Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Practical Cooks
Can you use coffee creamer instead of heavy cream? Well, the snarky answer could be, “Why would you want to?” But we’re not looking for snark, or trying to avoid answering the question.
After all, it’s a legit question and knowing the answer could save you in certain situations where heavy cream is called for and all you have is coffee creamer. In those moments, it’s good to know if you actually have a backup option.
The answer is yes, you can use coffee creamer instead of heavy cream. However, there is a caveat. That caveat is, of course, in certain situations. In other words, it depends on the recipe and what you needed the heavy cream for in the first place.
This isn’t as easy as using coffee creamer in place of heavy cream in your, you know, coffee. There are some instances where coffee creamer will work as a substitute and others where you’re more likely to frustrate yourself trying to make it work instead of running to the store and getting more heavy cream.
So, now that you know you can sometimes use coffee creamer instead of heavy cream, let’s look at when those times are and when you should avoid the coffee creamer and go to the store.
What Is Coffee Creamer?
Before we dive deeper into why and when you can use coffee creamer instead of heavy cream, let’s refresh everyone on what coffee creamer is. After all, it’s called creamer and heavy cream is a kind of creamer. But one does not equal the other in this case.
Coffee creamer is a liquid or powder that’s added to coffee to both enhance the texture and flavor. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on liquid coffee creamer as a replacement for heavy cream.
Liquid coffee creamers tend to be flavored and sweetened. The most popular forms come in flavors like hazelnut, vanilla, and caramel. In addition, they can be either dairy-derived or non-dairy.
Besides being either dairy or non-dairy, coffee creamers also may contain ingredients such as artificial flavors, sugar substitutes, and preservatives. Heavy cream doesn’t carry the same problem with ingredients.
This, and lack of fat content, makes coffee creamer a complicated substitute for heavy cream in certain recipes.
Can You Use a Coffee Creamer Instead of Heavy Cream?
Yes, you can use coffee creamer instead of heavy cream in some cases. However, a couple of things directly impact whether using or attempting to use coffee creamer is a wise move. Those things include:
- Presence of any sweetener or artificial flavoring in the coffee creamer
- Whether the coffee creamer is dairy or non-dairy
- Lack of fat in coffee creamer
The presence of sweetener or artificial flavoring can mess up your recipes, well, flavoring in addition to possibly messing up its texture. If your coffee creamer is non-dairy, it probably won’t whip or thicken like heavy cream.
Other Commonly-Asked Questions
When Should Coffee Creamer Be Used Instead of Heavy Cream
That heading may be a little misleading. Outside of being used in coffee, coffee creamer shouldn’t be used in a recipe calling for heavy cream if heavy cream is available, unless you absolutely need to avoid the fat and calories packed in heavy cream. But let’s not focus on negatives. We’re staying positive!
Speaking of staying positive, when is coffee creamer a suitable option in place of heavy cream? Glad you asked:
- Soups. Using coffee creamer in place of heavy cream can work but be aware of any sweeteners or artificial flavors. You probably don’t want your lobster bisque to taste like caramel.
- Drinks. Of course, coffee creamer is acceptable in place of heavy cream in a lot of drinks that call for it. Again, it’ll boil down to any sweeteners or artificial flavors that may overwhelm the drink you’re using it in instead of cream. But drinks like real hot cocoa or a favorite cocktail will be fine with coffee creamer.
- Sauces. Yep, you can use coffee creamers in sauces if you need to. Again, be wary, though, of using a caramel creamer in something like gravy or Alfredo.
When Shouldn’t You Use a Coffee Creamer Instead of Heavy Cream?
The best answer, in this case, may be “You’ll never know unless you try,” which isn’t a great answer, but it does hold some truth in it. A lot of discovering substitutes for recipes comes down to a certain level of curiosity and experimentation, especially with something like non-dairy creamer.
That disclaimer out of the way, here are some places we’re pretty sure coffee creamer won’t work well or is a non-starter in the first place due to either the lack of dairy, too many preservatives, or lack of fat content:
- Whipped cream
- Baked goods
- Cheese-based dishes like home-made ricotta cheese
- Traditional ice cream
Are You Saying You Can’t Use a Coffee Creamer to Make Ice Cream?
No, we said we were pretty sure it wouldn’t work well. Traditional ice cream relies on a certain amount of fat to become, you know, creamy. However, there are, of course, recipes out there that show you how to make coffee creamer ice cream.
Notice it calls itself coffee creamer ice cream, not traditional ice cream with a coffee creamer substitute. Also of note, these kinds of recipes point out that the ice cream will have the consistency of soft-serve ice cream when finished.
So, if you want it to be more like traditional ice cream, you have to get it very cold for about a full day.
Is It Better To Use Dairy or Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer?
If you’re trying to avoid dairy, go with a non-dairy creamer. However, a dairy-based coffee creamer is always a better option as a substitute if you can handle it.