Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Health Differences & Full Comparison

Half and Half vs Heavy Cream

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Health Differences & Full Comparison

Half and half vs. heavy cream, what's the difference and how can you use them? We're going to look at what they are, their nutritional facts, and how and when you should use each of them. The main difference between the two is that half and half has less fat content than heavy cream.

Half and Half vs Heavy Cream Nutritional Facts
A trick many people on the Keto diet like to use is putting heavy cream in their coffee because it has a lower carbohydrate count.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Nutritional Facts

According to the FDA, half and half is a mixture of milk and cream that contains between 10.5-18% of milk fat. They define heavy cream as a cream that contains 36%+ milk fat. Because heavy cream has a higher fat content, it is noticeably thicker and has a richer taste. Because half and half is a mixture of cream and milk, it is thinner in consistency and has a milder taste.

Since heavy cream has more fat than half and half, it is higher in calories and cholesterol. Per tablespoon, heavy cream has 51 calories and half and half has 20 calories. For cholesterol, heavy cream has 17 milligrams per tablespoon and heavy cream has five milligrams. Heavy cream actually is lower in carbohydrates with 0.4 grams per tablespoon and half and half with 0.65 per tablespoon.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: How It's Made

Half and half is made by mixing heavy cream and whole milk. Some half and half is equal parts while others have more milk than they do heavy cream. Heavy cream on the other hand is made by separating the layer of liquid fat off the top of whole milk in the plant while its being processed. Although this is how it is manufactured, you can make heavy cream at home by mixing milk and melted butter.

Ice coffee in a tall glass with cream poured over and coffee beans. Cold summer drink on a blue rusty background with copy space
Cream in coffee is the most common use for half and half. You can also flavor your half and half at home for a specialty at-home drink.


Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Common Uses

The most common use for half and half is in coffee! Anywhere you order coffee, you'll always be asked if you want cream and sugar. When asking for cream, half and half is what is served. The most common use for heavy cream is in baking or cooking. With a higher fat content, it makes for rich and creamy dishes.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Consistency

Besides thickness, you can notice a difference in the consistency between half and half and heavy cream. This isn't something you'd always be able to point out if cooking with these ingredients. But, if you're plainly tasting them back to back, you'll notice that the heavy cream will leave a silky feeling in your mouth because of its higher fat content.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Taste

As far as taste goes, half and half most often tastes similar to milk depending on the ratio of its makeup. Because it's a mixture of milk and cream, it's a tad more flavorful than just plain milk. Heavy cream is rich in flavor, but less sweet than half and half since it doesn't contain any milk (and milk often has sugar in it).

white porcelain plate shrimp rosa prawn ziti pasta noodles creamy Alfredo marinara blend sauce garnish green parsley isolated
Adding half and half or heavy cream can make your dish deliciously creamy for well-rounded flavors.


Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Recipes

Both half and half and heavy cream are used regularly in cooking. Here are some recipes where you can use your half and half and heavy cream.

Half and Half

  • Panna Cotta
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Coconut Cream Pie
  • Tres Leches Cake
  • Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken
  • Pudding
  • Creamy Basil Pesto Pasta
  • Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Heavy Cream

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Up close of Mostaccioli Pasta

Penne with Creamy Vodka Sauce (Uses Heavy Cream)

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  • Author: Moms Who Think



12 ounces penne or any tube-shaped pasta
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper for taste


1. Cook the penne according to the package directions, drain and keep warm.

2. Combine the tomato sauce and vodka in a large saucepan over medium heat.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Decrease the heat to low and stir in the cream.

5. Simmer for 1 minute to heat through.

6. Add the cooked penne and the cheese and cook for 1 minute to heat through.

7. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream: Conclusion

Infographic comparing half and half and heavy cream.
Since half and half is a mixture of milk and cream, it is thinner in consistency.
  • Many people may consider half and half over heavy cream because of the lower fat content. Keep in mind that the higher fat content in heavy cream is essential for many recipes to turn out right.
  • As the name suggests, heavy cream only contains cream. Meanwhile, half and half contains both milk and cream.
  • Half and half is thinner than heavy cream, which is known for its thick richness.

Although there are some key differences between these two ingredients, for the most part, they can be used interchangeably, you'll just notice a slight difference. If a recipe calls for half and half and you use heavy cream, you'll find that your end result might taste creamier and richer. If you use half and half when the recipe calls for heavy cream, you might notice that your dish lacks depth in flavor and thickness in texture. It's important to make sure you use heavy cream not half and half if your dish requires a high-fat content. But, if you need heavy cream and only have half and half, mix the half and half with butter to give it a higher fat content!

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