The Difference Between Ultra-Pasteurized & Old-Fashioned Whipping Cream

by Nannette Richford

Whipping cream or heavy cream contains between 36 and 40 percent fat. It occurs naturally in fresh milk and rises to the top due to the lighter weight of milk fats. In the days before fats became taboo, cream was separated from the milk and served with creamy desserts, used in baking, made into butter or added to coffee and other hot drinks as a creamer. When whipped, heavy cream doubles in size, making fluffy whipped cream. Today, most cream is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized before it hits the grocery store's fridge.


Some states prohibit the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk products in retail outlets, but allow the sale of raw milk from the farm where it is produced, while many ban the sale of raw milk completely. Traditional pasteurization kills 99.9 percent of the bacteria in raw milk. During traditional pasteurization, milk or cream is heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to kill bacteria. Although the milk is sterile when inside the cow, it may be contaminated as it exits the cow through the teat canal, bacteria on the udder, or contaminated milking equipment.


Ultra-pasteurization also kills bacteria in the milk or cream as it is passes through pipes and is heated to 280 F for two seconds and cooled quickly. Ultra-pasteurization makes it possible to process milk faster and more efficiently than traditional pasteurization. It also kills more bacteria in the milk. Because subjecting the milk or cream to high temperatures breaks down the flavor of fresh dairy and affects the whey proteins responsible for diary’s creamy texture, congealing agents like carrageenan and guar gum are added to replicate the original texture.

Effects of Ultra-Pasteurization

Ultra-pasteurization has minimal effect on the flavor of whipping cream. The addition of congealing agents returns any lost creaminess, making ultra-pasteurized cream nearly identical to old-fashioned whipping cream in both flavor and texture. It also extends the shelf life of heavy cream to 35 to 65 days under refrigeration compared to 17 to 28 for unpasteurized cream. Both pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized dairy products contain slightly lower amounts of ascorbic acid, thiamin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. The amount of calcium and other vitamins remains the same as that in raw milk or cream.


Use ultra-pasteurized cream in any recipe that calls for whipping cream. If you choose to make whipped cream from ultra-pasteurized cream, check that it is heavy cream. Light cream can be substituted in recipes, but will not whip, as it does not contain enough fat. Ultra-pasteurized cream takes longer to whip than raw cream. A 1988 study conducted by scientists at the Department of Food Science and Technology at University of California, Los Angeles, revealed that ultra-pasteurized cream may take three to three and one-half minutes to whip, while fresh cream whips within a minute. The volume of whipped cream and longevity were the same.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

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