More and more people are looking to get animal products out of their diets, and heavy cream is an ingredient that many recipes call for – so what do you do if you don’t want to eat it but need to cook with it? Let’s look at the 8 best vegan heavy cream substitutes.
There are some great alternatives to heavy cream, including coconut cream, plant milk mixed with olive oil, onion cream, white bean cream, and more. All of these will have slightly different textures and flavors, but they should work instead of heavy cream.
If you’re going to make a substitution in a recipe, you might want to test it on a small batch first, because sometimes vegan options will behave in different ways. Hopefully, this article will give you plenty of ideas about what you can use instead of heavy cream.
What Are The Best Substitutes For Heavy Cream?
If you don’t want to eat heavy cream because you’re a vegan or trying to focus on a more plant-based diet, there are lots of substitutes that you can opt for. These will often have a different flavor from heavy cream and they may behave in different ways if you cook with them, but overall, most of these make great substitutes. The list includes:
- White bean cream
- Soy milk and oil
- Vegan cashew heavy cream
- Oat milk with cornstarch
- Silken tofu blended with soy milk
- Coconut cream
- Soy milk and brown rice
- Onion cream
The idea behind these is to replace both the taste and texture of heavy cream, but this can be quite tricky to do, and you may find that the success varies depending on what sort of meal you are making. If you are making something like soup or sauce, you’ll find some of the above are better than others, while other ones might work better for desserts.
When you create a heavy cream substitute, you are looking to get 1 part of fat to 2 parts liquid, which means that you can’t just swap the cream for a plant-based milk. You will usually need to mix two products in order to create something that is similar to heavy cream, so let’s look at which are the best options and how you can use them.
1) White Bean Cream
White bean cream is a great substitute if you are making soups, although you may find that it has too much flavor for desserts or for other recipes. It will help to thicken soups and make them creamier, but it generally isn’t suitable for sweet dishes, because of its taste. It is high in protein and much healthier for you than heavy cream.
It’s also very easy to make, provided that you have a blender. Without a blender, you can’t make this substitute, because you need the beans to be turned into a paste for it to work. If you can’t blend them, the beans will be too chunky and will ruin the texture of your dish.
You can make it using 1 cup of white beans (cooked, or use canned and drained ones) and just enough water for blending. Add the beans to your blender jug, along with a splash of water, and blend on high for a couple of minutes, until you have a smooth, thick paste, similar to the texture of heavy cream.
You can then refrigerate this paste and use a scoop of it like heavy cream. It will make your recipes taste fattier and more luxurious, so it’s a great option.
2) Soy Milk And Oil
If you aren’t fond of soy milk, you can use almost any plant-based milk to create this version of heavy cream; they should all work similarly. Pick one that you like the taste of. Once you have chosen your milk, you simply need to make it fattier to make it behave like cream, and you can do this by adding oil.
This will work well in a variety of dishes, as the plant-based milks tend to be fairly mild in flavor, so they can often be added to recipes without noticeably altering the taste. That makes this one of the more versatile substitutes for heavy cream, and it may even work in baked goods, which a lot of the alternative options will not. However, it cannot be turned into whipped cream.
To make a cup of this vegan cream, you will need a third of a cup of oil, and two-thirds of a cup of your chosen plant-based milk. Any neutral oil will do, and the best part is that you can make this recipe without a blender if necessary (although a blender will make things easier).
Add both ingredients to a bowl and whisk them thoroughly together, or use a blender to combine them. You should get a rich, creamy substance that can be added in the place of heavy cream in many situations, both sweet and savory.
3) Vegan Cashew Heavy Cream
Cashews are often used as a substitute for non-vegan cheese so that vegans can still enjoy meals like macaroni cheese, and that means cashews are ideal for creating heavy cream. Without the nutritional yeast flakes and spices often used when turning cashews into a cheese substitute, they are perfect for the more neutral flavor but fatty texture of heavy cream.
This recipe is a bit more complicated than some of the other options out there, and you need to spend more time on it – but it’s worth it for the results. Cashew cream makes a heavy cream that can be used in baked goods, sauces, soups, and more.
To make it, you need to soak ¾ cup of cashews for 2 hours (unless your blender is powerful enough to cope with raw cashews). Rinse the cashews, drain them, and add them to your blender. Pour in ¼ cup of water and a touch of salt, and blend on high until you have a smooth substance that is similar to heavy cream.
If the texture isn’t quite right, add a little more water. You should soon have a great alternative to heavy cream. You can leave the salt out if you prefer, but it helps with the taste. If you want a richer flavor, use a plant-based milk rather than water – this will give you a deliciously creamy substance.
4) Oat Milk With Cornstarch
If you don’t want to make a high-fat version of heavy cream but you are still looking to replicate the taste and behavior, cornstarch is an excellent option. This substitute will give you the thickness and creaminess of heavy cream, with none of the greasiness or oil. It is best used in soups, rather than baking, as the lack of fat will change how it behaves.
Cornstarch is a great option when you want to thicken a substance, and many people use it when they want to make vegan heavy cream. You need a cup of any plant-based milk (oat, soy, almond, cashew, etc.) and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch for this recipe.
Place the milk in a small saucepan and gently heat it. Whisk the cornstarch into it, adding it a little at a time, until you have got the milk to the right consistency. You adjust the quantities up or down, depending on your preferences.
The outcome is a thick substance that will hold its texture well, even when you cool it down. Decant the “cream” into a bowl and refrigerate it until you need it. You can’t really whip this vegan version of heavy cream, but it works well in savory dishes.
5) Silken Tofu Blended With Soy Milk
Another low-fat option, silken tofu can beautifully replicate the luxurious texture that heavy cream lends to meals, and it’s a great way to thicken up any plant-based milk to make its texture similar to that of heavy cream. This will work in some baked goods, as well as in savory dishes, and the flavor is fairly neutral.
You need 1 cup of silken tofu, and a small amount of the plant-based milk of your choice. Cut the tofu up and add it to your blender, along with a splash of your chosen plant milk. Start blending, and keep occasionally adding plant milk as necessary to create the texture you want.
This “cream” is high in protein and very silky and delicious, but you can’t whip it, so it won’t work in some situations. However, if you are watching your weight and you want a neutral option that replicates the texture of heavy cream, this may be an excellent choice.
Lots of people use silken tofu and plant milk in soups, stews, and sauces. It can also be added to curry to make it milder, or included in a smoothie for richness and smoothness. You may be able to bake with it, but you’ll need to test each recipe to check whether it works because it won’t behave exactly like non-vegan heavy cream.
6) Coconut Cream
Sometimes, you really need a heavy cream that you can whip, and coconut cream is the best option to turn to in these cases. It will whip like heavy cream, and it can also be used in some kinds of soups and certain baked goods. Its best qualities are its fattiness, texture, and behavior – these are all like those of heavy cream.
The major downside of coconut cream is that it has a strong flavor. This is very pleasant, but it does mean that sometimes, you’ll find the coconut cream changes the taste of your dish, and not always for the better. You will almost always be able to taste the coconut, which is unfortunate if you don’t like the flavor.
The great thing about this substitute is that you don’t need any extra ingredients: 1 cup of canned coconut milk is the same as 1 cup of heavy cream. You can whip it, pour it, or do anything else that you might with heavy cream, and it will work fine.
Coconut cream works well in a wide variety of recipes, but the recipe must either have a strong enough flavor to conceal the taste, or work with that taste. You can use it in any coconut-based dish, and in soups that have a strong flavor of their own. For some options, however, you’ll find that the taste overpowers the rest of the recipe, which is very frustrating.
7) Soy Milk And Brown Rice
For substituting heavy cream in soups, you can sometimes use soy milk and brown rice. This is best for savory dishes, and you should cook the brown rice with a little stock or vegetable broth before you begin; this will give it more flavor. Choose a plant-based milk for adding to your blender so that the mixture is thinned.
Add 1 cup of brown rice and a splash of your favorite plant milk, and then start blending it. You will likely need to add a little more plant milk to stop the rice from becoming too thick in the blender. Keep blending until you have a completely smooth mixture.
The biggest advantage of this cream option is that it functions well in cooking and won’t go lumpy when it is cooled down, which some of the other options may do. If you are cooking a large meal, this is probably one of the best substitutes for heavy cream because it is more stable and should keep its consistency.
However, it is a more involved process because you have to cook the rice. This is much more effort than some of the other options, and you might find that it’s a bit much when you are already preparing a full meal. This option also doesn’t necessarily work very well for desserts.
8) Onion Cream
You might be baffled by the idea that you can make a sort of heavy cream from onions, but this creative recipe has its place on the substitutions menu, and it is a substitute that is packed with flavor and goodness. It is only suitable for savory dishes, of course, but it will enhance them far more than simple heavy cream would.
To make it, take a whole onion and roll it in oil, and then put it in the oven at 400 degrees. Bake it for 45 minutes, until the skin is dark and crispy, and then take it out and gently squeeze it to check that it’s soft. Allow it to cool, and then peel the skin off and add the onion to your blender.
Add a pinch of salt, a little lemon juice, and some more oil, and then blend until the ingredients are smooth and thick. This flavorful “heavy cream” can be included in soups and savory dinners, and it can also be frozen without ruining the consistency, making it a great option for batch cooking.
This method is more hands-on than some of the other options, but it’s an excellent one and will make your recipes taste even better than the non-vegan alternative. However, this kind of “cream” can’t be whipped, and it will ruin desserts and any dishes that wouldn’t benefit from onion being added. Use it carefully!
There are some other things that you might want to know about using vegan substitutes for heavy cream, so let’s explore a few of those here.
Q: Can I just use plant milk?
A: If you want to save all the fuss of making a heavy cream substitute, you might be wondering if you can just add plant milk to the recipe. The answer is that it depends. Some recipes require the fattiness of heavy cream to work properly. For others, plant milk will work, but it will lack the silky texture and luxurious taste that heavy cream would bring.
Q: Why do so few options work for baked goods?
A: You’ll have noticed that a lot of the above options are no good if you want to bake with heavy cream. Unfortunately, it is quite tricky to make substitutions when baking, because small changes in how an ingredient behaves can have a big impact on the baked goods. You need to replicate the heavy cream’s properties if you want it to work.
Q: Will these vegan creams keep well?
A: It depends on which you have chosen to make, but many don’t keep well. Try to make them fresh as part of your meal prep, rather than storing them in the fridge. If you want to store one, experiment in advance to see how it keeps, rather than trying it when you have an important dinner to make.
There are a lot of vegan substitutes for heavy cream, and which one is best will depend upon your recipe. Coconut cream behaves the most like actual heavy cream, but its strong flavor may make it unsuitable for some recipes. Experiment with the options above to see which works best in which situations.