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Mar 13, 2012 04:42 PM

Can heavy cream be replaced with reduced fat in a bisque without losing texture or flavor?

I'm going to be making Dublin Bay Prawn Bisque by Cathal Armstrong this weekend for friends. It calls for 4 cups heavy cream & 2 cups half-and-half.

Can I use reduced fat? I don't want to lose texture and too much flavor. Does it cook the same?

Here is a link to the recipe


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  1. I think reduced fat might compromise the texture of the bisque (eg. it may not be as velvety rich) - I would try adding whole milk - it will take a margin of fat out of the recipe without sacrificing too much texture or flavor. Maybe 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 2 1/2 cups whole milk and 1 cup of half-and-half would work well?

    4 Replies
      1. re: Sra. Swanky

        2 1/2 cream + 2 1/2 milk + 1 cup half/half ....doesn't this just equal 6 cups half and half ?

        not being snarky, just trying to check if that's right. i don't use half-and-half that much so i'm not sure where it falls in the butterfat scale.

        1. re: seamunky

          haha!! You're right! I totally didn't realize that! It's good way for rHairing to still use the heavy cream though. Too funny!

          1. re: seamunky

            Actually, not really. It depends on what kind of cream you have. It would have to be very light cream for a true half & half mixture to equal commercial half & half. Heavy Cream is 36-40% milkfat and half & half is 10.5% in the markets, so actually a three to one mix of 2% milk and heavy cream is about right (2+2+2+36/4=10.5).

        2. I use fat free half & half & a bit of cornstarch for the mouthfeel in mine....not traditional but very good and way less calories.

          30 Replies
          1. re: Cherylptw

            I second this! The first time I saw "Fat Free Half & Half" I burst out laughing because it is such an oxymoron. So after scoffing for a few months, I tried it. A very pleasant surprise! I buy Land O Lakes brand, and the flavor is "on the nose" for full "real" Half & Half. I think this will work for you very well, and cherylptw's suggestion of a little corn starch mixed in to give that thicker mouth feel should be a plus as well. Good luck!

            1. re: Caroline1

              NO!!! Fat-free "half and half":

              Ingredients: Ingredients: Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Cream*, Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides*, Vitamin A Palmitate, Color Added (Ingredient not in regular half & half)

              NOT FOOD.


              Definition of half and half: The United States dairy product known as half and half is a mixture of one part milk to one part cream.[1]

              1. re: sandylc

                But obvioualy you've either tried it or are very clever at tracking down contents on line. If you've tasted it, you know it's not a bad imitation. Pretty darn good, in fact. The OP's objective seems to be to reduce the fat content in the recipe. I still think fat free Half & Half is a viable way to do just that. '-)

                1. re: Caroline1

                  this is one thing I just can't agree with you on, Caroline.

                  Fat-free half and half = blerg.

                  I'd use *all* half and half before I'd ever head to those depths...and all the brands of fat-free dairy I've tried tend to break dramatically when heated.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    i cannot go with "fat free" half and half -- and i have tried it. it has the carageenan thickener, which just squirrels it for me! it also has a strange sweet flavor…..i guess from the corn syrup.

                    if i were making the bisque and also wanting to reduce the fat, i'd just use all half and half.

                    nothing but full fat cream will ever get you the mouthfeel of full fat cream.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      First time out, I would just go ahead and follow the recipe and not worry about the fat content. After all, no one is going to be having a big bowl of it three times a day for two weeks. Eat the soup and skip dessert if you have to. Or vice versa. It's a personal call. (But I'd be pretty hurt if a guest refused to even taste my soup!) But the OP was lookin for ways to reduce the fat content of the soup, and this is honestly what I would try. But NOT for a dinner party. I would have a trial run first.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        i agree…..i'd try it as written first. as you say, no one will be gulping big bowlfuls if the stuff.

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      I frequently use fat free sour cream when making beef Stroganoff, and it never breaks UNLESS I overheat it and let it reach a boil. But full fat sour cream does exactly the same thing. I will also add that I've never cooked with fat free Half & Half, but was assuming it would work well. I do not think yogurt. full fat or not, will come close to the flavor profile called for in the recipe. I would try about a half recipe using the ff H&H before making the full recipe for company. But that's just me. I firmly believe that nothing tastes identical to any given two people. We all taste just a little different than the rest of us. The ff H&H could taste "off" to one person and not to another. I'm one of those people who cannot handle the flavor of safflower oil, yet others swear it is flavorless. Life is a mystery! '-)

                    3. re: Caroline1

                      For me it's a matter of using real foods, not fake processed foods. to reduce the fat in something that has a bunch of cream, the solution is to sub half and half or whole milk or some combo of the two for some or all of the cream, not to start adding processed stuff.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Well, for me, I have an "allergy" problem with fat: It makes me swell up AND stay that way! But seriously, I do have to limit my fat intake. I don't have a gall bladder. And a high fat content diet really does pack the pounds on me. So.... If/When I want to simulate the fatty foods I used to know and love, I can only recreate them on a restricted fat level by using things like fat free sour cream and other "processed stuff." I know... Some food things can kill you. Oh, well... I'm 78 years old and no longer afraid of dying... After all, no matter how you slice it, birth is the beginning of a terminal process. '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Ouch...that's too bad about your GB.....I hope you feel well despite missing a part or two.

                          We all do what we must have obviously found what you have to do.

                          I try to avoid processed food as much as possible for health, taste, value, and quality reasons - just how my family does things!

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Worse things can happen than losing your gall bladder. My fat restrictions have a lot more to do with weight than with not having a gall bladder. A week after the laporoscopic surgery, my surgeon insisted that I join him and his office staff for lunch from... Chico's Taco's in El Paso, TX, the greasiest food in town! No problemo! '-)

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        I've tasted it and I think it's awful.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Some brands absolutely are! And sometimes "good tasting brands" change their formula and join the "bad tasting brands." Such is life. '-)

                        2. re: Caroline1

                          If you want your soup made with milk and thickeners, I don't understand why you wouldn't just use milk and thicken it with a little roux. It won't be the same as with cream, but it'll be actual food and it'll probably still taste good.

                          Most thickeners used in processed food aren't terribly heat stable anyway, so by the time you serve your soup, you may find it's just as watery as if you'd used nothing but milk. Or worse yet, it could separate.

                          I should add, there's nothing in that ingredient list that's scary -- carageenan is not dangerous to consume -- but eh. I prefer to eat a food-based diet as much as I can.

                          1. re: Exy00

                            carageenan is derived from seaweed - so absolutely food (The Irish thicken custards with the stuff).

                            I just don't like the mouthfeel.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Well, by that definition anything at the supermarket is okay, because it's all derived from food. (Except for the salt, which is a rock.)

                              I'm not saying it's dangerous -- like I said, there's nothing really scary in those ingredients -- but a processed fakey food product (fakey because it's trying to mimic half-and-half) is not likely to lead to a great bowl of soup. Just cutting back on the cream in favor of milk will make something that's less rich but still good.

                            2. re: Exy00

                              Jeeeez! WHERE did I say I want my soup made with milk and thickeners? The OP asked for thoughts on a way she came up with to reduce fat content and asked if there were any more. I made a suggestion. It does happen to be one of things I would consider at the top of my "to try" list. I don't want to ague with you that my way is the only way. I am a fairly competent cook. But I insist the NO ONE, least of all you, do things my way. Okay?

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Sorry, I wasn't trying to insult you but that's what fat-free half-and-half is. And so was my thought about using milk and roux. It's milk and thickeners either way.

                                1. re: Exy00

                                  Well, I'm obviously cranky tonight. And this is interesting because after I entered my post, it was deleted. Now it's back. Chowhound exists in a curious dimension.

                                  There are probably at least twenty or thirty ways to accomplish what the OP is interested in doing. Some, such as rice as the traditional thickener, are very old. Some, such as fat free Half and Half, are very new. "New" is rarely in and of itself a bad thing, yet there are always those who greet it with shock and dismay. The culinary lexicon is changing rapidly, and for those of us who have been around long enough to have experienced a time when there was a precise lexicon of haute cuisine, we miss those times! "Molecular gastronomy," or whatever you want to call it, has turned tradition on its head and uses all sorts of "chemicals" to achieve making familiar foods nearly unrecognizable and ridiculously expensive in very elite restaurants. Are the chemicals dangerous? Maybe if you overdose on them. But at those prices, who can afford to do that? My understanding is that this soup is to be a one night thing. Whether she uses the recipe link she offers or modifies it by using one or more of the suggestions here, her guests will probably be touched she cares about them enough to cook for them. How and what she cooks is her decision.

                                  I am still baffled why some threads go on and on and on amicably, other threads lead a very short amicable life, then every once in a while a thread comes along that is pure melt down! Curious....

                        3. re: Caroline1

                          No one has mentioned it, so I will - xanthan gum provides a mouthfeel that is closer to that of fat and usually a slightly cleaner flavor release than cornstarch. It would be my go-to choice for emulating the texture and feel of full-fat sauce when cutting the fat partially but not entirely. Also less problematic from a carb standpoint, if that's a concern to anyone.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            these gums cause gastric problems in some people, like moi. also, it doesn't sound so nice to add to a shrimp bisque.

                            """"Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris, used as a food additive and rheology modifier,[2] commonly used as a food thickening agent (in salad dressings, for example) and a stabilizer (in cosmetic products, for example, to prevent ingredients from separating). It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gum.""" wiki.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              Guar gum is known to cause more in the way of gastric problems than xanthan gum. Xanthan gum has been in use by industry for quite a while and has a very good track record for safety as a foodstuff, significantly better than many common ingredients that no one bats an eye at when suggested. That said, I'll take your word for it that it causes you problems. But... I don't refrain from suggesting peanuts in a recipe just because a small minority of people have [severe] problems with em, unless those problems have already been stipulated. Same thing goes here.

                              As to its textural effect in a bisque, part of the reason I suggest it is because it is a common ingredient in storebought bisques, where it's used pretty much for the very reasons I outlined above - it leaves a very silky, fatty mouthfeel without dampening flavor. Of course, if I were just trying to make a bisque taste as good as possible, it wouldn't use it - I would use cream. But when cutting the fat and maintaining the texture and flavor, it's a better option than corn starch or carrageenan, IME. Different effect from a flour based roux, which kind of adds its own element (as well as some fat and carbs) which may or may not be desirable. I haven't tried rice starch for this kind of thing, so I can't compare that. I'd suggest you try it before you knock it, but I guess that doesn't really apply to you specifically.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                After several weeks of experimenting with gluten-free baking for an upcoming column, I bow down at the xanthan gum altar.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I think there's been a remarkable amount of "culinary myopia" in this thread, and while you and alkapal are being very civil (as always) you two are a great example of how and why one size rarely fits all. I don't think there is any food that is safe and/or good to all people. Things have gotten pretty sticky when some have thought their way is the only way, or that "chemicals" are unacceptable. Chemicals are what food is made out of, whether it comes from a plant, an animal, or a test tube. '-)

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    The sticking point seems to be whether a naturally occurring chemical is identical to a manufactured chemical. On the face of it, the answer is "yes," but there are no long-term studies and people are suspicious. (Personally, I won't touch HFCS.)

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      That commercial by the HFCS folks that it's all sugar and your body doesn't know the difference REALLY grates on me. In fact, I think it should be banned because it simply is not true. I am allergic to high fructose corn syrup, but not nearly as severely as I used to be. I attained most of my allergies through blood transfusion. Four units of what I have come to call, "sangre de wino." In that initial hyper-allergic phase I was allergic to all foods except white rice. Until your allergist tells you you MUST avoid corn in all forms, you have no idea how pervasive it is! Allergies can sure make your everyday diet expensive!

                                      What "Agribusiness" has done to our food supply is frightening when you get down to an overall survey of the problems. Agribusiness has given us rampant heart disease from eating grain fed beef, mad cow disease, frequent e-coli outbreaks, high fructose corn syrups, and tasteless tomatoes, to name but a few of their science-gone-wrong masterpieces.

                                      And you're absolutely right. There is no way of knowing what some of these "magic tricks" will do to us in the long run. Scary! But I am grateful for Daisy fat free sour cream so I can still have my occasional Stroganoff...! '-)

                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                Cowboy: "No one has mentioned it, so I will - xanthan gum "

                                LOL! I gotta admire your spirit, Cowboy. You're willing to toss in just any old hair trigger, aren't you? One time I ran into an elderly lady acquaintance in a supermarket where she was working her way through the ice cream freezer looking for ANY ice cream made without xanthan gum and/or carrageenan. I told her to buy some heavy cream and an ice cream freezer and make her own. Sometimes I suspect that the average allergy free shopper NEVER reads the content labels on foods they're familiar with and/or like. It's a funny world we live in. '-)

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Ehhh, this site is more interesting when people are willing to float the occasional unpopular suggestion out there. ;)

                          2. no, it doesn't cook the same or taste the same. Whole milk will still taste wonderful but the silkiness of cream cannot be replicated.
                            If you don't want the cream, why not make some other kind of shrimp soup??????

                            1. You could make a very thin bechamel with a small amount of blond roux and a lot of 2% milk. It won't be the same but the white sauce will add a bit of the thicker mouthfeel. I used to do this for a faux Alfredo sauce until I decided the carbs were worse than the fat.

                              1. Use some plain yogurt (non-fat, of course)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Yogurt will break and curdle unless you change the recipe and just add it at the end, off the heat. But the inherent sourness will throw the whole flavor profile out of whack. You certainly wouldn't use six cups of it to replace all the dairy.

                                  1. re: acgold7

                                    Use a mix of reduced fat and yogurt, and add it at the end like you say. A little sugar will cut the sourness.