Homemade Sour Cream

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

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)
  • 1/4 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.
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:

Chili
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

Description

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!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  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

Keywords: Sour Cream, Sour Cream Recipe, How to Make Sour Cream

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Geri Goodwin
    June 1, 2020 at 12:53 pm

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

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      June 1, 2020 at 12:56 pm

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

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