How to Get Half-and-Half to Thicken

Half-and-half is interchangeable with heavy cream in many recipes.
Half-and-half is interchangeable with heavy cream in many recipes. (Image: Eising/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Thicken half-and-half, which is ½ milk and ½ light cream, to create a dairy product that is 10.5 to 18 percent butterfat. Although heavy cream contains a minimum of 36 percent butterfat, thickened half and half is still a valuable addition to recipes calling for light and heavy cream. Thickened half and half adds flavor and a richer thicker consistency to soups, sauces and desserts. Benefits of half-and-half include reduced calories and cholesterol. As an added benefit it is generally less expensive than heavy cream.

Things You'll Need

  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon

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Pour the half-and-half into a large saucepan and place it on the stove burner.

Heat the half-and-half on the burner’s low setting. The thickening process is slow and reducing 2½ cups requires several hours.

Add 3 tbsp. sugar and a pinch of salt to every 2 ½ cups of half-and-half. Stir the half-and-half frequently with a wooden spoon until it is cooked down to half of its original volume, or thickened to the degree you desire.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the microwave at medium setting to reduce the half-and-half.
  • Reduce the half-and-half before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. The reducing process is difficult to time and the thickened half-and-half may not be ready when the rest of the recipe calls for it. Store the half-and-half in the refrigerator until it is needed.
  • Extra half-and-half, after thickening, can be stored in the freezer.
  • Stir the half-and-half frequently to avoid scorching it.


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