Make your way down the dairy aisle, and you'll come across several varieties of milk and cream. Among them, you'll find half-and-half. Although you may be familiar with this dairy product, are you familiar with its contents? What is in half-and-half?
Half-and-half is a blend of equal parts whole milk and light cream. It's richer in flavor than whole milk and lighter than cream. The fat content of half-and-half is typically between 10.5 and 18 percent, while the fat content of light cream is between 18 and 30 percent.
Half-and-half makes a lovely addition to coffee, making it smoother and lighter. However, this dairy product is not just great in coffee. With its high-fat content, it can enrich many dishes that call for milk and give them a luscious flavor.
At the store, you will see regular, low-fat, and fat-free half-and-half. Since half-and-half is known for its fat content, you may wonder how there could be low-fat and fat-free options.
Corn syrup, chemicals, and thickeners can replace the butterfat content found in regular half-and-half. These substitutions simulate the texture of fat in low-fat and fat-free versions of half-and-half. Although these products may be able to replace the mouthfeel of half-and-half, they contain many artificial ingredients and are no good for cooking, since they won't provide the texture or taste of real cream.
In cooking, half-and-half is usually used to help provide a rich creaminess to the dish. Because of this, it's not advisable to leave it out. The substitutions below will provide a similar smooth and creamy texture.
Substitute a mixture of three-fourths of a cup of whole milk and one-fourth of a cup of heavy cream for one cup of half-and-half.
A mixture of whole milk and heavy cream makes a great substitute for half-and-half. This blend is similar in texture and will be creamy and taste luscious in dishes. It contains a little under 12 percent milkfat.
Substitute a mixture of two-thirds of a cup of low-fat milk and one-third of a cup of heavy cream for one cup of half-and-half.
If you happen to have these two ingredients on hand, you can create a mixture with a flavor and texture similar to those of half-and-half, due to the comparable fat content. This alternative would be an excellent substitute in any recipe and will produce a light creamy texture and rich taste.
Substitute one tablespoon of melted butter mixed into one cup of whole milk for one cup of half-and-half.
If you don't have half-and-half in your refrigerator, you probably won't have any other creams, either. One of the easiest, no-fuss substitutions for half-and-half is milk and butter. While this substitution won't work well for some recipes, such as creamy homemade ice cream, it will do the trick in warm dishes that call for half-and-half, including soups and baked goods.
Substitute one cup of light cream for one cup of half-and-half.
Light cream is similar in fat content to half-and-half. It provides a similar creaminess and lushness in dishes, making it an excellent replacement if it's available at your local grocery store. However, it is near the bottom of our list because it's not always as accessible as the other substitutes.
Substitute one cup of evaporated milk for one cup of half-and-half.
A can of evaporated milk can serve as a replacement for half-and-half when you're in a pinch, or if you're looking to cut fat from your recipe but want to achieve a creamy texture. Evaporated milk is also a budget-friendly alternative for those seeking creamy recipes to feed a large group.
Evaporated milk is produced by separating water from milk and then heating the milk. The milk becomes creamy in texture and develops a distinct cooked flavor and darker color. Be aware that the taste of evaporated milk, though subtle, will alter the character of some dishes.
If you're wondering how we determined the fat percentage in the substitutions above, or if you want to determine the fat content of any substitutions not listed, there is an easy equation you can use. You'll need to know the fat percentage for each component you want to use as well as the total units for the substitution. The equation looks like this:
(fat percentage of substitution 1) x (numerator of substitution 1) + (fat percentage of substitution 2) x (numerator of substitution 2) / common denominator of all substitutions
Here is how the equation looks when you're combining three-fourths of a cup of whole milk with one-fourth of a cup of heavy cream. In this example, substitution 1 is three-fourths of a cup of whole milk. Substitution 2 is one-fourth of a cup of heavy cream. Whole milk has a fat content of 3.25 percent, and heavy cream has a fat content of 36 percent.
(fat percentage of milk [3.25%]) x (numerator of 3/4) + (fat percentage of heavy cream [36%]) x (numerator of 1/4) / common denominator of 1/4 and 3/4 is 4
The final equation looks like this:
( 3.25 x 3 + 36 x 1 ) / 4
This gives you a total of 11.4375, the percentage of fat in your substitution. Knowing this equation allows you to increase or decrease the creaminess of a substitution.
Half-and-half is a great way to add some light creaminess and delicious flavor to your coffee, soups, baked goods, and home-cooked meals. You may not always have half-and-half on hand, but the texture and taste can easily be reproduced using other ingredients in your refrigerator and cabinets.