What's the Difference Between Sour Cream and Crème Fraîche?

Ingredient Intelligence

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While sour cream and crème fraîche are both used to add richness and tangy flavor, are they really just the same thing? And is it worth paying the premium for crème fraîche?

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How They're Made

Sour cream is made by adding lactic acid culture to cream and sometimes milk to thicken and sour it. In France, crème fraîche was traditionally made from unpasteurized cream that naturally contained the right bacteria to thicken it. Since our cream is pasteurized here, crème fraîche is now made by adding fermenting agents with the necessary bacteria to cream.

It's cheap and easy to make your own crème fraîche: DIY Crème Fraîche

The Differences Between Sour Cream & Crème Fraîche

Sour cream has a fat content of about 20% and may include ingredients like gelatin, rennin, and vegetable enzymes to stabilize it and make it thicker.

Crème fraîche has a fat content of about 30% and does not contain any added thickeners. Crème fraîche is thicker, has a richer flavor, and is less tangy than sour cream.

Which One Should I Use?

Choosing between the two all depends on how you plan to use it. Because sour cream has less fat but more protein, simmering or boiling it will result in curdling, so use crème fraîche in sauces or soups instead (unless you just stir sour cream into something once it's cooked and off the heat).

If using in a salad or as a topping, they're pretty much interchangeable and the choice is yours — some people like the tanginess of sour cream, while others like the richness of crème fraîche.

Since crème fraîche is a specialty grocery item and costs more than sour cream, think about what you're making so you make the right choice at the market!

(Image credits: Faith Durand; Martha Stewart)

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