The Easy Vegan Alternative For Heavy Cream

When you cut dairy out of your diet, some ingredients are harder to replace than others. Plant-based heavy cream isn't as easy to find as plant-based milk, but fortunately, you can make a substitute from ingredients commonly found in a vegan kitchen. For every cup of cream you need, just mix ⅔ cup soy milk with ⅓ cup olive oil. Use a whisk to evenly combine the two, or give them a whirl in the blender to create a thick and velvety liquid.

This oil and plant milk combo can work with other non-dairy milks and neutrally-flavored oils, like oat milk and canola oil. However, the soy and olive oil blend produces the most neutrally-flavored substitute, with a consistency that's neither too thick nor thin. Options like coconut milk can be too rich and sweet, while almond milk can be watery. Our recommended combo effectively mimics "real" heavy cream, since olive oil acts as a thickener while soy milk creates a neutral-tasting base.

This heavy cream substitute works the best in savory dishes. You might even use an olive oil with herbal or fruity notes that add some dimension to your dinner. The rich liquid can be added into a creamy pasta sauce, used to thicken up hearty soups, or can act as a base for a luscious pot of mac and cheese. Although this swap lends itself best to these sorts of applications, there are some cases where it can work just as well in desserts.

Use this vegan heavy cream for sweet and savory dishes

If you like your baked goods on the richer, more dense side, this heavy cream substitute can work in cakes, cookies, and more. Try blending some flavored soy dairy milk with the oil instead. For example, add a mixture of olive oil and chocolate soy milk into a fudgy cake recipe that calls for dairy-based cream. Or, if you catch a craving for cheesecake, use vanilla-flavored soy milk. 

Some desserts — like this Meyer lemon and olive oil cake recipe — may even benefit from the taste of a robust olive oil. But if you'd rather offset its slightly grassy flavor, use a "light" olive oil and add some extra sweetener to the recipe, or a touch more vanilla extract. Regardless of what you're cooking, you'll want to seek out recipes that don't call for beating or whipping heavy cream. 

Though the soy-oil blend can take on a similar texture to the thick, liquid dairy product, it won't expand and whip up in the same way due to its lower fat content. A cup of heavy cream contains around 86 grams of fat, which breaks down and traps air bubbles as the cream is whisked. Unfortunately, the leaner mix of plant milk and oil won't trap air the same way. If you need a vegan alternative to whipped cream, you have a few options, and the easiest method starts with a can of full-fat coconut milk.

Vegan alternatives for whipped cream

For vegan whipped cream, reach for a can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream. Don't skimp on the fat — you need a product that's rich enough to set into a firm consistency in the fridge. With coconut cream, the liquid and fat in the can will separate, so  scoop out the fatty layer on top for use. Just beat your cold coconut milk or cream until light and fluffy with stiff peaks.

One thing to keep in mind is that these ingredients will add a little extra coconut flavor to your food. While coconut milk whipped cream is a game changer for desserts like fruit tarts and key lime pies, and it can even be churned into ultra-smooth vegan ice cream, it may not be the vibe you're aiming for on top of cinnamon rolls or in a chocolate mud pie.

For whipped cream with a more neutral flavor, use aquafaba — the liquid from canned chickpeas. When whipped with cream of tartar and sugar, it takes on the texture of a light meringue or whipped cream. This product won't last long, however, so eat it as soon as it's prepared. For whipped cream that you can prep ahead, blend some silken tofu with sugar and vanilla extract. Thin it out with soy milk, and blend again until it takes on a smooth and fluffy consistency. This can last in the fridge for a week — just whip it again before serving.