Cream, milk and half & half

I have several recipes that call for equal volumes of cream and milk. Is there any reason not to just use half & half for the combined volume?

Diana B
  • Posted by: Diana B
  • March 17, 2015


boulangere March 17, 2015
Diana B, I use a Pearson's Square ( to determine how much of 2 ingredients needed to yield a third, in this case milk and cream to create half and half (typically 12% fat), which as has been mentioned is not actually half and half of anything. If you have whole milk (4% fat) and heavy cream (40% fat), you would need 78% whole milk and 22% heavy cream. If you have 2% milk, you would need 74% milk and 26% heavy cream.

Just for fun, here is a breakdown of fat levels of dairy products:
Half & half: 12%
Table cream (also known as light cream, and both are pretty obscure any more): 18-20%
Whipping cream: 35%
Heavy cream: 38-40%
boulangere March 17, 2015
P.S. That said, when your recipes call for equal volumes of cream and milk, use equal volumes of cream and milk. Sorry; sometimes I get so caught up in an explanation that I forget its original point.
Angela March 17, 2015
I've seen half-and-half listed as being 12-18% fat (which is quite the range). I view it as equal parts skim and heavy cream. I've made a spreadsheet that will calculate out mixes of whatever dairy I have on hand to get me to a fat equivalent of what a recipe calls for.
Unless your recipe is going to be sensitive for chemical or structural reasons, like needing to be whipped, then I think you'd be fine to try it once and see how it goes. I often substitute in less fatty options in custards, but I wouldn't try it the first time before something special, in case it didn't set as expected.
Diana B. March 17, 2015
The recipes in question involve making a custard; I have used half & half and even buttermilk in them with satisfactory results, but I just wondered if I was missing something. Thank you all for your responses!
irina March 17, 2015
I do it all the time. If fat is not an issue in the dish, then it doesn't matter.
I have even added some soy milk to cut the dairy load.
hardlikearmour March 17, 2015
It's not a 50-50 ratio. Whole milk is approx. 4% fat, heavy whipping cream is 36-40% butterfat, and half-and-half is 10.5-12% fat. A 50-50 mix gets you about 21% fat. A better mix would be 1/4 heavy cream to 3/4 whole milk which puts you around 12.5% fat. (If you have plain whipping cream, which is 30-35% fat, you'll be at about 11% fat)
Nancy March 17, 2015
HLA. I stand corrected. Good to learn something new. But now another question arises, could one just use some heavy cream, diluted with water, to reach the approx 21% fat level?
hardlikearmour March 17, 2015
I'd say no, because there are other components to milk and dairy that you'd lose.
Nancy March 17, 2015
Sounds good to me, especially if it makes your grocery shopping easier.
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