I have a lot of recipes that call for heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk. I'd really like to ditch the dairy -- but while I can swap soy, almond, or something else for plain milk, I have a much harder time figuring out a substitute for cream. Coconut milk comes the closest in terms of consistency, but it has a rather distinct flavor (and there's also an allergy in the family, so I can't use it extensively).

What are some tricks for getting a creamy consistency without using cream?


4 Answers 4


As Henning's answer suggests the best substitute depends on the use-case. The two options that I use most commonly are silken tofu and cashews.

Cashew cream

  • soak the raw cashews for at least 15 minutes, preferably for an hour. Apparently, this breaks down the chemicals on the surface that inhibit digestion, but it also helps with the creamy texture, in my experience.
  • rinse very thoroughly, for example in a colander or sieve, for several minutes
  • transfer to a blender with a little (say, one tablespoon per 50g cashews in addition to them being wet from rinsing) water or neutral oil (I generally use some of my cooking broth if that's what the cream is for, or melted coconut oil or safflower oil if it's for a dessert) until the consistency is acceptable to you
  • use in the recipe, replacing one to one

Silken tofu cream

This is awesome for making dips (for example, to make sour cream for fajitas I add lime juice and coriander) and dressings (and I guess is much healthier than dairy cream as it's high in protein and low in fat). I also make the middle part of cheesecakes with silken tofu blended with cashews or coconut oil or just melted chocolate (because silken tofu is too liquid by itself for this purpose).

You can't whip it, but the consistency after blending is thicker than cream, similar to a full-fat yogurt.

I use it more generously than packaged cream substitutes; I add about 1.5 - 2 times the amount of tofu compared to the amount of processed oat or soya cream or coconut cream I would use.

I can't promise it won't curdle. It will happily take vinegar or citrus juice without any separation, but I haven't tested heating it.

To get just something like the natural sweetness of cream, about 1/4 tsp sugar per 200g tofu helps it along. I add more for sweet recipes

  • put the tofu and all the other ingredients for your sauce/dip/dressing/whatever into a blender
  • blend until smooth!
  • Is it roughly a one-to-one swap if I'm adapting a recipe?
    – Erica
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:05
  • @Erica sorry, I added some extra info
    – Zanna
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:01
  • Usually cashews "want" to be soaked longer - but there is an alternative: Just boil them a couple minutes. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 22:21

Every (thick) fat-water emulsion. In addition to coconut cream, which you mentioned, this includes

  • mushed avocado (works well also for deserts such as mouse au chocolat)

  • vegan mayonnaise (plant 'milk', oil, some drops of apple vinegar and salt combined in a blender)

  • cream substitutes (from the supermarket)

  • nut purees (which of course have a rather strong taste, with cashew being the most neutral)

  • for whipped cream, use chick pea cooking water (right from the can)

In the end, however, it is not really possible to replicate the creamy, hearty, umami taste of cow-milk cream. In general the vegan cuisine is more about aroma.

  • I'm much more interested in consistency than the cream taste, which tends to be significantly overwhelmed by other spices etc. in the dishes I have in mind. There are a handful of casseroles and things that only need a few substitutions (e.g. veggie broth instead of chicken), but I tend to get stuck on cream. Thank you for the pointers!
    – Erica
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 21:40

Not sure if it's available where you live, but in my family we really like the taste, consistency and ingredients of Oatly's oat based cream.

The ingredients list is: Oat base (water, oats 10%), rapeseed oil, palm oil, emulsifier: rapeseed lecithin, stabiliser: xanthan, sea salt.

  • Sadly, it doesn't appear available (even on Amazon!) in the US. I may be able to ask my local health food store about a special order, though...
    – Erica
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 11:18

Depending on what you are making, my favorite stand-ins for heavy cream are:

  1. Silken tofu
  2. Coconut milk (although you nixed that idea!)
  3. Avocado
  4. White beans (e.g., cannellini)
  5. Boiled and mashed cauliflower

Good luck

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.