Transform Milk Into Heavy Cream With One Ingredient

There are those moments when you have an intense late-night dessert craving but no heavy cream to make your favorite treat, or you already brought back your haul from the supermarket and forgot the milky ingredient, but simply cannot bear to go back to the store. What if we told you there was a way to save the day and create a formidable heavy cream substitute with an item you probably have on hand? All it requires is some butter.

Simply whisk together one part melted butter with three parts milk, and you'll have a heavy cream-adjacent mixture. So, how does this work? To understand, it helps to know what heavy cream actually is. Also referred to as heavy whipping cream, it's a decidedly rich dairy product with a fat content as high as 40%. Heavy cream is traditionally made by skimming off the fattiest part of the milk that rises to the top during processing. Skim milk is what is left behind, and then that skimmed fat is reincorporated to make other milk and dairy products.

How to use this heavy cream substitute

While adding butter to milk to make heavy cream is not exactly the same as adding milk fat to the mix, the effect is rather similar — and you can use the concoction as a substitute in almost all cooking and baking applications. To try this hack, it's best to use whole milk, but the method will also work with skim, 1%, or 2% milk, as well (the texture will just be a little thinner). 

This heavy cream substitute can be swapped 1:1 in most recipes. Try it in mashed potatoes, soups, creamy pastas, frittatas, mac and cheese, and pan sauces. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with this trick and make the muffins, cakes, puddings, and panna cottas that you desire. The only drawback is that this butter and milk mixture will not whip into the peaks needed for something like chocolate mousse or the whipped topping in a banana cream pie recipe.

Heavy whipping cream substitutes

The butter and milk combination is a great heavy cream substitute in a pinch for savory dishes, but when you need something light and fluffy to garnish that chocolate mousse pie you spent hours on, there are better options. Try sweetening a thick and tart cultured dairy product like sour cream, crème fraîche, or Greek yogurt

Coconut cream also works well as an option. Similar to heavy cream, coconut cream is the fattier part of the coconut milk that rises to the top. The product is widely available in cans, and to make the texture even creamier, refrigerate the whole can — the clear liquid will sink to the bottom, then you can easily scoop out the creamiest part. 

This also works with refrigerated cans of full-fat coconut milk — there will be less coconut cream and more coconut water than in a can of coconut cream, but it yields the same product. Whip it with a hand-held electric beater or a stand mixer, and then add some of that coconut water back bit by bit if the mix is too thick. Sweeten with powdered sugar just like you would with whipped cream, and then add vanilla extract, or amplify the coconut flavor with the addition of real coconut, almond, or pineapple extracts.