Are you making a pasta recipe that calls for a heavy cream based cream sauce? If you’re all out of heavy cream, or just need a dairy free alternative, there are a number of great substitutes to choose from.
Heavy cream is a standard ingredient in creating all sorts of rich pasta sauces, so when looking for an appropriate substitute you must use an ingredient that provides a similar texture and flavor.
That’s no easy task, but over the years I’ve had the opportunity to test all sorts of heavy cream substitutes and I’ll show you the best options in this quick article.
So what are the best substitutes for heavy cream when making a pasta recipe?
The top heavy cream alternatives you can use in your pasta dish are butter with milk, Greek yogurt, milk with cornstarch, half and half, cream cheese, and soy milk.
Make sure to read on for how to use each of these heavy cream replacements in your recipe.
Heavy Cream Alternative for Pasta Recipes
Heavy cream provides a rich and creamy flavor and wonderful texture that works in so many types of pasta dishes. Who doesn’t love a homemade alfredo sauce?
But the real question is, how do you make that amazing cream sauce without heavy cream? Heavy cream provides a richness that you need the right substitute to replicate.
With a butterfat content of up to forty percent and a flavor that goes so well with pasta, you will need to use one of the ingredients and combos below to get similar results.
Butter and Milk
If you are able to use a substitute that contains dairy, there is no better option than using milk and butter. By adding butter to your milk you achieve a butterfat content similar to heavy cream. And it is a great way to make any pasta recipe that calls for heavy cream.
Milk by itself isn’t going to get as creamy of a texture as you can produce with heavy cream. And that’s where butter comes in to save the day!
The results are incredibly similar (almost identical) in texture and flavor, so this is my number one heavy cream substitute recommendation when making a pasta dish.
Equivalent1/4 cup of milk combined with 3/4 cup of melted butter equals 1 cup of heavy cream
Another great way to increase the fat content of milk for an excellent heavy cream alternative is Greek yogurt. I particularly like this combo for adding a rich and interesting flavor to cream sauces.
While you can get away with using Greek yogurt alone, I find it a little on the thick side. So mixing it with some milk (dairy or non dairy) will achieve the perfect consistency.
Make sure to use plain, unflavored Greek yogurt to avoid adding unwanted flavors.
Equivalent1/2 cup of Greek yogurt combined with 1/2 cup of milk equals 1 cup of heavy cream
Milk and Cornstarch
If you don’t have butter or yogurt on hand, you can thicken milk with cornstarch to create a solid substitute for heavy cream. While it won’t be quite as rich in flavor, the end result is still quite good.
You can use whole fat milk to get more flavor, or go with a non dairy milk such as unflavored almond milk for a dairy free heavy cream substitute.
Equivalent1 cup of milk with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch equals 1 cup of heavy cream
Half and Half
Half and half is easy to use in place of heavy cream and is a great choice for any pasta recipe. Because half and half is composed of equal parts milk and cream, it has a higher butterfat content than milk alone.
This added fat content will provide a rich and flavorful base for any pasta sauce. If you want to achieve the same fat content as heavy cream, you can add a tablespoon of butter for each cup of half and half, but it works great all by itself.
Equivalent1 cup of half and half equals 1 cup of heavy cream
Cream cheese is a great substitute for heavy cream in pasta sauce for those looking for a lot of flavor and creaminess. Cream cheese has a high butterfat content and a slight tang in flavor that works quite well in most pasta dishes.
You can use just cream cheese, or use one part cream cheese and one part milk for a thinner consistency. Either way works quite well so experiment to see what texture you prefer.
Equivalent1 cup of cream cheese equals 1 cup of heavy cream
If you are looking for a dairy free and vegan friendly substitute for heavy cream you can use for pasta sauce, soy milk is a solid option. While soy milk is not going to provide the same flavor or richness, it will work for any type of dairy free pasta recipe.
Add a little bit of olive oil to your soy milk before adding it to the rest of your ingredients.
Equivalent2/3 cup of soy milk with 1/3 cup of olive oil equals 1 cup of heavy cream
Replacement for Heavy Cream in Pasta FAQ
Can you use milk instead of cream for pasta sauce?
While you can use milk instead of heavy cream for pasta, it is recommended that you increase the butterfat content by adding butter. This will produce a flavor and texture more similar to heavy cream than using milk alone. Use a quarter cup of milk and three quarter cup of butter for each cup of heavy cream.
What can you use instead of heavy cream for Alfredo sauce?
There are a number of alternatives for heavy cream you can use to make homemade alfredo sauce. The top subs to use are milk with butter, Greek yogurt, and half and half. If you need a dairy free option, use soy milk or a dairy free milk mixed with a tablespoon of cornstarch.
Can you use cooking cream instead of heavy cream?
Yes, cooking cream can be used in place of heavy cream. It is able to handle high temperatures without curdling making it an excellent option for making a pasta cream sauce. Use a 1:1 ratio.
Can you use sour cream instead of heavy cream?
Yes, sour cream can be used instead of heavy cream when mixed with milk. Sour cream will provide a rich texture and flavor perfect for using in pasta recipes. Use 2/3 cup of sour cream and 1/3 cup milk for each cup of heavy cream.
What is a good substitute for heavy cream when making mac and cheese?
You have multiple substitutions you can use in place of heavy cream when cooking macaroni and cheese. You can use butter with milk, Greek yogurt, or half and half. For diary free and vegan friendly mac and cheese, use unflavored almond milk with a tablespoon of cornstarch or all-purpose flour.