We’ve been spoiling ourselves today with the last of the summer strawberries from our small fruit garden. This prompted a discussion in the kitchen about our preference in days gone by for full-fat double/heavy cream and sugar as an accompaniment to this summer favourite! How times change
– we now use lower-fat alternatives or even replace it with something deemed healthier by choice and preference. That’s not to say that we behave like the diet police with everything we cook or eat but illustrates that our tastes have changed quite radically over the years since surgery and now have become a habit (and hopefully a good one at that).
This made me, in particular, think about all the different things we use as substitutes for the double/heavy cream and I thought it worth reminding myself and you on the options open – hope it helps…
Whether it’s a spoonful in your coffee or a side of Alfredo, cream is often used as a base for many different dishes. However, despite its versatility, cream is calorie-dense and lacks significant nutrients. One tablespoon of double/heavy cream packs about 50 calories and 5 grams of fat. Whether you’re trying to cut calories or simply don’t have cream on hand, there are many different alternatives that can take the place of this heavy cooking staple.
If you’re simply in a pinch and are lacking cream in your pantry or refrigerator, there are many quick and easy substitutions that will work to give you a similar flavour and texture. Switching to 3 tbsp/¼ cup reduced fat cream or low-fat creme fraiche can cut calories down substantially per serving and furthermore reduces fat. For recipes that require thickening, mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour/cornstarch with 250 ml/1 cup of milk, low-fat cream or creme fraiche and allow the mixture to thicken before adding to recipes.
Substituting fat-free half-and-half (available in the US) in your morning coffee can also provide a healthier alternative to cream, containing only 20 calories and no fat in 2 tablespoons. In addition to coffee, half-and-half can also be incorporated into sauces and soups to achieve the desired creamy texture without the extra calories.
Tofu offers versatility as a non-dairy alternative to cream. Depending on the type that you purchase, tofu can be used to achieve many different consistencies in your dish. Soft tofu will yield a lighter cream, whereas extra-firm tofu will produce a thicker option. Pureed tofu can be used in a 1:1 ratio in place of double/heavy cream as a much healthier and lower fat option.
Coconut milk is a flavourful substitute for cream that will appease vegans and is an excellent option for those with lactose intolerance. Much like tofu, coconut milk is available in different consistencies and also as full-fat or reduced-fat. It also provides some essential nutrients that cream lacks, such as vitamin C and iron. Due to its naturally sweet flavour, coconut milk works best as a substitute in Thai dishes such as curries, ice cream and other desserts.
Greek Yogurt and Quark
Greek yogurt, which is low in fat and high in protein, provides another great substitute for double/heavy cream. Simply add a little water or milk to achieve a similar consistency to regular cream. While the reduced-fat content in Greek yogurt creates a much healthier alternative, when used in baked goods, it tends to create a finished product that is more dense and moist. For the best results, substitute a full-fat Greek yogurt in place of a low-fat or fat-free variety. You can also try mixing Greek yogurt with whole or semi-skimmed/2% milk to contribute more richness and flavour. In addition, because yogurt does not hold up to heat in quite the same way as cream, it is important to use a lower heat when making sauces or soups. Too much heat too fast can curdle the yogurt, creating a less-than-ideal final product. Quark, a low-fat skimmed milk product can be used pretty much in the same way as Greek yogurt. There are both plain and flavoured varieties to choose from such as lemon and vanilla.
Eggs provide a lower-fat and easy last-resort substitute. For each 3 tbsp/¼ cup serving of cream, add one whole egg or two egg whites. Before adding them to your recipe, beat the eggs until they are creamy and fold in. Using eggs as a substitute lends similar thickening properties as cream, but works best when baking desserts and sauces.
Overall, whether it’s a lighter indulgence or a quick fix that you are looking for, there are a variety of products and combinations that can take the place of cream. By using items that may already be on-hand in your kitchen, you can create anything from a creamy sauce to a frozen dessert, all the while saving yourself some extra calories.
Some advice courtesy of Fitday