How to Make Sour Cream

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Learn how to make sour cream at home using heavy whipping cream and a starter culture. These two simple ingredients work together perfectly to make thick sour cream.

Bowl of homemade sour cream that has been culturing at room temperature for a few days on a wood table

This traditional sour cream is made with an active culture of lactic acid bacteria, so it’s packed with good bacteria (aka probiotics). And the fermentation process gives it the sour flavor this popular ingredient is known for.

One of the best things about making your own sour cream is there isn’t a need for artificial thickeners or preservatives like guar gum, sodium phosphate or food starch. Real sour cream has a naturally thick texture when made using the traditional process.

The next time you need (or want) sour cream, but don’t want to buy it at the grocery store, follow my simple tutorial for making your own delicious sour cream. It’s easier than you might expect!

Ingredients and Equipment

By the Numbers: How to Make Sour Cream

Follow these simple steps to learn how to make the best sour cream recipe at home.

Step 1: Add Cream to Glass Jar.

Pour your room-temperature heavy whipping cream into a quart-sized mason jar. Make sure it’s a clean jar to avoid contamination during the culturing process.

Step 2: Whisk in Culture Starter.

Whisk in one packet of Sour Cream Starter Culture until it’s dissolved. Once it’s fully dissolved, lightly secure the lid on your jar.

Step 3: Allow Cream to Ferment.

Set the jar in a warm environment and let it ferment for 1-2 days. In some areas or in cooler temperatures, it may take a longer amount of time to ferment (it can take about 4 days during winter for me).

Step 4: Check Sour Cream.

You’ll want to check the jar every day. Once you notice it thickening, open the jar so you can smell and taste the cream. You’re looking for that distinct taste of sour cream. When it’s sour, you know the milk sugar has been eaten up and it’s ready to be consumed.

Step 5: Store and Use Sour Cream.

Once it’s done fermenting to your taste preferences, store the jar of homemade sour cream in the refrigerator. Use your cultured sour cream as you would any other sour cream, but it’s best to eat it raw. Whisk or shake before each use.

Tips for Making the Best Homemade Sour Cream

Answers to all of your questions about making this easy sour cream recipe, including tips, substitutions and usage ideas.

1. Is the culture starter necessary?

No, there are other similar ways to make sour cream, but using a high quality sour cream culture starter will give you the most reliable results.

2. Different methods to make sour cream?

While my favorite way to make it is to use a culture starter as a fermenting agent, there are other ways to make sour cream, although the finished product may be a little thinner.

The most popular method (and the way I made it when we lived in Uruguay) is to mix a tablespoon of an acidic medium like lemon juice, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar with one cup of cream and let it sit on the counter until it thickens.

The results won’t be as reliable as using a starter culture, but it still works and tastes amazing.

3. Why isn’t it thickening?

The first time I made sour cream, I was worried it wasn’t going to set up because it was really liquidy for a couple of days. But sure enough, it thickened up the very next day.

If you’re in a cooler climate like us, you may experience the same thing. If that’s the case, you can set the jar in the oven with the oven light turned on (and the oven turned off) like when making homemade bread. This should keep it just a bit warmer than other areas of your home.

4. Can low fat cream be used?

No, for best results, only use regular whipping cream with full fat. If you use low-fat cream, you likely won’t end up with thicker sour cream as the fat content is what helps to thicken it.

5. Can raw cream be used?

You can use raw cream instead of pasteurized to make sour cream. The main difference is it may not have that thicker texture you’re after and it may have slightly different flavors.

If you’re lucky enough to have your own milk cows, try separating the fresh cream from your raw milk. Then try making sour cream with it. Each batch will have its own unique flavor.

6. How to make vegan sour cream?

If you don’t consumer dairy products, it is possible to make dairy-free sour cream. The Wooden Skillet has a recipe using coconut milk you can try.

7. How to store sour cream?

Once it’s done fermenting, store your home made sour cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 2-3 weeks. It will start to separate and smell bad when it’s expired.

8. Recipes using sour cream?

There are so many different ways to use sour cream as an ingredient. You can use this homemade sour cream just like you’d use any store bought sour cream.

In my opinion, here are some of the best ways to enjoy this tasty condiment:

9. What else can be made with culture starters?

I love using starters from Cultures for Health because it seems like they have the best quality starter cultures for making so many traditional food recipes, including:

Close up of bowl of homemade sour cream on wood table

Sour Cream Recipe

Learn how to make sour cream using a starter culture in this traditional recipe using two simple ingredients.
5 from 7 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Culturing Time: 2 days
Total Time: 2 days 15 minutes
Recipe Servings: 8

Ingredients

Equipment

  • Quart sized mason jar
  • Whisk

Instructions

  • Pour your room-temperature heavy whipping cream into a quart jar.
  • Whisk in a packet of sour cream culture until it’s dissolved, then put on the lid.
  • Put the jar in a warm place, and let it sit for 1-2 days until you have soured cream. In some areas or in cooler temperatures, it may take longer.
  • Once the cream thickens, and each day after, smell and taste it. When it tastes sour, it’s done.
  • Store your homemade sour cream in the refrigerator. Give it a good stir before each use.
    Close up of bowl of homemade sour cream that's super thick.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 16mg | Potassium: 56mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 869IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.1mg

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