Whipping Light Cream vs. Heavy Cream

Can you make whipped cream using light instead of heavy cream?

With so many options in the dairy aisle, it’s hard to keep all the creams straight. At its most basic, cream is the fat-rich layer skimmed off the top of unhomogenized milk. From there, creams are categorized based on their milk fat content: Light cream is 18 to 30 percent milk fat, whipping cream is 30 to 36 percent milk fat, and heavy cream is 36 to 40 percent milk fat. Half-and-half, which weighs in between 10.5 and 18 percent milk fat, is a combination of cream and milk (whole milk is 3.5 percent milk fat).

To see how the creams compare, we first tried whipping each. Since cream needs to be 30 percent milk fat or higher to hold enough air to solidify, light cream and half-and-half remained liquid no matter how long we whipped them. Whipping cream reached the same volume as heavy cream and reached stiff peaks faster. It was airier and less creamy than whipped heavy cream but was still acceptable.

We also sampled each product in our Cream Biscuits and our Classic Tomato Soup, which is finished with ½ cup of heavy cream. The biscuit batters made with light cream and half-and-half were too thin and impossible to form or cut. The biscuits made with whipping cream were a touch less rich but were comparable to those made with heavy cream. In the tomato soup, heavy cream was, again, the favorite, but the whipping cream came in a close second. Both the light cream and the half-and-half broke when added to the acidic soup. The soups tasted fine but were visually unappealing and lacked the body of the heavy-cream sample.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Go ahead and swap whipping cream for heavy cream if you’re trying to cut calories, but don’t try to substitute light cream or half-and-half for heavy cream.


Fat Content: 36 to 40%

Will it Whip? Yes


Fat Content: 30 to 36%

Will it Whip? Yes


Fat Content: 18 to 30%

Will it Whip? No


Fat Content: 10.5 to 18%

Will it Whip? No

LIGHT CREAM: Not enough fat to hold air and solidify

WHIPPING CREAM: Airier than heavy cream but still acceptable

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