Half and half is a distinctly American ingredient – one that’s a frequent addition to our coffee and is used in plenty of other situations as well. So, what do you do if you want half and half, but you’re not in the United States?
What about if you simply don’t have half and half on hand, or if you’re looking for a dairy free alternative that has the same properties? In all those cases, you’ll need to look at substitutes for half and half. There’s a surprising number of these to choose from.
The easiest half and half substitutes simply rely on a combination of milk and cream, given that’s how half and half is made anyway. Other substitutes are more creative, such as using evaporated milk, coconut cream, or even silken tofu with soy milk.
While some substitutes have a similar flavor and texture to half and half, most have quirks that make them a little different. It’s important to understand these differences, as they’ll impact which is the best substitute for your needs and how the substitute will affect your drinks and meals. The same principles apply for other types of substitutions too, like when you’re looking for an alternative to milk or baking powder.
Milk And Light Cream
Half and half is simply a 50/50 mix of light cream and whole milk. In the United States it is officially defined as relying on a mixture of cream and milk, with no less than 10.5% milkfat and no more than 18% milkfat.
So, you just need equal measures of light cream and whole milk. Doing so doesn’t give you a half and half substitute. You’ve literally made half and half yourself.
Those ratios are for whole milk. If you’re using skim milk instead, you’ll need a touch more cream and less milk. But, don’t stress about the ratios too much. Most of the time, your substitute won’t need the exact same flavor and richness as half and half. Getting close enough should be completely fine.
Different half and half products vary in their fat content anyway.
Milk And Heavy Cream
Don’t stress if you only have heavy cream. This will still work as a half and half replacement. Here, you’ll need roughly 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 3/4 cup of whole milk. The resulting liquid is a bit richer than true half and half, but the difference isn’t dramatic.
That substitution may be your best bet, as heavy cream is easier to find than light cream. You’re also more likely to have some heavy cream in your cupboard already.
If you’re using skim milk instead, try 2/3 cup of skim milk and 1/3 cup of heavy cream. This version is closer to half and half. You mightn’t even be able to tell the difference.
We know that half and half is basically cream that’s been diluted with milk. Why not try diluting cream with a different ingredient instead, like plant-based milk or even water?
The best ratio will vary depending on the dilution ingredient you use. With water, for example, you might only need a couple of tablespoons of water plus enough heavy cream to make a cup. For substitutes with some fat, like many plant-based milks, you’ll need less cream and more of the other liquid.
Whole Milk With Butter
Here’s an interesting one. Blending melted butter with a cup of milk gives you a similar fat content to half and half. If the milk is too cold and the butter clumps, simply heat it briefly in the microwave and blend again.
The recommended ratios vary depending on where you look. Some authors suggest melting a tablespoon of butter into a measuring cup, then topping this up with milk until you get a cup of liquid. Other authors suggest using a tablespoon of butter (or even two tablespoons) per cup of milk.
You should get a similar effect from related products, like plant-based butter or olive oil butter, if the fat content is similar to butter. The combination of whole milk and butter is great for baking, as you have the right texture and fat content. However, it doesn’t taste the same as half and half, so this isn’t a great substitution for your coffee.
As the name suggests, evaporated milk is a type of milk that’s been heated to remove much of the water. Doing so makes the liquid shelf-stable and gives it a thicker consistency. Evaporated milk is also sweet with a slight caramel flavor.
The milk is excellent as a half and half replacement, as it has a similar fat content. The sweetness and caramel notes mean that your coffee or baking won’t taste exactly the same. However, this flavor shift will often be an improvement rather than a problem.
Evaporated milk is also a very useful substitute, as you only need one ingredient and the milk is shelf stable. This is much easier than hoping you have milk and cream on hand.
Importantly, you’ll need to be certain that you use evaporated milk rather than sweetened condensed milk. Condensed milk tends to be sweeter and more caramelized, so it’s most often used in desserts. It lends a very different flavor than half and half or evaporated milk, so generally isn’t a good replacement.
Most of the substitutes we’ve been talking about start with either milk or cream, then change the consistency to give you a decent half and half substitute. However, sometimes you’ll want to avoid dairy entirely, which is where coconut cream comes in.
Some people use coconut cream on its own as a half and half substitute, as it is rich and creamy. Others use a 50/50 mix of coconut cream and plant-based milk. Doing so decreases the coconut flavor and richness, which can be appealing.
While coconut cream is helpful, it is also less acidic and sweeter than half and half, and has a distinct coconut flavor. This combination of features could change the flavor or consistency of some dishes.
Yogurt is sometimes a good substitute for half and half, as it is thick but not excessively so, and still has a milky flavor. However, yogurt has tangy notes, so it’s not a great addition in your coffee.
You must also be careful when cooking with yogurt, as it can separate when cooked at high heat. This effect can ruin the texture of some meals.
Still, in the right situations, yogurt is a very easy half and half substitute. You can simply replace half and half in a 1:1 ratio.
Sour cream is similar to yogurt, both in terms of texture and tanginess. As with yogurt, the creaminess of sour cream is the main reason for relying on it. This is why it works even though it is thicker than half and half.
Despite the tanginess, sour cream can be an excellent addition. Look for recipes where the sour cream will complement your current flavor profile. For example, tangy sour cream works well in many sweet desserts, like lemon cake. The tanginess complements some savory dishes and sauces too.
Greek Yogurt With Milk
If you want to use a thick yogurt, like Greek yogurt or skyr, then you’ll need to dilute the yogurt to get the desired consistency. Blending in a little milk should be enough to make all the difference.
Greek yogurt can be even tangier than sour cream or regular yogurt, so you should be especially careful about when you include it. Still… don’t be afraid to experiment. Some dishes respond better to tanginess than you might expect.
Milk With Cornstarch
Instead of making yogurt or a similar ingredient thinner, why not make milk thicker instead? You can do this simply by mixing a tablespoon of cornstarch or flour into a cup of milk.
This approach is best kept for when you’re stuck, as your milk and cornstarch mixture doesn’t have the same fat content as half and half, nor does it taste as rich. As such, it won’t be nearly as good.
Silken Tofu And Soy Milk
This substitute is sometimes known as soy creamer. It’s made by blending together equal amounts of soy milk and unsweetened silken tofu. The tofu provides creaminess and richness that soy milk doesn’t have on its own, making it a great addition.
You could also experiment with the ratio of tofu to soy milk. Doing so would give you more control over the texture of the final liquid.
It’s essential to stick with silken tofu for this substitution. Other types of tofu won’t have the same effect at all.
Cashew cream is made by soaking raw cashews in water and then blending them. When made well, the product is thicker and creamier than cashew milk and makes an excellent half and half replacement.
Plus, you can easily tweak the thickness of your cashew cream by adding more or less water. This is how it can act as a substitute for cream, sour cream, or half and half.
Cashew cream is an especially good addition to soups, as it still provides much of the creaminess you need. The flavor is also milder than coconut cream, so it shouldn’t change the dish’s flavor as much.
Diluted Dairy Free Cream
With the popularity of plant-based products, it’s hardly surprising that some brands have made dairy free cream. These will be thicker than half and half, so you’ll need to dilute them with water or plant-based milk before using them in recipes.
Just remember that such products are often heavily processed and may include undesirable additives. Those features mean it’s best to only rely on such products every so often, rather than daily.
Vegan Half And Half
Finally, there are products like Ripple Half & Half, which are vegan half and half substitutes. That product relies on a combination of water, sunflower oil, pea protein, acacia gum, cane sugar, and additives, to give you a surprisingly similar flavor and texture to half and half.
While Ripple and similar companies use an unusual combination of ingredients, their products get closer to the consistency of half and half than other plant-based options. You should be able to use such products in most of the same situations as regular half and half.
Which Half and Half Substitutes Are Right For You?
Vegan Alternatives For Half And Half
Cashew cream and coconut cream are your two best options for minimally processed vegan half and half substitutes. Otherwise, you could turn to a vegan half and half product that’s designed to closely mimic half and half.
Best Half And Half Substitutes For Coffee
Any of the cream and milk combos will be ideal in coffee. They all offer the same flavor profile as half and half, just with variations in their fat content. Coconut cream is a useful option as well. You could even mix this with coconut milk or another plant-based milk to make it less rich.
Best Half And Half Substitutes For Cooking
Dairy substitutes tend to work best for cooking, particularly milk and butter, plus any milk and cream combo. Not only do these give you the closest texture to half and half, but they also behave similarly in your recipes.
If you need a plant-based option, look for a vegan half and half product. Such products are carefully designed to taste and behave like half and half, so they should work perfectly in most recipes.
Best Half And Half Substitutes For Baking
Sour cream and yogurt are both excellent substitutes for baking, if the tangy flavor works in your recipe. Not surprisingly, the correct ratio of milk and cream is excellent too, as this is very similar to half and half.
For a plant-based option, try coconut cream or cashew cream. Both work well and can be diluted to the desired consistency.