Culinary Arts

How to Make Sour Cream: Easy Homemade Sour Cream Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Jul 19, 2019 • 2 min read

Best known as a topping on Mexican-American favorites like burritos and nachos, sour cream is a divisive condiment that diners either love or love to hate. With a high fat content and creamy texture, sour cream is an easy and indulgent way to add richness and acidity to just about any savory or sweet dish.


What Is Sour Cream?

Sour cream is a fermented dairy product that is created when lactic acid bacteria is introduced to cream, denaturing the whey proteins in the cream and thickening the liquid. While store-bought sour cream can be made with a variety of preservatives, flavors, gelatin, and other fillers, homemade sour cream typically consists only of heavy cream and added bacteria. In order to officially be designated as sour cream, the creamy ingredient must have a minimum of 18 percent butterfat, according to the FDA. In addition to its flavor benefits, sour cream is also a source of calcium and vitamin A.

Why Bake With Sour Cream?

Sour cream makes a great addition to baked goods, thanks to its creamy mouthfeel and pleasant acidity. Adding this tangy ingredient to cakes, muffins, and bread loaves will result in moister baked goods than those made with milk. In a pinch, sour cream can also act as a replacement for other high-fat ingredients like heavy cream, yogurt, and even whole milk during the baking process.

How to Substitute Sour Cream

The bright, creamy, sour taste of sour cream can be replicated with other dairy-based ingredients including:

  1. Greek yogurt
  2. Cottage cheese
  3. Crème fraîche
  4. Buttermilk
  5. Plain yogurt
  6. Labneh
  7. Kefir

Store-bought varieties of regular sour cream are also available in a “light” option, made with half-and-half, for those who want a low-fat option. Dairy-free and gluten free vegan sour creams can also be found at some specialty stores or made at home with cashews, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, nutritional yeast, water, and lemon juice.

Homemade Sour Cream Recipe

This super simple DIY recipe is an easy way to put fermentation to work in the kitchen. When it comes to the dairy product used in the recipe, not all milk products are created equal. Nonfat milk and ultra-pasteurized cream are not recommended as a replacement for heavy cream, but home cooks can opt for using half-and-half or raw cream as an alternative. Cooks can also choose to invest in a sour cream starter culture, which is packed with probiotics and will create a flavorful final product.

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup store-bought or homemade buttermilk
  1. Pour heavy cream and buttermilk into a clean mason jar, seal tightly, and shake thoroughly until combined.
  2. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature between 24 hours and 2 days, giving the lactic acid bacteria time to ferment, thickening and souring the mixture. The high acid content will prevent the dairy based mixture from going bad.
  3. Store the homemade sour cream in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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