Substitute Half And Half For Heavy Cream With One Easy Fix

Besides having the quirkiest name of all dairy products, half-and-half has found itself in many recipes and roles, from a creamer that enriches morning coffees to the catalyst in creamy mashed potato recipes to make them extra smooth. The ingredient's versatility is due to its unique properties. Specifically, half-and-half consists of half whole milk and half heavy cream (hence the name.) That makes it thicker and more luscious than regular milk but not quite as rich as straight heavy cream. It sits comfortably in the middle of the dairy spectrum, offering a creamy texture without the heaviness of pure cream.


However, while there are many recipes that call for half-and-half, there are just as many recipes that ask you to use heavy cream, instead (like this creamy carrot casserole recipe.) But oops, all you got is half-and-half in your fridge ... so what's next? The good news is that you don't have to put that recipe on the back burner. Substituting heavy cream with half-and-half is not only possible but also quite straightforward. You only need an additional ingredient: A stick of butter.

Pitching the milk-versus-fat scale

Remember how half-and-half is the middle ground between whole milk and heavy cream? You only need to add in more fat to pitch the scale more toward the "heavy cream" side. Just mix ⅞ cup of half-and-half with ⅛ cup of melted butter, and voilà, you've got something that mimics the richness of heavy cream. This makeshift "half-and-half cream" is great for recipes where the texture and density of heavy cream really matter — especially if you can't do a grocery run for heavy cream right then.


However, while it'll work fine for these two purposes, there's a catch when it comes to recipes that require whipping. Heavy cream, which boasts about 36% milk fat, whips up beautifully because of its high fat content. Half-and-half, on the other hand, only contains 10.5% to 18% milk fat, and even with the added butter (which is over 80% fat), it doesn't quite hit the mark for making whipped cream. So while this hack is super handy for many recipes, it's not a perfect substitute for the real deal when you need to whip it up.

Turning regular milk to half-and-half with this principle

This clever substitution trick isn't just for turning half-and-half into a heavy cream alternative. You can apply the same idea to other dairy products too. Let's say you only have regular milk in the fridge. You can still create a creamier, half-and-half-like consistency by adding butter. Put one tablespoon of melted butter in a measuring cup, then fill the rest of the container with milk (preferably whole milk for its higher fat content), until you've poured to the one-cup mark. This mix won't exactly mimic the original dairy you're replacing, but it's a great cooking workaround for recipes like creamy soups and sauces.


However, milk and butter naturally tend to separate over time. This separation isn't an issue for recipes like hot soups where the mixture gets blended in and essentially dissolved during cooking. However, in baking, where a uniform consistency is crucial, separation can be a problem. If you plan to use the milk and butter combination for baking, a quick solution is to blend the mixture. Giving it a spin in the blender will emulsify it, creating a smoother, more cohesive mixture that's much easier to work into your dough or batter.