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Here’s how to make sour cream at home! All you need is 2 ingredients and 24 hours to wait for the cream to thicken. It’s kitchen magic!

Sour cream
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Did you know you can make DIY sour cream at home with just 2 ingredients? Experience the magic of fermentation right in your own kitchen! It’s a bit of a kitchen experiment that results in extremely delicious sour cream: much tastier than store bought. Whether you’re out of sour cream or just want to try a fun experiment with your kids, it’s 100% worth making it at home! It’s also a great way to use up leftover heavy cream or buttermilk. Here’s how to do it.

How to make sour cream

It’s like magic to watch sour cream thicken right before your eyes! Of course, you won’t need to watch it for the entire time. All you need is 24 hours and a warm place, and you can make your own. Here’s what to do with that leftover buttermilk or heavy cream in your refrigerator! What you’ll need to make sour cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream (with 18-20% fat content)
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • Clean container with a cover (preferably glass)

All you need to do is stir the two ingredients together. Then cover the container and place it in a warm place. When you open it after 24 hours, you’ll see the cream has thickened. Take one spoonful and voila! Tastes just like sour cream.

How does it work? Fermentation.

How does it all work? Here’s the basic scientific breakdown on what happens when you make sour cream:

  • Buttermilk contains lactic acid bacteria.
  • When you mix it with the heavy cream at room temperature, it ferments the cream! This causes it to thicken without spoiling it.

More fermented foods? Go to Top Fermented Foods to Try Now.

Sour cream

Can you make sour cream with milk?

Some sources claim that you can make homemade sour cream with milk mixed with lemon juice, instead of buttermilk. Milk mixed with lemon juice is a common substitute for buttermilk in recipes. But when we tested this method, it didn’t work! The milk didn’t thicken the cream at all. Buttermilk is important because it has the bacteria you need and it works every time!

Ways to use sour cream

There are many ways to use it once you’ve made it! Here are a few of our favorite sour cream recipes and ways to use this tasty cream:

No chili is complete without a dollop of sour cream!

A similar process to sour cream? Creme fraiche.

Want a similar experiment? Make our Creme Fraiche! Creme fraiche is a French version of sour cream, but it’s even richer and thicker. This velvety cultured cream is used in many ways: as a creamy dip for veggies, for dolloping soups, or even a spoonful over fruit or a dessert. It doesn’t separate or curdle when heated, ideal for making creamy sauces. 

To make creme fraiche, you’ll do almost the same thing: stir together heavy cream and a culture and wait 24 hours. But you won’t use buttermilk…it’s something a little different! Head over to our Homemade Creme Fraiche to learn more.

This homemade sour cream recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Sour cream

Homemade Sour Cream

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 24 hour
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 hours
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x


Here’s how to make sour cream at home! All you need is 2 ingredients and 24 hours to wait for the cream to thicken. It’s kitchen magic!


  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. Place the ingredients in a covered container, and let them sit in a warm area for 24 hours. The lactic acid bacteria in the buttermilk ferments the cream, causing it to thicken.
  2. Uncover and stir. Place the mixture in the refrigerator; it stores for up to 2 weeks.
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: American

More kitchen DIYs!

Love making things yourself in the kitchen? Here are some more fun kitchen experiments:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Judy Callaghan says:

    I bought a quart of heavy whipping cream and left it in my car before Christmas 21. It is still unopened but the expiration date was December 21. Can I make sourcream out of it with kefir?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m sorry, I’m not sure on this one!

  2. Stef says:


    Do I need to seal the jar with a closed lid when I’m fermenting or should I put a breathable cloth over it?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Both will work!

  3. Geri Goodwin says:

    Can you use this sour cream in a recipe that needs to be baked?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I don’t think we’ve tested it, but it should work as a full sub for any recipe that calls for sour cream.