Keeping a container in the fridge puts a host of delicious recipes at your fingertips—a delightful fact until you discover your trusty tub is expired, empty, or never made it home from the supermarket to begin with. Equally challenging is realizing that a particularly tempting recipe calls for sour cream when you’re vegan, lactose-intolerant, or otherwise sour cream–averse. No matter the case, you’re in luck: Substituting for sour cream is remarkably easy, and there are plenty of options across the dairy-based and nondairy spectrum to be had. Deciding which one to use comes down to your intentions and your personal taste.
Read on for a better understanding of how sour cream and its substitutes work, or scroll down to the list below to find the best alternative ingredient that matches your needs.
What Is Sour Cream?
If you’ve ever thought sour cream is reminiscent of yogurt or buttermilk, you’d be right on the mark: All three are fermented dairy products that are “thickened, or curdled, solely by the action of acid-producing bacteria,” writes Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking. (This sets them apart from cheeses, which are cultured with rennet.) Culture whole milk with lactic acid bacteria, and you get yogurt; do the same with heavy cream and you have sour cream. Lactic acid curdles (or sours, if you will) the cream, thickening it while imparting that signature tangy flavor.
According to Prafulla Salunke, PhD and assistant professor of dairy manufacturing at South Dakota State University, the resulting product will have a high-fat content (up to 40%, though most American store-bought sour creams are closer to 20%), a low pH (4.5–4.6), and a relatively low protein content compared to other cultured dairy products like cheese. And, he explains, these three traits all play a role in the consistency and flavor of your food.
Substituting Sour Cream in Baking
When choosing a sour cream substitute specifically for baking, consider the consistency, ingredients, and nutrition facts. Most nationally available packaged sour creams have about one gram of protein, one gram of sugar, and five grams of fat per ounce; are acidic; and have a short ingredient list of just cream, occasionally milk, and bacterial cultures or enzymes. Seeking out a substitute with similar traits—or knowing to compensate by adjusting the amount of sugar, acid, or fat in a recipe—can go a long way toward producing predictable results. These considerations might seem intimidating, but don’t despair: There are perfectly viable cup-for-cup substitutes both experts heartily recommend.
Dairy-Based Sour Cream Substitutes
Both Parks and Salunke recommend plain Greek yogurt as the best sour cream substitute to use in virtually any recipe, thanks to its comparable ingredient and nutritional compositions, similar consistency, and widespread availability. If using it to bake, though, just make sure to steer clear of yogurts that are artificially thickened with gums or starches, which can negatively affect the structure of the finished product. Full-fat Greek yogurt will offer the closest approximation of sour cream’s flavor and texture, and can be used as a one-to-one replacement for sour cream. If you’d like, you can stir some heavy cream into any percentage of Greek yogurt to give it a somewhat richer body and higher fat content.
If you don’t have Greek yogurt on hand, it’s a breeze to make your own with regular yogurt—simply line a strainer or colander with a coffee filter or cheesecloth and drain the yogurt until it’s reached the right consistency to use as a sour cream alternative (pressing gently on the yogurt with the back of a ladle can help expedite the process). One cup of yogurt will equal about ¾ cup strained yogurt, which can be used just as you would sour cream. Save the runoff liquid (whey) to add to a smoothie, pot of beans, or soup broth.
If you have sour cream around, these muffins, cakes, and comforting main dishes are just moments away.
Every time you open the refrigerator, there’s a reminder that you bought sour cream and didn’t use it all. These sour cream recipes can help you avoid wasting that tub—there are so many dishes that can benefit from a little tangy richness. Below you’ll find easy dinners made luxurious with sour cream as well as an assortment of our favorite baked goods. Scroll down for simple pastas and easy fish dinners, crowd-pleasing potato salad (hint: there are potato chips on top), impressive cheesecake, and a bunch of options for the bread basket at your next brunch. You’ll find yourself staring at the bottom of the sour cream container before you know it.
- Cheesy Corn Spoon BreadServe this creamy and garlicky spoonbread hot out of the oven for a cozy cold-weather side.
- Chicken Stew With Potatoes and RadishesThis one-pot stew takes its cues from chicken paprikash. Cooking low and slow is the key to getting deep flavor—and ensuring the potatoes are creamy and the chicken is pull-apart tender.
- Sour Cream and Scallion Drop BiscuitsAll that sour cream keeps these biscuits super moist and tender—they reheat well, even after sitting out for hours (pop back into 350°F oven for 5 minutes).
- Our Favorite Mashed PotatoesWe can’t imagine making mashed potatoes without sour cream. This version is light and fluffy yet rich and creamy, perfect for serving with a pork chop or a holiday turkey.
If you have lined up your ingredients for a baking recipe and discovered that you’re out of sour cream, you don’t have to immediately run to the store. Instead, use a substitute for sour cream in baking. Read on to find out more.
It happens to the best of us: preparing for a recipe only to find out that you are running quite low on a crucial ingredient like sour cream or don’t have it.
Sour cream is used in baking goods due to its fat and moisture contents that add richness to your dishes. When looking for an alternative to sour cream, it’s essential to find an ingredient with similar qualities.
This article describes the 13 best substitutes for sour cream in baking recipes, along with their fat contents and substitution suggestions.
Let’s start by understanding what sour cream is exactly.
Sour cream is the result of lactic acid-producing bacteria added to pure dairy cream.The bacteria cause the cream to thicken and add different flavors, including a sour taste.
Crème fraîche is a dairy product created in the same way as sour cream, but it’s thicker and has more fat content: 19% fat compared to sour cream’s 20% fat.
Thanks to the tangy flavor of sour cream, it’s a popular ingredient for baked goods like cakes.
In the next section, discover the benefits of sour cream in baking.
What Does Sour Cream Do in Baking?
Sour cream has several benefits when used in baking: adds moisture, makes baked goods richer, helps cakes turn brown, and activates baking soda.
Let’s take a closer look at each advantage of using sour cream in baking:
- Firstly, sour cream adds moisture, which is why is such a vital ingredient in baking recipes. Although milk and buttermilk can do the same, sour cream moistens batter without thinning it, resulting in tender cakes that crumble finely.
- Secondly, sour cream enriches baked goods since it has more fat content than other dairy products. For instance, 100g (4oz) of whole buttermilk has 3g of fat, and 100g (4oz) of whole milk has 8g of fat. Sour cream surpasses them since 100g (4oz) of sour cream has 20g of fat.
- Thirdly, sour cream has low acidity. So it slows down the browning process, ensuring that cakes bake uniformly (including the insides). If you don’t use sour cream, there’s a risk that the outside of your cake will burn despite the quality and temperature of your oven.
- Fourthly, since sour cream has acid, it activates baking soda just like baking powder to help cakes expand as they bake, so you don’t need baking powder anymore. And some people wish to avoid the excessive use of baking powder due to health concerns.
In the next section, check out the top substitutes for sour cream in baking.
If you’re looking for a substitute for sour cream in baking, here are the best alternatives: whole buttermilk, whole milk, evaporated milk, milk powder, heavy whipping cream, plain kefir, Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, cream cheese, crème fraîche, ricotta cheese, Mexican crema, mayonnaise, coconut cream, and cashew cream.
Let’s start with buttermilk.
Whole buttermilk is a decent sour cream substitute in baking (and vice versa) because it has a tangy flavor that mimics sour cream.
You can use whole buttermilk in recipes that require moisture, like quick bread and cakes.
Whole buttermilk is thinner than sour cream. On top of that, it has a significantly lower fat content than sour cream: 3% (whole buttermilk) vs 20% fat (sour cream). So it’s best to mix whole buttermilk with butter (81% fat) to obtain the same consistency and not ruin your recipes.
Use 3/4 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 cup of butter to replace 1 cup of sour cream.
In the next section, check out regular milk.
Whole Milk, Evaporated Milk, or Milk Powder
Whole milk, evaporated milk and milk powder are all quick and easy substitutes for sour milk in baking since they can save your recipe in a pinch. You can also use sour cream to replace milk in baking.
You can use whole milk or evaporated milk for cakes, cookies, and quick bread. Aside from baking, these ingredients can be added to soups or sauces, in which case you should let them sit for 15 minutes first.
Milk powder is better for those who like to plan ahead and fill their pantry with long-term ingredients since it has a longer shelf life than whole milk or evaporated milk. It is also possible to use sour cream as an alternative to evaporated milk.
It’s better to use whole milk than low-fat milk, although you won’t get the same tangy flavor as sour cream. For this reason, whole milk is an excellent sour cream alternative if you wish to avoid the sharp taste of sour cream.
Compared to sour cream which is 20% fat, whole milk and evaporated milk are 8% fat, while milk powder is 27% fat.
Whole milk, evaporated milk, or milk powder alone won’t enhance the flavor of your baked goods since they aren’t acidic. But you can fix this issue by adding a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.
Use 1 cup of whole milk, evaporated milk or milk powder and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to replace 1 cup of sour cream.
In the next section, check out heavy whipping cream.
Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy whipping cream is an excellent substitute for sour milk in baking since it’s thicker than milk. It has a higher fat content of 36%, so it’s significantly closer to sour cream (20%).
Heavy whipping cream has the same tangy flavor as sour cream, so you don’t have to combine it with any acidic ingredients. As such, you can use this ingredient in any baking recipe that calls for sour cream.
When replacing sour cream with heavy whipping cream, apply the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out plain kefir.
Plain, unsweetened kefir is a great substitute for sour cream in baking. It has a similar tanginess and high moisture content. But kefir is thinner than sour cream, so you have to use it in smaller quantities.
Kefir made with whole milk has 8% fat, so you can’t expect the same texture from cakes like sour cream. Neverthless, it’s an excellent ingredient for pancakes, biscuits, cookies, or breads.
It is an excellent substitute for when you don’t have sour cream but want to bake.
When using plain, unsweetened kefir to substitute sour cream, apply the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out Greek yogurt.
Plain Greek yogurt is the most versatile substitute for sour cream in baking. It moistens cakes and hassimilar tanginess and consistency as sour cream.
You can either use low-fat, regular, or fat-free Greek yogurt. Regular Greek yogurt works best out of the three because it has a higher fat content (9%). It works well in baked goods or as a topping or dip
When replacing sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, use the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out plain yogurt.
Plain yogurt is a great sour cream replacement.
Compared to Greek yogurt, plain yogurt is thinner and harder to find since most yogurt options on the market are sweetened and flavored.
Plain yogurt has 5% fat, which is significantly lower than sour cream (20% fat).
You can use plain yogurt in baking goods that call for sour cream, although it can also be used as a topping or for a dip.
To use plain yogurt in place of sour cream, apply the 1:1 ratio in recipes like bread, cakes, cookies, and dressings.
In the next section, check out cream cheese.
Cream cheese is a suitable sour cream substitute in baking. But it’s thicker than sour cream.
Low-fat cream cheese is 15% fat while regular cream cheese is 34% fat, so you can choose any of them to replace sour cream in cooking, which is 20% fat.
To make cream cheese thinner to add it to baking recipes, you can mix it with a bit of water, milk, or buttermilk.
So to replace 1 cup of sour cream, add 3/4 cup of cream cheese with a tablespoon of water, milk, or buttermilk.
In the next section, check out crème fraîche.
Crème fraîche is a popular French sour cream, slightly less sour than regular sour cream. This ingredient has a similar consistency and tangy flavor to sour cream, but it’s creamier and richer.
Light crème fraîche has a nearly identical fat content to sour cream: 19% (sour cream is 20% fat).
When replacing sour cream with crème fraîche, stick to the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out ricotta cheese.
Ricotta cheese is a fine substitute for sour cream in baking, especially whole-milk ricotta cheese since it’s 13% fat (compared to sour cream’s 20% fat).
There are some notable differences between ricotta cheese and sour cream. Firstly, ricotta has a grainy texture compared to the creaminess of sour’s cream. Secondly, ricotta is sweet while sour cream is tangy. Thirdly, ricotta is not as smooth as sour cream. Finally, you won’t obtain the same moisture from cakes as if you were using sour cream.
To replace sour cream with ricotta cheese in baking, mix 3/4 cup ricotta with 1/4 plain yogurt and use this in place of 1 cup of yogurt.
It is also possible to substitute ricotta cheese with sour cream.
In the next section, check out Mexican crema.
Mexican crema is a great substitute for sour cream in baking since it adds moisture and makes cakes rich. But it’s slightly thinner and less sour than sour cream. Furthermore, Mexican crema has a high fat content of 30%, surpassing sour cream by half (20% fat).
However, crema is just as good a substitute as any when used in recipes that call for sour cream.
When replacing sour cream with Mexican crema, stick to the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise is a wonderful substitute for sour cream in baking (and vice versa) since it adds moisture to cakes and muffins. You can also use it as a topping after making it thinner with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Regular mayonnaise is too fat (75%), but light mayonnaise is excellent (22%) since it comes close to the fat content of sour cream (20%).
When using mayonnaise as a sour cream substitute, stick to the 1:1 ratio.
In the next section, check out coconut cream.
Coconut cream is a dairy-free sour cream substitute. It goes well with recipes that require the consistency and fat content of sour cream provides. While sour cream is 20% fat, coconut cream is 35% fat.
The only problem is that coconut cream has a distinct coconut flavor that will be felt in the resulting baking goods. So you should only use when you don’t mind the coconut taste.
Before using coconut cream in your baked goods, blend it to a smooth consistency and add lemon juice or vinegar to give it a similar tanginess as sour cream.
Mix 1 cup of coconut cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and use this mixture to replace 1 cup of sour cream.
In the next section, check out cashew cream.
Cashew cream has a milder flavor than coconut, and you can use it as a vegan sour cream substitute in baking, for toppings or dips. It has a nearly identical fat content to sour cream: while cashew cream is 21% fat, sour cream is 20% fat.
Cashew cream doesn’t bring out the same tanginess as sour cream in baked goods, so you will have to combine it with lemon juice or vinegar.
Mix 1 cup of cashew cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and use this mixture to replace 1 cup of sour cream.
In the next section, find out additional information about sour cream substitutions.
Substitute for Sour Cream in Baking (FAQ)
This section gives you straightforward answers to common questions about sour cream.
Can you freeze sour cream?
Yes, you can freeze sour cream. Thoroughly mix the sour cream, put it in a resealable freezer bag that’s slightly larger than your amount of sour cream, remove any excess air from the bag, label the current date, and keep it in the freezer up to 4 months.
How to make sour cream?
To make your own sour cream at home, you will need:
- 1 cup (240 ml) of heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) of buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar
- Pour the heavy cream into a clean bowl.
- Add the buttermilk and lemon juice or vinegar.
- Stir until the mixture thickens and forms a soft peak.
- Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, until the mixture turns sour and thickens further.
- Once the sour cream is ready, transfer it to a clean container and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Is sour cream keto?
Yes, sour cream is keto. Since it’s made from cream, which is high in fat, it fits well into a ketogenic diet. Plus, the lactic acid bacteria in sour cream also help to promote gut health.
How much acid does sour cream have?
The next and final section summarizes the entire article on sour cream alternatives.
Sour cream is a popular ingredient, especially in baking. However, some people don’t like the taste or have other dietary preferences.
Fortunately, sour cream is not short of dairy and non-dairy substitutes you can use in your baked dishes.
However, some sour cream substitutes work better when used for toppings and dressing than baked goods. It all depends on what you are making.
We’ve all been there: You start making a recipe only to find yourself completely out of an ingredient. And you definitely don’t want to go buy some. No judgement here! Luckily, if that ingredient is sour cream, it can be easily substituted in most recipes. What you’re making will dictate which substitute you’ll want to use.
From topping a cozy bowl of chili to incorporating richness to a batch of coffee cake, sour cream is extremely versatile. At its most basic level, it’s milk and heavy cream inoculated with lactic acid-producing bacteria (the same ones that make sourdough, you know, sour).
Sour cream comes with plenty of benefits in cooking and baking. Beyond tasting delicious, the creamy dairy product can offset spicy flavors and cool your palate when eating chili pepper-packed foods. And because it’s made with high-fat heavy cream, it incorporates richness and moisture into any dish.
The gut-healthy bacteria is also a heavy hitter across multiple recipes: it tenderizes proteins when used in marinades and can relax gluten strands to make your baked goods soft and fluffy. Plus, the tangy lactic acid can be used alongside baking soda to help cakes and muffins rise in the oven. It’s the ultimate kitchen MVP.
But what if you don’t have it in your fridge? Don’t worry, you can still replicate the effects of sour cream with a variety of substitutes. And no surprise here: nearly any tangy dairy product can replace sour cream in your recipes. But we’ve also rounded up some dairy-free options for vegan and lactose-intolerant cooks. Here are the top 10 sour cream substitutes you can use in the kitchen.
Yogurt is your best substitute for sour cream. Whether you’re baking or making a dip or sauce, yogurt is a 1:1 sub. That means if your recipe calls for 1 cup of sour cream, you can replace it with 1 cup of yogurt. Full-fat Greek or natural yogurts work best, but low-fat or even nonfat can be used, too. It’s also great as a topping on baked potatoes—just make sure it’s not flavored or sweetened.
Mayo is a great sour cream substitute. It can be used as a 1:1 replacement in both baking and dips. You’ll lose some of that tang that sour cream offers, but it still does a great job at adding moisture to baked goods. Plus, it’s relatively the same texture as sour cream, which makes it a great sub in dips and sauce. If you’re still looking for a bit of acidity, add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar.
Buttermilk can work great as a substitute, but it’s a little trickier since it’s so much thinner than sour cream. In baking, we’d recommend only using 3/4 cup of buttermilk for every cup of sour cream called for. The batter may look a little thinner, but it should still bake up nicely.
If you are making a dip, like spinach artichoke, you can replace up to about half of the sour cream with buttermilk. If you are worried about it being too thin, cream cheese, mayonnaise, or yogurt can all be used to help thicken it back up. The buttermilk will help the taste be most similar.
We love us some crème fraîche! It translates to fresh cream—and is just that. It’s kind of like a mix between cream cheese and sour cream. It’s great as a substitute for toppings and in baking. It’s also perfect for adding to pan sauces as it curdles less than yogurt.
If you’re using cream cheese as sour cream sub in dip, you may need to thin it a little first. For every cup of sour cream needed, beat 6 ounces of cream cheese with 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk. This should thin it a little and make it easy to add to your dip. If adding it to a pan sauce, you can use equal parts. Cream cheese melts down well and doesn’t curdle very easily.
Yes! Believe it or not, you can make your own sour cream at home. It’s not the fastest or easiest option, but if you bake sourdough or love making everything from scratch, give it a try. Whisk together 1 cup heavy cream with 1 teaspoon of lemon or white distilled vinegar. Let that sit for 10 minutes, and then mix in 1/4 cup whole milk. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, then stick in the refrigerator to chill before enjoying.
If you don’t know what kefir is, it’s basically like Gogurt for adults. It’s tangier than most yogurts and is great for smoothies. Try an unflavored version in pancake batter, salad dressings, or dips. It’s a little too thin for dolloping on top of burritos, so stay away from that.
Think sour cream, but a little thinner and a little less sour. It’s a staple in Mexican cooking and can be swapped in for most recipes that call for sour cream.
On the hunt for something a little healthier than sour cream? Try cottage cheese. Go for the small curd option and combine 1 cup of it with 1/4 cup milk and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to get a closer taste and texture.
If you need something vegan or dairy free, coconut milk is your best option. Go for the canned stuff with full fat. Skim off the coconut cream layer from the top and mix it with some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to add a slight sourness.
Makinze is currently Food Editor for Delish, where she develops recipes, creates and hosts recipe videos and is our current baking queen.. Reigning from Oklahoma, she’s also our go-to for all things regarding Midwestern cuisine. She’s also our expert pie crimper.
Gabby Romero is Delish’s editorial assistant, where she writes stories about the latest TikTok trends, develops recipes, and answers any and all of your cooking-related questions. She loves eating spicy food, collecting cookbooks, and adding a mountain of Parmesan to any dish she can.
Here at Delish, sour cream is one of our all-time favorite secret weapons in the kitchen. Sure, sour cream immediately brightens up tacos, nachos, and baked potatoes, but there are so many other ways to use this versatile ingredient. We love how it lends tons of fluffiness to our favorite cake, bread, and pancake recipes, as well as a signature rich tang we can’t get enough of. After you try these sour cream recipes, you’ll never just use it for sour cream and onion dip again, we promise!
Sour cream, like buttermilk and yogurt, is naturally acidic, which tenderizes the gluten in your favorite baked goods. This means when you add it to your sour cream coffee cake, banana pancakes, and chocolate birthday cake, you’re going to be digging into a moist, fluffy result. Try our sour cream pound cake and you’ll instantly be able to taste the difference! You can see both savory and sweet sour cream uses with our recipe for chicken and waffles. The sour cream, you guessed it, makes those waffles perfectly tender and fluffy.
Potatoes and sour cream are one of the most iconic duos of all time. And it’s easy to see why, especially after you try our Instant Pot mashed potatoes, potato knishes, and Southern potato salad. And what would our dill & cheddar pierogis and house latkes with horseradish be without sour cream? We don’t like to imagine it, TBH. Another thing we can’t imagine? Our beef stroganoff without that rich spoonful of sour cream to finish. Does not compute! So we kindly won’t.
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Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Coffee cake is so simple to make, and that’s just one of the reasons it’s so beloved and perfect for serving to guests. Sour cream makes this one moist and tender and will stay that way for days. Brew a fresh pot and enjoy this with friends for an easy brunch or afternoon snack.
Get the Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe.
Sour Cream & Onion Dip
Letting the onions caramelize properly is key to the flavor of this dip. Going low and slow lets them develop color while breaking down and becoming sweet and jammy. It will stay good in the fridge for a few days, so it’s great to make ahead of time!
Get the Sour Cream & Onion Dip recipe.
Emily hlavac green
The honey cake is an underestimated cake and perfect to bring along to Rosh Hashanah or any gathering. The trick here is to use really good honey. We used a wildflower honey, which is sweet and floral, and gives the cake lots of flavor. An orange blossom honey would also work well!
Get the Honey Cake recipe.
House Latkes With Horseradish
When Passover rolls around, it’s time to get your box grater out and a batch of latkes on the stove (plus a slow-braised brisket in the oven). Though latkes are commonly served with applesauce and plain sour cream, here they get a flavor-boost with a spicy horseradish and chive sour cream topping, which adds savory depth to each bite.
Get the House Latkes With Horseradish recipe.
Apple Coffee Cake
Apples work wonders in this easy coffee cake. They add extra sweetness as well as making the cake moist and tender. We love it with Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples, but your favorite baking apple will do the trick!
Get the Apple Coffee Cake recipe.
Dill & Cheddar Pierogis
When you’re looking for something warm, comforting, and carb-y, do Polish pierogi come to mind? We think they should, and this cheesy dill version certainly satisfies on all fronts. Loaded with sharp white cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and creamy mashed potatoes, the only thing more gratifying than making them from scratch is stuffing them in your mouth. 😋
Get the Dill & Cheddar Pierogis recipe.
We’re happy to report that esquites, the irresistible and less-messy version of everyone’s favorite cotija-coated snack, elote, were the perfect inspiration for these bite-sized fritters. Paired with a lime and garlic-spiked sour cream sauce, these crisp patties are guaranteed to disappear in a crowd in minutes.
Get the Esquites Fritters recipe.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
This easy pound cake is a wonderful dessert for all occasions. Take it to a friend, bring it to Christmas, serve it at your dinner parties. It’s always the perfect ending. Simple and moist, we can’t speak highly enough of the pound cake.
Get the Sour Cream Pound Cake recipe.
Baked Spinach-Artichoke Dip
There are a lot of spinach-artichoke dip recipes out there. What’s so special about ours? Well, for one thing, the ratios are perfect. Our recipe contains the perfect proportion of spinach and artichokes, and uses a trifecta of cream cheese, mayo, and sour cream to create ultimate creaminess.
Get the Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe.
Fluffy Banana Pancakes
These are by far the fluffiest pancakes we’ve ever made. If you don’t like bananas, you can skip them or add in your favorite fruits. Don’t have sour cream? Sub in full-fat plain yogurt, and they’ll be just as fluffy.
Get the Banana Pancakes recipe.
These hearty pastries—mashed potatoes, studded with bits of caramelized onion, enveloped in a thin crust—are easy, delicious, and so comforting. Our recipe includes classic potato & onion knishes, spanakopita-style knishes, and samosa-style knishes. The simple potato filling is ripe for riffing, so feel free to invent your own.
Get the Potato Knishes recipe.
Classic Chicken & Waffles
Making fried chicken and waffles at the same time is quite a feat, but this soul food classic is worth the effort. Brining your chicken beforehand is NOT required! Sure, it’ll make your chicken taste even better, but we understand if spending 3+ hours on brunch isn’t really up your alley.
Get the Classic Chicken & Waffles recipe.
Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
Banana bread is the queen of loaf cakes, sure. And just plain pumpkin bread is truly fantastic. But you know what might be the dark horse in the race to loaf cake royalty? This pumpkin zucchini bread. The zucchini adds a level of moisture and subtle sweet flavor that will make this bread a must-make for your next brunch, Thanksgiving, or potluck.
Get the Pumpkin Zucchini Bread recipe.
Find out how to use sour cream to make your baked goods even better!
If you’re wondering, “what does sour cream do in baking?,” look no further than this simple explanation for the sometimes unexpected secret ingredient!
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Take a look at any vintage cookbook and you are likely to find a handful of baking recipes that use sour cream.
Using sour cream in baking wasn’t an accident. It was done as a way to use readily available ingredients. In the late 1800s, many families had cows, and cows make cream and milk.
Traditionally, cream skimmed off the top of milk was allowed to ferment–either on its own or by adding acid-producing bacterial culture. It can also be made by adding lemon juice or vinegar to cream, similarly to how you can make buttermilk by adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk.
Cultured sour cream was readily available at grocery stores by the early 1900s. It was only a matter of time before sour cream found its way into baked goods. Fortunately, the results were delicious!
I’ve used it in everything from chocolate cake to cornbread, and once you give it a try–I’m sure you’ll be adding it to everything, too!
Sour cream is full of acid and fat, so it adds lots of moisture to baked goods and will make them tender and rich. If you have ever eaten a cake and wondered how the baker got it so moist, it was probably sour cream.
I’m going to dust off my science degree and give a little explanation of how sour cream is useful. Here’s how it works:
- Moisture – Sour cream adds lots of moisture, because it’s so thick and has high fat content, and it doesn’t thin out the batter as milk or cream would.
- Richness – Cup for cup, a full-fat sour cream has over five times the amount of fat found in whole milk, so it adds an incredible richness to baked goods.
- Acidity – There is a lot of baking science behind the acid in sour cream, but basically, as an acid, it reacts with more alkaline ingredients such as baking soda, helping to activate those ingredients. Not only that, but the acids help to shorten and tenderize strands of gluten, which gives a better texture.
How To Use Sour Cream in Baking
Typically sour cream is used in place of milk, buttermilk, or cream. It’s often mixed in with butter, flour, sugar, and eggs to create a smooth and silky batter.
If you aren’t usually a fan of sour cream, you may be wondering can you taste sour cream in baking? Have no fear; when baked, the flavor *might* be very mildly tangy, but definitely not sour.
Most likely, you won’t even taste the sour cream–but you will taste a sweet and delicious cake.
Can I Use Low-Fat or Fat Free Sour Cream in Baking?
Technically, you can use low-fat or fat free sour cream in your baking recipes. However, I personally don’t recommend it!
Since the fat is one of the important components that improves the texture of baked goods, using a version with less fat sort of defeats the purpose.
Not only that, but the fat free varieties often contain fillers that change consistency when heated, so the texture won’t be quite as moist and the flavor won’t be as rich.
Can I Use Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream in Baking?
If you’re looking make healthier choices with your baked goods, Greek yogurt can be a good substitute for sour cream.
Similar to sour cream, Greek yogurt is acidic. For the best texture, I recommend full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt options instead of fat free, but many people are satisfied with the results of baked goods when using fat free varieties.
How To Use Up Extra Sour Cream
If you happen to have some extra sour cream in your fridge, toss it in next time you are baking.
Now that you know how to use sour cream in baking, you’re going to find yourself looking for recipes to use this almost magical ingredient.
I’ve done the work for you and gathered up a list of some of my favorites to get you started.
This incredibly moist chocolate sour cream pound cake is topped with heavenly chocolate ganache, making it an old-fashioned favorite.
Sour cream makes this banana bread super moist and light, never dark and dense.
This moist and tender chocolate chip cake is a simple yet sweet dessert or coffee cake your family will love!
This Amish cinnamon swirl bread doesn’t require a starter, thanks to sour cream! You can enjoy a soft, tender loaf without the wait!
This Sour Cream Cheesecake Recipe is creamy and delicious. Easy to make, your guests and family will love every tangy-sweet bite!
Whether you choose to use fresh or canned peaches, this peach sour cream pound cake is a southern favorite!
Transform a boxed cake mix into a decadent show-stopping dessert that doesn’t require a lot of effort or skill–and it “bakes” in your pressure cooker!
This classic Italian recipe relies on sour cream for a light, tender texture. Perfect for any holiday!
All you need is a few staple ingredients and one mixing bowl to enjoy this moist and delicious chocolate cake!
Chocolate, salted caramel, and stout beer come together to create pillowy whoopie pies that are the perfect combination of sweet and salty!
This delightfully lovely red velvet cake cooks in the Instant Pot, making a festive dessert.
One of the most popular cake recipes with my readers, this triple chocolate bundt cake is moist and decadent–and it starts with a cake mix!
Coconut Key Lime Pie Bars are a tropical twist on lemon bars. Sweet, tart, and creamy, coconut key lime pie bars are a refreshing summer dessert.
Use sour cream to doctor up the blue box cornbread and enjoy a moist and tender slice!
Simple and sweet, you will love this from-scratch, tender chocolate sour cream bundt cake.
If you’re a cookies and cream fan, you’ll love this pound cake chock full of Oreo pieces!
If you are a coffee fan, then this cake will be right up your street! Soft, moist and light sponge, flavored with espresso coffee, sandwiched with silky-smooth mocha buttercream, topped with chocolate ganache and chopped walnuts.
This is one of life’s simple pleasures right here! Perfectly bright and cheery–great for breakfast, dessert, or a snack!
These from-scratch muffins are full of fresh corn, melty cheese, and fresh basil, for a summertime favorite!
How much sour cream?
Have a favorite recipe that you’d like to convert to use sour cream? Check out these articles from Livestrong and Martha Stewart for advice on how much sour cream to use to make cake moist.
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If you think about it, sour cream might not have the best name. Let’s be honest, the word “sour” doesn’t exactly paint the best picture when it comes to dairy products. I mean, who wants a big, tall glass of sour milk? But it doesn’t seem like sour cream’s name has been a problem for it. As The Spruce Eats points out, it’s a regular go-to ingredient that’s found its way into snacks, main courses, and even desserts.
Yes, sour cream is versatile. Want to use it on crunchy raw vegetables? No problem, as sour cream is safe to eat uncooked. Need to make a cake? A little sour cream in the batter can give your sweet creation a nice soft texture. Want to add a little tang and thickness to your sauce? Well, while sour cream can be a good ingredient for many dishes, the heat from cooking (but not baking) can make it curdle. With that said, it’s often recommended to add sour cream to foods like sauces when they are close to done cooking in order to minimize its exposure to the heat.
While yogurt in general can be used instead of sour cream, according to The Kitchn, Greek yogurt made from whole milk is a particularly good substitute. This is not only because sour cream and Greek yogurt taste similar, but also because they have a comparable thick texture. As Bon Appetit explains, Greek yogurt has a higher density than other yogurts due to how it’s made.
When we think of foods that need to ferment, our minds tend to go to drinks like beer or kombucha. However, fermenting is a key step to making Greek yogurt. In fact, Greek yogurt starts as what we would think of as “regular” yogurt. The main difference is that more whey has been drained out of Greek yogurt, giving it the thicker texture that makes it so interchangeable with sour cream. However, there are some drawbacks.
Yogurt is even more sensitive to heat than sour cream because of its lower fat content (per The Kitchn). So if you’re adding yogurt to a sauce, for example, you’re going to need to either dial down the heat or mix it in after you’ve removed the sauce from the heat entirely. Also, yogurt can change the texture and flavor of baked goods in different ways than sour cream. But with that said, you can add yogurt to uncooked sour cream items like salad dressings and dips without altering anything else in the recipe.
Although kefir might seem like a relatively new product, it’s believed that it’s been around for hundreds of years, according to WebMD. And while cow’s milk is a possible ingredient for kefir, it can also be made from sheep’s milk or goat’s milk. The main thing all types of kefir have in common, however, is that the milk is fermented, which makes it a good source of probiotics.
Besides being a good substitute for sour cream, kefir’s probiotic quality might be good for health issues like constipation, per WebMD. However, while probiotics like the kind found in kefir can help promote good digestive health, they can also cause bloating and gas.
If you ask Google Translate what the phase “crème fraîche” means in English, it will tell you “sour cream.” However, that’s not the whole story. As The Kitchn points out, crème fraîche originally came from unpasteurized cream. If you live in the U.S., though, the crème fraîche you find in the supermarket is pasteurized and specially fermented.
Okay, but is it different from sour cream? Well, despite what Google Translate says, it is. For one thing, crème fraîche has roughly 10% more fat than sour cream. Because of this, it’s a great substitute for sour cream in foods like sauces, since sour cream curdles when cooked (but not when baked). Also, manufacturers sometimes add thickeners to sour cream like vegetable enzymes and gelatin. On the other hand, crème fraîche contains no thickeners, yet is thicker than sour cream. So, dolloping it on a baked potato works very well. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of drawbacks when you swap out crème fraîche for sour cream.
Although the two are very similar, sour cream has a tangier taste than crème fraîche, which has a richer flavor. And then, there’s the price tag. Yes, crème fraîche is more expensive than sour cream. However, if it gives you the results you’re looking for, it might be worth the extra cost.
Vegan sour cream
Now, you might be thinking this next item is cheating since the words “sour cream” are in its name. Despite that, however, sour cream and vegan sour cream aren’t the same. As Master Class explains, vegan sour cream doesn’t contain dairy. In fact, vegan sour cream can be adjusted to fit dietary needs like food allergies and intolerances.
Vegan sour cream can be made from either cashews or tofu instead of dairy cream. So, if you’re cooking for someone with a nut allergy, you can opt for the tofu. On the other hand, if you or someone else has celiac disease and cannot have gluten, then you can use the cashews. The trick is to combine either cashews or tofu with something acidic, so your vegan sour cream will have a similar flavor to regular sour cream. You can use either apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to give your vegan sour cream that tanginess (per Master Class).
While vegan sour cream can be used in both hot and cold dishes like traditional sour cream, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, while vegan sour cream is tangy, that doesn’t mean it tastes exactly like dairy-based sour cream. Also, making vegan sour cream is a more complex process than making traditional sour cream, and thus requires more equipment. For example, you’ll need either a food processor or a high-speed blender to make vegan sour cream, but not dairy-based sour cream.
You probably know that there is a wide variety of yogurts on the market, but did you know that there’s also quite a few types of cottage cheese? As Healthline explains, while curds from pasteurized milk are used to make cottage cheese, that doesn’t mean the curds can’t be different sizes. For example, they can be large, small, or somewhere in between. You can also have cottage cheese that’s whipped or creamed. And when you combine its different possible consistencies with its mild flavor, you get the basis for a sour cream substitute.
Of course, to make cottage cheese really work as a stand in for sour cream, you’ll need to add a couple ingredients. According to Tastessence, there are some variations of this recipe you can use, depending on your personal preference. However, besides cottage cheese, you must add lemon juice to help recreate the unique flavor of sour cream. As for the third ingredient, you can choose between low-fat yogurt, milk powder combined with cold water, or skim milk.
In addition, it’s important to calculate how much of this substitute you’ll need in order to measure out the right amount of each ingredient. For example, if you need a cup for the recipe, then you’ll also need a cup of cottage cheese, and either a teaspoon of lemon juice with a quarter cup of low-fat yogurt or a tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of skim milk (or the milk powder/cold water combo).
If you’re looking for something tangy like sour cream but also rich like crème fraîche, this next substitute might be the perfect ingredient to add to your kitchen. According to Chili Pepper Madness, Mexican Crema’s flavor is like a combination of sour cream and crème fraîche. Made from buttermilk, lime, and salt, Mexican crema isn’t as thick as crème fraîche, which can be beneficial if you want to cook with it.
Mexican crema has a higher fat content than traditional sour cream. It’s also less likely to curdle in things like sauces and soups. And if you’re cooking for someone with a sensitive stomach, it’s not as acidic as sour cream. Plus, it takes a bit of the heat out of chilies. This ability to balance out spicier dishes makes it a common ingredient in traditional Mexican dishes like nachos, tacos, enchiladas, and tortillas. However, don’t limit yourself. If the recipe calls for sour cream, Mexican crema could make a good substitute.
Although Mexican crema is used to top foods, keep in mind that it is thinner than crème fraîche (per Chili Pepper Madness). In fact, the site says sour cream is “a more relevant choice” as a food topping. So, you want to think about the results you’re going for with a particular dish. If a thicker dollop is better, then you might want to consider a different substitute.
Although buttermilk was at one time the byproduct of churning butter by hand, today it’s a type of fermented milk product, according to the Food Network. And it’s not hard to see why it can be a good stand-in for sour cream. Not only does it have a thicker consistency than regular milk, but it also tastes a bit like another sour cream substitute on this list: yogurt.
Although buttermilk is thick, sour cream still tends to be thicker (via The Kitchen Community). This isn’t a problem, though, if you get back to buttermilk’s roots. Remember, people originally made buttermilk when they churned butter, so you can thicken modern buttermilk by adding butter to it. In fact, The Kitchen Community says that a third of a cup of butter should be enough to change your buttermilk’s consistency to something at least close to sour cream’s. Of course, you might need to adjust this amount, depending on how much buttermilk you need for a recipe.
Once you’ve gotten your buttermilk to the level of thickness you want, you’ll find that it’s useful for a variety of dishes. It’s particularly well-suited for baked goods because of its acid content, per the Food Network. For example, have you ever wondered why buttermilk pancakes seem so much fluffier and thicker than regular pancakes? It’s because the acid in buttermilk helps batter rise better and makes the consistency softer, due to the way it interacts with the natural gluten in pancakes.
On the surface, this next food might seem like an odd choice for a sour cream substitute. After all, coconuts aren’t tangy or sour. But not so fast. With a couple of ingredients, you can transform coconut cream into a good substitute for sour cream (via My Frugal Home).
Before we go any further, it’s important to understand the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk. As Bon Appetit explains, both products contain water, coconut, and (depending on the manufacturer) guar gum. However, coconut cream is thicker than coconut milk because it has more fat. In fact, you can technically get coconut cream from a can of coconut milk. How? Well, have you ever heard the expression, “cream rises to the top”? That’s literally what happens with coconut milk when you put it in the fridge, according to My Frugal Home. Just don’t expect a large amount of cream in a single can of coconut milk.
Whether you decide to buy coconut cream or separate the cream from coconut milk, you can turn it into a sour cream substitute by adding either lemon juice or vinegar. Although it’s recommended to add a tablespoon of either the juice or the vinegar for every cup of coconut cream, My Frugal Home recommends tasting it and adding salt and possibly more vinegar or juice. In other words, how much you want to change the flavor of the coconut cream depends on your preference.
While you might think of cream cheese as a breakfast food (a la bagels and cream cheese), it’s actually an extremely useful substitute for sour cream. This isn’t surprising, since both are fermented dairy products. However, as the Blog Chef explains, cream cheese might have two extra ingredients: salt and lactic acid.
Because they’re fermented in similar ways, cream cheese has a milder yet comparable flavor to sour cream. It also contains more fat than sour cream, and tends to be denser and thicker. This, of course, comes with some pros and cons. While you might have an easier time spreading sour cream on something, cream cheese can add a level of moistness to a recipe. However, it’s this higher density that makes cream cheese more difficult to use for baking than sour cream. So, you might want to thin cream cheese if you’re planning to cook with it. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to adjust cream cheese to meet your culinary needs.
A little buttermilk or milk can thin cream cheese and make it an even better substitute for sour cream. The general rule is to blend three tablespoons of milk or buttermilk with ¾ cup of cream cheese. However, you might want experiment with those measurements, depending on your needs for a particular recipe.
If you research heavy whipping cream online, you might notice that a different term comes up: heavy cream. Well, not to worry, because as Food52 explains, heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same thing. What it comes down to is milk fat content. According to the FDA, as long as a product has 36% milk fat or more, it’s a good substitute for sour cream, whether it’s called heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. However, that doesn’t mean you can just throw it into a recipe as is.
Per Southern Living, it takes both time and additional ingredients to transform cream into a suitable stand-in for sour cream. Plus, you don’t want to add all the ingredients at once. You start by whisking either one teaspoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar with one cup of cream. Then, get your kitchen timer out, because you’re going to want to set that mixture aside for 10 minutes. After that, you’ll need to mix in a quarter cup of whole milk to complete your homemade sour cream substitute. Well, almost complete.
To really give the bacteria in the lactic acid in your concoction a chance to work its magic, you need to cover the mixture with a cheesecloth held in place by a rubber band and let it ferment for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature. Afterward, you should chill it.
When it comes to sour cream substitutions, you definitely don’t want to say “hold the mayo” for this next one. As HowStuffWorks explains, mayonnaise was created in 1756, and is a combination of egg yolks, oil, seasonings, and either vinegar or lemon juice. And, yes, it can be a good stand-in for sour cream.
According to Our Everyday Life, the Colorado State University Extension states you can swap in an equal amount of sour cream for mayonnaise. But for mayo to take the place of sour cream in a recipe, you need to combine it with heavy cream and plain yogurt. Specifically, you want an equal amount of all three of these ingredients to be present in order to create a flavor and consistency that’s comparable to sour cream. In addition, you’ll need to either whisk them together or use a blender to ensure that they’re properly combined.
While using mayonnaise can help you create a good substitute for sour cream, you do need to be careful about one thing. As HowStuffWorks cautions, since mayo contains egg yolks, there is the possibility of contracting salmonella from it. Now, manufactured mayonnaise has an expiration date to help you avoid this health issue. But if you make it at home, you really want to be sure that the eggs you use are as fresh as possible.
Are you making a cake that calls for sour cream but you’re all out? Or maybe you don’t want to use dairy when baking your cake.
Either way, you are in luck! There are a number of substitutes you can use instead of sour cream no matter what recipe you are using.
Sour cream is called for in many cake recipes for very good reason. It allows you to add moisture without thinning out your cake batter.
Sour cream provides a rich, moist texture that is absolutely delectable. So when looking to replace it, you want to use an ingredient that provides a similar texture and flavor profile.
So what are the best substitutes for sour cream when baking a cake?
The top sour cream alternatives you can use in any cake recipe are Greek yogurt, crème fraiche, buttermilk, cottage cheese, tofu, and coconut cream or milk.
Each of these ingredients will provide you with a wonderful flavor and texture. Make sure to read on to learn how to use each replacement in your particular recipe.