Don’t Have Heavy Cream? Here’s a Smart Substitute That Actually Works

updated Jul 22, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Heavy cream is one of those ingredients I never seem to have when I need it. When I get a quick craving for fettuccine Alfredo or creamy soup, I have to squeeze a trip in to the grocery store to pick up a pint. (On the other hand, because it’s the way of the universe, when I do have a half-used carton in the fridge, I am always trying to find ways to use it up before it goes bad.)

One thing I do always have on hand, though, is whole milk. And I’ve often wondered if there’s a way I can hack my heavy cream. You can for buttermilk, which is something I do on the regular, so is there a way to make heavy cream with ingredients you already have in your kitchen? It turns out you absolutely can.

But First, What Is Heavy Cream?

Heavy cream is the high-fat part of milk that, because of its high-fat content, rises to the top. It’s skimmed off to make low-fat and fat-free milk, but remains in whole milk, which is typically


rich top layer, which contains 36% to 40% milkfat. It’s what makes everything from
soups and
chocolate mousse extra decadent.

No Heavy Cream? Use Whole Milk and Butter

If you don’t have heavy cream, you want something that’s equally rich. Regular whole milk can work, and it’s probably fine for your everyday mashed potatoes, but you’re probably going to really miss the decadence if it’s missing from your creme brûlée. The solution is to up the fat content of whole milk by adding butter. Here’s how.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

Melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter (that’s 4 tablespoons or half a stick) and let it cool to room temperature. Then, whisk it together with 3/4 cup whole milk. This mixture is equivalent to 1 cup of heavy cream and can be used in almost any recipe that calls for heavy cream.

The one exception: whipped cream. The mixture of whole milk and melted butter won’t whip into soft or stiff peaks so you will need to make a trip to the grocery store if that’s what you’re after.

5 Creamy Recipes to Try

Have you tried this heavy cream substitute? Do you have another substitute you like to use in a pinch?