Can I use heavy cream instead of milk?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can I use heavy cream instead of milk?”, and what are the other dairy and non-dairy substitutes for milk?

Can I use heavy cream instead of milk?

Yes, you can use heavy cream instead of whole milk. Heavy cream has a higher fat content than milk and a thicker consistency. When substituting for milk, dilute the heavy cream with some water. Heavy cream can be used to thicken soups or can even be whipped with sugar to be used as a frosting. 

What are the sensory benefits of using heavy cream instead of milk?

The main sensory benefit of using heavy cream instead of milk is the improvement of the texture. Cream is an emulsion of milk fat globules which provides sensation of thickness, giving rise to the overall perception of creaminess in food (1). 

The milk fat globules present in the cream have an ideal and evenly distributed small size and are dispersed in the milk in an unique way, not reproducible by other types of lipids. The perception of creaminess is greater for smaller fat globules of the milk.

Cream consists of fat, together with the decreased proportion of other solids and the water of milk. Heavy cream is a cream having 35–40 % fat content and is usually considerably thicker (or whipped cream whipped into a thick froth) (2).

What are the health benefits of using heavy cream instead of milk?

The health benefits of using heavy cream instead of milk are the superior nutritional properties of the milk lipids. Cream contains phospholipids, and traces of sterols, carotenoids and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, D, E and K. 

Carotenoids are known to have high free radical scavenging properties. Vitamin A is important for eye health and night vision and is a potent antioxidant, preventing some types of cancer (3). 

Vitamin D plays important roles in bone metabolism and renal calcium reabsorption, as well as blood pressure and insulin secretion. It also regulates the immune system and controls cell differentiation. 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has also a positive effect on fertility. Vitamin K is involved in bone mineralization and plays a protective role against cardiovascular disease. 

Cream also contains conjugated linolenic acids (CLA), which has been related to many health effects on preventing diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. CLA has anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antiobesity, antiatherogenic, osteosynthetic, and immunomodulatory effects (4).

What are the health risks of using heavy cream instead of milk?

The health benefits of using heavy cream instead of milk are the possible negative effects of the increased ingestion of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Saturated fatty acids in cream are about 23.0 g per 100 g, including palmitic, stearic, myristic, and lauric acid. Palmitic acid is one of the major saturated fatty acids and it  may raise the serum cholesterol while stearic acid does not. 

The fatty acid composition of cream will determine its health effects and this composition depends on the feeding of the milk cows. 

Different feeding programs of dairy cows may result in greater or lower concentration of stearic or palmitic acids in milk and in milk fat, greater or lower concentration of  cholesterol-raising fatty acids, determining if the consumption of those products are worthwhile in terms of producing health beneficial effects or not.

However, the overall caloric load of the food is significantly increased when heavy cream is used instead of milk, which may lead to weight gain. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories per gram, while the energy provided by proteins and carbohydrates is 4 calories per gram.

As a consequence, while 100 g of whole milk contains 61 calories, the same amount of heavy cream contains 343 calories.

When the amount of energy a person consumes is more than the energy they use up, their body fat mass will increase. If this continues over a long period of time, it can lead to obesity which is caused by having a consistently positive energy balance (5).

The condition of being obese is a serious medical issue that can cause a variety of metabolic disorders. These disorders include dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of fats in the blood), hypertension (high blood pressure), and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels), which are commonly referred to as the metabolic syndrome.

Therefore, if you are to use heavy cream instead of milk, you should do it with moderation, as ingesting too many calories can lead to obesity.

In addition, nutrients that are provided by milk are not present in the cream, especially the proteins. A portion of 100 mL of milk contains 3.2 g of proteins, including caseins and whey proteins, both with vital biological roles in the human body.

The benefits of milk proteins include growth promotion, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, antihypertensive, antimicrobial, antithrombotic, and immunomodulatory roles, in addition to improving absorption of other nutrients (6). 

Being composed mainly of fats, cream is deficient in these important milk proteins.  

Other FAQs about Milk which you may be interested in.

Can you freeze cashew milk?

Does coconut milk go bad?

How many lbs is a gallon of milk?


In this article, we answered the question “Can I use heavy cream instead of milk?”, and what are the other dairy and non-dairy substitutes for milk?


  1. Truong, Tuyen, et al. Effect of milk fat globule size on the physical functionality of dairy products. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016..  
  2. Mehta, Bhavbhuti M. Chemical composition of milk and milk products. Handbook of food chemistry. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2015. 511-553.
  3. Gonnet, M., L. Lethuaut, and Frank Boury. New trends in encapsulation of liposoluble vitamins. J Contr Release, 2010, 146, 276-290.
  4. Kwak, Hae-Soo, Palanivel Ganesan, and A. M. Mijan. Butter, ghee, and cream products. Milk and dairy products in human nutrition: production, Composition and Health, 2013, 411.
  5. Oussaada, Sabrina M., et al. The pathogenesis of obesity. Metabol, 2019, 92, 26-36.
  6. Pereira, Paula C. Milk nutritional composition and its role in human health. Nutrition, 2014, 30, 619-627.

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