Skip to Content

What can you use half-and-half for?

Half-and-half is a dairy product that contains equal parts milk and cream. It has a creamy, rich texture and adds luxurious flavor and mouthfeel to many recipes and beverages. But what exactly can you use half-and-half for? Here is an in-depth look at the many versatile uses for half-and-half.

Using Half-and-Half in Cooking and Baking

One of the most common uses for half-and-half is adding it to recipes to make them richer, creamier, and more indulgent. Here are some ways to cook and bake with half-and-half:

  • Cream soups – Make creamy potato, mushroom or broccoli soups by using half-and-half instead of milk or cream.
  • Mashed potatoes – For ultimate creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, use half-and-half instead of milk.
  • Pasta sauces – Half-and-half gives pasta sauces like alfredo or carbonara extra richness and texture.
  • Risottos – For risotto with a luxurious, velvety texture, stir in half-and-half after cooking the rice.
  • Quiches and custards – Half-and-half gives these baked egg dishes a wonderfully silky texture.
  • Pancakes and waffles – Fluffier pancakes and waffles can be made by swapping half-and-half for some of the milk.
  • Creamy salad dressings – Half-and-half is great for making ranch dressing, green goddess dressing and other creamy salad dressings.

When baking, half-and-half can be used to add moisture, richness and tenderness to all kinds of items like:

  • Cakes
  • Quick breads
  • Muffins
  • Biscuits
  • Scones
  • Pies

Generally, you can replace milk with an equal amount of half-and-half in recipes for baked goods. Keep in mind that the higher fat content may shorten the shelf life of some baked goods, so store them refrigerated.

Using Half-and-Half in Coffee Drinks

Half-and-half is valued by many coffee drinkers for adding rich creamy texture without overwhelming the coffee flavor. Here are some of the most popular ways to enjoy half-and-half in coffee and espresso drinks:

  • Coffee – Add a splash of half-and-half to drip coffee or pour-over coffee for a touch of indulgence.
  • Lattes – Equal parts espresso and steamed half-and-half create a classic café latte.
  • Cappuccinos – Frothy half-and-half is perfect for topping a shot or two of espresso.
  • Macchiatos – Add a dollop of foamed half-and-half to espresso for a macchiato.
  • Mochas – Combine chocolate syrup or cocoa powder with espresso and half-and-half.
  • Breves – Make a breve latte by substituting half-and-half for milk in a traditional latte recipe.

The possibilities are endless when making coffeehouse-style espresso drinks at home using half-and-half. Adjust ratios to your taste preferences for a perfect creamy coffee treat.

Using Half-and-Half in Desserts

Half-and-half is a handy secret ingredient to have on hand when making all kinds of decadent desserts. The rich creaminess it adds takes desserts to the next level. Here are some sweet ways to use half-and-half:

  • Puddings and custards – Equal parts half-and-half and milk make amazingly smooth and creamy puddings like chocolate, vanilla or butterscotch.
  • Ice cream – For homemade ice cream with a ultra-rich texture, substitute half-and-half for some or all of the cream.
  • Milkshakes – Blend ice cream and half-and-half for milkshakes that taste like they came from an old-fashioned soda fountain.
  • Parfaits – Layer half-and-half, whipped cream, fruit and crunchy toppings in a parfait glass for an elegant dessert.
  • Diplomat cream – Gently fold sweetened half-and-half into whipped cream to fill layer cakes or top fruit desserts.
  • Fruit sauces – Simmer fruit with a bit of sugar and half-and-half to make easy compotes and sauces for desserts.

When making creamy desserts, you can generally substitute half-and-half for milk or cream. For lighter desserts, try using a 1:1 ratio of half-and-half to milk.

Making Sauces and Gravies with Half-and-Half

Half-and-half can be used to make all kinds of savory sauces and gravies with a creamy, lush texture. Some ideas include:

  • Mushroom gravy – Cook sliced mushrooms in butter, then whisk in half-and-half and seasonings for an easy mushroom gravy.
  • Turkey gravy – After sautéing the pan drippings, whisk in half-and-half to finish Thanksgiving turkey gravy.
  • Cheese sauce – For macaroni and cheese or cauliflower cheese sauce, mix cheese with half-and-half and heat gently until smooth and creamy.
  • Seafood sauce – Poach or sauté shrimp, scallops or fish, then build a creamy sauce with half-and-half and seasonings.
  • Vegetable sauce – Purée roasted vegetables with garlic, then mix in half-and-half and Parmesan for a decadent sauce.

Half-and-half helps emulsify and thicken sauces for a rich, creamy texture. For lighter sauces, try mixing half-and-half with an equal amount of broth or stock.

Making Soups Creamy with Half-and-Half

Adding just a splash of half-and-half can instantly make soups taste richer and creamier. It’s perfect for finishing all kinds of soups, including:

  • Creamy tomato soup – Swirl in half-and-half at the end for classic creamy tomato soup.
  • Broccoli cheese soup – After puréeing broccoli, stir in half-and-half and chunks of cheese.
  • Potato leek soup – Finish with a drizzle of half-and-half and chives.
  • Creamy chicken and rice soup – Just before serving, stir in some half-and-half to make it extra comforting.
  • Creamy mushroom soup – Sauté mushrooms, simmer in broth, then blend and add half-and-half.
  • Loaded baked potato soup – Garnish with half-and-half instead of sour cream.

For lighter soups, try adding just a splash of half-and-half before serving. You can also swirl in or drizzle some half-and-half over individual servings for a fresh, creamy finish.

Making Smoothies and Shakes with Half-and-Half

Half-and-half can be used to add creamy richness to all kinds of smoothies, shakes and frozen drinks. It blends up thick, cold and sweet.

  • Fruit smoothies – Blend fruit like berries, bananas or pineapple with ice, juice and half-and-half for a thick, creamy smoothie.
  • Green smoothies – Spinach, kale and avocado get a creamy texture when blended with half-and-half and frozen fruit.
  • Milkshakes – For old-fashioned soda fountain style milkshakes, use half-and-half instead of milk.
  • Protein shakes – Add Greek yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter and half-and-half for a nutrient rich, creamy shake.
  • Frozen hot chocolate – Blend hot fudge sauce, chocolate syrup, half-and-half and ice for an amazing thick frozen hot chocolate.

Half-and-half adds body, texture and delicious flavor to blended drinks. Use it instead of milk or ice cream to change up your usual smoothie routine.

Making Creamy Soups in the Slow Cooker

Half-and-half mixed into ingredients helps create rich, creamy soups and stews using a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Some recipe ideas include:

  • Creamy potato soup – Cook potatoes, leeks and broth, then stir in half-and-half at the end.
  • Broccoli cheese soup – Add cheese and half-and-half in last 30 minutes of cooking.
  • French onion soup – Caramelize onions on the stovetop first, then slow cook with broth and finish with half-and-half.
  • Chicken and wild rice soup – Simmer chicken thighs, carrots, celery and rice, then break up chicken and stir in half-and-half.
  • Navy bean and ham soup – Purée some of the cooked beans to thicken, then add half-and-half.
  • Creamy tomato soup – Cook canned diced tomatoes in chicken broth with cream cheese, then blend and add half-and-half.

Using the slow cooker or pressure cooker means you don’t have to constantly stir a soup or sauce while cooking. Just add half-and-half at the end for easy creamy flavor.

Making Refrigerator Staples with Half-and-Half

Homemade refrigerator staples like whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk and creamy salad dressing are simple to make with half-and-half. Here are a few easy recipes to try:

Homemade Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup cold half-and-half
  • 1-4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip cream, half-and-half and powdered sugar with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Mix in vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to top pies, cakes, waffles, etc.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Heat half-and-half, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer and stir frequently until thickened to a syrup-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely then refrigerate in a jar up to 2 weeks.

10 Minute Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend. Shake well before using.

Using Half-and-Half for Holiday and Special occasion Recipes

When making foods for holidays, parties or special occasions, half-and-half is a handy ingredient for making recipes extra luxurious. Some festive ways to use it include:

  • Thanksgiving – Add to mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed corn and green bean casserole.
  • Christmas – Use in eggnog, cream pies, Yule log cake, and peppermint hot chocolate.
  • Valentine’s Day – Make chocolate mousse, chocolate-dipped strawberries, crème brûlée or chocolate pot de crème.
  • Easter – Flavor bread pudding, creamy vegetable dips, or frost Easter sugar cookies.
  • Mother’s Day Brunch – Add to quiche, French toast casserole, creamy bacon grits, and fruit salad dressing.
  • Father’s Day – Mix into coffee, milkshakes, mashed potatoes, clam chowder, chicken pot pie and gravy.

Any time you want to impress guests or add a special touch to a holiday meal, consider using half-and-half for rich flavor in appetizers, main dishes, sides, desserts and beverages.

Making Lower-Fat Recipes with Half-and-Half

With 12% milkfat, half-and-half contains less fat than heavy cream but more than milk or light cream. This makes it a good option for lightening up recipes that call for heavy cream without sacrificing too much richness. Try using half-and-half in these lighter recipes:

  • Lighter fettuccine alfredo – Use half-and-half instead of heavy cream for the sauce.
  • Lower-fat potato soup – Replace heavy cream with half-and-half.
  • Lighter macaroni and cheese – Make cheese sauce with half-and-half.
  • Lower-fat chocolate mousse – Fold whipped cream into chocolate half-and-half mixture.
  • Lighter creamed spinach – Sauté spinach in butter, then add half-and-half instead of heavy cream.
  • Lower-fat chicken tetrazzini – Make lighter sauce with half-and-half.

In most recipes, you can replace heavy cream with an equal amount of half-and-half to reduce the overall fat and calorie content while still retaining plenty of richness.

Using Half-and-Half as a Base for Savory Sauces

The neutral flavor of half-and-half makes it a versatile base for all kinds of savory sauces. Try using it in recipes like:

  • Creamy mustard sauce – Simmer half-and-half, Dijon mustard, shallots and thyme, then whisk in butter.
  • Parmesan peppercorn sauce – Heat half-and-half, black peppercorns and Parmesan, then blend until smooth.
  • Creamy horseradish sauce – Mix half-and-half with prepared horseradish, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Roasted garlic cream sauce – Purée roasted garlic cloves into warm half-and-half, then season.
  • Creamy herb sauce – Infuse heated half-and-half with fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, chives or basil.

Almost any flavor can be added to creamy half-and-half to create an easy sauce for seafood, poultry, pasta, vegetables and more.

Adding Richness to Healthy Recipes with Half-and-Half

Don’t avoid half-and-half just because you’re trying to eat healthy. It can be used to add flavor and creaminess to all sorts of nutritious recipes, like:

  • Creamy oatmeal – Stir a spoonful of half-and-half into oatmeal instead of milk.
  • Smooth vegetable purees – Purée cooked vegetables with a little half-and-half for extra-silky texture.
  • High-protein pancakes – Add Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and half-and-half to increase protein.
  • Protein smoothies – Use half-and-half instead of juice or milk for thicker, richer smoothies.
  • Creamy bean soup – Purée some cooked beans into bean soup and stir in half-and-half.
  • Healthy cream sauce – Make lighter Alfredo sauce with half-and-half, Parmesan, garlic and nutmeg.

A little bit of half-and-half can make healthy foods like whole grains, veggies and lean proteins taste more indulgent. Just be mindful of portion sizes when adding it to recipes.

Whipping Half-and-Half for Toppings and Fillings

While half-and-half won’t whip up quite as thick as heavy cream, it can still be whipped to soft peaks for toppings and fillings. Try whipping chilled half-and-half and use it to:

  • Top pies, cakes or cupcakes
  • Fill cream puffs or eclairs
  • Mix into banana pudding or trifle
  • Spoon over waffles or pancakes
  • Fold into cheesecake batter before baking
  • Mix with mascarpone cheese for tiramisu

For best results, whip half-and-half just until soft peaks form – overwhipping can cause it to curdle. Store whipped half-and-half in the refrigerator and use within 2 days.

Making Homemade Cream Substitutes with Half-and-Half

Don’t have heavy cream on hand? You can make easy substitutes with half-and-half:

Thickened Half-and-Half

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Whisk cornstarch into half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened to desired consistency.

Whipped Half-and-Half

  • 1 cup cold half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Using a chilled bowl and beaters, whip half-and-half, vanilla and sugar until peaks form when beaters are lifted.

Half-and-Half Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup room temperature butter
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar alternately with half-and-half. Mix in vanilla. Makes enough buttercream to generously frost a 2-layer cake.

Stretching Heavy Cream with Half-and-Half

Don’t have quite enough heavy cream for a recipe? You can stretch it by mixing with half-and-half:

  • 3 parts heavy cream + 1 part half-and-half
  • 2 parts heavy cream + 1 part half-and-half
  • 1 part heavy cream + 1 part half-and-half

This allows you to keep the richness of heavy cream while making it go farther. The combo works great for recipes like creamy soups, sauces, whipped cream and more.

Storing and Freezing Half-and-Half

Like other dairy products, half-and-half is perishable so proper storage is important. Here are some tips:

  • Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below and use by “use by” date on carton.
  • Check for curdling or off smells and flavors before using.
  • For longer shelf life, pour into airtight containers and refrigerate up to 1 week.
  • Can be frozen for up to 3 months – thaw in fridge before using.
  • Freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store cubes in bags to add to recipes.

With proper refrigeration and freezing, half-and-half can be kept on hand to add creamy richness to all your favorite recipes and beverages for weeks.

Conclusion

With its versatile mix of milk and cream, half-and-half can be used to add indulgent texture, flavor and richness to all kinds of savory and sweet dishes. From creamy soups and sauces to luscious desserts and holiday recipes, half-and-half takes foods to the next level of deliciousness. Keep some on hand to instantly make everyday meals more special.