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. 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.

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.

85 Comments

  1. Quick question about the Coconut Cream sub for whole whipping cream. Your article states “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 means that the liquid being skimmed off the top is the cream.

    Another article states “open the can and pour away the liquid, leaving just the solid coconut cream” This means that the liquid being skimmed off the top is discarded and the heavier stuff on bottom is the cream.

    Can you please clarify?
    Thank you,
    David

    • For substituting the cream, see your options in the post above. For the creme fraiche, thee is a recipe in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook that I use. Or you can use another topping that is dairy-fee.

  2. To substitute heavy cream, can I used almond milk and olive oil. I have read soy milk suggested on a different site. I have not had good experience with cooking unsweetened soy milk (though unsweetened still had 2 or 3 grams a sugar in them) over the stove in a savory dish. It would have a gross smell and taste.

    • I wouldn’t personally use almond milk for making heavy cream alternative, unless it’s for a sweet recipe. I’m not a fan of that almond flavor in most savory recipes. But it will probably work. Almond milk doesn’t have the same natural protein that soy does, so it might not have as much body in the consistency.

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