You’re in the middle of a recipe when you suddenly realize that you’re missing cream–a key ingredient in your meal or dessert. Cream comes in dozens of varieties, including light cream, light whipping cream, heavy whipping cream, double cream and Devonshire cream. If you are completely missing this important food ingredient, several substitutes for cream may work instead. They will slightly alter the end taste of your meal, but they should be acceptable substitutes in most recipes.
Half and Half
Although much lower in fat than heavier creams, half and half can work as a substitute for cream in most recipes. Half and half, which is made from 50% milk and 50% cream, has a total butterfat content of roughly 12%. Although it can’t be whipped, it will work in coffee, desserts and most soups and sauces. Note that the end result will be slightly waterier and less rich than if it were made with ordinary cream.
You can use evaporated milk as a substitute for cream in some, but not all, applications. Evaporated milk is lower in fat and harder to whip than cream, and it has a slightly odd taste somewhat similar burnt marshmallows. Evaporated milk is best used as a substitute for cream in cakes, cookies and other baked desserts.
Yogurt, which is a cultured dairy product made from low-fat, fat-free or full-fat milk, is an ideal substitute for cream in many recipes. The probiotic cultures involved in yogurt production help to give even fat-free dairy a thicker, creamier consistency. Because of this, yogurt functions in a manner similar to higer-fat creams when it is used in recipes. However, it sometimes clumps or curdles during cooking, particularly if you are cooking sauces such as Alfredo sauce.