Cream is a base ingredient in many sauces and dips. If you are trying to cut fat from a recipe (or you just don’t have cream), there are many substitutions for cream that you can use in baked goods and dips. Cream is essentially the fatty layer that surfaces to the top of milk. Cream is thick and heavy and it serves a variety of purposes in cooking. A good cream substitute will have thickening properties and won’t separate under high heat. The best cream substitution depends on why you need a substitution and also what you are cooking.
The ratio you use will depend upon how thick you want your cream. Start off with ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup butter. If you are using low-fat milk, you will want to increase the butter to 1/3 cup. You can even use evaporated milk if you happen to have it lying around. Melt the butter first and slowly add the milk into the mixture. This substitution works best in baked goods, like muffins and cookies, where you won’t really notice the absence of cream.
Unfortunately, not many substitutes will give you the exact same flavor or consistency as cream. The closest you will get to cream as far as consistency goes is soft tofu (make sure that you read the label, firm tofu will not blend the same way as soft tofu). Soft tofu can be substituted into recipes that call for cream. Tofu is an especially healthy substitute for cream in sauces and in desserts. You can make your own form of tofu-based cream or you can purchase it at most health food stores.
Yogurt can be used as a substitute for cream. Yogurt can also be used in place of sour cream in Mexican recipes. Yogurt tends to separate when blended and it does not freeze particularly well. If you need to blend yogurt into a recipe, use a yogurt with a higher fat content (which will still be lower than cream), instead of a low-fat version. Yogurt is an especially ideal substitution for cream because you don't need to add anything to it and you can substitute if using the same amount you would for cream or sour cream.
Coconut milk is a flavorful and healthier substitute for cream, especially if you are lactose intolerant or vegan. Coconut milk is derived from the flesh and water of coconuts. Coconut milk contains no animal products and provides essential nutrients, like vitamin C and iron. Coconut milk is available in different consistencies (the thicker consistencies contain more coconut flesh). Coconut milk works best as a substitute in ice cream, Thai dishes (such as curries) and other desserts.
Last Resort Alternative
If you don't like cream, or if you are missing the other aforementioned ingredients, you can always use egg whites as a substitute for cream. Try using one egg or two egg whites per each 1/4 cup serving of cream. Using eggs as a substitute works best when baking desserts and sauces. Beat the eggs or egg whites until they are creamy and then add them to your recipe.