thicker “cream”. Pureed tofu can be substituted for heavy cream using a 1:1 ratio and is a much healthier, lower fat option. But it will not whip.

Milk + Oil Heavy Cream Equivalent: Blend 2/3 cup of soy or rice milk with 1/3 cup melted dairy free margarine or oil (we like extra light olive oil for cooking). This will equal 1 cup of heavy cream for your recipes, but it will not whip.

Sour Cream

Soy Sour CreamFirm silken tofu has a wonderful sour cream consistency when blended, and can be used plain or jazzed up for a sour cream-like flavor. See the recipes below for several variations of tofu sour cream.

Nutty Sour Cream: For a delicious soy-free sour cream alternative, I like to make sour cream using cashews or sunflower seeds as the creamy base. See Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for my staple recipe.

Coconut Sour Cream: This isn’t available on the market as of yet, but I have a new recipe for it in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.

Vegan Yogurt: Use a plain unflavored variety of dairy-free yogurt as a 1:1 sour cream substitute. Works best in dips and salad dressings.

Recipes: Homemade Cream Alternatives

Enjoy these dairy-free whipped cream, heavy cream, and sour cream alternative recipes from our online recipe collection.

Best Ingredients for Making Dairy-Free Cream Alternatives

Brands can vary significantly in quality. These are the ones I currently use.

Coconut Milk

I’ve loved So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk (which is regular coconut milk, but in aseptic packages) for years, but it is currently discontinued. But these other brands tend to produce a good amount of cream. And remember, coconut milk beverage is for drinking and cereal. It is far too thin to be used in a recipe calling for coconut milk or coconut cream.

Silken Tofu

There is really only one brand to use, Mori-nu. It is sold in aseptic packages that are shelf-stable, but some stores still sell it in the refrigerated section. Avoid silken tofu brands that are refrigerated in water for these types of recipes.

Neutral Oil

You might like to use avocado or extra-virgin olive oil for their nutrition, but their strong flavors can overwhelm in these recipes. These are some options that tend to be seamless.

Products: Cream Alternatives at the Store

Below are the products we’ve had a chance to share information about here on Go Dairy Free.

For more creamy recipes and tips from my kitchen, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living.

Go Dairy Free 2nd Edition - The Ultimate Guide and Cookbook for Dairy-Free Living with Over 250 Recipes!

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

67 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I was just wondering if I would be able to use the coconut cream to the same purpose as thickened cream in a baked custard recipe?

    Thankyou in advance

  2. Hello Alisa,

    I’m looking for a heavy whipping cream alternative to whip it. What do you mean by: Allow a can of full fat coconut milk to settle (about 1/2 hour)?

  3. I’m just seeing “[post_list query_type=”posts” posts=”170201,170208,167503,166983,166761″ order=”asc” orderby=”title” num=”50″]” under Store Alternatives is this a formatting error?

  4. Hi, thank you for this helpful post! I am making a beef tenderloin that has a recipe for an herbed cream sauce to go with it. Coconut cream seems like the easiest substitute for the 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream. Do you think the taste would be ok?

    • Hi Margaret, that is the easiest sub, but it may have a coconut vibe. If you can do nuts, I recommend the cashew cream first. I use that as a go-to when I don’t want a coconut vibe and I think it goes better with beef. The coconut cream is amazing with fish and often chicken. For the cashew cream, just grind cashews in a spice grinder or food processor into a powder / fine meal (just takes 60 seconds or so). Blend that with equal part water. It will cook down and thicken, add more water as needed. That said, you can certainly try the coconut cream – if you are adding bold flavors, salt, and maybe lemon, it should mellow the coconut. Happy holidays!

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  6. For the half and half: instead of mixing it with soy milk, would it work with almond milk? I can’t have soy products. ….to much protein.

  7. This page is so helpful. It has information I can’t find anywhere else for cream. Seriously, I’ve been searching for like a half hour straight for how to replace heavy cream in pasta sauce and I finally found it. This page needs more attention and in general this website is a fantastic catch-all source for vegan substitutes.

  8. What if the recipe is asking for both half and half and heavy cream? What should I do? Double up on the coconut cream?

  9. I don’t like coconut ad my husband is terribly allergic to it. Are there any heavy creams out there that are either non-dairy or lactose-free?

  10. I’m wondering if almond milk and oil would work as well..? Just getting started on my dairy-free journey, so I have very little experience cooking with substitutes 🙂

    • Honestly, either would most likely work well Kelly – it just depends on your flavor preference (both do impart their own unique flavor, which is lighter with chocolate, but still there), if you want lighter or richer, and if you just generally prefer one to the other. I most often reach for coconut cream out of habit, but a firm silken tofu yields nice creamy results in recipes like this, too.

  11. I used this heavy cream substitute (the oil+soymilk one) in an ice cream recipe. Turned out great! Would definitely recommend the last one to anyone trying to make daily free ice cream.

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