Dessert just isn’t dessert without whipped cream, something that holds true even if you’re vegan. While a lot of non-dairy substitutes depend on soy products, thickeners, and gums, it’s actually really simple to make your own whipped toppings. Therefore everything from nice cream to birthday cake gets the finishing touch they deserve.

For a thick, rich whipped topping, we go with coconut cream, lightly sweetened and with a touch of vanilla. If we want something lighter — say, a topping for fruit salad or mini muffins, aquafaba (the liquid in a can of chickpeas) does the trick. Similar in texture to meringue once whipped, this bean brine gets fluffy, glossy, and totally divine in your mixer. Just add some sugar and flavoring, and you’ve got dessert.

There are a couple of things to consider when deciding if you want to make coconut whipped cream or aquafaba whipped cream. The coconut version has more fat, and therefore is more stable and lasts longer in the fridge. It tastes like the tropical fruit and is very rich.

The aquafaba whipped cream is flavor neutral until you add sugar and vanilla or another flavor extract. It’s super light and fluffy, but starts returning to its liquid state soon after it’s whipped, so best used right away. It’s also a lot cheaper to buy a can of chickpeas than a can of coconut milk or cream.

Both are worth trying, as each one works well with a variety of different foods. If all else fails, do what we did — make them both!

Aquafaba (Chickpea Brine) Whipped Topping

(Makes about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • liquid from 1 can of low-sodium chickpeas, about 1 cup
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Add the chickpea liquid (aquafaba) to a large bowl along with the cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until peaks form.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated. The mixture should be fluffy and slightly shiny.
  3. Use immediately. This whipped topping doesn’t store well in the fridge, so don’t make more than you need.

Coconut Whipped Cream

(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut cream, refrigerated
  • 1-2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Note: You can either buy a can of coconut cream (make sure it’s the unsweetened variety, not the kind used to make cocktails), or buy two cans of full-fat coconut milk. Refrigerate overnight, then scoop out the solids that have risen to the top of the can and use that as your coconut cream.

Instructions:

  1. Add coconut cream to a large bowl. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat to mix together. Taste for seasoning. Some brands of coconut milk/coconut cream are sweeter than others, so depending on what your preferences are, you might want to add more powdered sugar here.
  2. Serve. Store any leftover whipped coconut cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will release some liquid while it sits, but you can just drain it off before you use it again. If it separates too much in the fridge, just re-whip it.

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(Photos via Justina Huddleston / Brit + Co)