The XX Factor

America Is Facing a Whipped Cream Shortage. Don’t Panic—Try These Substitutes.

A white chocolate mocha with whipped cream pictured on February 17, 2016 in London, England. 

Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Just when you thought 2016 couldn’t get any worse, terrible news emerges from the Reddi-wip factory. “A whipped cream shortage is looming, just in time for peak holiday pie,” warns the Washington Post. “The Nation Is Facing a Dire Whipped-Cream Shortage During Prime Dessert Season,” says Time. “Whipped Cream Shortage Could Leave Your Holiday Pies Bare,” declares a CBS affiliate in Miami that apparently employs a crack team of headline-writers.

It’s tragic but true: America is facing a shortage of whipped cream and a consequent epidemic of bare pies. This worst-case scenario is a result of a reduced supply of nitrous oxide, the propellant used in aerosol cans, following an explosion at a plant in Florida last summer. “We encourage shoppers to stock up early on Reddi-wip during our peak holiday season,” a Conagra representative told the Post. And the shortage doesn’t just affect Reddi-wip—it affects all dairy whipped toppings sold in cans.

It’s hard to overstate how much the nation’s holiday spirit will suffer as a result of the whipped cream shortage. Canned whipped cream is one of our greatest natural resources, beloved by Americans of all stripes. Now, like avocados and limes before it, whipped cream lies cruelly out of reach for those who didn’t buy early or can’t afford inflated prices. Our dessert landscape will be barren, devoid of those sweet, fluffy bursts of air-infused cream that so many of us have come to expect. There is no silver lining to this cloud of rare, unaffordable whipped cream. After all, what is whipped cream without aerosol cans? It’s unthinkable, that’s what it is.

As we mourn the national whipped cream deficit, many Americans will be looking for substitutes for their beloved Reddi-wip. Now, nothing can fill the whipped-cream-can-shaped hole on our tables and in our hearts. The replacements I’m about to suggest are clearly inferior to the canned whipped cream that God intended us to have. They’re like mock apple pie, or artificially sweetened brownies, or gluten-free bread: different from and worse than the original. But these whipped cream substitutes, though they can never live up to real canned whipped cream, will at least be white, creamy, and edible.

Here’s one option: Did you know that if you buy heavy cream, which is often found in cartons in the refrigerated dairy aisle, you can “whip” up something similar to Reddi-wip? (Heavy cream is sometimes called whipping cream, a pathetic attempt by the fresh dairy industry to capitalize on the whipped cream industry’s success.) If you pour the heavy cream into a bowl and whisk it for a few minutes, it thickens to almost the consistency of canned whipped cream. You can add powdered sugar to make it sweet, and vanilla or booze to give it flavor. It’s no Reddi-wip, but it’s something, at least. I like to call it “whisked cream.”

Another option, if you have an electric handheld or stand mixer, is to beat heavy cream until it thickens to make “mixed cream,” if you will. I’ve also heard that you can make “shaken cream” by pouring heavy cream into a jar and shaking it for a few minutes.

I am well aware of the many drawbacks of these methods. You can’t make them without dirtying some dishes. They take minutes, rather than seconds, to make. They require more than one ingredient. They don’t come out of a can. Believe me, I know. These whipped cream substitutes are nowhere near perfect. But during a natural disaster like our current whipped cream shortage, sometimes you have to take what you can get.