What if you could learn how to make sour cream at home, instead of relying on store bought plastic tubs? Let me let you in on a little secret: This homemade sour cream substitute couldn’t be easier and it requires only two simple ingredients.
We love to make and eat Mexican dishes here, and those require (yes, require) a dollop of sour cream. The trouble is, every dollop of tangy flavor comes with a price: disposable packaging. Sure, we reuse those containers, but what if we could eliminate them entirely? Thus my deep dive into how to make a substitute for our sour cream habit. The best part? Turns out it’s incredibly easy!
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How to Make Your Own Sour Cream
This sour cream substitute is made by combining heavy (or whipping) cream with an acid. This mixture, allowed to sit at room temperature overnight, will thicken and become perfect as an ingredient in your favorite dip or add it to this spicy mayo recipe for extra creaminess.
If you look at the side of some store bought sour cream containers, you’ll see ingredients like grade A whey, modified food starch, sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, guar gum, carrageenan, calcium sulfate, potassium sorbate, and locust bean gum. That’s a lot of artificial thickeners and other extra stuff in your favorite dairy topping.
Traditional sour cream is fermented at room temperature with a starter culture. This means keeping a starter sour cream culture on hand, though, and that’s kind of a specialty item. I’d really rather work with what’s readily available to me. So I was happy to discover that you can make a darned good fresh sour cream substitute at home with just two ingredients.
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Heavy cream — The main ingredient for homemade sour cream is heavy whipping cream with a fat content of more than 30%. If you’ve got access to fresh cream, use that. Most of us, though, don’t have that option readily available. We’ll choose the heavy cream that comes in a waxed cardboard carton. (Don’t use fluffy whipped cream.) For best results, try to avoid the ultra-pasteurized heavy cream, but if that’s all that’s available to you, it will work. A one-pint container will make about two cups.
Lemon juice — Use bottled lemon juice or juice from a fresh lemon. If you do not have lemon juice on hand, you can substitute vinegar. There’s a negligible difference in taste. I used apple cider vinegar; you can also use your favorite distilled white vinegar.
Mixing and Resting
This is a very basic recipe. You’ll simply stir the lemon juice into the heavy cream, cover loosely, and set out at room temperature until thickened (overnight or up to 24 hours). Stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container such as a mason jar, this will keep for up to two weeks.
The fact that this recipe uses ingredients commonly found in many kitchens makes it a great substitute and a good way to replace sour cream in a pinch with very little effort.
How Does it Taste?
When we’ve been using our favorite brand for years upon years, any change in flavor can seem “not right.” Which translates to “not what we’re used to.” (Anyone remember mom trying to make the switch from name-brand cereal to a generic version to save money?)
This homemade sour cream is creamier, has a richer flavor, and isn’t quite as tangy. That’s an easy fix though — just stir in a teaspoonful of lemon juice if you prefer a tangier version. The recipe results in a final product that’s similar to sour cream and almost a bit like plain yogurt. This will work perfectly in our homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, favorite dips, dolloped on soup, or served with our favorite refried beans.
I recommend that you try my creme fraiche recipe, too. In a side-by-side comparison of this recipe and the creme fraiche, the creme fraiche wins for being an almost exact replica of our favorite store bought sour cream. It, too, only requires two ingredients, but you may not always have one of them on hand. In the end, it’s going to depend on individual taste buds to decide which you prefer.
This is one of my favorite dairy products to make at home. The finished product of creamy goodness is the perfect topping for my favorite dishes! And as far as waste goes, this recipe is a game changer.
Buying heavy cream in a cardboard container does still generate some waste. But it allows us to avoid accumulating a stack of #5 plastic containers that come with buying regular sour cream. (These are no longer recyclable in my area.)
The waxed cardboard containers can be added to a compost pile if they don’t have a plastic spout. The cardboard will break down in the pile, leaving behind a thin film of plastic that can be picked out and thrown away. It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot less waste than a whole sour cream container. (Of course, some of you will have access to heavy cream in glass containers — or raw cream or milk — which is perfectly awesome.)
Trying to make more of your own condiments? Be sure to try this easy peasy homemade mustard, too!
★ Did you make this homemade sour cream recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★
- 2 cups heavy cream, or whipping cream
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- Combine cream and lemon juice in a glass jar. Screw on lid and shake lightly until combined.
- Remove lid and use a rubber band to secure a thin piece of cloth or a napkin over the jar. This allows the mixture to breathe, while also keeping out bugs.
- Set jar at room temperature for several hours or overnight until thickened. Stir and serve.
- Refrigerate leftover sour cream for up to two weeks.
As soon as the ingredients are combine, you may be able to see the mixture thicken a bit as the lemon juice reacts with the high fat cream.
In low temperatures, it may take up to 24 hours to thicken. To create a higher temperature, you can set the jar on a heating pad on low, in an Instant Pot set to warm, or on a seed starting mat (!) to hasten the process.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 103Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 11mgCarbohydrates: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g