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What to Use Instead of Whipped Cream

by Jane Wangersky | August 22nd, 2014 | Cooking Basics
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whipped-creamI have a confession to make. In my cherry crunch recipe awhile back, I mentioned serving it with ice cream, and included a photo of a serving of it with a pale pink topping. Well, the topping was really Greek yogurt. Sometimes food photographers, even very occasional ones like me, are driven to such things.

Anyone, sometimes, can find themselves wanting a creamy topping to finish off a sweet dish when there’s no ice cream or whipped cream in the house. When that happens, the thing to do is look hard at what other dairy products you have. None will be exactly like whipped cream, but they’ll all be good in their own ways.

Greek yogurt, of course, is thick and creamy, and usually already sweetened and flavored. It’s even got more protein than regular yogurt. If regular yogurt is all you’ve got, however, it will also do — if you have time, you may want to let it drain in a coffee filter for a few hours to thicken it up.

If what you have is plain yogurt, Greek or regular, try adding two tablespoons of sugar to each cup, with maybe a dash of vanilla. You can use white sugar or brown, depending on your taste, but brown sugar will make for a brown color. Sour cream can also be turned into a sweet topping this way.

Got cream cheese or mascarpone? Check out this article by our chef, Elizabeth Skipper, for directions on making it into a topping, plus lots of good advice on working with real whipped cream.

Maybe you picked up a can of coconut milk on sale once and haven’t found anything to do with it. Visit here to see how to make the thick layer of it into dairy-free whipped “cream”.

I’m not a fan of the taste of sweetened condensed milk, but it’s beautifully thick and creamy, and a little vanilla or fruit juice will make it a lot tastier. Just don’t mistake evaporated milk for it, as they both come in a can. Evaporated milk can be made into a whipped cream substitute — see here — but it takes a little more work.

You may very well decide to substitute something for whipped cream even if it’s not an emergency. One possibility, if you have at least 24 hours, is this homemade version of crème fraîche. Though that recipe tells you to heat the cream and buttermilk, I’ve had success just mixing them, cold, in a glass jar and going on from there.

There may not be anything exactly like whipped cream, but there’s lots that will fill in for it.

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