Half and half is a crucial ingredient in many recipes, so it can be disheartening to realize that you’re all out after you start cooking. Luckily, you can create simple substitutes for half and half using combinations of milk, heavy cream, butter, water, evaporated milk, or cornstarch.
Half and half is a combination of milk and cream. As the name suggests, it is half milk and half cream. It brings a deep creaminess to many recipes, from soups to desserts to popular coffee drinks.
Depending on your recipe and what you have available in your refrigerator (or pantry), you’ll be able to choose a half and half substitute that works for you. We’ve compiled all the information you need into one easy top 5 list so that you can quickly find your replacement and get back to cooking.
You’ll be able to make many replacements for half and half using what you already have in your kitchen.
1. Whole Milk and Heavy Cream
As we mentioned earlier, half and half consists of milk and cream. Therefore, a combination of milk and cream is the top substitute for half and half. Once you combine the two, you have created homemade half and half, rather than a suitable substitute.
Create homemade half and half by combining equal parts of whole milk and heavy cream. For example, if your recipe calls for four cups of half and half, use two cups of whole milk and two cups of heavy cream. No additional adjustments are necessary.
Because combining milk and cream creates true half and half, you can use this substitute in any recipe that calls for half and half. If you have milk and cream on hand, you should use this substitute every time.
2. Whole Milk and Butter
If you don’t have heavy cream on hand, the next best substitute is whole milk and butter. This is such a popular substitute that it is featured on the New York Times’ substitution list. Butter provides the creaminess that you are missing without the heavy cream, so this is a pretty good second-best to store-bought or homemade half and half.
To create your substitute, melt one tablespoon of butter and pour it into a one-cup measuring vessel. Next, add milk until you reach the one-cup line. Now you have one cup of a half and half substitute. Use equal amounts of this substitute in any recipe that calls for half and half.
Once you get the hang of making this mixture, you can save time by adding unmelted butter to the milk and allowing it to milk while it cooks. However, if you use this substitute in a baking recipe, you will need to blend the mixture well before using it. Blending the milk and butter first will allow it to emulsify before mixing with the dry ingredients.
Because it is such a close substitute, this is another one of the replacements for half and half that can be used in virtually any recipe. If you feel the mixture is not creamy enough for the dish you are cooking, gradually add more melted butter.
3. Heavy Cream and Water
Suppose you have heavy cream in the refrigerator but don’t have any milk. In that case, you can also create a quick half and half substitute using heavy cream and plain old water. This is another excellent substitute because it makes a substitute that you can use in equal amounts to the amount of half and half that your recipe calls for.
To create this mixture, you need to use water to thin out the heavy cream. Do this by adding one tablespoon of water to a one-cup measuring vessel and filling it with water until you reach the one-cup mark. As you stir the mixture, imagine the consistency of half and half. Add more water until the thickness of your mixture feels like half and half.
This mixture can be used in any recipe that uses half and half. However, if the flavor of milk is essential to the recipe that you are making, you might want to try a different substitute.
4. Milk and Cornstarch
Another substitute for half and half is milk and cornstarch, which is an easy-to-make mixture that uses cornstarch to thicken the milk, simulating the consistency of half and half. We like it because it is simple to make and does not adjust the taste as much as expected.
Create this substitute by creating a cornstarch slurry to thicken the milk. Simply add one tablespoon of cornstarch to each cup of milk and mix to thicken. Once you make this, you can use the same amount in the recipe as you would have used half and half (1:1 ratio).
This replacement is best used when making something that does not rely on the creamy taste of half and half. While the consistency of this substitute should be spot-on when compared with half and half, you are missing the heavy cream, which can impact recipes that rely heavily on the taste of cream.
5. Evaporated Milk
Next on our list is evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is an easy substitute that many have in the pantry. However, it will alter the taste of your recipe slightly. Although it tastes more caramelized than half and half, it has similar fat content to half and half.
You can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting evaporated milk for half and half. Meaning, however much half and half the recipe calls for is how much evaporated milk you should use in its place.
Because evaporated milk will change the recipe’s taste, this is the last substitute on our list. It works well in recipes that utilize half and half for the fat content more than the taste because the fat content is so similar. The US Department of Agriculture states that the fat content of half and half must be between 10.5% and 18%. Therefore, evaporated milk’s 10% fat content is pretty close to most half and half options.
If you don’t have what you need for the top 5 recommendations listed above, these options can work in a pinch.
- Low-fat Milk (2/3 Cup) and Heavy Cream (1/3 Cup)
- Skim Milk (2/3 cup) and Heavy Cream (1/3 cup)
- Greek Yogurt (same amount as half and half in the recipe)
- Sour Cream (same amount as half and half in the recipe)
Note that using Greek yogurt and sour cream as substitutes will bring a tangier taste to the recipe. You’ll want to keep that in mind when using either as a substitute for half and half.
Before we go, we’ll answer a few other frequently asked questions about using half and half as a substitute for other items when cooking.
Yes, you can almost always substitute half and half for heavy cream. Half and half consists of half heavy cream already, so this is an excellent substitute in terms of flavor and consistency.
You should substitute half and half for heavy cream in equal proportions. However much heavy cream the recipe calls for is how much half and half you should use as a substitution.
This substitution usually works because half and half has a similar texture to heavy cream, so it will have a similar effect on the consistency of whatever you are cooking. It will work best in recipes that use heavy cream as a thickener.
Half and half is an excellent milk substitute in many recipes and types of cooking. Half and half is already half milk, so making this substitution will not alter the taste as much as you might expect.
Generally, you can substitute half and half for milk at equal proportions, so you can go ahead and add the same amount of half and half that you would’ve added milk.
Keep in mind that half and half is much thicker and has nearly double the fat content of milk, so you can expect it to have more of a thickening effect on your recipe. If this is troublesome for your cooking, you can add some water to thin out the half and half while you cook.
Unlike other substitutions, many people substitute half and half for milk even when milk is available. The creaminess and higher fat content of half and half can make baked goods taste even better than when you follow an original recipe that uses milk.
Keep in mind that while it tastes delicious, substituting half and half for milk is less healthy because of the additional heavy cream.
Heavy cream consists of equal parts milk and heavy cream. There are many different substitutions for half and half that you can easily make at home with ingredients you probably already have. Our favorite substitutions involve mixing milk with other creamy dairy products, such as heavy cream or butter.
You can also create substitutes by using cornstarch to thicken milk or water to thin out the heavy cream. If you don’t have those ingredients, a can of evaporated milk can also do the trick. However, it will slightly alter the taste of your recipe.