When you walk down the dairy aisle in the grocery store, it seems to be increasingly dominated by dairy alternative products. We have oat milks, nut yogurts, soy cheeses, and beyond. Now, you’ll even find that sweet whipped “cream” has a new alternative identity at the grocery store—and honestly, you might just like it better than the real deal.
What’s the secret behind this dairy-free whipped topping? Coconut milk, of course. Whipped coconut cream is amazingly fluffy, airy and offers a luscious richness due to the natural fat content of coconuts. You’ll typically find prepared whipped coconut cream (from brands like So Delicious Dairy Free) in the frozen dessert section of grocery stores such as Whole Foods. You can use this dairy-free cream in nearly every way that you would use traditional whipped cream. If you want to stick to vegan treats, dollop a spoonful of this alt dessert topper onto our Vegan Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart with Fresh Berries, Mini Vegan Key Lime Icebox Pies or Vegan Mini Peanut Butter Pies. The cream is also used as a base for this gluten-free, paleo, and raw Vegan Coconut Cream Tart with White Peaches and Blueberries.
You can also easily make this vegan whipped treat at home for about $2 (which is roughly the cost of one can of coconut milk). This coconut-based, vegan whipped topping is essentially coconut cream that has been separated from the coconut water in a can of coconut milk and whipped until fluffy. Separating the cream from the water is simply a matter of refrigerating a can of coconut milk until the coconut cream solidifies.
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As easy as this dairy-free sweet goodness is to make, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you want to make sure that you pick up a full-fat can of culinary coconut milk, not the low-fat version. Second thing, this is a moment when it’s definitely worth it to go organic. I started with an inexpensive, non-organic can of coconut milk the first time I tried to make a batch of vegan whipped cream and it was a total fail. The cream never solidified and separated from the water (which makes me think that it must have been diluted and possibly filled with unnecessary additives, but that’s neither here nor there). The second time around I bought a can of organic coconut milk and it worked out beautifully.
To start, refrigerate a can of coconut milk for about 4 hours or overnight, flip the can upside down and remove the (bottom) “lid” with a can opener. By doing this, you can dump out the leftover liquid with ease (but be you “dump” it into a container for later use), while leaving the solidified chunk of coconut cream to remain. Flip the can back over, over a clean plate, to remove the other side of the can. The cream will be easy to scoop out with both ends of the can open.
Now, let’s backtrack for a sec; 30 minutes before you pull your can of coconut milk out of the refrigerator, you’ll want to chill a medium-sized glass or ceramic mixing bowl. The chilled bowl will help keep the cream cool and stable while it’s being whipped. Add the cream to the chilled bowl along with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar (add more or less sugar depending on your taste). With a hand mixer, whip the cream on medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes or until fluffy. Now put that ish on everything!
P.S. Don’t even think about throwing away the coconut liquid you set aside either. Save your leftover coconut water to add to your morning smoothies or replace the water called for in your oatmeal. You can also freeze it to make coconut-flavored ice cubes for cocktails. Just don’t let it go to waste; that’s at least 75 cents worth of coconut product.