A lot of recipes require half and half. When substituting other dairy products for this ingredient, you have to be careful because there are a lot of hidden ingredients that may cause your recipe to not turn out quite right. Here is a list of the top 5 best substitute for half and half in cooking in order from least amount to most amount needed.
What is Half and Half?
Half and Half is a mixture of half whole milk and half heavy cream. Half-and-half can have a number of uses depending on what you’re making. If you’re trying to make something creamier or richer, half-and-half is the perfect ingredient. It’s also good in coffee because it adds some thickness without being too heavy. Homogenization makes this dairy product less likely to separate when mixed with other ingredients.
Best Half and Half Substitutes
#1 Whole Milk + Butter
My favorite way is to use nonfat milk and unsalted butter. Butter substitutes for a lot of things you would need to buy and that’s just not true for heavy cream.
I’ve made this in the microwave several times, letting it come to the boil then turning off the heat and taking it out before it gets too hot, but you can also melt your butter in a saucepan on low heat and combine it with your milk overnight.
You can also make a half-and-half substitute by combining equal parts (1 cup) of either 1% or 2% milk with 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
It’s not quite as creamy as the whole milk and heavy cream version, but very close. And if you want it a little closer to the commercial half-and-half, you can up your milk fat percentage to 3/4 cup of heavy cream.
#2 Low-Fat Milk + Heavy Cream
You can also make your own half-and-half substitute by combining equal parts (1 cup) of whole milk and nonfat or low-fat yogurt in a food processor until it thickens, about 30 seconds. This will give you less fat than the previous substitutes, which amounts to 3.5 percent rather than 10 percent.
If you are just looking for a half-and-half substitute that is close in fat content to the commercial product, you could use nonfat milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream (7 percent).
Again, it’s a lot less creamy than the commercial product but very close. If you want to be even closer, then go with nonfat milk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream (5 percent) or even take it way less creamy by using skim milk and 1 teaspoon of butter.
#3 Whole Milk + Heavy Cream
There are a few different ways to make this substitute, but the one that I have found to be the easiest is to use whole milk and heavy cream, along with some butter. You’ll probably want to start off with two or three tablespoons of butter; you can always add more if it’s not enough or reduce the amount of fat if it’s too much.
It is best to use a fat-free brand of whole milk and heavy cream, as these are not fortified with additional nutrients or vitamins. If you’ve got plain nonfat milk and heavy cream, this substitution works fine, but the texture is not going to be as firm and creamy as the other two.
It can be a little bit difficult to find butter that is well-melted without being too hot (which it will be if a lot of the fat has been rendered out), so it’s best to let the butter cool a little bit before you begin melting it. However, if your butter has already been melted in the microwave, feel free to get started with the recipe immediately. Just remember that after you add all of those ingredients together and mix them up with a whisk or fork, it will separate some; this is normal. Just be sure to stir everything together very well until it is smooth and creamy again.
If you’ve ever made a baked good with butter in the recipe, you already know that this is going to taste different from your average whole milk and heavy cream baked good. The texture will not be as firm, but it will be much better than any of the other substitutes listed here.
This recipe from Baking Mischief is pretty close to perfect: 2 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, plus one cup of whole milk and two/3 cup of heavy cream (or a combo-pack containing one cup each of whole milk and heavy cream).
#4 Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is another option for making your own half-and-half substitute. By definition, evaporated milk is whole milk that has been cooked so that much of the water has been removed. You can buy evaporated milk in cans in most grocery stores, or you can make it yourself as described below.
By nature, one cup of evaporated milk will already be 10 percent fat because it is made by removing 50 percent of the water from whole milk.
But you can alter this process to make your own half-and-half substitute by adding some heavy cream back in to the mixture.
So if you need 1 cup of half-and-half, start with 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
You can even use more heavy cream to reach your desired fat content, such as 3/4 cup heavy cream to make a 7 percent fat half-and-half substitute or all heavy cream (10 percent) to make a substitute that is close in fat content to supermarket half-and-half.
When making your own evaporated milk at home, first microwave together 3 cups water and 2 tablespoons of nonfat dry milk or skim milk powder until the mixture boils. Then mix in 5 cups of whole milk and 2 tablespoons of butter to complete the process. Let it stand for 30 minutes, then pour the mixture through a cheesecloth or very fine mesh strainer.
You can also use this recipe to make 1 cup of half-and-half substitute by mixing 1/4 cup evaporated milk with 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine and adding in your choice of heavy cream (1/2 and 3/4 cups respectively) to make up your final 1 cup.
#5 Sour Cream or Yogurt
Sour cream was originally made by mixing bacteria cultures with milk and letting it ferment naturally. Today it is still sometimes made this way, but most producers have also added stabilizers to keep the sour taste from spoiling your milk.
This sour cream substitute will get you close to commercial half-and-half in fat content while giving you a lot of flavor at the same time.
Unlike the other substitutes listed here, you do not need unsalted butter because the sour cream already has a little bit of salt in it. You can also use nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream, but you will likely have to add back some extra butter to give it that full half-and-half creaminess.
To make one cup of half-and-half substitute using sour cream or yogurt, you will need to combine 1/2 cup of sour cream or yogurt with 1/4 cup of butter.
You can also add in heavy cream in equal parts to this (3/4 cups).
If you want your half-and-half substitute to be more smidgen creamy than the commercial product, then you could use all sour cream (10 percent fat) or all nonfat yogurt (1 percent fat). Both have less fat than the 10 percent fat content in factory-made half and half.
How To Make Your Own Half and Half
There are many different ways to make your own half-and-half substitutes homemade. As long as you keep the fat content between 5 percent and 10 percent, you should be able to get a good substitute that is close in texture and flavor to the store bought product.
The refrigerator or freezer is your friend when it comes to storing these homemade substitutes, but they will still last days if you plan ahead. Just make sure they are not exposed to direct heat or light because that can cause them to spoil.
I hope you enjoyed this article on homemade half-and-half substitutes. If you found it helpful, I’d really love it if you would share it. Thanks so much!