There are plenty of recipes and dishes that are made so much more delicious with the addition of heavy cream—think quiche, biscuits, and scrambled eggs for starters. Even a regular old cup of coffee transforms into a rich treat with a splash of heavy cream instead of just milk or half-and-half. But I don't regularly keep heavy cream stocked in my fridge, and, more often than not, when a recipe calls for heavy cream, I'm scrambling to find a reasonable heavy cream substitute. Fortunately, the best heavy cream substitute is also super easy to make when you're in a rush—especially since you only need two ingredients.
To understand why this heavy cream substitute works, it helps to understand what the difference is between heavy cream and, say, whole milk. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, heavy cream is "cream which contains not less than 36 percent milkfat." Half-and-half is a mix of milk and cream "which contains not less than 10.5 percent but less than 18 percent milkfat," according to the FDA, and whole milk only has 3.5 percent milkfat.
So the easiest way to make a heavy cream substitute? Pour melted butter—which is essentially pure milkfat—into whole milk or even half-and-half, so that the mixture has a fat content similar to that of heavy cream. To make this two-ingredient heavy cream substitute, PopSugar recommends mixing ¾ cup of whole milk with ⅓ cup of melted and cooled butter.
This mix of butter and milk isn't a perfect substitute for heavy cream, however. You can't whip it up into peaks as you would whipping cream. And this kitchen hack definitely works better with whole milk than with skim milk or even 1 percent, though either will do in a pinch. You could also use cream cheese as a substitute for heavy cream if you need something whippable, but that substitution works best for savory recipes.
If you're looking for a vegan or dairy-free heavy cream substitute, use coconut cream. It's the thicker, richer white cream that floats up to the top of a can of coconut milk. One reason to use this vegan substitute for heavy cream is that coconut cream can whip up into a soft whipped cream, unlike the butter and milk heavy cream substitute.