Cooking substitutes for heavy cream?
March 22, 2008 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Are there any cooking substitutes for heavy cream?

Cooking a really tasty recipe for the girlfriend tonight. Only problem is that it calls for heavy cream to be simmered in brandy and apples. She is not a dairy person, so trying to find a good non dairy alternative. Any ideas?
posted by ShootTheMoon to Food & Drink (21 answers total)
I assume you googled it and didn't like the answers??
posted by jejune at 5:20 PM on March 22, 2008

Yes, most of the google replies indicate that there is not a good substitute for heavy cream. Was hoping for some first hand experience
posted by ShootTheMoon at 5:22 PM on March 22, 2008

I've used liquid non-dairy coffee creamer in a pinch before, but it was mostly for baking - not sure how it would do simmered.
posted by wayward vagabond at 5:25 PM on March 22, 2008

Maybe try coconut milk?
posted by procrastination at 5:28 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

It depends on what the cream is doing. If you need it for volume, coconut milk is not going to work. But if you need it for richness, I second the coconut.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:39 PM on March 22, 2008

I just use soy milk, always. Probably the success of it depends on the recipe.
posted by loiseau at 5:43 PM on March 22, 2008

you could try to puree silken tofu for a thicker texture or use soymilk, but i think that a flavorless coffeemate or something of that nature would give the best flavor.

is she allergic to dairy, vegan, or lactose intolerant? there are different options for each of these restrictions.
posted by evalenza at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2008

I'd just ditch the cream if she has some kind of issue with dairy. Your not really going to find an acceptable substitute. Check a few poached pear or apple recipes and adjust the liquid accordingly.
posted by -t at 5:56 PM on March 22, 2008

Make something else.
You won't be satisfied, she'll be gratified, but there are so many other nice things you could serve her.
You are very kind to be so attentive, but cream is cream and nothing else will do.
posted by Dizzy at 5:57 PM on March 22, 2008

This might be a little tricky, but perhaps combine coconut milk with a thickening agent? I'm assuming the dairy is there for both richness of flavor and for texture. While coconut milk might be a little too thin, a thickener such as arrowroot (which thickens without clouding up the sauce) might bulk it up appropriately. Cornstarch is a thickener, as well, but leaves more of a visual footprint than arrowroot.

If I were to attempt this, I'd mix the thickener of your choice in a bit of water, enough to make a slurry. This will prevent it from clumping up when you add it to the hot pan. I would make more than I thought I might need, and add it little by little, adding, then whisking, until I got close to the right consistency. Then I'd let heat take care of taking it the rest of the way. But I have to admit I would practice this beforehand, honestly. The effects of cream are hard to replicate.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:57 PM on March 22, 2008

Cornstarch or flour? It can thicken gravy, so maybe...
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:25 PM on March 22, 2008

White sauce. I make it with butter, but if dairy is that big an issue any oil/butter substitute/fat will do. Lightly brown flour in an equal amount of very hot oil, (don't let it stick to the pan). When it starts to brown remove from heat til it stops simmering. Return to low heat and slowly add the boiling liquid in 3-4 tablespoon increments, mixing it smooth with each addition. The first addition will create a thick paste almost instantly. Keep adding liquid until it's the consistency you need. Typical proportions for a thickened stew or soup: 3 T fat, 3 T flour, 1-2 (or more) cups liquid.

Works for gravy, pie filling, casseroles, stews, creamed or otherwise thickened soups, you name it. The single most useful thing you will ever learn to cook.
posted by nax at 6:47 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Coconut milk or silken tofu that's blended into a thick sauce. You can thin it out with water. Some other suggestions can be found in this thread.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:54 PM on March 22, 2008

I like coconut milk for this, especially since it sounds like something sweet to begin with. You can get VERY thick coconut milk, canned like evaporated milk, and then water it down until you get the right consistency.
posted by rokusan at 6:55 PM on March 22, 2008

I understand that it's often the case that recipes use heavy cream because of the fat content. Something that isn't fat just won't work the same. In some cases it's because the cooking extracts fat-soluble flavor components from other ingredients. In a lot of cases it's because we like the mouth-feel of fat, and other things that are thick (tofu, corn starch, or yogurt) don't have the same mouth-feel. We have special sensors in our tongues to recognize fat, and those sensors are not easy to fool. (That's controversial but there's a lot of evidence for it.)

Which means that there are poor substitutes, but no good ones. You can make a dish that will look the same, and feel the same to your fingers, but not to your tongue.

I think -t is right: forget about this recipe and find something else to make, something that is acceptable within the dietary requirements of your guest.
posted by Class Goat at 9:01 PM on March 22, 2008

Visit for this information, and more. I use it for all sorts of things when I don't have time to run to the store for that missing ingredient.
posted by mcarthey at 9:54 PM on March 22, 2008

Apples, brandy and heavy cream make up a classic flavor combination. Coconut milk introduces a whole new flavor into the mix, and IMHO, won't jive.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:09 PM on March 22, 2008

if you do take up the coconut milk suggestion - perhaps you should use coconut cream instead. it has a much thicker consistency than coconut milk.
posted by aielen at 6:35 AM on March 23, 2008

Coconut milk makes sense to me, but last or late. Maybe rum instead of brandy?
posted by Toekneesan at 1:27 PM on March 23, 2008

I've used non-dairy creamer and evaporated milk before.
posted by VelvetHellvis at 7:32 AM on April 1, 2008

I work for a company that manufactures a cream substitute made from almonds and cashews. It has a great texture and performs well in soups, gravies and anywhere one would use a dairy cream. It doesn't break when heated either. We also make two sweetened versions that are the base to excellent ice creams, shakes and smoothies. The product is called MimicCreme. Check it out. Our website is Vince
posted by vcolavito at 4:12 PM on April 6, 2008

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