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Dairy-Free Whipped Cream for Vegans & Everyone Else, Too

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Having signed off of dairy several years ago, I was left craving a whipped topping for desserts like pies, cakes, and ice cream (all of which you can find recipes for in my new book!). Coconut whipped cream has changed my life.

Coconut whip can be a little tricky to master, primarily because not all coconut milk is created equal. But make it successfully and it's incredible: fluffy, slightly coconutty in flavor, and perfectly sweet. Here, I'll share my method, along with the notes and tips I recommend for making it foolproof.

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Coconut Whipped Cream

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Makes 1 to 2 cups
  • 14 ounces can coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 to 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can. You want to encourage separation of the cream and liquid.

Photo by Dana Shultz

The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.

Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking it. Remove the lid and scrape out the top layer of thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies and baking). If your cream didn't harden, see notes below.

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Photos by Dana Shultz

Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla, if using, and confectioners' sugar to taste and mix until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.

Use immediately or refrigerate—it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it's chilled. Keep it for 1 to 2 weeks as a topping for pie, hot cocoa, and ice cream. It's also ideal for french toast, pie fillings, and mousse!

Coconut Whipped Cream
Coconut Whipped Cream

Notes:

  • If your coconut milk didn’t harden and separate after refrigerating, you probably got a dud can without the right fat content. This is because coconut milk is sourced from all over the world and depending on where it’s from and who the producer is, the fat content will vary. In that case, you can try to salvage it with a bit of tapioca flour—1 to 4 tablespoons—added during the whipping process. That has worked for me several times. However, I’ve found this isn’t always a sure-fire solution.
  • To ensure your powdered sugar is vegan-friendly, reference this resource.
Photo by Dana Shultz

Tips:

  • Best brands: The best brands I’ve found are Trader Joe’s coconut cream and Whole Foods 365 coconut milk. However, I’ve also had success with Thai Kitchen on occasion, and have heard good things about Native Forest.
  • Shake trick: When you’re buying your coconut milk or cream at the store, shake the can around. If it sloshes, put it back and get one that doesn’t slosh around and that feels heavy. That means it’s likely already separated, which is exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Guar gum: According to some sources, guar gum, an ingredient included in some coconut milks and creams, can act an emulsifier, which supposedly doesn’t allow for the cream and liquid to separate. However, the Whole Foods 365 brand I buy does contain guar gum and I have never personally experienced this problem. But to be cautious and try to avoid this ingredient if you’ve had trouble with the cream not separating.
  • Choose coconut cream: If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to refrigerate your can ahead of time, pick up coconut cream instead of coconut milk—you get the most product for your dollars and I’ve never had a dud can. I’ve found that because coconut cream has high fat content and very minimal liquid, it doesn’t typically require chilling beforehand. Simply whip as instructed above and use as is. Or refrigerate for as little as 30 minutes to 1 hour after whipping and it will firm up even more!
  • Skip the freezer: When you're in hurry, you might be tempted to put your coconut milk or cream in the freezer. Sorry, but it doesn’t work as well as refrigerating. Go for coconut cream instead.

Now put it on these vegan desserts:

Hervé This' Chocolate Mousse

Hervé This' Chocolate Mousse by Genius Recipes

Vegan Peach Crumble Coffee Cake

Vegan Peach Crumble Coffee Cake by Gena Hamshaw

Mocha Whiskey Mousse Tart with Pretzel Crust

Mocha Whiskey Mousse Tart with Pretzel Crust by Rebecca Firkser

Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake

Margaret Fox's Amazon Chocolate Cake by Genius Recipes

Vegan Chocolate Pie

Vegan Chocolate Pie by Gena Hamshaw

Strawberry Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream

Strawberry Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream by Gena Hamshaw