Need a Half-and-Half Substitute? Here are 6 Tasty Options

No matter if you like your morning brew hot or cold, a few splashes of half-and-half can take your beverage from mediocre to mouthwatering. Which is why it can be so upsetting when you wake up on a Monday morning and realize that you finished the carton over the weekend. But don’t fret—our trusty guide will help you find the perfect half-and-half substitute so that you can start your week off right.

But first, what is half-and-half?

The answer to this question is fairly straightforward—in fact, the name of this dairy product itself is a dead giveaway. Half-and-half is really just what you’d suspect—a combination of equal parts milk and cream that, according to the author of The Food Substitution Bible David Joachim, boasts around 10 to 12 percent butterfat. The high-fat content of half-and-half is responsible for its rich and pleasant creaminess; and although it doesn’t have enough body to be fluffed and dolloped onto a slice of pie like, say, heavy whipping cream, it is still plenty decadent.

As for how to use it, half-and-half can do more than make your mug of morning coffee taste extra delicious. The stuff also hits the spot when added to a boozy evening beverage—and when cooking, it works well as a stand-in for heavy cream to achieve a slightly lighter dish without sacrificing too much in the way of silky consistency. Case in point: This Zuppa Toscana doesn’t disappoint (and you won’t miss the heavy cream calories). 

6 Great Substitutes for Half-and-Half

1. Milk and heavy cream

If you revisit the aforementioned definition of half-and-half, you’ll see that this swap is kind of the no-brainer of the bunch: Half-and-half is a combination of milk and cream, so if you have both ingredients handy, you’re all set. That said, the ratio matters, and it will be different depending on the fat of the milk you’re using. According to substitution expert David Joachim, if you have whole milk in the fridge, you can simply combine ¾ cup of that with ¼ cup heavy or whipping cream for a 1:1 swap.

Fear not, skimmed milk drinkers: Per the pros at Cook’s Illustrated, your preferred form of dairy can be used to the same effect—you’ll just need a splash more heavy cream in the mix. When using skim milk as a 1:1 substitute, use ⅔ cup of the low-fat stuff and ⅓ cup heavy or whipping cream.

2. Heavy cream and water

You can also achieve a half-and-half substitute in the absence of milk as long as you have some heavy cream. According to The New York Times Cooking’s food substitution guide, you can thin heavy cream with a splash of water for yet another equal measure stand-in. (Think 1 tablespoon of water and as much heavy cream as you need to get to the 1 cup mark.)

3. Butter and milk

But what if you’re all out of heavy cream? Simply turn to the ingredient that makes everything better: butter. This half-and-half stand-in requires a combination of 1 tablespoon, melted (unsalted) butter, plus enough milk to get up to one cup total liquid. Mix it all together and use as an equal measure substitute wherever half-and-half is called for.

4. Milk and cornstarch

For another easy swap, The New York Times says that plain old milk combined with a touch of cornstarch will do in a pinch. All you have to do is thicken your milk by making a slurry with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid and you’ve got yourself a half-and-half substitute that can be used in equal measure.

5. Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is just milk that’s been reduced. This process causes about 60 percent of its water content to evaporate, resulting in a creamy, heavier, concentrated milk with a mildly sweet, toasty flavor. It’s a bit thicker than regular milk, making it a good half-and-half substitute in cooking and coffee. (Thin it out with a little water if you find it too thick.) Plus, it’s shelf-stable, so you can stock a few cans in your pantry for whenever you need.

6. Powdered heavy cream

You’ve likely heard of powdered milk, and powdered heavy cream is essentially the same thing: fresh cream with the water removed. It’s not as widely available as powdered milk, but if you’re one to run out of half-and-half allthetime., it wouldn’t be a bad idea to order a bag online and consider yourself well-prepared. To use it as a half-and-half substitute, simply mix ½ cup heavy cream powder with a cup of water for the right consistency (but feel free to experiment with the exact measurements).

Rejoice, friends—that’s all there is to it. There’s now nothing left standing between you and something satisfying and creamy.

Can you freeze half-and-half?

You certainly can freeze half-and-half, and it’s a great way to reduce waste if you find yourself with more than you can use before the expiration date. But just like other dairy products, you might notice some fat separation when you freeze it—that’s normal. Thaw the frozen half-and-half in the refrigerator and whisk or shake it before using. (We like to reserve once-frozen dairy for cooking and leave the fresh stuff for our coffee, but it’s safe to consume either way.)

Need an Evaporated Milk Substitute? We Have 6

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Freelance PureWow Editor

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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...