If you've got some half and half in your fridge and it's nearing its "best by" date, but you're not yet ready to use it, you might start to worry and think you ought to dash out and buy a new carton. But hold on just a moment. What about freezing it?
Can half and half be frozen?
Short answer. Yes, it's perfectly freezable, especially if you plan on cooking with it rather than putting it in your coffee. You don't need to throw your half and half away if it is nearing its "best by" date.
You must give it a good shake or whisk it after defrosting to mix back in any separated butterfat, but that's all.
If you're wondering how safe it is to freeze half in half and what it will taste like after unfrozen, I'm thrilled to share the findings of the experiments I carried out. All you have to do is to read on.
The general lowdown
You could not only freeze half and half cream, but you could also freeze milk, heavy cream, and non-dairy milk. However, you might find that the overall taste and texture change a little once it's been defrosted, which is why I prefer to use defrosted half in half for baking and cooking.
So, if you've got some half and half that you want to freeze before it goes off, I recommend saving it for cooking rather than, say, spooning it into your coffee.
Half and half explained.
Half-and-half is an everyday expression that most Americans recognize and use here in the US. But our British friends, for example, don't use it, so it's worthy of a quick explanation.
Half-and-half is a dairy product that contains 50% whole milk and 50% cream—resulting in a product that's thinner and lower in fat than heavy cream.
You can buy it in most supermarkets here in the US but not in the UK or Europe. It contains between 10% and 18% milkfat. Must not be mistaken with whipping cream containing between [30% and 36% milkfat] or heavy cream with 36%+ fat.
It is synonymous with coffee creamer to enhance cereal flavor or sweeten hot brew or tea. Its fortified fat content makes it rich and creamy. You can also use half and half to add creaminess to pasta sauces or scrambled eggs.
However, it doesn't have ample richness to be spooned on a slice of apple pie like heavy whipping cream. Nonetheless, it is quite luxurious.
Half and half varieties
There's another variety of half and half, commonly called the fat-free half and half. However, before you put this in your shopping basket, you should read the label first, thinking it's a healthier option.
The fat-free version substitutes milkfat with corn syrup and thickeners, so it's not exactly as healthy as you might think.
What does half and half taste like?
Half-and-half tastes like milk, but it is thicker, milkier, and more toothsome. It doesn't contain any sweeteners, so it's not overly sweet, but from my perspective, it has more flavor than ordinary milk.
That being said, it is not customarily devoured by itself.
Many coffee lovers who use half and half as a coffee creamer rather than milk say that it is creamier, decadent, and moderately sweeter. I know a few people who used to have milk and sweetener in their coffee but are now in favor of using half and half instead and are very happy with the result.
Apart from amplifying the taste of your coffee or hot brews, its downy texture and heightened flavor make it great for using custard-based desserts, including crème brûlée, ice cream, and panna cotta.
Can half and half be frozen?
As I mentioned earlier, half and half freezes nicely. It is on the same level as a specialty dairy, yet it is reasonably priced. Just a tad pricier than other milk products.
It's not something you want to throw away if you've got leftovers, so it's good to know that freezing is an option when using it in a recipe.
It's a good idea to freeze it in single-portion sizes. That means you don't have to defrost more than you need, which reduces wastage.
How to freeze half and half?
The first thing to do is to measure out your portion sizes – i.e., a quarter of a cup or a third of a cup, etc. once you've done that, follow these steps:
- Place each serving into a separate, resealable freezer-safe bag.
- Choose the small-sized pack you have that amply accommodates what you're freezing.
I usually allocate the half and half I'm planning to freeze into ½ cup or full cup portions.
Carefully lay the bag flat, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal.
I then lay my bags flat on a cookie sheet. Once they're frozen, you can then stack the bags on top of each other in your freezer. It allows you to store several sheets half-and-half without taking too much space.
Do a quick double-check to ensure that none of the bags are leaking.
Write the date you froze your half and half on the bag together with your recommended "best before" date. It will keep in your freezer for up to 3 months as a rough guide.
Put the baking sheets with the half and half bags laid out flat into your freezer and allow it to sit there for at least an hour. I usually leave them for a couple of hours to make sure.
Once the half-and-half is frozen, you can then remove the bags from the baking tray and stack them on top of each other in your freezer to save space.
Freezing half and half in portions for coffee
You can quickly freeze half and half in portion sizes just right for adding to your coffee, although I don't recommend adding it frozen to hot coffee. It reduces the temperature too much. It's best if you defrost it first.
Here's the thing:Just in case you find half and half curdles in your coffee, what I learned based on my experience is to microwave the coffee (with half and half) for 20 seconds. Then gently mix it to agitate the mixture and serve.
Zapping it in the microwave helps liquify the curdles to re-incorporate them into liquid form. It tastes the same.
Follow these steps:
The best container to use is an ice cube tray. A typical tray holds 1 oz in each well, equivalent to 2 tbsps. However, you only need to fill each well halfway full.
If you only fill a half portion for each well, it yields you 1 tablespoon of half and half, which is perfect for me.
I don't know how you like your coffee but for me, putting 2 tbsps of half and half in my brew would make it too weak. You'll find the right level for yourself with a bit of trial and error.
Transfer the half and half to the ice cube tray and place into your freezer, and allow to freeze until solid.
Remove the tray from the freezer and transfer the frozen half and half cubes into a freezer-safe resealable bag.
When it comes to defrosting, which is imperative before adding to your coffee, you need to know how much coffee you'll be drinking the next day and how much half and half you need to defrost.
Whatever the quantity is, remove the appropriate amount of frozen half and half cubes from the freezer, transfer them into a mug or milk jug, and store them overnight in your refrigerator.
Next morning you will defrost it and make it ready for use after a quick stir to remix if it splits while thawing.
Extra Tip:If you’re just defrosting enough for one cup of coffee, you can transfer the frozen cube into your favorite coffee mug and store the mug in your refrigerator.
Use that cool coffee mug to make your coffee drinkable without waiting to cool instantly.
How to freeze half and half leftovers
The best way of freezing leftover half and half is to transfer it into a clean plastic container with an airtight lid. I usually use a small-sized Ziploc bag to freeze leftovers.
When you pour the liquid into the container, it's best to allow an inch of airspace as the half and half will expand as it freezes.
Lay the bag flat on a baking tray and flash freeze for at least an hour. Once it is frozen, you can pile the bag (or bags) on each other in the freezer without taking too much space.
How to freeze small servings of half and half
The best way to do this is to use the same ice cube tray method described above under the header of apportioning it for coffee.
If you want the servings to be a little more than my suggested coffee mug portion, instead of half filling the ice cube tray, fill it. It renders 2 tablespoons worth of defrosted half and half.
It's nice and simple because you can take out as little or as much as you want to defrost at a time.
How about freezing half and half in its carton?
If your carton is unopened, it's okay to freeze it as-is. However, if the carton has been opened, it's not okay. Once you open a carton of half and half, you allow air to get to the product, which is no good if you freeze it.
It would be best to transfer it into a resealable container or zipper-lock type bag, from which you can extract the air. Doing so decreases the risk of the package rupturing in the freezer and saves space.
Even if you contrive a way of extracting the air and resealing an opened carton, you'll have to use it again when reusing it.
What happens when you freeze half and half?
When you freeze half and half, the fat and the water it contains will separate, developing a somewhat grainy texture. When you defrost it, you'll need to shake it vigorously or even whisk it.
What about re-freezing half and half?
It is not advisable to refreeze half and half or any other dairy product that you previously froze. The original containers that half and half are sold in are not specifically freezer safe.
However, if the carton is unopened and you're not worried about having to use it all once you defrost it, you can freeze it as it is, although it's not something recommended.
The problem is that half and half expand when it freezes, but the unopened carton may not. If the carton does crack or split, you need to immediately remove it from the freezer, repackage it, and get it back into the freezer quickly before it thaws.
Alternatively, you can allow it to defrost and then consume it, but you're likely to throw some away, which is a bit of a waste.
How long can you store half and half?
Once you've opened a carton of half and half, you can store any leftovers in your fridge for five to seven days. If you want to keep it any longer, you'll need to freeze it.
Don't forget that your half and half can become a little grainy once frozen and defrosted, so it's best to reserve it for baking and cooking usage.
How long does half and half last in the freezer?
Providing you package and store it properly, frozen half and half will retain its top quality for up to 3 months. However, providing you keep it at a constant 0°F, you will be able to consume it beyond that time, but the quality will deteriorate slightly.
The best way to defrost half and half
Like most other frozen products, the best way to defrost frozen half and half is to remove it from the freezer, transfer it immediately into your fridge, and leave it overnight. Thawing it slowly and gently in the refrigerator is the best way. However, it is likely to split due to the butterfat clumping.
If you need to speed it up:
- Fill the sink with cold water and place the bag or milk jug in it for a while.
- Change the water when it warms to room temp.
- Figure every 30 minutes or so to be on the safe side.
Restoring half and half to its original consistency
The best way to restore half and half to its best consistency is to whisk it gently until all the ingredients mix back together.
It's then ready for use either as a coffee creamer or in baking/cooking recipes.
Half and half's shelf life
As you know, milk can turn pretty quickly after opening. On average, you can store it in your fridge for a couple or three days past its "best by" date.
However, even though most people store milk in their fridge doors, that's not the best place for it. It's best stored at the back of the fridge, where the temperature is constantly cooler.
As half and half is made with 50% milk, you'd think it would have a similar shelf life. Somewhat surprisingly, it actually lasts longer. You can keep it for seven and ten days past its "sell by" date.
If you happen to have any of the half and half caps (the sort you'll find at diners) - you can keep these in your fridge for up to 6 months.
Don't buy fat-free half and half
If you want to cut down on your calories, you can buy low-fat half and half. However, don't opt for fat-free half and half.
Although it's still called half and half, and you'd expect it to be 50% milk and 50% cream, it contains no cream at all. It is just skimmed milk thickened by corn syrup and other additives.
For example, although it has fewer calories, fat-free half and half contain double the amount of sodium, plus artificial coloring, disodium phosphate, and guar gum.
If you're looking for a low-calorie option, it's best to buy the low-fat variety or use skimmed milk.
Either way, you'll consume fewer calories than you would with full-fat half and half, but without ingesting the other unwanted additives that the fat-free variant contains.
Making your own half and half
There's no reason you shouldn't make your own DIY version of half and half. After all, it's only milk and heavy cream.
All you have to do is make up a 50-50 concoction of milk and cream, and as long as you mix it well enough, you can use it equally well as a coffee creamer or in a recipe for baked items and other dishes like sauces for pasta or soups.
Okay, it won't have been professionally homogenized, but it will do the job quite nicely. You can combine low-fat milk with heavy or low-fat cream if you're watching calories.
Another option, if you don't have any cream available, is to add a tablespoon full of melted butter to one cup of whole milk. It will give you a similar taste and consistency to that of shop-bought half and half.
Frequently asked questions
If you use half and half, that is on the turn, it could make you ill, and you might experience having diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, or bouts of vomiting.
You’ll probably get away with having a small sip but should avoid drinking large quantities.
What are the signs that half and half have gone off? The tell-tale signs that half and half or light, whipping, or heavy cream have gone off include curdling (lumps forming in the liquid) and a strong sour smell.
If you use it as a coffee creamer, and when you pour it into your coffee, you notice circles forming on the surface, indicating that it is beginning to turn.
Where to find half-and-half when out shopping? You can usually find half and half in the dairy aisles of grocery stores and supermarkets.
It is available in pint-sized or quart-size containers, so it’s best to buy the smallest size according to what you will be making to avoid leftovers.
If you want to take the trouble, you can buy shelf-stable mini cups or capsules of half and half in warehouses or stores that supply restaurants.
They are selling them in packages of 100. They keep well at room temperature for up to 6 months, so you’ll find them in many diners. It’s always best to check the expiry date before purchasing.
It is possible to whip half and half. Although it contains less fat than 100% heavy cream, it’s best to get it nice and cold before whipping it. You will get a decent result, but the stiff peaks won’t last as long as they would if you were whipping heavy cream.
Once everything’s nice and cold, it should well satisfactorily. The best way of doing this is by pouring half and half into a bowl. Along with the whisk, put it in your freezer for a short while. Don’t forget it’s there, though; otherwise, it will freeze.
You shouldn't refreeze any dairy products, and the same goes for half and half. That's why it is advisable to divide it into portion sizes before freezing.
That way, you can take out just what you need at the time rather than defrosting the whole thing and having leftovers that need disposal.