Nondairy topping is a product used in place of real whipped cream in or on desserts. Nondairy topping and whipped cream are very similar in appearance and somewhat similar in taste, but the nondairy product contains none of the milk that cream has. Most people who enjoy whipped cream also like the nondairy version, although cream is often richer and the nondairy is usually sweeter.
In most cases, nondairy topping is made from oils such as partially hydrogenated coconut and palm oil, and sweeteners such as corn syrup. Water and preservatives are also usually added. The earliest toppings were made from soy, but these were found to have a shorter shelf life than those made with oil. The partially hydrogenated oils used in most modern versions are associated with an increase in bad cholesterol due to trans fats, so these toppings are not suitable for those watching their cholesterol levels.
Refrigerated tubs, aerosol cans, and packages of powder that cooks add milk to are the many different forms that nondairy topping is available in today. These toppings can add the finishing touch to pies, puddings and banana splits, and some people like to use them as cake fillings and frostings as well. They can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, coconut, or many other possibilities.
A dollop can liven up a fruit salad or gelatin, and most cafeterias use nondairy topping on their gelatin desserts. Cooks can also layer the topping with alternate layers of fruit and/or gelatin to make a parfait. Some people like it on waffles with fruit preserves or syrups. Hot chocolate with some nondairy or real whipped cream added to it is another favorite for many.
People can use nondairy topping wherever they would use real whipped cream. A pastry bag can be used to pipe fancy-looking finishes on food or beverages for an elegant touch. While many may prefer the richness of genuine whipped cream, the nondairy variety can be more affordable and provide an option for those who don't eat dairy due to food intolerances or personal reasons. Shoppers should always read labels on products labeled as "nondairy," however, as some may contain the milk protein, casein, which is typically listed as sodium caseinate.