I love whipped cream soooo much. If you give me a choice between that and marshmallows in my hot chocolate, whipped cream will win every time.
Many moons ago, when I was still consuming dairy, I would make whipped cream anytime there was pie involved. All it required was heavy cream, a little sweetener, and 5 minutes of patience with an electric hand mixer. Way better than Reddi-Whip or (gasp!) Cool Whip.
In case you’re curious, here’s the shitstorm that is Cool Whip:
“water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (including coconut and palm oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skimmed milk, light cream, and less than 2% sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, and beta carotene”
Quitting dairy had the potential to make my pie-eating experience cream-less and disappointing. Fortunately, I quickly found a fabulous alternative. Coconut whipped cream actually tastes VERY similar to the dairy variety, and it saves the pumpkin pie every time.
There are, however, a few things you need to know when shopping:
Canned coconut milk and coconut milk in a carton are NOT the same thing! Canned coconut milk is more like heavy cream. Coconut milk from a carton is too thin and won’t thicken enough for whipped cream.
Along those lines: coconut milk and coconut water are NOT the same thing! Coconut water, while amazing, really is more like water and will absolutely not work for whipped cream. Same goes for coconut butter, coconut cream, and anything else that’s not a can with “coconut milk” on the label. Much like soy, there are about a million ways you can process coconut to turn it into something edible (though I would argue soy is not a food).
Read labels. Some brands throw a ton of unnecessary preservatives, thickeners and fillers in their coconut milk (boo).
Thickeners: You may see guar gum and xanthan gum on the label, which are both thickening agents. There have been some studies that show bowel issues are exacerbated by such things, so proceed with caution if that’s an area of concern for you. To the best of my knowledge, Natural Value is the only milk that doesn’t use any ingredients except coconut. However, the whipped cream will have a much smoother texture and be easier to form if you use coconut milk with thickeners. I use the Native Forest brand.
The trick with coconut whipped cream is to chill the can in the fridge overnight, or at least a few hours, to let the milk solidify and separate. When you take the can out of the fridge and open it, there will be a layer of thick white cream and another layer of thin translucent liquid. You’ll discard the liquid and keep the cream. Place the can in the fridge and remove it carefully without ever shaking it. That way, the two substances will be easier to separate.
You can use a blender for this, but I recommend using a hand mixer if you have one. Either way, chill the bowl and beaters or blender in the freezer for a few hours. A cold vessel and utensils ensure the whipped cream won’t melt.
Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the fridge for 4 hours (or overnight). Chill your bowl and beaters or blender by putting them in the freezer for a few hours, too.
Take the can of coconut milk out of the fridge and turn it upside down (don't shake it!). Open the can, pour off the clear liquid, then add the solidified white coconut milk to the chilled bowl/blender.
Add honey and vanilla.
Mix on high speed for 5-10 minutes, or until the coconut milk forms a thick cream with soft peaks.