What's the Difference Between Heavy Cream & Whipping Cream?

What’s the difference between these high fat dairy products?

November 12, 2021
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t really matter if there is a difference between heavy cream and heavy whipping cream. They’re both delicious dairy products that are the crucial elements behind some of our favorite recipes like whipped cream (duh), panna cotta, ice cream, crème brûlée pie...should I go on? But I understand that it can be confusing to decipher which one is right for your recipe, so I’m sharing what to know about these creamy ingredients.

Heavy Cream vs. Heavy Whipping Cream

Surprise! There is no difference between heavy cream and heavy whipping cream. They are the exact same product, just sold by different brands under two different names. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), heavy cream must contain at least 36 percent milk fat. It is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized, and may be homogenized. The same can be said for any carton called heavy whipping cream. Again, different name, same rule. You can use them interchangeably, so my recommendation is to just look for which one is a better deal in grocery stores.

Heavy Cream vs. Whipping Cream

There’s heavy whipping cream and then there’s just whipping cream (and sometimes, light whipping cream). And they’re not the same thing! Let’s revisit the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations (you know you want to): Light whipping cream is cream that contains between 30 percent and 36 percent milkfat. Although you can use light whipping cream to make whipped cream, it won’t form really stiff peaks. Otherwise, they function similarly and you can generally use light whipping cream in recipes that call for heavy cream without noticing the difference.

Heavy Cream vs. Half-and-Half

Now, do you think there is a difference between heavy cream and half-and-half? Think about it, really think about it, and then write your answer down. If you wrote, yes, there is a difference, then you’d be correct. Heavy cream and half-and-half are different from each other. According to the FDA, half-and-half must contain between 10.5 percent and 18 percent fat (and remember, heavy cream must contain at least 36 percent fat).

As its name would imply, this type of cream is squarely in the middle of heavy cream and milk. It’s your run of the mill coffee creamer, but it’s also a great way to add a luscious, creamy texture to certain recipes without using high fat cream. Heavy cream has a higher fat content than half-and-half and is, therefore, richer and adds more body for soups and sauces. In some cases, like mashed potatoes or tomato soup, you can use half-and-half in recipes that call for dairy products that have a higher fat content, like heavy cream. But it won’t work every time. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you cannot use half-and-half in place of heavy cream to make whipped cream. It doesn’t have a high fat content and therefore won’t whip properly or hold its shape. Save it for your coffee instead.

Do you prefer cooking and baking with heavy cream or half-and-half? Sound off in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Annette
  • priscilla
  • DMStenlake
  • Anne Bolton
    Anne Bolton
  • Joan Mikkelsen
    Joan Mikkelsen
Former Food52 Staff Editor


Annette November 20, 2022
As a professional pastry chef heavy cream is the way to go for most deserts that do not call for it in a baked item or a cooked sauce. I have used half & half for sauces or soups that have a thickening starch already in it such as flour or cornstarch and it holds up fine for that. I use half & half in my pumpkin pie recipe instead of evaporated milk. Although I tried using whipping and heavy cream, the high fat tends to mask the spices and flavor or the pumpkin. I agree with others here that ultra pasteurized doesn't hold it's whip as well.
priscilla November 18, 2022
what is the peach recipe in picture ???
DMStenlake November 18, 2022
Thanks I always wondered
Too. But I think you should have stopped at that heavy vs whipping. TMI can be confusing. ;-)
Anne B. November 17, 2022
My local Publix carries both “Regular Whipping Cream” and “Heavy Whipping Cream”. They actually contain different percentages of fat per serving, 6% for regular whipping cream and 7% for heavy whipping cream. Publix also carries dairy-based Coffee Creamer (aka Light Cream in other grocery chains) which has 4% fat. That being noted, I usually reach for the heavy whipping cream as I’m not generally avoiding extra fat when using cream in a recipe!
cosmiccook November 18, 2022
If I recall, Publix also carries a PURE butter puff pastry too! Lucky peeps!
Joan M. November 17, 2022
I use heavy whipping cream pretty often and what I've noticed is that if it's ultra-pasteurized whips up differently than just plain pasteurized. I much prefer plain pasteurized. The ultra ends up creamier and feels more like the type you get from a can. The ultra also takes far longer to whip to stiff peaks. I wonder if anyone else has noticed these differences.
cosmiccook November 18, 2022
I have noticed differences between types AND brands. While its all but impossible to stabilizer-free cream, Costco sells a brand that is ONLY pasteurized--or did. I do try to buy cream from Dairy farmers at various markets or day trips, but I've found "real" fresh heavy cream doesn't have the fat to whip up enough. Great for sauces though. WF has less and less "pure" cream-New Orleans locations don't seem to carry it since Pandemic.
bjm November 18, 2022
I prefer to use heavy whipping cream with the higher fat content. I also prefer straight cream without any additives. This clean product is becoming much more difficult to find. My preference is also just pasteurized, not the ultra stuff. The just pasteurized product, w/o additives, works much better when working with chocolate.
The whipping cream will only stay whipped for a VERY short time. I wrote to a company complaining about their product and they stated that it was only 30 %. I no longer purchase that product.
Julie November 17, 2022
I grew up on a huge cattle ranch in the middle of Kansas. We also had a milking cow that Dad would milk every morning. We grew up with fresh whole milk, fresh cream and churned our own butter. There is nothing like the real thing. To this day, I use only half and half for all cooking and breakfast. I like heavy cream to make my own whipped cream for desserts or for posset desserts. Swedes have a saying to cook all food with butter and love. I do use margarine on some things, butter for the rest. I love a good quality coffee, so I drink mine plain. But my dad put heavy cream in his every cup every day of his nearly 97 year life. Cheers to real cream!
tastysweet November 17, 2022
I most always use organic heavy cream or whipping cream for my coffee. This way if I need to make whipped cream, viola, it’s in the fridge.
Charles E. November 17, 2022
I use Heavy Cream for my coffee as it has 0 carbs. So I get a much lower glycemic index and all the sweet.
cosmiccook November 18, 2022
But the fat! We do 1/2 1/2&1/2 and milk (low fat). We use that nasty Allulose during the week.
DMStenlake November 18, 2022
What about the fat? I know you only use a little bit but have to be careful right?
Citygirl November 21, 2022
Then where do you get your essential fat soluble vitamins from? Fat is not all bad.
cosmiccook November 21, 2022
@ Citygirl; you are correct not all fats are bad-there are healthy fats and the delicious but not so good for you ( as we found out the hard way)! I do indulge on occasion in the good tasting stuff, but we get our essential fats from avocadoes, lean meats & fish. But we dialed WAY back and our improved labs and bodies show it.
Irene V. November 19, 2021
I thought this was the case but glad to find my suspicion to be true. Checking out at a grocer asking if I found what I needed: no I needed heavy cream but since I didn’t find it I bought whipping cream for my recipe. Even they didn’t think this was acceptable.
cosmiccook November 21, 2022
Who is "they"? In France there are SO many different creams--and they are all different!
Janet V. November 19, 2021
Thanks for the explanation. I did wonder...was generally snagged into buying heavy and upon beating it found no difference to the just whipping cream.For cream soups ,light desserts etc..I generally use half heavy and half of the half and half mixed ..It generally is the cost difference and if you happen to have heavy cream in your fridge. I even use part half and half and 2% milk for my daily cappuccino. Best holiday !
Clare C. November 19, 2021
This article didn’t actually answer the question it poses. In the supermarkets near me, there is “heavy cream” and “whipping cream.” There is no “heavy whipping cream” (which seems to drop into the article from nowhere). So, are “heavy cream” and”whipping cream” the same or not?
trefoiles November 20, 2021
Look at the caloric count and the fat content. They are usually exactly the same in whipping cream and heavy cream
Carole K. November 18, 2021
And so…. What is the definition of “Light Cream”?
Lucille F. November 30, 2021
Since my husband will only use light cream in his coffee, I have the same question. Hopefully, someone can enlighten us.
Molly D. November 18, 2021
What is ‘cooking cream?’
Kim S. November 18, 2021
Great to see so many fantastic comments to expand our shared knowledge! I've found that heavy cream lasts longer than whole milk, and I don't regularly drink milk, so heavy cream is often the only milk product I consistently have in the fridge. If I need just milk for a recipe, I'm likely to "make" it by thinning heavy cream with water and some powdered milk from the pantry. I start with 1:1 cream to reconstituted milk ratio, and tweak until the flavor and mouth feel seems right.
Ruth A. November 17, 2022
I am also more likely to have heavy cream in the fridge, since I rarely drink milk. And I do the same thing of thinning it out.

I am of the opinion that for cooking and baking, richer is usually better.

What I would really like to see is for the fat content on the container and. As a percentage.

Also, in England there are many more types of cream available. Single, double, light, coffee, etc. I have English recipes I would like to try. It’s fairly easy to convert the measurements and oven temperatures on line. But sometimes finding American equivalents for ingredients is hard, and I have either been unable to make a recipe because I couldn’t find an ingredient, or had something turn out badly, or not work at all, because I used the wrong thing.
Scott V. November 18, 2021
Some sources claim whipping cream as 30% and heavy cream as 46%. I.e.
Scott V. November 18, 2021
Sorry 36% not 46%. You need the edit comment feature
Natalie November 18, 2022
And then there's manufacturing cream, which is I am pretty sure 40 percent , and holds it's whip considerably longer and firmer
T A. November 18, 2021
I read many UK cookbooks which call for double cream. How does one get double cream or what would be an adequate substitute in the U.S.? I did purchase a 1940s-50s jar with a lever that supposedly puts butter fat into cream. Can Food52 do an article on this?
Molly D. November 18, 2021
I just came across a recipe that called for ‘cooking cream.’ Hm...can you enlighten as to what exactly cooking cream is? Thank you.
Diane S. November 18, 2021
I use the heavy cream whenever I make sweetened whip cream and I drizzle it on my soups. However, I use half and half for my soup like broccoli or tomato and it comes out perfect every time!
OldGuy November 18, 2021
I get 40% Heavy Cream from one supplier. It's great if you can find it.
Barbara November 17, 2022
It’s hard to find but it holds up better than the 36%. However, you can also stabilize with gelatin and then the whipped 36% also lasts…and lasts!
Natalie November 18, 2022
Yes ! I responded to someone else about this exact thing ! Sometimes it is labeled as " manufacturing cream" ( not a sexy name ) but it's preferred in professional settings for it's , well ... Industrial properties :)
Lea F. November 18, 2021
By far, heavy cream is the best when baking! Makes great biscuits!