Sour Cream Substitutions and Equivalents with Dairy-Free Options

Chart illustrating various substitutions for sour cream in recipes
Illustration: Hugo Lin. © The Spruce, 2018 

Sour cream is a staple dairy product in America that is made by fermenting regular cream(or buttermilk or half and half) with certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. The bacterial culture introduced either deliberately or naturally sours and thickens the cream. Sour cream is generally used as a condiment in Mexican dishes such as nachos or used to top baked potatoes, but can also be used as a main ingredient in breads, appetizers and desserts.

However, owing to its high fat content(if purchased in whole fat form), the dairy product is becoming more and more

Sour Cream Substitutions and Equivalents

There are many substitutes for sour cream, depending on the recipe and your specific needs. Yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream in most recipes, but keep in mind it is thinner in texture. Thicken yogurt by draining through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Substitute one of the following for each 1 cup of sour cream:

  • For baking: 7/8 cup buttermilk or sour milk plus 3 tablespoons butter.
  • For baking: 1 cup yogurt plus 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • For baking: 3/4 cup sour milk plus 1/3 cup butter.
  • For baking: 3/4 cup buttermilk plus 1/3 cup butter.
  • Cooked sauces: 1 cup yogurt plus 1 tablespoon flour plus 2 teaspoons water.
  • Cooked sauces: 1 cup evaporated milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken.
  • Dips: 1 cup yogurt (drain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve for 30 minutes in the refrigerator for a thicker texture or use non-fat Greek yogurt one-for-one for a protein boost with less fat).
  • Dips: 1 cup cottage cheese plus 1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk, briefly whirled in a blender.
  • Dips: 6 ounces cream cheese plus 3 tablespoons milk, briefly whirled in a blender.
  • Lower fat: 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons skim milk, whipped until smooth in a blender.
  • Lower fat: 1 can chilled evaporated milk whipped with 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

Non-Dairy Substitutions for Sour Cream

There are many ways to buy sour cream that is dairy-free. Some products use cashews, soy and coconut milk. Store-bought dairy-free sour cream can have a lot of processed ingredients that may not hold the same flavor of sour cream you're looking for. Instead make your own dairy-free sour cream at home. Here's a dairy-free sour cream recipe that is easy to make and only takes about 5 minutes to prepare in a food processor.