Heavy Whipping Cream vs Whipping Cream

In the world of baking and cooking, whipping cream and heavy whipping cream are often seen as interchangeable ingredients. However, discerning chefs and enthusiasts know that there are subtle differences between the two that can impact the final product. This article seeks to demystify the distinctions between heavy whipping cream and whipping cream, shedding light on the factors that differentiate them and their respective uses in culinary creations.

Whipping cream and heavy whipping cream originate from the same source – the high-fat layer skimmed from milk. The primary difference between the two lies in their fat content; with whipping cream containing slightly less fat than its heavy counterpart. This distinction in fat content not only affects their consistency and performance in recipes, but also contributes to variations in taste, texture, and stability.

By delving into the nuances of these popular dairy products, this article aims to equip readers with the knowledge to make an informed decision when choosing between heavy whipping cream and whipping cream. Whether one is whipping up a luscious dessert topping or a rich, savory sauce, understanding the unique properties of each cream can lead to enhanced culinary results.

Heavy Whipping Cream vs Whipping Cream

Heavy Whipping Cream vs Whipping Cream: The Basics

What Is Whipping Cream?

Whipping cream is a dairy product made from the higher-fat parts of milk. It contains a milk fat content of about 30% to 35% and is commonly used in various recipes, such as whipped cream toppings, soups, and sauces. Whipping cream is not as thick as heavy whipping cream but can still be whipped to form stiff peaks when beaten with a mixer or a whisk.

What Is Heavy Whipping Cream?

Heavy whipping cream, on the other hand, is a variant of whipping cream with an even higher fat content – typically between 36% to 40% milk fat. The increased fat content provides a richer, thicker, and more stable whipped cream that holds its shape better for longer periods. Heavy whipping cream is widely used in recipes that require additional richness, firmness, and creaminess, such as frostings, ganaches, and thick sauces.

Whipping CreamHeavy Whipping Cream
Fat Content30%-35%36%-40%

Whipping cream and heavy whipping cream can be used interchangeably in many recipes. However, due to the difference in fat content, using heavy whipping cream instead of regular whipping cream will result in a thicker and creamier final product. Additionally, heavy whipping cream is more suitable for recipes that require whipped cream to maintain its structure over a longer period, such as in cake decorations and pastry fillings.

Fat Content and Consistency

Comparing Fat Content

Heavy cream and whipping cream differ primarily in their fat content. Heavy cream, also known as heavy whipping cream, has a higher fat content, typically between 36% to 40%. On the other hand, whipping cream, sometimes referred to as light whipping cream, has a lower fat content, ranging from 30% to 35%.

Type of CreamFat Content
Heavy Cream36%-40%
Whipping Cream30%-35%

Effect on Texture and Consistency

The difference in fat content has a direct impact on the texture and consistency of these creams when they are whipped. Heavy cream, with its higher fat content, whips up to a thicker, more stable consistency. It can hold its shape better and is ideal for piping on cakes and other desserts.

Whipping cream, on the other hand, will whip up to a lighter, more delicate texture due to its lower fat content. It does not hold its shape as well as heavy cream, making it more suitable for folding into desserts where a softer, airier consistency is desired.

In summary, the key difference between heavy cream and whipping cream lies in their fat content, which affects the texture and consistency of the final product when whipped. Heavy cream’s higher fat content allows it to hold its shape better, while whipping cream’s lower fat content results in a lighter, more delicate texture.

Mixing Whipped Cream in a Stand Mixer with a Whisk Attachment: Heavy whipping cream mixed with a stand mixer wire whisk.

Culinary Uses and Flavor

Cooking with Whipping Cream

Whipping cream, containing around 30-36% milk fat, is a versatile ingredient in various recipes. Its lighter fat content makes it suitable for both savory and sweet dishes. In soups and sauces, whipping cream adds a rich, creamy consistency without being too heavy. It’s commonly used in recipes like tomato bisque and alfredo sauce, where it provides a smooth and velvety texture.

In desserts, whipping cream plays a vital role in pies and custards due to its ability to whip up into soft peaks for a light, airy texture. Its subtle flavor allows it to blend seamlessly with other ingredients, letting the main flavors of the dish shine through. Here are some popular uses of whipping cream:

  • In sauces: alfredo, tomato-cream
  • In soups: tomato bisque, cream of mushroom
  • In desserts: mousse, whipped cream topping, pies

Cooking with Heavy Whipping Cream

Heavy whipping cream, with a milk fat content of around 36-40%, offers a richer taste and thicker texture compared to regular whipping cream. Its increased fat content makes it ideal for creating stiff peaks for frostings and garnishes. Due to its rich flavor, heavy whipping cream enhances the taste of various dishes, from savory entrées to decadent desserts.

In savory dishes like soups and sauces, heavy whipping cream contributes a luscious, creamy consistency that enhances the overall quality of the dish. It’s commonly used in recipes such as bisques, chowders, and cream-based pasta sauces.

For desserts, heavy whipping cream yields a more stable whipped cream, perfect for decorating cakes and pastries or creating indulgent ice cream. Its full-bodied flavor lends a luxurious element to sweet treats. Here are some popular uses of heavy whipping cream:

  • In sauces: creamy pasta sauces, stroganoff
  • In soups: bisques, chowders
  • In desserts: ice cream, frostings, ganache

Making Whipped Cream

Which Cream to Choose for Whipped Cream?

When it comes to making whipped cream, both heavy cream and whipping cream can be used. Heavy cream has a higher fat content (about 36 to 40%) while whipping cream has 30 to 35% fat. The higher the fat content, the easier it is to whip and achieve a stable structure.

Heavy Cream:

  • Pro: Stiffer peaks and a richer taste
  • Con: Higher in fat and calories

Whipping Cream:

  • Pro: Lighter and fluffier texture
  • Con: Softer peaks, may not hold as well

It is important to note that America’s Test Kitchen recommends using heavy cream for a more stable whipped cream that holds up better to various dessert applications.

Whipping Techniques

There are several techniques to whip cream, each with its own benefits:

By Hand:

  • Pro: Greater control over consistency, less risk of over-whipping
  • Con: Time-consuming and physically demanding

Electric Mixer:

  • Pro: Faster and easier
  • Con: Increased risk of over-whipping

Whipping Siphon:

  • Pro: Instant whipped cream, great for large quantities
  • Con: Expensive initial investment, requires cartridges

Regardless of the method used, here are some important tips to ensure success when making whipped cream:

  1. Use cold cream and a chilled bowl or utensils to facilitate whipping.
  2. Whip at medium to high speed to create small air bubbles, which will result in a more stable whipped cream.
  3. Slightly under-whip it if it will be stored, as it will become denser over time.

Remember, when choosing between heavy cream and whipping cream, consider the desired texture and application of your whipped cream. Making whipped cream is relatively simple, but following these tips and techniques can help you achieve the perfect, fluffy topping for your desserts.

Storage and Shelf Life

Proper Storage Practices

Both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream are dairy products that require refrigeration to maintain their quality and prevent spoilage. To store them properly, follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: Keep them in the refrigerator at a consistent temperature between 34°F to 38°F (1°C to 3°C).
  • Placement: Store the creams on the middle or upper shelves, where the temperature is most stable, rather than in the door where it fluctuates.
  • Sealing: Ensure the container is sealed tightly to avoid exposure to air and prevent odors from other foods in the fridge.
  • Original container: It’s best to store the creams in their original containers, which are designed to keep them fresh.

Shelf Life of Creams

While heavy whipping cream and whipping cream have different fat contents, their shelf lives are relatively similar. Here’s a handy table for reference:

Heavy whipping cream1-2 weeks past the expiration date3-5 days after opening
Whipping cream1-2 weeks past the expiration date3-5 days after opening

Please note that these are just general guidelines, and the actual shelf life may vary. Always check your cream for spoilage signs, such as an off smell, chunkiness, or discoloration before using it.

Nutrition and Variants

Calorie Comparison

Heavy whipping cream and whipping cream differ primarily in their fat content. Heavy whipping cream contains about 36-40% milk fat, while whipping cream has around 30%. This difference in fat content also affects their calorie count:

Dairy ProductCalories per tablespoon
Heavy Whipping Cream51
Whipping Cream35

Dairy Product Variants

There are other dairy products available that vary in fat content and nutritional value. Some of these include:

  • Light Whipping Cream: It has a lower fat content (around 20%) compared to whipping cream and heavy whipping cream. It is not as thick and rich, but it can still be used for some recipes that call for a lighter texture.
  • Half-and-Half: A combination of equal parts whole milk and light cream, half-and-half has a fat content of about 10-12%. It is commonly used in coffee and in some recipes where a less rich texture is desired.
  • Margarine: Made from vegetable oils, margarine is a non-dairy alternative to butter. It is high in calorie content and is typically processed with added ingredients to create a butter-like consistency. However, it lacks the vitamins and nutrients found in dairy products.

When comparing the nutritional content of these products, it is essential to consider the fat, calorie, and vitamin contents. Heavy whipping cream and whipping cream, being dairy products, contain naturally occurring vitamin A and D, with heavy cream having a slightly higher concentration due to its higher fat content. Other dairy products like half-and-half and light whipping cream will also contain these vitamins, but in lower concentrations.

In the end, the choice between heavy whipping cream and whipping cream depends on factors such as preferred texture, taste, and nutritional requirements. Browse the dairy aisle and examine each product’s nutritional label to make the best choice for your specific needs.

Different Processing Methods


Both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream undergo homogenization, a process that breaks down fat molecules and evenly distributes them throughout the liquid. This ensures smoother texture, better stability, and increased resistance to separating. Homogenized creams are more compatible with other ingredients, making them a popular choice for cooking and baking.


Pasteurization is a heat treatment process that kills harmful bacteria and extends the shelf life of dairy products like heavy cream and whipping cream. Both types of creams are typically pasteurized, but the time and temperature conditions may vary.

  • Heavy cream is heated to at least 162°F (72°C) for 15 seconds.
  • Whipping cream is heated to at least 160°F (71°C) for 15 seconds.

Although the differences in pasteurization conditions are slight, these variations can impact the final texture and performance of the creams in recipes.


In addition to standard pasteurization, some heavy cream and whipping cream products undergo ultra-pasteurization. This process involves heating the cream to higher temperatures – around 280°F (138°C) for at least two seconds – to further extend shelf life and kill bacteria.

  • Ultra-pasteurized heavy cream maintains its high fat content (36% or more) and whips up quickly, but may not reach the same volume as non-ultra-pasteurized cream.
  • Ultra-pasteurized whipping cream has a slightly lower fat content (30%-35%), which results in a lighter texture when whipped.

In summary, both heavy whipping cream and whipping cream undergo homogenization and pasteurization processes to ensure quality, safety, and stability. While the difference between their pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization conditions are minimal, they can lead to different outcomes in texture and performance when used in recipes.

Alternative Cream Options

Light Cream

Light cream, also known as coffee cream or table cream, contains a lower fat content compared to heavy whipping cream and whipping cream. Ranging between 18% to 30% milk fat, it doesn’t whip as easily and produces a lighter texture when whipped. Light cream is suitable for coffee, soups, and sauces, but it isn’t recommended for whipping or making stable whipped cream. In some cases, it can be used for light baking, providing a less rich and less dense texture than heavier creams.

Dairy-Free Cream Alternatives

For people with dairy sensitivities, allergies, or preferences, there are several non-dairy alternatives for whipping cream. These substitutes can be used in recipes requiring whipped cream or liquid cream, with varying results in terms of taste and texture. Some popular options include:

  • Coconut cream: Made from the coconut’s fatty portion, it has a similar consistency to heavy cream and whips well when chilled. The coconut flavor may be noticeable in some recipes.
Whips wellNoticeable coconut flavor
  • Cashew cream: Soaked and blended cashews create a thick, creamy base for various recipes. It can be adjusted to different thickness levels depending on the recipe needs.
Adjustable thicknessRequires preparation
  • Store-bought dairy-free alternatives: Several brands have vegan or lactose-free whipping creams available, made from ingredients like soy, almond, or rice.
ConvenientMay have varying results

While these alternatives may not achieve the exact texture and taste of traditional whipped cream, they provide options for those who are unable to consume dairy products. Experimenting with different alternatives and adjusting the recipe, if necessary, can help achieve the desired results when using these substitutes.

Heavy Whipping Cream vs Whipping Cream

Here's a simple recipe for making heavy cream at home:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 188 kcal


  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter


  • In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
  • Add the whole milk and stir well to combine.
  • Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
  • Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and reduces in volume.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, transfer the mixture to a jar or container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • After refrigeration, the mixture should have thickened and turned into heavy cream.


Note: This homemade heavy cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Calories: 188kcal
Keyword heavy cream vs heavy whipping cream
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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