Sour cream is a versatile ingredient that adds rich and creamy texture to many recipes. So what do you do when you don’t have any sour cream on hand (or need a dairy-free alternative)? Turn to one of these 10 easy substitutes for sour cream!
Sour cream adds moisture and complex flavor to baked goods, richness to dressings and sauces (like in this Sour Cream Potato Salad), and is a simply perfect topping for tacos or chili bar, and MUCH more!’ Sour cream adds moisture and complex flavor to baked goods, richness to dressings and sauces (like in this Sour Cream Potato Salad), and is a simply perfect topping for tacos or chili bar, and MUCH more!
Sour cream is made by fermenting dairy cream with certain bacteria. The result is a thickened cream that has a slightly tangy taste. If you’re lacking this workhorse kitchen staple, or need some dietary alternatives, we have some great and easy suggestions for a swap!
10 Best Sour Cream Substitutes
Plain whole milk yogurt and whole milk Greek yogurt are near-ideal swaps for sour cream. Greek yogurt has a very similar texture and fermented flavor to sour cream. We prefer plain Greek yogurt for its thickness, but traditional yogurt also works well.
Plain or unflavored yogurt is key, as sweetened yogurt does not have the same flavor profile as sour cream. Swap yogurt in a 1:1 ratio for the sour cream you need in a recipe.
Creme fraîche is a more niche ingredient but is an excellent sour cream substitute. Creme fraîche is a heavy cream fermented with cultures popular in France. It is very similar to sour cream but has a higher fat content.
Thus, it’s a great swap with sour cream if you have it. Swap in creme fraiche 1:1 in your recipe.
Ricotta is a cheese with a similar thickness and mild flavor that can work well in the place of sour cream. If you’re cooking, the fine texture of ricotta will melt right into a sauce or batter. It is not fermented like sour cream and won’t lend quite the same subtle tanginess.
We recommend whole milk ricotta to mimic the richness of sour cream. Swap ricotta 1:1 for the sour cream in your recipe. As an option, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to add some tang.
Blended Cottage Cheese
Another dairy-based favorite many people have in their refrigerator, cottage cheese is a soft, white cheese with a mild flavor and sometimes a slight tang. The characteristic curds of cottage cheese are a very different texture compared to sour cream, so an easy fix is to blend it up!
Cream cheese is too thick compared to sour cream, but if you thin it out a bit, it can take the place of sour cream. Once again, you’ll need to add some sour tang with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar for a similar flavor profile.
Start with the same amount of sour cream you need and blend with small amounts of milk and lemon juice using an electric mixer until you get to a similar texture as sour cream.
Buttermilk is fermented milk. You could use buttermilk as a sour cream substitute but will need some additional thickening power. Combined with softened butter or mayonnaise can be an option based on what you’re making! Mix the softened butter in a 1 part butter to 4 parts buttermilk ratio for a baking recipe, or a similar ratio with mayonnaise in a dip or savory sauce.
Mayonnaise can take the place of sour cream in savory dishes such as a dressing, dip, or sauce. It has a similar texture and tang as sour cream. It’s an easy swap–we recommend a 1:1 replacement in these recipes.
If you need a dairy-free or vegan substitute for sour cream, coconut milk is a great option! Be sure to choose full-fat coconut milk—not light coconut milk—that typically comes in a can to create the closest consistency to sour cream.
Chill the can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Skim the cream off the top and transfer it to a small mixing bowl. Add a small amount (about ½ teaspoon) of lemon juice to add the tart flavor. Refrigerate for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour if needed to thicken the consistency.
You’ll want the same amount of skimmed coconut milk fat as sour cream needed for your recipe. (So grab a few cans.)
Another dairy-free and vegan alternative to sour cream is blended soft silken tofu! Silken tofu will provide the creamiest texture that’s similar to sour cream.
Drain a tofu block and press out any excess water. Blend in a food processor or blender with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to add the characteristic sour cream bite. Add salt to taste.
Use the same amount of your tofu cream as sour cream is called for in your recipe.
You read that right, vegan cream (aka cashew cream) made from cashews can be a great substitute for sour cream. This swap requires planning ahead, but the results are delicious. Use the same amount of cashew cream as sour cream in your recipe.
Start with raw cashews and soak for at least 2–3 hours. Drain and add to a blender or food processor. Start by adding a few tablespoons of water, a dash of lemon juice, and some salt. Blend into a smooth, thick cream, adding water as needed to get your desired consistency.
Check out our article and recipe for cashew cream for more details.
How to Swap
Sour cream has a wide variety of culinary uses, so which substitute works best can vary depending on your recipe. Let’s break it down based on recipe type to help guide your best substitute decision!
Some of the substitutes are super versatile (just like sour cream!), so some appear in several categories.
|Recipe Type||Best Sour Cream Substitute|
|Baked Good/Sweets||Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraiche, Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, Buttermilk, Coconut Milk, Cream Cheese|
|Savory Sauces||Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraîche, Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, Buttermilk, Tofu, Cashew Cream|
|Salad Dressing or Dip||Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraîche, Cottage Cheese, Mayonnaise, Cashew Cream|
|Topping (Tacos, chili, nachos, baked potato, etc)||Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraîche, Mayonnaise, Tofu, Cashew Cream|
|Filling (such as in a pastry)||Plain Yogurt, Creme Fraîche, Cream Cheese, Ricotta, Coconut Milk|
Sour Cream Substitute FAQs
Is expired cooking cream just the same thing as sour cream?
No, they are not the same thing! Sour cream is made with lactic acid-producing bacteria through a fermentation process that preserves the cream. Cream that has soured past its best-by date has not fermented. It will not have the thick texture that sour cream does.
What is the Mexican equivalent of sour cream?
Mexican Crema is a condiment popular in Mexico that is very similar to sour cream. Mexican crema is also a fermented cream but has a slightly thinner consistency compared to sour cream. Drizzle it on many different dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and even soups.
What’s the difference between plain yogurt and sour cream?
Yogurt and sour cream are both made by culturing dairy with lactic acid-forming bacteria, but sour cream is a thicker and richer product. Yogurt is made by culturing milk, while sour cream is made by culturing a mixture of heavy cream and milk. Sour cream thus has a higher fat content and yogurt has a higher protein content.
Can I make my own sour cream?
Yes, you can make homemade sour cream. Some recipes simply use an acid mixture to ferment or a starter culture. Either method requires the cream to ferment at room temperature for several hours or even overnight. Check out this simple recipe to try at home.
Sour Cream Substitute
- 1 cup Plain whole milk Greek yogurt (Best overall option)
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (Runner-up)
- 1 cup creme fraîche (Best for sauces)
- 1 cup ricotta (Best for fillings and dips)
- ⅔ cup buttermilk (Best for baking and batters)
- Substitute any of first four ingredients at a 1:1 ratio with sour cream.
- If substituting with buttermilk, start with ⅔ cup and add more as needed.