3 Ways to Make a Substitute for Half-and-Half

Never Spend Top Dollar for Half-and-Half Again

A bottle and glass with milk on a wooden table

Krisanapong Detraphiphat / Getty Images

Making a substitute for half-and-half is as simple as mixing two everyday ingredients together. Here's what you'll need to grab from the fridge to save yourself a trip to the store and some dollars, and still keep your recipe on track. These tricks take under two minutes and make 1 cup of half-and-half. 

These substitutes work well in baked goods, soups, and other cooked dishes, but a word of warning—they won't whip, so they shouldn't be used in any recipe that calls for whipping half-and-half, such as homemade ice cream.

What Is Half-and-Half?

Half-and-half is a combination of equal parts milk and cream. Specifically, half whole milk and half heavy cream. Commercially produced half-and-half is between 10 percent and 18 percent milk fat. 

Illustration showing three substitutions for half-and-half
The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

3 Substitutes for Half-and-Half

When making your substitute for half-and-half, just about any type of milk and cream that you have on hand will get you in the neighborhood of this percentage. Below we outline three ways to make a substitute for half-and-half that involve a variety of combinations of whole milk, heavy cream, butter, and low-fat milk.

The goal is to be able to use whatever you have on hand so that you don't need to make a trip to the store. For example, if you only have nonfat milk and light cream in the fridge, that will work. You'll come up a smidgen short in the fat content, making it less creamy, as that combination will give you about 10 percent milk fat. But in most cases, that will be close enough to get the job done.

1. Whole Milk and Heavy Cream Substitute

If you happen to have some whole milk and heavy cream in the fridge, you can make your own half-and-half by mixing the two together in equal parts. So if you need 1 cup of half-and-half, you would combine 1/2 cup of whole milk with 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

It's the closest substitute you'll get to commercial half-and-half and uses ingredients that you already have at home.


Heavy cream should keep fine in your refrigerator for about a month, so it should still be OK if you bought it a week ago, or two or even three.

2. Whole Milk and Butter Substitute

For this half-and-half substitute, you'll need about a cup of whole milk and a tablespoon of butter or margarine. 

Drizzle the butter into a measuring cup and top it off with the milk. If you need more or less than a cup, just maintain the same ratio: 1 tablespoon of butter to almost-a-cup of milk. Your recipe will turn out great.

3. Low-Fat Milk and Heavy Cream Substitute

If your household doesn't use whole milk and only uses low-fat milk, you can still create a half-and-half substitute. Use 2/3 cups low-fat milk and combine with 1/3 cup heavy cream. Again, the fat content for this combo will be more toward the 10 percent side, but it will still create a wonderful substitute when you can't, or don't want to, go to the store to buy a carton of half-and-half.

Save a Little Money

Half-and-half is a convenience item, so you'll pay a premium for it. Just keep milk and cream in the fridge and mix up your own half-and-half as you need it. You'll have one less container taking up space in your refrigerator and one less thing to worry about using up before it spoils.

If you only need half-and-half or heavy cream occasionally, just keep some heavy cream in the freezer and pull it out as needed. It freezes beautifully—just pour it into an ice cube tray. If you're using your half-and-half to make sauce or another dish that you'll be heating up on the stove, you can even add the frozen cream and milk directly to the pan. It will thaw as the dish cooks, creating your half-and-half, and it will save you the step of having to thaw the cream.

Another option is to keep powdered heavy cream in your pantry. It can be reconstituted to create heavy cream or half-and-half in whatever amount you need. You may not find it in your grocery store because it's a specialty item, but it's readily available online.