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Substituting fat free half & half for cream

  • b

When I substituted fat free half & half for cream, it curdled. What did I do wrong?

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  1. Nothing, perhaps. First thing I'd wonder is if the half and half is fresh or sour....

    1 Reply
    1. re: 280 Ninth

      Does that stuff spoil? It's got so many artificial ingredients I would have guessed it would last forever.

      I've never used the product, but does it work identically to "real" half-and-half in all cooking situations? Since its constituent parts are different, I'd have assumed it behaved differently when heated.

    2. Depends on the recipe. Did you add it to an acidic sauce? I guess it also depends on what you were making that orginally called for cream.

      1 Reply
      1. re: leanneabe

        If your recipe had very much acid or used high heat, I would guess that is your problem. Cream, exactly because of the high fat content, is able to resist curdling by emulsifying the mixture and preventing the denatured (messed up) proteins from aggregating with each other. I think the emulsifiers that they add to fat-free half and half just do not protect the proteins as well. I would guess that in general, any recipe in which regular half and half could be used could tolerate substitution with the fat free version, but that unless the recipe mixes heavy cream and milk together (a soup for example) I would stick with the heavy cream or find a different recipe.

      2. I've used it in several recipes. Rice pudding, quiches, and chowders, right off the top of my head. I've never had a problem. The rice pudding is cooked and comes out real creamy. Same with the chowders. Certainly keeps the fat content down, and we're all trying to reduce calorie intake so it's been a godsend. I actually have been experimenting with a low fat quiche and even using eggbeaters with the fat free cream it taste pretty good. Yes, it can spoil. I always try to use it completely fresh.

        1. I read a little blurb on the best non-fat Half and Halfs in the most recent Cook's Illustrated last night. It said that all but one brand curdled in soups. I think the brand that did not curdle was Land Of Lakes, but you may want to doublecheck the issue to be sure.

          1. IMO, FF half-half tastes aweful in coffee. I would wonder whether too-high heat made your recipe not work out. Maybe try tempering the half-half before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

            1. I had the same problem. I used it in a tomato soup recipe and it curdled immediately.
              I wasn't sure what the problem was and thought maybe it was the acid, but now I think it simply won't hold up in soups. I doubt if I will try it again...I don't want to waste good ingredients OR my time.

              1. Well, cream doesn't have a lot of protein as compared to milk, and it's the proteins that curdle. That's why it's much trickier to use milk than cream in soups, for example. Cream is a lot easier to use over heat. Fat-free dairy is the hardest thing to use.

                1. Acid curdles milk. The more butter fat in the milk product, the less the curdle is visible. High acid recipes call for heavy cream..46% or so. The dairy product does actually curdle, but the curdle is non detectable.
                  Whenever you have acid such as vinegar, or even tomatoes in a recipe you have to use real cream. I don't know what you are cooking but with some things... cream of tomato soup for instance, you drop a bit of baking soda in the tomato soup and then it foams up, the acid is reduced and you can add milk.
                  Now I have a question... There is a non-fat cream??? That has to be a really strange thing since cream is judged by the about of fat in the milk. I think I am really getting old.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: The Old Gal

                    Yes, it is a truly stupid name for a product that has always confounded me - it's not like it tastes anything like real half-and-half. Whatever happened to non-fat condensed or evaporated milk (which products don't necessarily curdle the same way because they are already fairly processed)???

                    1. re: Karl S

                      That fat free half and half is, in my opinion, really nasty. The Land o' Lakes one, at least, is full of corn syrup, I believe.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I am just trying to imagine "fat-free butter" or "fat-free vegetable oil". (Shudder)