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Substitute for heavy cream in recipes?

  • m

I know most chowhounds would approach authentic ingredients in recipes with reverence........ advising never to stray too far. Not to say we aren't the experimental crowd but recipes do deserve their respect.

I do have a few however, that I would love to try but cannot bring myself to approach their high fat content. I would love to tone it down a bit.

Peggy Knickerbocker's Gnafron for example. I know I should approach it with reckless abandon but the richness of the ingredients have prevented me from trying to prepare this andouille sausage flan type dish that's served with garlic cream (containing butter, oil, eggs and lots of heavy cream).

Any suggestions on substitutions for heavy cream??

My only hope is to appeal to the purists in this group to suggest healthier but non comprimising alternatives.

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  1. When you are talking about puting heat to a sauce as that recipe appears to do, I don't think you can substitute the cream. Anything with a lower fat content will break. You might be able to sub butter, but I don't think you will lose much in the way of calories only flavor.

    Others may have a better answer, but none will be non comprimising. Sorry, you can't have that.

    To me there are plenty of great recipes in the culinary world that do not involve cream sauce or other super fattening items, that I would look for those and save the cream for a special occasion.

    1 Reply
    1. re: shameless

      I agree with the above. I generally eat a pretty low-fat diet. But to do so, I rarely try to lighten classically fattening dishes. Rather, I stick to dishes that are naturally healthy.

      I would make this once, for a group, and have a small portion.

    2. Maybe not exactly "purist" but I regularly substitute half-and-half for heavy cream in all recipes, with no bad results ever. Don't want ever-increasing dosage of Lipitor!

      1. It depends what for.
        In a sauce, you might be able to use fat-free evaporated milk - I've used it for alfredo sauce before, using the recipe on the can. Or you can thicken milk with corn starch, but it might have a weird texture.
        In baking and soups, you can easily use lower-fat dairy. Unless, of course, you need whipped cream.

        1. There are lots of wonderfully tasty healthy things to eat. If you are really fearful of the fat, just don't do this recipe. Some things just don't adapt well to a "healthier" rendition.

          Alternatively, do what I do with the truly decadent things that I love. I don't have it very often - maybe a special occasion - but I have the real item and aspire to eat it in moderation.


          1 Reply
          1. re: BeaN

            That's precisely what I was going to say! The rich flan you describe is not a candidate for substitution, and frankly with all the other fatty, high calorie ingredients substituting out the cream would make little sense. Make the dish for your spouse's birthday and have exclusively low fat, low cal dishes for a few days beforehand. Or perhaps save the recipe for a day when you're organizing a an active get together - a family hike, a leaf raking party, a scavenger hunt. Then you'll at least balance a high calorie dish with a social event that burns more calories than the typical house party.

            If I want to make a dish as part of our day to day menu and I can simply omit the cream (for instance soups finished with heavy cream) I'll go ahead and make the dish. Otherwise I search for great dishes that happen to have less fat and calories and cook them as specified.

            Epicurious has a great 'browse' feature that makes it really easy to find healthy recipes. Personally, I don't like the one's from SELF magazine, but the rest of the low fat/low cal recipes are usually very good.

          2. You can substitute sour cream (low fat if you prefer, ugh) or Greek style cheese yogurt (found at Trader Joe's). Frankly, there is just no substitute for heavy cream and butter in some things. Like schmaltz, there is no substitute.

            1 Reply
            1. I would bathe in and drink heavy cream like water I love it so much! In the 70's, a cook book by Michele Guerard called "Cuisine Minceur" , a fine French chef, trained to use gallons of cream and butter, invented a French Spa cuisine. There is a sauce base made of a cup of yogurt and a cup of ricotta (processed until smooth in the processer) and aged for a day which has a lovely light taste and nice mouth feel.It thickens up beautifully. It doesn't break when you add it to your other sauce ingreds. Great on fruit too. Couldn't find the exact proportions, I'm sure the book is still available.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Miss Claudy

                that's very intriguing... definitely worth experimenting!

                1. re: adamclyde

                  yogurt and riccota? What exactly is low fat about that? I think if you used low fat versions of that, they would be just as likely to break as low fat milk.

                  1. re: shameless

                    it's a heck of a lot lower in fat than heavy cream. heavy cream is usually 36% butterfat content. Ricotta usually doesn't have much more than 4%. Probably 10% at the very highest. Yogurt is even less.

                    I have no idea of this would work, by the way... just responding to the low-fat thought.

                    as a side note, doesn't yogurt hold up much better than milk to high heat? And ricotta would hold up much better too. Anyhow, no clue of the flavor, or use, but just thoughts...

              2. I know that dish and if you are not going to use the heavy cream, make something else. It will ruin the Gnafron. That dish is about comfort and mouthfeel and without the cream much is lost. Save up your fat allowance and then indulge in the luxury.

                1. Here is what I found works fro me. I use coffee creamer fat free(powder form), you can use it as you like turn it into a heavy paste and you can make a roux, thin it down as needed and I even mix it with lemon juice to make a buttermilk substitute. And if I need the creaminess of a thicker or richer flavor I turn to Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese -the fact that it melts down easily and adds the nuttiness of the cheese and its fat is the good kind. I don't go heavy with it because its a healthier version.

                  2 oz of Parmesan cheese and 2 tbsp of creamer ( 104 cal 56 fat, total fat 5g sat fat 5g)
                  2 oz of Mozzarella cheese (whole milk) and 2 tbsp of creamer ( 228 cal 140 fat, total fat 15g sat fat 7g)
                  Note: even if you add a 1/2 cup of creamer its still only 120 cal 60 fat, total fat 6g sat fat 6.
                  Add a garlic clove and you add just 4 calories no fat
                  1 cup of heavy cream (414 cal 390 fat, total fat 44g sat fat 28g )
                  Thin it down and skip on the butter, oil and eggs.
                  Use cornstarch to thicken it. (go easy with it because it will thicken fast)
                  Or use some white wine possibly like its used in fondue
                  The best part is you can use different flavors of creamer to impart different flavors i.e. vanilla, french vanilla, or hazelnut or a drop of almond oil
                  For me its all about food being healthy and flavorful.

                  1. As other have mentioned, so much of a successful flan depends on the right texture. Ultimately, the gnafron recipe I looked up showed 1/4 cup heavy cream in 6 servings....less than a tablespoon of heavy cream doesn't seem too concerning. If you're really looking to lighten the recipe, you might look to also reducing the butter and olive oil in the dish, or choosing a flavorful but lower fat sausage than andouille.

                    My main strategy might be to tweak the garlic cream- perhaps by making a light, garlic-infused bechamel sauce with reduced-fat dairy? Incidentally, I'll almost always reduce the fat in the roux I use to thicken bechamel sauces.....I'll add just enough olive oil to turn the flour in the pan into a paste, and then just patiently whisk in the milk to get a tasty, creamy sauce.

                    1. In some instances, coconut milk can be used as a substitute. You'll have to decide for yourself if you're willing to handle the coconut flavor, or if you want to mask it with much stronger flavors (garlic works well to this end). Coconut milk is by no meals healthy, but it's less unhealthy.

                      1. I think cooking is all about adapting recipes to one's own tastes and health needs. That being said, personally I would have no problem substituting whole milk for heavy cream in a recipe like this with eggs and sausage. I'm sure it won't taste exactly the same or have as creamy a "mouth-feel," but I'll bet it'll taste pretty darn good anyway. And certainly to someone like me who does not usually cook with rich ingredients in large amounts, I think it would taste adequately rich.

                        I should say I do not usually eat very rich foods and have come to prefer many recipes with a judicious reduction in butter and cream. I routinely prepare "cream" sauces with milk and stock. They taste good! If I'm eating out and I want the rich dish I'll have it, but if I'm cooking myself I prefer to go lighter.

                        But, clearly, I am no purist! ;)