Whipped cream is a decadent addition to pies, hot chocolate, and many other sweet treats. It’s traditionally made by beating heavy cream with a whisk or mixer until it’s light and fluffy.

For extra flavor, whipped cream may also include ingredients like powdered sugar, vanilla, coffee, orange zest, or chocolate.

While homemade whipped cream is easy to make, heavy cream can be expensive and isn’t something you always have on hand. Plus, you may be looking for a dairy-free or lighter alternative.

Fortunately, it’s possible to make homemade whipped cream using milk — and even milk substitutes — and just a handful of other ingredients.

Here are 3 ways to make whipped cream without heavy cream.

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One of the biggest differences between whole milk and heavy cream is their fat content. Whole milk contains 3.2% fat, whereas heavy cream has 36% (1, 2).

The high fat content of heavy cream is important for the structure and stability of whipped cream (3).

Therefore, when making whipped cream from whole milk, you need to add ingredients to thicken and stabilize the final product. One way to do this is to use unflavored gelatin.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) of cold whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. Before you begin, place your whisk or beaters in the freezer.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup (60 ml) of cold whole milk in a small microwave-safe bowl and stir in the gelatin. Let sit for 5 minutes until spongy.
  3. Place the bowl in the microwave for 15–30 seconds, or until the mixture becomes liquid. Stir and set aside to cool.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and remaining 1 cup (240 ml) of whole milk together. Add the cooled gelatin mixture and whisk until combined.
  5. Once combined, place the bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the bowl from the fridge and beat the mixture until it thickens, doubles in size, and starts to form soft peaks. You can use a whisk or electric mixer on medium speed. Avoid mixing for too long, as the whipped cream can become grainy and sticky.
  7. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 days. You may need to briefly whisk the mixture again after refrigeration to regain some volume.
Summary

Despite having significantly less fat, whipped cream can be made from whole milk by adding unflavored gelatin.

If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, this skim milk method may be just what you’re looking for.

While not as thick and creamy as whipped cream made from heavy cream or whole milk, it is possible to make a whipped topping using skim milk.

To achieve a thick, airy texture, combine skim milk and cornstarch and whip the mixture using a food processor with an emulsifying disk — a tool you can buy online.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) of cold skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the skim milk, cornstarch, and confectioners sugar in a food processor with an emulsifying disk.
  2. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Use immediately.
Summary

While not as thick and fluffy, skim milk and cornstarch can be used to make an airy topping by using a food processor with an emulsifying disk.

Full-fat coconut milk is one of the best dairy-free ingredient alternatives for a whipped topping, as it contains approximately 19% fat (4).

Unlike whole milk, which is lower in fat, coconut milk doesn’t require you to add gelatin for texture and stability. In fact, coconut whipped topping can be made using only coconut milk. That said, confectioners sugar and vanilla extract are often added for extra sweetness.

What you’ll need:

  • One 14-ounce (400-ml) can of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) of confectioners sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place an unopened can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, place a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk or set of beaters in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  3. Once cooled, remove the bowl, whisk or beaters, and coconut milk from the fridge, making sure not to shake or tip the can.
  4. Remove the lid from the can. The milk should have separated into a thick, slightly hardened layer on top and liquid at the bottom. Scoop out the thickened layer into the chilled bowl, leaving the liquid in the can.
  5. Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the hardened coconut milk until it’s creamy and forms soft peaks, which takes about 2 minutes.
  6. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, if desired, and beat for 1 more minute until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Taste and add additional sugar as needed.
  7. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You may need to whisk it right before serving to add back some volume.
Summary

Full-fat coconut milk can be combined with powdered sugar to make a delicious dairy-free whipped topping.

Light and airy with a subtle sweetness, homemade whipped cream goes well with a variety of flavors from chocolate and coffee to lemon and strawberry.

Here are a few foods and beverages that are delicious when topped with whipped cream:

  • fresh or grilled fruit like berries or peaches
  • pies, especially chocolate, pumpkin, and key lime pies
  • ice cream sundaes
  • strawberry shortcake
  • angel food cake
  • layered trifles
  • mousses and puddings
  • hot chocolate
  • espresso drinks
  • blended frozen coffee drinks
  • milkshakes
  • hot apple cider

Note that although the suggested heavy cream substitutes are lower in calories than traditional whipped cream, it’s best to enjoy this delicious treat in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Summary

Homemade whipped cream is a tasty topping for a variety of desserts, fruits, and beverages.

You don’t need heavy cream to make whipped cream.

While the practice is slightly untraditional, it’s possible to make a fluffy, delicious topping using whole milk, skim milk, or coconut milk.

However you decide to make it, homemade whipped cream is a simple way to make an everyday dessert a little more special.