Should I Freeze Half-and-Half?

We all know where we stand with milk or cream, don’t we? We know how to store it, how to pour it, and if we can throw it in the freezer when needed.

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But with half-and-half, more of us than we care to admit, stand reading the carton scratching our heads.

It’s more than just dairy, and therefore has different needs. It can be a learning and tasting curve to get used to a world filled with half-and-half.

Perhaps you have found yourself with a full carton, and the use by date is fast approaching. You don’t want to waste it, nor do you want to chug the whole carton in one go. So what are your options?

Can you freeze half-and-half?

Thankfully, you can freeze half-and-half! Popping it in your freezer, half-and-half can last for up to 3 months! Transferring it into a ziplock bag or freezer-safe airtight container will provide better protection than the carton you bought it in.

But how will it taste? Well, should you use your half-and-half in cooking or baking, you are unlikely to notice any changes to the taste or texture. Are you adding it to your morning coffee? A good whisk beforehand, and you will forget that it ever entered the freezer!

Want to know more about freezing half-and-half? Well, stick with us! We have got a whole host of details coming your way. We are going to walk you through the process of freezing half-and-half, as well as covering all your questions.

Keep reading for your one-stop guide to freezing half-and-half!

What is half-and-half?

Before we get into if half-and-half can be frozen and how to do it, let’s have a quick recap for those in the room who might not be too sure what we are talking about. Half-and-half is a mixture of whole milk and light cream.

Usually, half-and-half features 3.5% milk fat and light cream, usually with 18-20% of milk fat. When it comes to half-and-half, the percentage of milk fat included can range from 10-12%, depending on the brand you have purchased.

For those who don’t enjoy whole milk, you can find non-fat or fat-free half-and-half options too. These will have corn syrup or carrageenan alternatives to the cream content. These will have less fat and still deliver a thick and creamy taste.

Freezing half-and-half

Half-and-half isn’t cheap, priced usually as a specialty dairy, so you don’t want any of that going to waste! That’s where freezing half-and-half comes into play!

Designed to increase the longevity of your half-and-half, freezing it becomes a game-changer, especially if you are planning on using the half-and-half for cooking.

So how do you freeze half-and-half? It is best to freeze as a single-serve portion. For example, if you’ll need ⅓ of a cup for ice-cream, freeze ⅓ of a cup of half-and-half ready to be used.

For those wondering about freezing half-and-half for use in a coffee, we have a whole section dedicated to this! For freezing ha;f-and-half for general use, follow the steps below!

  1. Measure out the amount of half-and-half you wish to freeze.

  2. Transfer each serving into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. It’s best to use the smallest bag that's freezer safe and appropriate for your serving size.

  3. Lay the bag flat on a baking sheet to squeeze out as much air as possible. When doing this, let the half-and-half flatten to fill the entire bag with no air bubbles.

  4. Check thoroughly that the bag is sealed.

  5. Write the date you are freezing the half-and-half on and the recommended best before date.

  6. Place the entire baking sheet in your freezer. It’s best not to open the door for 1-2 hours after this.

  7. Once the half-and-half is frozen solid, remove the bags from the baking sheet. You can either stack them laid flat or stand them up against your freezer, whichever you prefer.

And there you have it! Your half-and-half is frozen! Now, if you still have lots of questions, don’t panic! We are here to help and answer any queries; let’s look at some other ways and uses for freezing half-and-half!

Can you freeze half-and-half for coffee?

You can indeed freeze half-and-half and use it in coffee! We would recommend thawing it before using it in your coffee, though, to ensure the taste and texture is to your liking!

Follow the steps below to freeze half-and-half for coffee and how best to use it:

  1. Pour half-and-half into ice cube containers, filling them ½ of the way full. This will be roughly a tablespoon and a half of half-and-half, perfect for adding to coffee!

  2. If you want more half-and-half for coffee, fill the cube trays to full or a level that suits your needs.

  3. Place the tray in the freezer until the half-and-half is frozen solid. Be sure the tray is flat when you place it in the freezer!

  4. Once frozen, remove the cubes and transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Make sure to check it’s freezer safe!

  5. When you are ready to use the frozen half-and-half, remove as many cubes as needed, place them in your mug and leave it overnight in the refrigerator. By morning the half-and-half will be ready for use!

Tip: placing the cup in the refrigerator cools it, ensuring that your coffee is the perfect drinking temperature in the morning! No more burnt mouth or waiting for the coffee to cool; simply drink and enjoy!

Can you freeze fat-free half-and-half?

What about fat-free half-and-half? Well, it doesn’t freeze very well, in all honesty.

Why? It’s mainly due to the ingredients used that replace the cream and fat. These do not survive well in the freezer, and the texture will not be the same!

Even if you shake or whisk the half-and-half, it is unlikely to return to a consistency that will be enjoyable in your morning coffee or any cooking.

Can you freeze half-and-half in the carton?

Half-and-half usually comes in a cardboard carton. It is best not to freeze your half-and-half in the carton, especially if the carton is already open. Instead, opt for an airtight container or freezer-safe Ziploc bag that can be sealed airtight.

However, if you do not have containers to hand or aren’t bothered by using all the half-and-half once thawed, you can pop the carton in the freezer; it is just not something we recommend.

Why? The cartons are not necessarily freezer safe and can become soggy when thawing. Half-and-half also expands when freezing. Any unopened cartons you place in the freezer may not expand with the liquid, spilling some half-and-half! Be sure to check the carton when in the freezer.

If your container splits or cracks, remove it from the freezer straight away. Either repackage the frozen half-and-half and quickly return it to the freezer, or you can thaw the half-and-half for use.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to freeze your half-and-half in portion sizes that are ready for use. It saves defrosting the whole carton for minimal use; after all, we are trying to reduce wasting half-and-half!

Once half-and-half has thawed, do not refreeze. The texture can change substantially, and it can also be unsafe to do so, leaving you with tasteless or even dangerous half-and-half!

How long can half-and-half be frozen for?

The amount of time half-and-half can be frozen for will vary depending on your freezer.

If your freezer gets a lot of use, with the temperature fluctuating every time the door opens, the consistency and flavor of your half-and-half will be at risk when you use it.

However, if your half-and-half has been frozen correctly (using the method we showed you earlier) in temperatures 0F or lower, your half-and-half can be frozen indefinitely!

To enjoy half-and-half at the best taste, use it within the first three months of freezing. You can expect the half-and-half to taste as close to its usual taste with hopefully little texture change too!

How long will thawed half-and-half last?

Once thawed, your half-and-half has a varied shelf life. You will need to calculate the days between the freezing date and the best before date of your half-and-half.

For example, if your half-and-half was frozen on April 1st, 2021, and had a best before date of April 5th, 2021, you will have four days of safe usage of your half-and-half.

Remember to write the date you froze your half-and-half on the Ziploc bag or container, and it’s best before the date so you can accurately work out the usage once thawed. After the half-and-half has passed its usage days, you will need to dispose of it.

How to Use Frozen Half-and-half

When using frozen half-and-half, be sure it is thawed thoroughly before use! Remember to use our thawing method to defrost your half-and-half successfully.

When frozen, the fat and water in half-and-half will separate and can develop a slightly grainy texture.

Once you have thawed your half-and-half, be sure to shake it thoroughly or whisk the liquid. Whisking will return your half-and-half to a smooth and creamy texture, although it might not return to its former pre-frozen glory.

The slight change in texture can be off-putting for some people wanting to use frozen half-and-half in their morning coffees. However, for cooking or baking, you should not be able to notice the difference between fresh or frozen half-and-half! Why not whip up a tasty dish with your frozen half-and-half?

How long is half-and-half safe to use when opened?

When it comes to dairy products, you should always use them before the best before date on the carton. However, when it comes to half-and-half, there is a little bit of leeway.

Carefully storing the half-and-half can extend its shelf life slightly! Unopened half-and-half can see up to 7-10 days of life if kept safely in your refrigerator!

So how do we extend the lifespan of half-and-half? We have got some fantastic tips for you!

It’s best to keep your half-and-half as far away from the refrigerator door as possible! It stops any temperature changes from reaching your half-and-half, preventing anything from happening to it.

As we have discussed earlier, changing temperatures can impact the lifespan and safety of dairy products and is best avoided where possible.

Once your container is open, it’s best to transfer your half-and-half from its cardboard carton to a glass jar with an airtight seal.

An airtight seal will ensure the half-and-half stays fresh for as long as possible. The box container your half-and-half is packaged in never fully reseals, allowing the half-and-half to go off at a quicker rate!

Why not invest in some stylish airtight containers to extend the shelf life of your half-and-half?

How long can open half-and-half be used for?

Once you have opened your half-and-half, it is best to use it within 3-5 days to ensure a fresh and enjoyable taste. Before using it, it's a good idea to shake your half-and-half thoroughly.

Shaking the liquid will reconstitute any milk fat that might have separated, ensuring a smooth texture and flavor. Using an airtight container to store your half-and-half makes shaking it a lot easier too!

For those of you with single-serving sized creamer cups, ignore your refrigerator! These are designed to be shelf-stable, meaning you can pop them in a kitchen cupboard safely.

You can expect a shelf-life of 1-2 months if kept in a cool, dark cupboard. It’s best to place them in a cupboard far away from the oven or any heat sources to ensure a cool space for them.

Why does half-and-half last longer than other dairy products?

There are two main reasons why half-and-half has a longer shelf life than other dairy products.

The first is its higher fat content. The bacteria that colonize milk and cause sickness are attracted to the water content instead of fat. So, in dairy products with higher fat content, such as half-and-half, they can stay free from harmful bacteria for longer.

Another reason is that half-and-half is pasteurized at a higher temperature than milk. Pasteurizing heats the liquid hot enough to kill bacteria without causing the milk to curdle. You will often see “ultra-pasteurized” on dairy products with higher fat content, such as half-and-half and heavy cream.

Ultra-pasteurized dairy is heated even hotter! Ultra-pasteurized dairy is heated to 275F compared to 160F for regular dairy products, killing more bacteria and providing half-and-half with a longer shelf-life.

Substitutes for half-and-half

Wondering what the best substitutes for half-and-half are? A few options are depending on the type of substitution you want.

If you are looking to cut the fat content but maintain the taste and texture, a fat-free half-and-half will be the one for you!

Sometimes finding half-and-half can be a challenge. In these cases, milk with 10-12% fat content will be the closest to half-and-half. Ideally, you want more milk fat so that you can temper it with a lower dairy product to get a similar result!

While an exact match is difficult, there are some similar substitutions you can make! The following are very similar to one cup of half-and-half:

  • ½ cup of 3.5% whole milk + ½ cup of 18% light cream
  • ¾ cup of 3.5% whole milk + ¼ cup of 36% heavy-duty cream
  • 1 cup of 3.5% whole milk + 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup of less than 1% skimmed milk + ⅓ cup of 36% heavy cream
  • 2 cups of reduced evaporated milk
  • ½ cup of coconut cream + ½ cup of unsweetened milk alternative (soy is the creamiest!)

Half-and-half ingredients

What’s in your half-and-half will vary depending on the brand that you purchase. Additives, preservatives, sweeteners, and thickening agents can vary from brand to brand. If you have any allergies, be sure to read the label very carefully!

The purest half-and-half will only include milk and cream to deliver that rich, thick, and creamy taste.

A range of brands also includes some of the following ingredients: corn syrup, artificial flavoring, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, guar gum, v vitamin A palmitate, disodium citrate, dextrose, locust bean gum, sodium citrate, or other similar additives.

What do these ingredients do? Mainly they act as flavor enhancers, preservatives, or thickening agents. Don’t let their scientific or scary-sounding names put you off! These ingredients are all found in packaged foods and are safe to consume.

Nutritional information for half-and-half

How nutritional or calorific is half-and-half? As with the ingredients, the nutritional information will vary from brand to brand based on its additives.

However, you can use the below as a rough guideline. The nutritional information is based on one serving suggestion, which is roughly two tablespoons or 30mls.

In this serving, you can expect to find:

  • 40 calories
  • 3g of fat, 2g of which are saturated
  • 1g of carbohydrate, sugar
  • 1g of protein
  • 15mg of cholesterol
  • 30mg of sodium
  • 45mg of potassium
  • 2% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin A
  • 4% of your RDI of Vitamin C

The nutritional breakdown makes half-and-half a delicious treat or addition to your morning coffee; just be sure to use it as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Half-and-half vs. Heavy Cream

You might be wondering, what is the difference between half-and-half and heavy cream? While they are very similar, it is the fat content that separates them.

As we have said, half-and-half features a combination of half whole milk and half light cream, with a fat content of 10-18%, depending on the brand.

Heavy cream, however, is pure cream with a higher milk fat percentage, between 30-36% depending on the brand.

Often, you can substitute one for the other in cooking or baking. But remember, the fat content can influence how baked goods taste, especially when they react to different ingredients!

Substituting half-and-half for heavy cream will lighten recipes when it comes to soups or causes. Heavy cream can replace half-and-half and watered down where necessary to adjust the fat content of your dishes.

However, half-and-half cannot be used as a substitute for whipped cream or whipped recipes when it comes to substituting. Half-and-half will not hold together as well as heavy cream will when whipping!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, freezing half-and-half is easy to do and allows you to extend the life of the smooth and creamy liquid!

Why not freeze yours today and have a portion of half-and-half to hand whenever you need it?

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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