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Substitute for Sour Cream


You’ve most likely consumed sour cream in one form or another over the years. You never truly realize how many recipes use sour cream until you forget to buy sour cream at the store. Below you’ll find a substitute for sour cream for any occasion or recipe.

two containers with sour cream and large tablespoon filled with white sour cream

What is sour cream?

Surprisingly, sour cream is a newer ingredient that only started being used in Western countries in the 1900s. It originated in Eastern Europe (specifically Russia) and was initially created by leaving the cream out until it soured. This is where the name sour cream originates.
Sour cream is an updated version of a sour alcoholic milk drink (Kumis) The Mongols consumed. As they traveled across Europe, more people were exposed to the drink and started getting creative over the years with the ways they created it, thus producing sour cream in the early 20th century.

Now, it is created by taking cream and adding lactic acid bacteria to it, creating a sour taste. It’s very similar to the process of making yogurt. It contains vitamins like A, B2, B12, as well as minerals and calcium.

Sour Cream Substitutes and Alternatives

Below you’ll find a list of alternatives for those who have run out of sour cream or need a dairy-free substitute. Cooking tips are also listed for each option.

1. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is the next best sour cream substitute. It provides both the sour flavor and a similar consistency as sour cream does. It’s also relatively easy to bake with and adds moisture to any sweet loaves you make (like banana bread). Greek yogurt also works well with savory dishes – like a topping for chili, soup, or even tacos.

Greek yogurt is preferable over standard yogurt as it provides a thickness that mimics sour cream better. It’s also easy to swap out full-fat Greek yogurt for low-fat Greek yogurt in recipes without sacrificing flavor, moisture, or taste. Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and provides a lower fat content and number of calories than full-fat sour cream.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use Greek yogurt in a 1:1 ratio for recipes that generally require sour cream.
  • Use unflavored Greek yogurt to avoid any strange taste combinations for savory recipes.

2. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is another excellent sour cream replacement. While it may lack the tangy taste associated with sour cream, it provides a creaminess and dairy taste to dishes in which you use it. Many people use cottage cheese as a healthy alternative in their dishes due to the amount of protein, essential nutrients, and low calories it contains. It has a subtle flavor, so you can add it to most dishes without overwhelming the other ingredients or seasonings.

Cottage cheese works best to replace cooked recipes like soups, sauces, or even baked goods. Keep in mind; cottage cheese does have added salt in it, so you may want to use less additional salt in your dishes when using this swap.

Cooking Tips:

  • Include a few tablespoons of lemon juice in your dish to create a similar flavor to cottage cheese.
  • Blend cottage cheese with a few tablespoons of milk for creamy recipes like sauces. You can use this mixture in a 1:1 ratio for sour cream.

3. Crème Fraiche

Crème Fraiche is another sour cream replacement that can be easily used in many recipes. It’s richer and heavier than sour cream, so you’ll want to use this for more decadent dishes. Consuming this ingredient in moderation is key.

Crème Fraiche is typically available in most grocery stores and can be found in the same section that sour cream is generally in. If your local store is out of sour cream – you can grab a container of this instead. The process of creating crème Fraiche is nearly identical to sour cream as it requires the use of heavy cream and a bacterial culture. It does have a thicker consistency and lacks the tangy taste sour cream provides. Crème Fraiche works well in sauces and soups to create thick and decadent final products.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use crème Fraiche in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for sour cream.
  • You can add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to crème Fraiche to create a more similar taste in your recipes.

4. Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a great sour cream baking substitute. It provides a similar sour taste to any desserts it’s added to. Due to its thinner consistency, it’s ideal for use in baked goods, dips, or salad dressings. It is not recommended to use buttermilk as a topping as it will be too runny and will make the food soggy. Initially, buttermilk was created by letting milk stay out at room temperature until the cream separated. This process allowed the leftover liquid to ferment. Now, it is created by heating milk and adding bacteria in after the heating process.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use ¾ cup of buttermilk for every 1 cup of sour cream in recipes.
  • Buttermilk works well for breakfast recipes as well – include it in muffins, pancakes, and other similar dishes.

5. Coconut Milk

If you’re swapping sour cream out for a dairy allergy or dietary restrictions, coconut milk is a fantastic sour cream alternative. You’ll find coconut cream to have a slightly sweet and coconutty flavor, though this does not mean it can’t be used for savory dishes. Coconut milk provides a thick consistency and decadence to any meal it’s included in. It comes specifically from mature coconuts with a brown exterior.

If you’re seeking a replacement for sour cream in baked goods, you can use the coconut as-is or add one tablespoon of lemon juice for that same tanginess. For savory dishes, use the same lemon juice (or vinegar) plus a sprinkle of salt. Use a 1:1 ratio for coconut milk.

Cooking Tips:

  • Coconut milk naturally separates in the can. You will want to use only the fatty section that floats to the top as a substitute.
  • For baked goods, refrigerated coconut milk works best. You’ll still want to use the section that’s on top of the liquid.

6. Vegan Sour Cream

Vegan sour cream is another substitution for sour cream that is great for those avoiding dairy. With veganism becoming more apparent in recent years, it’s now easier than ever to find alternatives like this at your local grocery store.

The benefit of using vegan sour cream is that it mimics standard sour cream quite well in flavor and consistency. You may notice a slightly different taste, as most are made from coconut cream, almond milk, or tofu though it’s still a great replacement. It’s also a great alternative as it has no restrictions on what can be done with it. This is one of the most versatile options for a sour cream substitution.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use vegan sour cream as you would regular sour cream – for toppings, desserts, baking needs, soups, etc.
  • For a swap, use a 1:1 ratio in recipes.

7. Cashews

Cashews are commonly used in vegan cooking as a thickening agent or a base for soups, sauces, and even a topping. They can also create rich, thick dips in a pinch and don’t require much preparation. In other words, they are a great sour cream substitute. They’re excellent for creating creaminess in dishes due to their high-fat content.

In order to use cashews as a replacement, you’ll need to make homemade cashew sour cream. Add cashews, lime juice (or apple cider vinegar), and salt to a blender until a creamy consistency and minimal lumps are achieved. You can add more lime juice during this process if you’re seeking a thinner cashew sour cream. The final product is a tangy and rich version of a dairy-free sour cream. Cashew sour cream is not ideal for baked goods, though it can be used for most other recipes.

Cooking Tips:

  • Cashews work best when soaked for 30 minutes to one hour before using in any recipe.
  • Use a 1:1 ratio for cashew sour cream as an alternative to standard sour cream.

8. Kefir

You likely have seen kefir in the store recently with its growing popularity. This drink is created from fermenting cow milk, sheep’s milk, and even goat milk depending on the variety purchased. Many people compare it to drinking thinner yogurt. It has a slightly sour taste similar to buttermilk.

The consistency of kefir, as noted above, is much thinner than sour cream. Due to this difference, it is not a perfect swap, as it will not work with all recipes. The taste of kefir is creamy, similar to sour cream. Though, the flavor is much more robust and tangy.

Kefir works well for sweet recipes like muffins, pancakes, other baked goods, and sauces. As kefir is thinner, it cannot be used as a topping for soups. Though, you can use it in soups to add creaminess.

When purchasing kefir, opt for the unflavored and unsweetened variety as it allows more recipe options. You can most likely find a bottle of kefir in your nearby grocery store.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sour cream with kefir.
  • Make sure to shake kefir in the bottle well before using it in recipes as it can separate.

9. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is an excellent swap as it contains a similar flavor. As a swap, cream cheese offers a more subtle taste that is slightly sour. Sour cream, on the other hand, has a strong flavor with a bolder sour taste. Both have a creamy consistency and add creaminess to dishes you include them in.
These food items (cream cheese and sour cream) are both created from dairy products.

Milk and cream are combined to make cream cheese, while only cream is used for sour cream. This difference in ingredients is what provides both consistency and taste variation.

In recipes, the taste difference will be noticeable. However, you can add some milk and lemon juice to cream cheese to provide a similar consistency and sour flavor. This is an easy way to add versatility to this option.
Cream cheese works well for dips, sauces, baked goods, and even as a dollop on top of soups. This swap works best when thinned for recipes.

Cooking Tips:

  • Once thinned, use in a 1:1 ratio to replace sour cream.
  • You will want to let cream cheese warm up to room temperature before use, as it will be easier to work with.

10. Mascarpone Cheese

Mascarpone cheese, like sour cream, is made from cream. When using mascarpone as a swap, you’ll notice a similar taste to sour cream. However, there is a difference in sourness as mascarpone has a milder flavor. You’ll also notice mascarpone has a sweet taste to it.
Besides differences in flavor, there are also differences concerning consistency. Mascarpone has a much richer texture that is also creamier than sour cream. This cheese has a similar thickness as a dessert mousse you’d find at a restaurant.
Many people refer to mascarpone cheese as Italian cream cheese. It is another replacement that is created from cow’s milk. This cheese is spreadable, and you can use it in both savory and sweet recipes. It works well in baked goods to provide a more decadent taste. Add mascarpone to pasta dishes, soups, and rice dishes for a richer consistency.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement.
  • As with cream cheese, you can add a few drops of lemon juice to create a more similar tanginess like sour cream.

11. Heavy Whipped Cream

Heavy whipped cream is an easy option that offers a similar consistency to sour cream. This replacement is created by whipping heavy cream (no flavoring or sugar needed) with a small amount of citric acid. The citric acid is what provides a tangy flavor like what you would find when consuming sour cream.
As you’re using unflavored whipped cream, it works well in both savory and sweet dishes. You can use this substitution in nearly all sour cream recipes ranging from baked goods to soup thickeners. You likely have an open container of heavy whipping cream at home. If not, it’s easy to find at nearby stores making this a convenient option.
If you are short on time, heavy whipping cream can also be used as-is. However, this will on work as a swap in soups and sauces to provide a creamy texture.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use heavy whipped cream in a 1:1 ratio as a swap.
  • To create a tangy taste, add one tablespoon of lemon juice to heavy whipping cream before whipping it.

FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions that can aid you in your cooking endeavors with sour cream and its alternatives.

Can I substitute milk for sour cream?

Yes, you can substitute milk for sour cream in recipes like sauces or soups. Again, you’ll want to add two tablespoons of lemon juice to provide the tangy taste sour cream offers. You can use this alternative for both savory and sweet desserts, though you may find sweet desserts less moist with this method, particularly sweet loaves.

What can you use instead of sour cream or mayonnaise?

While it depends on the recipe you’re using; a few good substitutes are Greek yogurt or vegan sour cream. Both work well to provide a tangy taste and similar consistency.

What replaces sour cream in banana bread?

You can use buttermilk to replace sour cream in banana bread. It provides a similar flavor and adds richness to the banana bread. Another great option is cream cheese – it can be mixed directly into the batter for a decadent loaf.

Is sour cream or mayo healthier?

From a calorie perspective, sour cream is healthier. Two tablespoons of sour cream contain 52 calories, while one tablespoon of mayo has approximately double the amount.

Summary

Homemade sour cream and vegan sour cream offer the best switches for your culinary needs. Both are versatile, provide the same taste and sourness, and match the consistency. In a pinch, you can use Greek yogurt as a backup option if you don’t have time to create sour cream or can’t find vegan sour cream at your nearest store – even as a topping for baked potatoes.

The above list will help you cook with confidence even when you notice you are out of sour cream, are seeking a healthier alternative, or looking for a dairy-free option.

Recipes with Sour Cream

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large white plate with sliced quesadillas and small dish filled with dressing

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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