If Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer Doesn't Contain Cream, What DOES It Contain?

Don't be fooled by the word cream!

Coffee creamers come in more variations and flavors than we can count, guaranteed to please (or annoy) as many people as possible. In one quick pour, they lighten a cup of coffee and sweeten it, too. But have you ever stopped to wonder what’s in coffee creamer? Most of the time it’s not even cream ― the term creamer here is a total misnomer ― because most creamers are non-dairy.

So what is coffee creamer? In short, it’s sugar, oil and thickeners. By using it, you’ve essentially replaced the cream in your coffee with oil. Yum. (The fat-free and sugar-free kind are made with a similar mixture that uses artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, by the way.)

The more detailed explanation of coffee creamer is, well, a long list of ingredients that don’t sound all that appetizing. But you should know, so here it is:

  • Corn syrup solids ― this stuff is basically sugar, only made from corn
  • Partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil ― this is what gives the creamer a cream-like consistency
  • Sodium caseinate ― a milk protein that contains no lactose but acts as a shelf stabilizer
  • Monoglycerides and diglycerides ― emulsifyers, which make sure the coffee and creamer go together like love and marriage. There’s a possibility that these contain trans fat.
  • Dipotassium phosphate ― a thickener and stabilizing agent

That’s quite a cocktail to stir into your morning cup of coffee. Some creamers may have a few other ingredients, such as artificial flavorings, but that list above is the base of it.

You might want to think about that the next time you reach for coffee creamer. Plain ol’ half and half and white sugar are starting to look a whole lot better.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mistakenly indicated dipotassium phosphate is known as phosphoric acid. It also mistakenly indicated that the anticaking agent sodium alumionosilicate is flammable.

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