Crème fraîche (pronounced krehm fresh) is essentially thickened cream. The flavor is slightly tangy and the texture is smooth, silky and glossy. The texture can be slightly runny or very thick.
Crème fraîche is used in both sweet or savory recipes. Use it as a dip for fruit or in place of whipped cream on pies and tarts. It can also be stirred into sauces, soups, and pasta or simply used as a topping for seafood, steak, and other savory dishes.
In France, where crème fraîche originates, it is made with unpasteurized milk, which contains bacteria cultures that thicken cream naturally. If crème fraîche is made with pasteurized milk, like in the United States, it is thickened by adding cultures.
Make Crème Fraîche at Home
If you do not have access to cheese cultures at home, then you can make your own version of crème fraîche by gently heating 1 cup whole cream to about 80 F. Stir in 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Turn off the heat immediately and pour the mixture into a non-reactive bowl or jar (like glass). Cover the mixture and let it sit and thicken at room temperature (around 70 degrees) for up to 24 hours. If refrigerated, your homemade crème fraîche will keep up to a week.
Where to Buy Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is sold in the dairy section of most grocery stores or gourmet markets. In the United States, cheesemakers often make and sell their own crème fraîche. Bellwether Farms and Vermont Butter & Cheese are two widely distributed brands to look for.
Substitutions for Crème Fraîche
Every culture seems to have its own version of crème fraîche: mascarpone, sour cream, crema, and clotted cream are all similar. Many chefs prefer the high-fat content of crème fraîche because it ensures that the crème fraîche won't curdle when stirred into soup, pasta, sauces, and other hot dishes.
Cooking With Crème Fraîche
- Turn it into a savory dip - poblano creme fraiche
- Whisk it into a topping for fruit or dessert - whipped crème fraîche
- Make ice cream - crême fraiche ice cream
- Make French Mac 'n' Cheese - crème fraîche and gruyere mac 'n' cheese
- Make a sauce - lemon beurre blanc sauce
- Top Seafood - seared scallops with lemongrass crème fraiche
- Roast Vegetables - old Amsterdam gouda with crème fraîche and baked parsnips