How to Make Sour Cream From Scratch

Fresh sour cream

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You can buy sour cream at the grocery store, but you're just settling if you do. Homemade sour cream tastes much better, and it only takes a couple of ingredients and a minute or two of your time to make a batch from scratch. It's can be healthier for your family as well.

What You'll Need

These measurements will make 1 1/4 cups of sour cream. You can scale the recipe up or down to meet your needs, but use a quart jar if you're making more than 2 cups.


Pour the ingredients into the sterilized jar and seal it. Shake the jar vigorously to combine the cream and the buttermilk. The lactic acid bacteria in the buttermilk will ferment the cream, causing it to sour and thicken. 

That's it. You've just made your own sour cream. Set the mixture aside and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. This will allow the sour cream to develop.

Give your finished sour cream a good stir when you're ready to serve it, or store it in the refrigerator if you won't be using it right away.

How to Make Low-Fat Sour Cream

You can replace some of the cream with whole milk, half-and-half, or light cream if you'd prefer a low-fat version. Just keep in mind that your sour cream won't turn out quite as thick if you cut the fat.

Other Variations and Substitutions

A container of powdered sour cream can be reconstituted just like powdered milk. Tuck it in the cupboard and you'll always have sour cream on hand. You can make as much or as little as you need so there's never any waste.

You're not necessarily stuck with using heavy cream, whipping cream, or one of the low-fat ingredients, either—unless you want your sour cream to come out as thick as possible. Raw cream can be used instead, although it will have the same thinning effect as milk, half-and-half, or light cream.

You can even use a starter culture instead of the buttermilk, and this offers some nice probiotic advantages. But using ultra-pasteurized cream isn't recommended. The results can be iffy.

Need Something That You Can Use Right Now?

If you don't have time to make sour cream from scratch—you want to serve it tonight, not tomorrow night—you can use plain yogurt in its place in many recipes. Use equal parts, the same amount of yogurt as the sour cream that's called for.

You can also use plain buttermilk with a little added butter if you're creating baked goods, but you won't need as much buttermilk, and this won't work for other recipes because buttermilk is "wetter" than sour cream.

And you can generally keep your homemade product refrigerated and ready to use for up to two weeks. Of course, sooner is always better, but feel free to go ahead and make your sour cream in advance. You'd be surprised by how much flavor and texture a spoonful of fresh sour cream adds to your recipes.

Did You Know?

Most grocery store sour cream isn't really sour cream at allIt's often just milk that's been artificially thickened and flavored to taste like sour cream. In fact, if you buy fat-free sour cream, there isn't any cream in it at all. Disappointing!

Store-bought sour cream also usually contains added ingredients like those thickeners. Do you really want your family ingesting that stuff?

Give the real stuff a try. Your taste buds will thank you.