Heavy whipping cream adds a velvety texture and rich, buttery flavor whether it is stirred into your morning coffee or whipped into clouds of fluffy goodness to sit atop your favorite pie. Not everyone can stomach this luscious dairy product, but that doesn't mean you have to be totally deprived. Whether you are lactose intolerant, vegan, nursing a dairy-sensitive little one or simply trying out a new way of eating, making smart substitutions means that you can go dairy free and still enjoy your favorite creamy soups, sauces and dessert toppings.
Full fat coconut milk adds a rich, creamy texture very similar to that of heavy cream, although it will give your recipe a subtle coconut flavor. To make this simple and effective substitute, refrigerate a can of coconut milk, then add a bit of powdered sugar or other sweetener and vanilla to taste. Whisk or mix the coconut milk with an electric mixer until you achieve a heavy cream or whipped consistency. This substitute also works very well in cookies, cakes and breads as well as adding a rich, slightly nutty flavor to sauces used on chicken and fish.
For a non-dairy heavy cream alternative that packs a fraction of the fat, simply puree tofu to make soy cream. For a substitute that mimics the thickness of heavy cream, use firm, thick tofu. Press your tofu between several layers of paper towels to remove as much of the water from it as you can. This alternative isn't as rich as the real thing, but it's easy to prepare and works well as a thickening agent in baked goods and sauces.
A mix of two parts rice milk and one part melted, dairy-free margarine serves as a heavy cream alternative that retains much of heavy whipping cream's rich flavor. Use soy milk instead of rice milk or substitute vegetable oil for the margarine. This alternative cream only works in recipes that call for the cream in its liquid state; it is not suitable for whipping.
Some specialty stores offer pre-made dairy-free whips, which feature ingredients such as soy, coconut oil and organic beet syrup. If you find yourself searching for non-dairy ingredients that thicken and enhance the richness of your recipes, nut butters, cornmeal and oatmeal may do the trick. Depending on what type of dish you are preparing, you can also use pureed avocados or even refried beans as thickeners.
With a diverse professional background and a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Dan has contributed lifestyle content -- from fashion to travel to fitness and more -- to publishers including Chron, Fortune, Sony, GlobalPost, ModernMom, Moviefone, Salon.com, Techwalla and dozens of others.