Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Milk

Heavy whipping cream and milk are two common dairy products used for cooking, baking, and drinking. At first glance, they may seem quite similar - after all, they both come from cows and have a creamy white appearance.

Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Milk

However, there are some significant differences between heavy whipping cream and milk that impact their taste, texture, nutrition, and how they can be used.

How Heavy Whipping Cream and Milk Are Produced

Let's start by understanding how heavy whipping cream and milk originate.

Heavy whipping cream is the high-fat layer that separates and rises to the top of non-homogenized cow's milk. To produce heavy whipping cream commercially, the fatty cream is skimmed off the top of whole milk and packaged directly.

Milk undergoes a different process. Whole cow's milk contains about 3-4% milk fat. To produce the varieties of milk we see in the grocery store, the whole milk is homogenized to break up the fat globules and distribute them evenly throughout the milk. The level of fat can then be adjusted - for example, reduced to 2% or 1% by removing some of the fat.

So in summary, heavy whipping cream is pure cream skimmed from milk, while milk sold for drinking has been homogenized and standardized to specific fat percentages.

Key Takeaway: Heavy whipping cream is the fatty layer skimmed off the top of milk, while milk is homogenized to distribute the fat evenly and standardized to set fat percentages.

Fat Content: Heavy Whipping Cream Versus Milk

The most significant difference between heavy whipping cream and milk is the fat content. Let's dig into the numbers:

  • Heavy whipping cream has a high fat content of at least 36%. Some brands may have up to 40% milk fat.
  • Whole milk has a fat content of around 3.5%.
  • 2% reduced fat milk has 2% fat.
  • Skim milk has less than 0.5% fat.

As you can see, the fat content of heavy whipping cream is far greater than any type of milk. This high fat content gives heavy whipping cream a thicker, richer consistency and flavors. The lower fat content of milk gives it a thinner, more watery texture.

The high fat content of heavy whipping cream also enables it to be whipped into soft peaks, unlike milk which does not whip well due to its low fat percentage.

So if you're making whipped cream or a recipe where you need the fat for structure, heavy whipping cream is the better choice. For drinking or general cooking, standard milk varieties are preferred.

Calorie Comparison Between Heavy Whipping Cream and Milk

With the significant difference in fat content, there is also a major difference between the calories in heavy whipping cream versus milk.

  • Heavy whipping cream contains about 340 calories per 100 ml (3.5 oz).
  • In comparison, whole milk has about 61 calories per 100 ml (3.5 oz).
  • The other milk varieties are lower in calories than whole milk, with skim milk having just 35 calories per 100 ml.

The high calorie count of heavy whipping cream comes from its high concentration of fat, which provides 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram from carbs and protein.

So heavy whipping cream can add a big calorie boost to recipes and drinks. Milk has fewer calories while still providing a creamy dairy flavor.

Uses of Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Milk

Due to the differences in fat content and texture, heavy whipping cream and milk are used in some different ways.

Uses of Heavy Whipping Cream

  • Whipped cream - heavy whipping cream whips up into stiff, billowy whipped cream for topping desserts, unlike milk which cannot be whipped
  • Adding richness and texture - heavy cream makes foods creamy, rich, and indulgent when added to sauces, soups, pasta, etc.
  • Baking - used in cake, cookies, and pastry recipes to make them extra moist and tender
  • Coffee creamer - adds thickness and richness to coffee

Uses of Milk

  • Drinking - all varieties from skim to whole milk are consumed as a beverage
  • Smoothies - blended with fruits and yogurt for a creamy, nutritious drink
  • Cooking - added to oatmeal, scrambled eggs, baked goods for a moisture, tenderness, and mild dairy flavor
  • Macaroni and cheese - a classic use of milk to make the cheese sauce creamy
  • Cappuccino foam - frothed milk tops espresso in the classic cappuccino coffee drink

Heavy whipping cream is preferred for adding richness, whipped toppings, and baking, while milk is better for drinking, lighter cooking, and foaming.

Nutritional Profile: Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Milk

With the differences in fat content, heavy whipping cream, and milk also differ in their nutritional profiles. Let's look at some key points:

  • Heavy whipping cream is high in saturated fat and cholesterol - with about 21 grams of saturated fat per 100 ml and 95 mg of cholesterol. Milk is far lower with 1 gram saturated fat and 8 mg cholesterol per 100 ml of whole milk.
  • Milk contains more calcium - about 120 mg per 100 ml compared to 40 mg in heavy whipping cream.
  • Heavy whipping cream provides more vitamin A - about 330 IU versus 46 IU in whole milk.
  • Milk contains more carbs and protein than heavy cream. This comes from the lactose (milk sugar) and casein proteins in the watery parts of milk that are reduced in heavy cream.
  • Heavy whipping cream has more vitamin E than whole milk - about 0.7 mg versus 0.1 mg per 100 ml.

So in general, heavy whipping cream provides more fat, vitamin A, and vitamin E, while milk is higher in protein, carbs, calcium, and some B vitamins. For overall nutrition, milk has advantages over the higher fat heavy cream.

Health Impacts of Heavy Whipping Cream vs. Milk

With the nutritional differences covered, how do heavy whipping cream and milk compare for health? Here are some key points:

  • Heavy whipping cream is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to increased LDL "bad" cholesterol levels and higher risk of cardiovascular disease when consumed in excess.
  • Milk provides a nutritious package of protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals that supports bone health, muscle development, and overall nutrition for both children and adults.
  • The fat in full-fat dairy may not be as concerning as once thought. Some recent research indicates the saturated fat from dairy is not strongly associated with heart health issues.
  • Heavy whipping cream should be consumed in moderation, due to its very high fat and calorie content. But for most people, moderate intake should not pose health risks.

Overall, milk is the healthier choice for regular use and provides excellent nutritional value. But heavy whipping cream can also fit into a balanced diet when used judiciously to add flavor and richness.

Alternatives and Substitutions

For people who need or prefer to avoid heavy whipping cream and milk, there are some alternatives:

  • Light dairy - half-and-half, light cream, and low-fat milk have less fat and calories than heavy cream and whole milk.
  • Non-dairy milk - soy, almond, oat, and other plant-based milk provide the texture of milk without the dairy.
  • Coconut cream and nut butters - can provide thick, creamy texture for recipes.
  • Avocado - pureed or mashed avocado can replace some of the fat and richness of heavy cream in recipes like smoothies and chocolate mousse.

With some creativity, recipes can often be adapted to use lower fat dairy, plant-based, or other alternatives in place of heavy whipping cream or milk.

Key Takeaway: Milk provides more overall nutrition with protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals, while heavy whipping cream is higher in fat, vitamin A and E. Moderation is key for heavy cream due to its high saturated fat.

How to Choose Between Heavy Whipping Cream and Milk

So when should you use heavy whipping cream versus milk? Here are some guidelines:

  • For adding richness and whipped cream toppings, choose heavy whipping cream. Milk cannot whip and does not provide the same lush texture.
  • For drinking, smoothies, oatmeal, or mixing into lighter recipes, go with milk for its mild flavor. Heavy cream would overwhelm other ingredients.
  • For sauces, soups, and baked goods, you can use either depending on your desired richness and fat content. Heavy cream provides more indulgence while milk gives a lighter flavor.
  • For health, milk is the better choice for regular use. Enjoy heavy whipping cream in moderation as a flavor booster.
  • For frothing milk foam, you must use milk as heavy cream is too thick to foam properly.
  • If avoiding dairy, use plant-based milks and coconut cream as substitutes where you need thickness.

The most important thing is choosing the right dairy or alternative product for the specific recipe and result you want to achieve. Now that you understand the detailed differences between heavy whipping cream and milk, you can confidently select between them for any food or beverage need.


How much fat does heavy whipping cream have compared to milk?

Heavy whipping cream contains at least 36% milk fat, compared to about 3.5% in whole milk and 1-2% for reduced fat milks. The high fat content gives heavy cream a thicker, richer texture.

Can you whip heavy cream into whipped cream?

Yes, the high fat content of heavy whipping cream allows it to whip into soft or stiff peaks to make freshly whipped cream. Milk cannot be whipped in the same way due to its low fat percentage.

Is it OK to have heavy whipping cream daily?

Heavy whipping cream is high in saturated fat and calories, so health experts recommend consuming it in moderation, not daily. For a daily dairy drink, milk is healthier due to its lower fat content and high nutritional value.

Can you substitute milk for heavy cream?

Milk cannot perfectly substitute for heavy cream in all recipes due to its lower fat content. But in some recipes, whole milk can work as a lower-fat alternative. Expect a thinner, lighter texture versus the richness of heavy cream.

Can you make whipped cream with milk?

It is very difficult to make true whipped cream with just milk, even whole milk. The low fat content prevents it from whipping into billowy peaks. For homemade whipped cream, you need heavy whipping cream or a product with similar high fat content.


Heavy whipping cream and milk offer unique textures, flavors, and nutrition despite their similarities as dairy products from cows.

Heavy whipping cream provides indulgent richness perfect for coffee, dessert toppings and baking due to its high fat percentage.

Milk has lower fat and fewer calories but offers great nutritional benefits as well as a light dairy flavor ideal for drinking and cooking.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions