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.
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. It should be very thick and spoonable, not liquid at all. 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. See my Guide to Coconut Milk for clarity.
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.
Soy Sour Cream: Firm 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.
- Almond Cream
- Dairy Free Tofu Whipped ‘Cream’
- Easy Dairy-Free Whipped Cream with Foolproof Tips
- Heavy Cashew Cream for Sweet and Savory Dairy-Free Recipes
- Soy Whipped Cream is an Instant Winner for Topping Dairy-Free Dessert
- Tofu Sour Cream: From Pantry to Dairy-Free Topping in 5 Minutes
- Vegan Cashew Sour Cream that Tops Other Dairy Alternatives
- Vegan Cashew Whipped Cream
- Vegan Crème Anglaise is Eggless, Creamless Custard Sauce
Best Ingredients for Making Dairy-Free Cream Alternatives
Brands can vary significantly in quality. These are the ones I currently use.
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.
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.
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.
- Califia Farms AlmondMilk Creamer Expands their Sweet Selection
- CoYo Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative: Pure, Low-Sugar, Dairy-free Luxury
- Nutpods Unsweetened Dairy-Free Creamer has a Flavor for Every Season
- So Delicious Coconutmilk Creamer Gets a New Flavor, Formula, and Look
- Soyatoo Whipped Topping in Soy Whip and Soy-Free Rice Whip
- Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer Stays the Dairy-Free Course (DISCONTINUED for now …)
- Trader Joe’s Sweet Rose Coconut Whipped Topping is Here to Stay
- Wayfare Dairy Free Sour Cream has Bean Around for a While
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
Yes, coconut cream should work.
Can you use the coconut cream in a poundcake recipe?
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)?
If you chill the can and “allow it to settle” the cream will separate and rise to the top. With a good quality coconut milk, you should get anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of thick cream at the top and coconut water at the bottom.
I need a liquid to pour between my apples. I typically use a heavy cream. But am making this recipe dairy free for my son. So…if I skim off the coconut milk in a can it is very thick and whipping it to a whipped cream consistency isn’t what I’m looking for. I need a fat dairy free liquid. What should I use?
You can use coconut milk, too, but it is fine to shake the can so that it is liquefied. You don’t have to use just the fat portion.
If it’s caling for heavy cream, then yes, it should work well!
Thank you so much for these! Super helpful and super easy!
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?
Hi Ellie, it has been fixed!
What would you use as a substitute for evaporated milk in a recipe?
The evaporated milk subs are in another section Sandy – http://www.godairyfree.org/dairy-substitutes/substitute-condensed-milk-buttermilk-sweetened-powder – I would use light canned coconut milk (not coconut milk beverage) as a quick and easy sub personally.
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!
Thank you, I shared your post on Twitter. Very helpful!
Thank you in return Colleen!
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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.
I would use the coconut version and blend it with your milk alternative of choice!
I’m looking for a lactose/ dairy free option to substitute for light cream in ice cream. Would blended silken tofu work?
See the post above Denise! Your question is answered in the light cream part.
I have been trying to find an alternative for full fat coconut milk to use in vegan baking recipes specifically for pies and mousses. I am allergic to all nuts, tree nuts, and soy, etc. Can I achieve a possible solution by blending pea or hemp milk with dairy free margarine? Will it whip up and hold together in a pie?
Hi Anna, that’s tough. It should hold, but will be a bit more like frosting in consistency. I’m not sure if it holds your exact solution, but this post on how to sub coconut might provide some helpful ideas -> https://www.godairyfree.org/news/substitute-for-coconut-milk-and-oil
Thanks so much for the blog.Really looking forward to read more.
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.
Thank you Kayla! Glad you find it so helpful.
What if the recipe is asking for both half and half and heavy cream? What should I do? Double up on the coconut cream?
Hi Ellen, note how light coconut milk makes a good sub for half and half. You an either use a combo of light and original coconut milk, or use mostly original coconut milk with some water to thin – see the ratios in the post.
Thanks so much!! 🙂
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?
Please read the whole post!
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 🙂
Yes, depending on the recipe, it should work, too – but will need to emulsify.
Hello. If I wanted to make the recipe below would you recommend substituting the coconut cream or the silken tofu cream for the heavy cream? My instincts say to use the coconut cream, since I most likely would sub coconut oil for the butter, but I’m wondering if that would be too heavy.
Thank you. 🙂
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.
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.
Excellent – I’m so glad this method worked well for you and thanks for offering the ice cream feedback!
What is the ratio of oil to soymilk? I would like to try this for making ice cream. Thank you for any information for substituting for heavy cream in ice cream.
You are in luck, I have a recipe for that! You can use the ratio shown here of 1:2, but I use less in ice cream. You can use soymilk in this recipe -> https://www.godairyfree.org/recipes/dairy-free-cookies-and-cream-ice-cream
It’s modified from the Vanilla Ice Cream in the 2nd edition of my book, Go Dairy Free.
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