Just like genuine cheese has its bizarro counterpart in Cheez Whiz, whipped cream has a Kraft-generated imposter: Cool Whip. Cool Whip, Kraft’s imitation whipped cream product, isn’t made of whipped cream at all — and it’s actually pretty bad for you. That’s right. Compared to fatty, sugary whipped cream, Cool Whip is worse.
That hasn’t stopped people from loving it, though. Cool Whip is a highly popular pie topping and is used in a plethora of no-bake sweets recipes like chocolate pudding pie and other sliceable confections. It also has an impressively long shelf life, lasting far longer in the fridge than regular dairy-based cream.
But what is Cool Whip made of, if not whipped cream? It does contain minute amounts of dairy, though it didn’t when it first hit the shelves. Cool Whip was invented in 1966 by food scientist George Lorant. Another food scientist, Bill Mitchell, who invented Pop Rocks, Tang, and lots of other popular foods, had already paved the way with a related patent. It was mass-produced by the company General Foods — later to be bought out by Kraft — and had an edge in the competitive market because it could be distributed frozen. Cool Whip quickly became General Foods’ most popular product.
The product was “dairy-free” until 2018, when Kraft made the quiet decision to add (minute amounts of) skim milk and heavy cream.
These are the current ingredients in plain Cool Whip, according to Kraft’s website: water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut & palm kernel oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, contains less than 2% of light cream, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, sodium polyphosphate, beta carotene (color).
Hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup make up a majority of what you’re eating with a spoonful of Cool Whip. Not exactly a nutritious addition to your dessert.
For your comparison purposes, here are the ingredients in generic-brand sweetened whipping cream: heavy cream, milk, sugar. (At least whipped cream has some calcium!)
A fourth of a cup of Cool Whip — approximately equivalent to a sizeable dollop — has 100 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of saturated fat. It doesn’t have any nutritional value otherwise.
Regardless of how unhealthy and void of actual cream it is, Cool Whip remains the number one selling whipped cream-like product in the United States. Reddi-whip, which comes in an aerosol can and has far fewer ingredients, ranks second.
So there’s no denying it — people love Cool Whip. Give the people what they want! If you’re hosting a party, make sure to stock your freezer with it, alongside these other must-haves for entertaining guests.