Whether you are accommodating a vegan diet or simply looking to cut down your intake of dairy products, we've researched and tested recipes for the best vegan substitute for heavy cream.
Here are the 5 best alternatives for a vegan heavy cream substitute!
Keep reading to see our list of vegan alternatives. Try one of them out in our creamy sausage gnocchi soup. Since there are several options, you may need to experiment to find the best option for you and your recipe!
Substituting for Heavy Cream
Traditional heavy cream is a common and versatile ingredient used in tons of recipes. It's used so often because of it's creamy texture and "thicker than milk" consistency.
Traditional heavy cream contains a lot more fat than it's dairy relatives of regular milk (anywhere from 36-40% to the 3.5% of regular milk) and heavy whipping cream. Even though traditional heavy cream and heavy whipping cream can be used interchangeably in most recipes, traditional heavy cream has about twice the fat content of heavy whipping cream.
When substituting for heavy cream, it is important to try and mimic the thicker consistency of traditional heavy cream. This will give the best results for your recipe. Nut milks, like almond milk and cashew milk, are too thin on their own and need a thickening agent. Other items, like coconut cream, are fine to substitute on their own without thickening.
Best Vegan Heavy Cream Alternatives
Each substitution may also not be suitable for all recipes; meaning, some vegan alternatives may have a flavor undertone that doesn't make it suitable for sweet recipes yet makes it great for savory dishes. Each vegan alternative is a great option on its own but be sure to check and see what recipes we like to use it for.
If we add a thickening agent to a substitution, we've let you know within that option. Not all alternatives need to be thickened!
Coconut cream is an easy substitute for regular heavy cream! The thick and creamy part that rises to the top of coconut milk is what we know as coconut cream. This creamy product is a great alternative to traditional heavy cream and does not need thickened.
Even though coconut cream can have a *hint* of coconut flavor, it's a great option to use as a vegan heavy cream substitute. We love using coconut cream in savory dishes, like these cauliflower mashed potatoes, creamy soups, like this chicken and rice soup, or in desserts, like this vegan banana cream pie. Coconut cream also makes a great whipped cream topping to put on any and all of your desserts.
To use coconut cream as a vegan heavy cream substitute, buy a can of full-fat coconut milk. This is the same as canned coconut milk with a high fat content. Refrigerate the can and then used the solidified cream in place of traditional heavy cream. You can substitute using a 1:1 ratio, so 1 cup of heavy cream equals 1 cup of coconut cream substitute.
Cashew cream, much like coconut cream, is an excellent vegan substitute for heavy cream. However, one caveat to cashew cream is that you have to make it at home. Cashew cream is not cashew butter and it is not cashew milk.
Cashew cream is one of the best vegan substitutes in both, savory dishes and sweet recipes. We use cashew cream as a base for these strawberries and vegan cream popsicles and in this creamy penne arrabbiata. Cashew cream is also thick and flavorful enough to be the base of your favorite dip, too! Try it in this creamy cashew queso!
To make cashew cream to use as your vegan heavy cream substitute, soak raw cashews in water for a few hours or overnight. Using a high-speed blender, blend the cashews with water until they reach the smooth consistency and creamy texture you need. Add water slowly so that your cashew cream doesn't get too watery. See our recipe at the end of this article for how to make cashew cream!
You can substitute using a 1:1 ratio, so 1 cup of heavy cream equals 1 cup of cashew cream substitute.
Silken tofu is one of the best vegan substitutes for all vegan dishes and that is the case when using it as a vegan heavy cream substitute!
On it's own, though, silken tofu may be a bit too thick so you will need to mix it with something to thin it a bit. We use water or a non-dairy milk, like soy milk, plant-based milk or nut milks, like almond milk.
Tofu works well in savory dishes, like sauces and soups, and sweet recipes, specifically muffins, quick breads, and cakes. Try using tofu in this vegan mac-n-cheese!
To use silken tofu, combine 1 cup of tofu with your chosen vegan option. Using an immersion blender or high-speed bender, mix the ingredients until you get the smooth consistency and creamy texture that you need. You can substitute using a 1:1 ratio; however, you may end up with more tofu mix substitute than you need.
Plant-Based Plain Yogurt
For certain recipes, a great alternative is plant-based plain yogurt. This is especially true for use in curries and sauces. If you use a yogurt with plant-based ingredients, be sure there are minimal additives and look for one with a creamy texture.
You can substitute each cup of heavy cream with plant-based yogurt using a 1:1 ratio.
If you love baking with yogurt but are looking for ways to make it vegan, check out this article on the best substitutes for yogurt in baking!
Non-dairy Milk, Plant-Based Milk, and Nut Milks
Non-dairy milk, like soy milk, plant-based milk, like oat milk, and nut milks, like almond milk or cashew milk, can also be a good substitute for a heavy cream. However, these milks on their own are not quite thick enough and don't possess the same amount of milk fat that regular heavy cream has. This means you will need to add a thickening agent to make a dairy-free alternative work.
For savory dishes and sweet recipes:
One of the easiest ways to fatten up your non-dairy milk, plant-based milk, or nut milk is by adding oil. You can use any thick and mild-tasting oil that you have on hand, including olive oil or vegetable oil. If you don't have either olive oil or vegetable oil on hand, you can also use melted vegan butter.
To use a non-dairy milk as a vegan heavy cream substitute for savory dishes or sweet recipes, combine ⅔ cup of your chosen non-dairy milk with ⅓ cup of olive oil (or other oil of your choosing) and mix well using an immersion blender or high-speed blender. This option will not "whip up" like heavy whipping cream will but makes a suitable substitute in creamy soups, like this Instant Pot corn chowder, or in sweet recipes, like this gluten-free lemon drizzle cake.
For savory soups:
Another option to thickening non-dairy milk is by adding cornstarch or tapioca start. The use of cornstarch makes it less suitable for sweet recipes or baked goods. However, it is still a good option for savory recipes, like creamy soups.
To use a non-dairy milk as a vegan heavy cream substitute in creamy soups or savory dishes, combine 1 cup of your chosen non-dairy milk with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch before adding it to the soup to thicken. Try this easy substitute in our chicken Florentine soup or this healthy white chicken chili.
Using a Vegan Heavy Cream Substitute
All of the options we've presented will be an excellent vegan substitute for your recipes. We ask that you keep in mind that some of the options will impact the taste of your final recipe. Not all options are suitable for sweet recipes.
Full-fat coconut cream is the best vegan alternative for traditional heavy cream. Its slightly sweet flavor blends perfectly into many desserts but it can also be used in savory dishes without altering the overall flavor.
In the end, there isn’t one perfect vegan heavy cream substitute that will work for every occasion. But with the options above, we guarantee you will find at least one that will work perfectly for each dish you create! Happy swapping!