And it matters which one you use in recipes. Here's how to know the difference. 


If you’re making whipped cream—whether for apple pie or cupcakes—you know there’s one ingredient you absolutely need: cream. But take a trip down the dairy aisle and it’s easy to get stumped by the flurry of options, including heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, and whipping cream.

Heavy cream… whipping cream… what's the difference? Is there a difference? And which is best to use?

As it turns out, the major distinction between heavy cream and whipping cream is the fat content. The Food and Drug Administration maintains labeling standards for both types of cream:

Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are essentially the same thing, and both must contain at least 36% or more milk fat. Whipping cream, or light whipping cream, is lighter (as you'd expect) and contains 30% to 35% milk fat.

Credit: Courtesy of Publix

Given these small differences in fat, can you use both types of cream interchangeability? For making whipped cream, yes—but you’ll get a slightly different product. Here’s how:

Heavy cream will whip better and hold its shape longer than whipping cream. Therefore, it’s recommended more for piping, pastry fillings, and toppings. Additionally, heavy cream’s higher fat count makes it a better thickening agent for creamy sauces like penne alla vodka or creamy soups like vichyssoise.

Whipping cream still whips well, but it has a lighter, more pillowy texture. It’s also more likely to lose its loft and become liquid again after time. But regardless of what type of cream you use, keeping your cream, mixing bowl, and beaters well-chilled beforehand will ensure a faster and better end product.

So, if you need whipped cream for your homemade pie, both types of cream will whip perfectly fine. But if you’re looking for an all-purpose, versatile option that you can use for a wide variety of recipes, then stock heavy cream in your fridge.