Creme Fraiche vs Sour Cream

You’ve definitely heard of crème fraiche and sour cream if you enjoy creamy condiments. Despite having a similar appearance and flavor, the two have several significant variances. In this article, we’ll examine the variations between crème fraiche and sour cream, including their manufacturing procedures, dietary compositions, and typical applications.

Bowl with tasty sour cream and green onion on table

French cultured cream known as crème fraiche has a silky texture and a rich, tangy flavor.

It is created by mixing heavy cream with a bacterial culture and letting it ferment for up to 24 hours.

Instead, lactic acid bacteria are added to cream and occasionally milk to create sour cream, a tart condiment.

Since it has less fat than crème fraiche and is more likely to curdle when cooked, it is best used as a topping or as a last-minute addition to recipes.

Choosing the appropriate ingredient for your recipe might be aided by being aware of the variations between crème fraiche and sour cream.

Knowing which item to use can make a world of difference when cooking a creamy soup, zesty dip, or luscious dessert. Now let’s get into the specifics.

Key Takeaways

  • Crème fraiche is a French cultured cream with a rich, tangy flavor and velvety texture, while sour cream is a tangy condiment made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cream and sometimes milk.
  • Crème fraiche is more stable than sour cream and can be added to hot soups and sauces without curdling, while sour cream is best used as a topping or added to dishes at the last minute.
  • Understanding the differences between crème fraiche and sour cream can help you choose the right ingredient for your recipe and achieve the perfect texture and flavor.

Creme Fraiche: An Overview

Creme fraiche is a flexible ingredient that can be utilized in a variety of ways to give your recipes richness and depth. Here are some facts about crème fraiche:

Creamy Homemade Mascarpone Cheese in a Bowl

What is Crème Fraiche?

A cultured dairy food with French roots is crème fraiche.

A bacterial culture is added to heavy cream before fermenting it for a few hours or overnight to create it.

The end product has a thick, creamy texture and is tart and slightly sour.

How is Crème Fraiche Different from Sour Cream?

Both crème fraiche and sour cream are tart, creamy dairy foods, but they differ in a few important ways.

Compared to sour cream, crème fraiche has a creamier, richer texture because of its increased fat content.

It is less tart than sour cream due to its somewhat lower acidity content.

The way the two respond to heat is another crucial distinction.

Compared to crème fraiche, sour cream has a lower fat level and a higher protein concentration, making it more likely to curdle when heated.

On the other hand, crème fraiche is more dependable and can be added to hot soups and sauces without worrying about curdling.

How to Use Crème Fraiche in Your Cooking

A useful component with many applications is crème fraiche. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use it as a topping for baked potatoes or tacos
  • Mix it with herbs and spices to make a flavorful dip
  • Add it to soups and sauces to thicken and add richness
  • Use it in place of sour cream in recipes for a creamier, richer flavor

Overall, crème fraiche is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can add depth and richness to your cooking.

Sour Cream: An Overview

Sour cream is a well-liked dairy product when it comes to giving food a tangy, creamy flavor.

Melted cream cheese in a white bowl

What you should know about this adaptable element is as follows:

What is Sour Cream?

A dairy product called sour cream is produced by fermenting cream with lactic acid bacteria.

The cream is thickened and given a sour flavor throughout this procedure.

While sour cream’s fat percentage might vary, it normally has a fat content of 20% or less.

How is Sour Cream Used?

A versatile ingredient, sour cream works well in both savory and sweet meals.

It is frequently used as a garnish or topper for foods like chili, tacos, and baked potatoes.

As a mayonnaise substitute in recipes, sour cream can also be used in dips, salads, and sauces.

How is Sour Cream Different from Crème Fraîche?

Despite the fact that both sour cream and crème fraîche are dairy products with a tart flavor, there are some significant variations between the two.

Because crème fraîche is prepared using a different bacterial culture and more fat, it has a richer, creamier flavor.

Contrarily, sour cream has a more liquid consistency and a tangier flavor.

How to Make Your Own Sour Cream

If your neighborhood grocery shop doesn’t carry sour cream, you can create your own at home.

To thicken and generate a tangy flavor, simply combine a tiny amount of buttermilk with heavy cream and let it sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.

Production Process of Creme Fraiche

Heavy cream is fermented with a bacterial culture to create creme fraiche, a cultured dairy product.

Bowl of Greek yogurt

Here is a quick rundown of the crème fraiche producing process:

  1. Start with heavy cream: The first step in making creme fraiche is to start with high-quality heavy cream. The cream should have a fat content of at least 30% to ensure that the final product has the desired richness and texture.
  2. Add bacterial culture: Once you have your heavy cream, the next step is to add a bacterial culture. The most common bacterial culture used to make creme fraiche is Streptococcus lactis. This culture helps to thicken the cream and give it a tangy flavor.
  3. Incubate: After adding the bacterial culture, the cream needs to be incubated at a warm temperature for several hours. The ideal temperature range for incubating creme fraiche is between 70°F and 80°F. During this time, the bacteria will consume the lactose in the cream and produce lactic acid, which thickens the cream and gives it its characteristic tangy flavor.
  4. Chill and store: Once the creme fraiche has thickened, it should be chilled in the refrigerator for several hours before use. This will help the cream to set and develop its full flavor. Creme fraiche can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Creme fraiche can be made at home with a few simple ingredients and is often a straightforward process.

Starting with fresh, premium heavy cream and using a premium bacterial culture are the keys to producing high-quality creme fraiche.

You can easily produce wonderful crème fraiche at home, which is excellent for giving a range of meals richness and flavor.

Production Process of Sour Cream

Cream is fermented with lactic acid bacteria to create sour cream. The manufacturing procedure is manageable and doable at home.

Greek yogurt on wooden background

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Pasteurize the cream: The first step is to pasteurize the cream to kill any harmful bacteria. This is done by heating the cream to a temperature of around 80°C for a few seconds and then quickly cooling it down.
  2. Add the culture: Once the cream has been pasteurized, a starter culture of lactic acid bacteria is added. The bacteria ferment the lactose in the cream, producing lactic acid and lowering the pH.
  3. Incubate: The cream is then left to incubate at a temperature of around 20-25°C for several hours. During this time, the lactic acid bacteria multiply and produce more lactic acid, causing the cream to thicken and develop its characteristic tangy flavor.
  4. Chill: Finally, the sour cream is chilled to stop the fermentation process and to set the texture.

Sour cream is made in a manner akin to crème fraîche, but with a few significant variations.

While lactic acid bacteria are used to ferment cream to create both products, crème fraîche uses cream with a higher fat content and ferments it for a longer period of time, producing a thicker, richer product.

It’s important to keep in mind that some commercial sour cream products could have extra substances, including thickeners or stabilizers, to enhance texture and consistency.

To make sour cream at home, these additions are not necessary, and they can be skipped if preferred.

Nutritional Comparison

There are several nutritional similarities and differences between crème fraîche and sour cream.

dairy products on blue canvas cloth, white wooden table background

Here is a comparison of their nutritional values per serving size of 2 tablespoons:

NutrientCrème FraîcheSour Cream
Fat12 g5 g
Saturated Fat8 g3 g
Carbohydrates1 g2 g
Protein1 g1 g
Calcium2% DV4% DV

You can see that compared to sour cream, crème fraîche contains more calories and fat.

But it’s crucial to remember that crème fraîche is produced with cream, which has more fat than the milk used to make sour cream.

In actuality, crème fraîche contains roughly 90% fat calories compared to about 60% for sour cream.

Calcium and protein content are comparable in crème fraîche and sour cream.

The calcium content of crème fraîche is slightly higher than that of sour cream.

Calcium is a necessary mineral that is required for the health of bones, muscles, and nerves.

Overall, sour cream and crème fraîche don’t provide many nutrients, but they can give food flavor and texture.

Using sour cream in place of crème fraîche may be preferable if you’re managing your calorie and fat consumption, but bear in mind that the flavor and texture will differ.

Frequently Asked Questions

Homemade yogurt or sour cream in a wooden bowl

Can I use crème fraîche instead of sour cream?

Yes, you can use crème fraîche instead of sour cream in most recipes. However, keep in mind that crème fraîche has a richer, creamier texture and a milder tangy flavor than sour cream. So, if you’re substituting crème fraîche for sour cream, you may need to adjust the amount of other ingredients in your recipe to balance out the flavor and texture.

Can I use sour cream instead of crème fraîche?

Yes, you can use sour cream instead of crème fraîche, but keep in mind that sour cream has a thinner consistency and a more pronounced tangy flavor than crème fraîche. So, if you’re substituting sour cream for crème fraîche, you may need to add some heavy cream or milk to thin it out and reduce the tanginess.

Is crème fraîche healthier than sour cream?

Crème fraîche and sour cream are both high in fat and calories, so neither one is particularly healthy in large amounts. However, crème fraîche is slightly lower in calories and fat than sour cream, as it has a higher proportion of butterfat and less added cream.

Can I make crème fraîche or sour cream at home?

Yes, you can make both crème fraîche and sour cream at home using just a few simple ingredients. To make crème fraîche, simply mix together heavy cream and buttermilk or sour cream and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours until it thickens. To make sour cream, mix together heavy cream and a small amount of buttermilk or lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours until it thickens.

How long does crème fraîche or sour cream last in the fridge?

Crème fraîche and sour cream can both be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, as long as they are kept in a tightly sealed container. However, keep in mind that the flavor and texture may change over time, so it’s best to use them within a few days of opening.

Cream on slate in a white bowl


Sour cream and crème fraîche are both delicious, functional, and creamy toppings that may provide a variety of foods and body.

They do, however, differ in certain significant ways that set them apart.

Since crème fraîche contains more fat than sour cream, it is richer, thicker, and less tart.

Since there are no additional thickeners present, it is more stable and less likely to curdle when heated.

Soups, sauces, and desserts taste and have a luscious texture when made with crème fraîche.

In contrast, sour cream has less fat than crème fraîche, which makes it tangier and less thick. It has additional thickeners, which when heated can make it curdle.

It’s ideal to use sour cream as a topping for baked potatoes, tacos, and nachos or as a dip for chips and vegetables.

When deciding between crème fraîche and sour cream, take your cuisine into account as well as the flavor and texture you desire.

Sour cream is the way to go if you prefer a tangier and thinner consistency. Use crème fraîche if you prefer a richer and thicker consistency.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.