You know how it goes. You’ve got a hot date coming over, and everything’s ready… but darn it all to heck: you’re out of whipped cream! You raid your fridge, and all you can find is half-and-half. So you’re left with one burning question: can you make whipped cream from half-and-half?

Don’t press that panic button, because we’ve got you covered. No need to dash to the supermarket. You shall have your whipped cream.

So let’s take a look at whether it’s even possible to make whipping cream with half-and-half, how to go about it, and some other things you can use instead of that heavy cream.

(And you’d totally be serving that whipped cream to your hot date alongside some delicious lemon meringue pie, of course! Why? What else did you have in mind…?)

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Danil Nevsky/Stocksy United

Yep, it’s completely possible to make whipped cream from half-and-half. That’s good news, right?

Well, sort of. It’s good news if you’re in a pinch — you need some whipped cream in a hurry, or you just bought a fresh punnet of strawberries and the mood for whipped cream has taken you unawares. But it’s definitely not going to be the same as a real-deal whipped cream.

It’s the fat in heavy cream which makes it ideal for whipping. It has a much higher percentage of butterfats (30 to 40 percent) compared to half-and-half (12 percent). This makes sense, given that heavy cream is, well, cream. Half-and-half is equal parts cream and milk, giving it a thinner consistency.

While you can whip half-and-half, it’s not going to sit in those lovely, fluffy peaks that we associate with a good whipped cream. Also, its runny nature means that it’ll try to revert to liquid form as soon as you take your eye off it.

Why would you use half-and-half instead of full cream?

It might seem terribly inefficient to use half-and-half instead of full cream, seeing as it just refuses to whip as well as its full-fat counterpart. But there are some really good uses for it.

Aside from making a good emergency whipped cream, it’s a healthier option. Look again at those fat percentages for the half-and-half and heavy cream — it’s not even a competition. So if you’re trying to keep an eye on your fat intake while still enjoying your desserts to the fullest, half-and-half might just be your new BFF.

But it’s not just whipping cream where half-and-half will lend you a helping hand. You can use it in pretty much any recipe which calls for a heavy cream without adding anything to it or do anything fancy.

Making scrambled eggs, soups, pasta sauces, or curries that call for full cream? Sub in an equal amount of half-and-half, and your saturated fat intake may thank you for it.

If you want to use half-and-half to make whipped cream without adding anything to it, you’ve got to follow one golden rule: keep it colder than your ex’s heart.

Yup, you’ve got to compensate for half-and-half’s lack of fats and make up for it in pure chilliness. The cold will give half-and-half a thicker, more sluggish consistency, allowing you to whip it up. But you have to make sure that it, and everything it touches, is absolutely ice cold.

Here are the haps when it comes to whipping up a storm with the ol’ half-and-half:

  1. Keep the half-and-half in the coldest part of your fridge, until you’re ready to use it.
  2. Then, put the half-and-half, your whisk, and even the mixing bowl, into the freezer (we really weren’t kidding about keeping it ice cold).
  3. Leave it in there for a while.
  4. Then take out the cream, whisk, and bowl, and whip it real good. (Remember that it deflates faster, so you’re going to want to whip it just before you serve it.)

If this is starting to sound like an awful lot of effort but you’ve already committed to using half-and-half, don’t fret. You can thicken up your cream and make it easier to whip by adding butter to it. Simply melt some butter, and mix it in — you’ll want to use an amount equivalent to about 1/8 of the amount of cream.

Will it taste as good as a standard whipped cream? Umm, honestly… no. But if you’re in an emergency whipped cream situation, it’ll make for a passable substitute.

So if you’re craving a heavy cream substitute that’ll whip up into a frenzy, or if you have dairy intolerances, what should you go for?

There are a few alternatives available to you, whippable and nonwhippable. Yay! You might want to try the following:

  • Silken tofu and soy milk. Want to give the joy of whipped cream to the vegan in your life? Pop equal amounts of silken tofu and soy milk in a blender. The result will be a thick, animal-free cream which will taste pretty darn good if you add sugar to it. Plus, it whips up a treat.
  • Coconut cream. You can make it at home by chilling full-fat coconut milk in the fridge, and pouring away the leftover liquids. Give it a firm whisk, and it’ll act just like regular whipped cream — just with a delicious coconut taste.
  • Evaporated milk. Yup, you guessed it — it won’t whip very well. But if you’re looking for a general alternative to heavy cream, evaporated milk does a pretty bang-up job. It’s thicker than milk, but lighter than cream, meaning you can easily sub it into recipes which call for the heavier stuff.
  • Greek yoghurt and milk. Want a cream alternative that still has that thickness? Try Greek yogurt. It’s thicker than heavy cream and will give you the consistency you crave. You can thin it out using milk, but remember that the thinner it gets, the worse it whips.
  • Soy milk and olive oil. Need a general alternative that hits all the right vegan notes? Soy milk and olive oil is a surprisingly good combo. The oil should make up about 1/3 of your mixture. It’s not whippable, but it’s great for baking.

You can indeed use half-and-half to make whipped cream. But you won’t really get the best results by using it.

If your need for whipped cream is insatiable and half-an-half is all you’ve got, then you’ll need to thoroughly chill it in the fridge before moving it to the freezer. After a while, you’ll need to take it out and whip it. Everything needs to be Arctic-levels of cold to make it work. And even when it does, it’ll deflate pretty quickly.

If you need an alternative to heavy cream for health or diet reasons, there are some pretty good options — vegan included! (Although getting them to whip can be tricky, too.)

So if you need whipped cream for the most perfectly Instagrammable dessert, you may be better off sticking with heavy cream. Half-and-half might be the healthier option, but for whipping, heavy cream rises to the top!