How to Make Sour Cream

updated Aug 3, 2022
How to Make Sour Cream Recipe

It's easy to make the tangy, creamy condiment from 2 ingredients you already have on hand.

Makes1 cup

Prep3 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Spoonful and bowl of sour cream
Credit: Maria Do

If your refrigerator is anything like mine, half of the space is jam-packed with condiments. Those tubs of miso, sticks of butter, and bottles of salad dressing can add something special to simple weeknight meals. Instead of buying more sour cream from the store, I like to make the tangy, creamy condiment from what I already have on hand. It helps keep my grocery bill in check (something I prioritize as much as flavor when it comes to meal planning), and it avoids food waste.

Commercial cultured sour cream is made by adding lactic acid cultures to heavy cream, giving it a thick texture and tangy flavor. Homemade sour cream requires just two ingredients: heavy cream and an acid, like freshly squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar. I like to use a ratio of 1 cup cream to 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar.

Combine heavy cream and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a clean glass jar and stir with a clean spoon. Cover the jar loosely with a paper towel or coffee filter to allow for airflow while protecting the cream as it sits out. After about 24 hours the cream will have thickened slightly. Give the cream a stir and move it to the refrigerator for longer storage.

Credit: Maria Do

What Can You Substitute for Sour Cream?

If you don’t have 24 hours to devote to thickening cream on your counter, try one of these other sour cream substitutes.

  • Plain regular or Greek yogurt. Plain yogurt is an obvious swap for sour cream, given they are both creamy and tangy dairy products. Keep in mind that regular yogurt has a thinner consistency, while Greek yogurt has a texture closer to sour cream.
  • Cream cheese. Soften cream cheese at room temperature or in the microwave. Then add enough milk or cream to thin it out to your desired consistency. You may also want to add lemon juice or vinegar to boost the acidic flavor.
  • Mayonnaise. Although mayo isn’t a cultured dairy product, its creamy consistency can be an acceptable substitute in dips and dressings. This substitute works best when mayo is mixed with yogurt or buttermilk.
  • Buttermilk. When you’re looking for a creamy tang, buttermilk can be just the thing. While it does not have the thickness of sour cream, it is useful for adding the flavor of cultured dairy.
  • Mexican crema. This is a lightly soured cream that is slightly thinner than sour cream.

How to Make Sour Cream Recipe

It's easy to make the tangy, creamy condiment from 2 ingredients you already have on hand.

Prep time 3 minutes

Makes 1 cup

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Place 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a clean 1 pint glass jar and stir with a clean spoon until combined. Cover with a paper towel or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Let sit at room temperature ( 72°F to 78°F) for 24 hours until thickened and tangy. Stir well, cover with the lid, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. The sour cream will thicken more upon refrigeration.