Rich, tangy sour cream is the ultimate topping for a steaming hot baked potato. It’s also a common ingredient in baked goods like cakes. However, it’s not always a common ingredient in your refrigerator.
If you don’t have sour cream, here are 5 quick and easy substitutes that’ll do the job, including a solid non-dairy sour cream substitute.
What Is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is a dairy product made by fermenting regular cream. When lactic acid is added to cream, it results in a thick and creamy ingredient that’s as rich as regular cream but also pleasantly tart.
Sour cream’s rich flavor and texture is welcomed as a condiment in baked potatoes, soups, and chili, as well as an addition to dips and classic dishes like beef stroganoff, potato salad, and deviled eggs. It’s also an excellent ingredient for baking, lending moisture and tenderness (thanks to its fat content!) to everything from cakes to pie crust, while also providing a light, subtle tang of flavor.
5 Sour Cream Substitutes
If you’re without sour cream, these alternatives mimic the real deal.
1. Whole Milk Yogurt
Full-fat, whole milk plain yogurt is the closest you can get to sour cream. Like sour cream, it’s creamy and tart, and while it doesn’t contain as much fat, whole milk yogurt is still plenty rich.
Low-fat yogurt will work, too, if you’re in a real pinch, but steer clear of fat-free yogurt, since you do really need some fat for it to be a proper sour cream alternative, especially if you plan to bake with it.
Whole milk yogurt can be used as a 1-to-1 substitute in cooking and baking. Either regular or Greek yogurt works, too, although Greek yogurt’s thickness is on par with sour cream, which means it’s a slightly superior choice, especially in dips and when dolloping.
2. Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is a French dairy product traditionally made from unpasteurized cream that has fermented and thickened due to its natural bacteria. In the U.S., however, where dairy must be pasteurized, crème fraîche is made by adding bacteria to pasteurized cream to ferment it.
So, in essence, it sounds exactly like sour cream, right? The difference lies in the fat content. Sour cream contains about 20% fat, while crème fraîche contains about 30%. That means crème fraîche is much richer, as well as thicker and less tangy.
Even so, crème fraîche can be used interchangeably with sour cream. It’s actually a superior choice in many soups and sauces, because while sour cream runs the risk of curdling when cooked at high heat, crème fraîche’s high fat content prevents this.
You’ll get the same tang from buttermilk as you would sour cream, but the texture is totally different, so it’s not an ideal substitute for all applications. Feel free to use as a 1-to-1 sour cream substitute in dressings or when mashing vegetables, but don’t try to garnish your baked potato with it.
To bake with it, use 3/4 cup buttermilk for every 1 cup sour cream. Buttermilk has more liquid and you don’t want to throw off the moisture content of whatever you’re baking.
Also, either whole or low-fat buttermilk works, but like using yogurt as a substitute, you’ll get better flavor and richness, which will more closely mimic sour cream, if you use whole buttermilk.
Like buttermilk, kefir is similar in flavor to sour cream but thinner and more liquid in texture, so the same rules apply. You can’t dollop it like you would sour cream, though you can use it interchangeably in cooking.
For baking, use 3/4 cup kefir for every 1 cup sour cream to ensure the moisture content of what you’re baking isn’t affected. Also, like buttermilk, opt for whole milk kefir, if possible.
3. The Best Non-Dairy Sour Cream Substitute: Vegan Sour Cream or Yogurt
If you’re trying to avoid dairy entirely, vegan sour cream or yogurt are your best bets, used as a 1-to-1 substitute. There are a lot of options available these days, made from coconut milk, oat milk, cashew milk, and even tofu. I recommend Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free Sour Cream or Nancy’s Oatmilk Non-Dairy Yogurt.