How-To & Diy

How to Make Whipped Cream With...Milk?

Should you find yourself in need of a whipped topping, but without cream to whip.

July 28, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

As the pandemic rolls on and ingredient scarcity continues, you might find yourself in need of a tasty whipped topping (like for one of these), but without the cream to whip. Rather than make a less-than-essential trip to the grocery store or go without whipped cream altogether, you can, in fact, substitute whole milk or half-and-half for heavy cream.

Conventional baking wisdom (not to mention science) holds that it’s pretty much impossible to make whipped cream with these lower-fat dairy products: Where whole milk is between three to four percent and half-and-half contains anywhere from 10.5 to 18 percent fat, heavy cream, the ideal base for whipped cream, clocks in at 36 percent fat—at least.

According to food science writer Harold McGee, that high-fat content is crucial to creating the fluffy, swoopy texture we’ve come to expect from whipped cream. The fat allows the cream to whip more effectively, and to maintain said dense peaks while minimizing froth.

In a perfect world, we’d always have heavy cream around to make whipped cream, but these are, to say the least, imperfect times. Besides, there is a way, in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, to nevertheless make it work with whole milk or half-and-half, as long as you’re willing to make some creative changes to your average whipped cream recipe. Here, we’ll show you how to make whipped cream out of milk—all without getting whipped into a frenzy. (And if your problem is actually a surplus of heavy cream, we’ve got some ideas for that, too.)

How to Make Whipped Cream With Milk

1. Add gelatin.

For around three cups of whipped cream made with whole milk, The Culinary Institute of America chef instructor Steven Isaac first recommends blooming 3 teaspoons of gelatin in 4 ounces of milk. The gelatin thickens and helps the milk maintain its volume once whipped. Once the gelatin's bloomed, microwave it in five-second increments until just liquified.

2. Add more milk & chill.

In the bowl you plan to whip the cream in, combine 12 ounces of cold milk with the gelatin-mixture, stir to combine well, and refrigerate for an hour. (Cold milk, like cold cream, is more likely to whip and not curdle.)

3. Whip!

Once thoroughly chilled, sweeten the mix to taste. Then, commence whipping: With a stand mixer, hand mixer, or even by hand with a whisk, beat until the stabilized milk grows thick and holds peaks.

How to Make Whipped Cream With Half-&-Half

1. Add gelatin.

Escoffier chef instructor Colette Christian also recommends the use of gelatin when making whipped cream with anything other than, well, cream. For around three cups of whipped cream made with half-and-half, first combine 1 1/4 teaspoons of powdered gelatin with 2 ounces of half-and-half. Allow the gelatin to bloom for about five minutes.

2. Combine the half-&-half with sugar.

Meanwhile, in the bowl you plan to whip the cream in, sweeten 10 ounces of cold half-and-half to taste.

3. Melt the gelatin & add to the half-and-half.

Microwave the gelatin mixture in five-second increments until completely liquified. Add the liquid gelatin to the sweetened half-and-half, stirring with a whisk to combine well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until slightly thickened but not overly solidified.

4. Whip!

Whip the mixture using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or whisk until the cream is voluminous and can hold peaks. Looser cream will take less time, but if you’re aiming for a stiffer, stabler texture, that will require a little more beating. Be sure not to get distracted or leave your mixer unattended while beating—the cream will firm up within minutes and will devolve into butter if you aren’t careful.

Now, About That Cream

Have you ever made whipped cream from milk? Tell us how it went in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • elisat-b
  • Vjc
  • Hana Foote
    Hana Foote
  • k
Sara Coughlin is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Although she writes about food, health, wellness, lifestyle trends, skin-care, and astrology, she’d much rather talk to you about professional wrestling, rock climbing, and her personal favorite true crime theories. You can find her in her studio apartment doing yoga while a pan of veggies gently burns in the oven.


Nancy March 15, 2024
Thank you for these recipes. I am very grateful.
I found that the whole milk set up more firmly than the half and half one.
Thinking about using 1/4 tsp more gelatin next time.
elisat-b January 1, 2022
Have you ever tried this method with an ISI cream whipper & CO2?
Vjc November 24, 2021
What about an alternative to something not gross like gelatin?
Hana F. August 10, 2020
Not sure what I did wrong but this didn't work for me at all. I used whole milk and followed the directions making sure it was completely chilled etc. before trying to whip it and it never "whipped". It would thicken and grow but the process of whipping would heat it too much and it would only go so far before it started to melt. I tried putting it in the freezer at times to chill it again. This was the only way it thickened and grew. Hours later I ended up with thick cream and gave up. This wasn't a quick fix for if you happen to be out of whipping cream and were in a bind. Unless you're days away from any store that has whipping cream, you might want to do yourself a favor and just go get some. If anyone has some words of wisdom I'm open to learning. It was a fun but disastrous experiment.
k July 29, 2020
Does this work for any type of milk? Or non-dairy milk? Or milk powder + water?
Also, how long will a milk-made whipped cream remain stable? (ex: stuffed in a Swiss roll)
Coral L. August 7, 2020
Hi there! I'm not totally sure that this would work with non-dairy and reconstituted milks. It seems like you'd be fighting an uphill battle (lot of water, not a lot of fat)—but if you do end up trying this, I'd love to hear what happens!

And whipped cream made with milk should remain stabilized for a day or so.
chicagochef August 7, 2020
Hi k,
Colette here from Escoffier, Skim milk does not work well - a little bit of butterfat content is helpful. Non dairy and milk powder and water are too thin, especially since most milk powder in the US is non fat. This is because non fat dry milk powder lasts longer.
The milk made with whipped cream will keep in the refrigerate for two days and will need to be re whisked before using. Enjoy your baking :)
Jayne C. December 28, 2020
Hi, just to clarify... when you said "The milk made with whipped cream will keep in the refrigerate for two days and will need to be re whisked before using"... were you referring to using milk that had some whipping cream added to it to raise the butterfat content??

(that seems doubtful, to me... since in most cases, if there wasn't whipping cream to start with --and so hence the need to resort to using milk instead-- then it'd be highly unlikely to have *just enough* whipping cream to add to the milk in order to achieve successful results when whipping)...

...or was that really just a slip-up? Did you *actually* mean to say "whipped cream made with milk"??

...(or does it even really matter??? ...would that same recommendation apply anyways, re: fridge storage/shelf life & stability... even regardless of whatever was the case??)

Sorry, just a bit confused about that. Thanks!