March 2, 2024

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How To Make Sour Cream

4 min read
Overhead shot of a wooden bowl with sour cream in it that

$1.42 recipe

Written by Monti – Budget Bytes

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a recipe that calls for sour cream and opening up the tub only to find it’s almost empty or worse- there’s mold all over it. Luckily, if you’re out of sour cream, you can make your own! All you need is two ingredients and a lot of upper body strength. (I’m exaggerating about the need for muscle tone. I can do it, and I haven’t worked out since the 90s.)

What is sour cream?

First things first- there are two types of sour cream: cultured and acidified. Without getting too sciency, cultured sour cream is made with bacteria, while acidified sour cream is made with an acid. Fun fact: many store-bought sour creams aren’t made from cream at all. They’re made with milk that’s thickened with artificial ingredients. Homemade sour cream doesn’t have artificial thickeners so it will be a little runnier than what you’re used to, but the flavor will be spectacular!

Making Sour Cream From Scratch

Since you probably don’t have a vial of lactic bacteria in your pantry, you’ll need heavy cream and an acid. I like using vinegar, but you can also use lemon juice or buttermilk. You’ll also need a mason jar or another air-tight container. To make sure the container is squeaky clean, boil it for a few minutes, let it cool, and then add your cream and acid. Then cover and shake it (or blend it) until it thickens. That’s it. You’ve made sour cream.

To Ferment Or Not To Ferment

I’m a pretty impatient person, so if I’m using the sour cream for a batter or a dip, I add it a few minutes after I’ve made it because its primary purpose is to add creaminess and flavor. It’s not the star of the show; it’s a background singer. (Like the one chick in Destiny’s Child whose name no one ever remembers.) Now, if it’s the Beyonce of your dish, you’ll want to let it sit for a day on your counter to let the cream ferment and thicken and then refrigerate. To keep it 100, I usually skip fermenting it and just put it in the fridge to thicken overnight. It still tastes great.

How long does it last?

That depends on you. It’s best to store the sour cream in the back of your fridge, not the fridge door, where temperatures fluctuate. If you clean your container well and keep the sour cream at 40 degrees, it should last about two weeks. To keep it fresher longer, store it upside down so it isn’t affected by air. When the cream falls to the lid of the jar, it creates a vacuum, which slows down mold and bacteria growth. You can use this nifty trick on all dairy products that come in a container or a jar. I’m looking at you, cottage cheese.

Some of the things you can make with sour cream

Don’t limit your sour cream to just a topping for baked potatoes or a heap of nachos. It works magic in all sorts of dishes. You can use it in sweet and savory preparations to add tang, moisture, and tenderize. It’s the little cream that could.

How To Make Sour Cream

If you’ve run out of sour cream and don’t want to run to the store for more—you can make it at home with just two ingredients: heavy cream and vinegar!

Author: Monti – Budget Bytes

Resting Time: 12 hrs

Total Time: 12 hrs 5 mins

Servings: 1 cup

  • 1 cup heavy cream ($1.40)
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar ($0.02)
  • Add the cream to a mason jar or other airtight container.

  • Add the vinegar to the cream. (Or whatever acid you decide to work with.)

  • Close the container and shake it for a minute or two, until the cream thickens.

  • Use the cream right away or leave the jar on your counter overnight to ferment and thicken.*

*Leave it out on your counter overnight if you want tangier, thicker sour cream. I usually shake it and pop it in the fridge, where it will thicken in a few hours.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1 cupCalories: 812 kcalCarbohydrates: 7 gProtein: 7 gFat: 86 gSodium: 65 mg

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.


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How to Make Sour Cream – Step by Step Photos

Add the cream to a mason jar or other airtight container.

Add the vinegar (or lemon juice) to the cream.

Close the container and shake it for a minute or two until the cream thickens.

Use the cream right away or leave the jar (with the mouth covered in cheesecloth or other lightweight cloth and secured with a rubberband) on your counter overnight to ferment and thicken.

Overhead shot of a wooden bowl with sour cream in it that's topped with chives and is surrounded by potato chips.

Now your deliciously fresh homemade sour cream is ready to use in your favorite recipe!

Here are some great recipes to use up your sour cream:

Looking for more easy how-to’s? Check these out:

posted on September 7, 2022 in Cost Per Recipe, Dressing Recipes, Egg Free Recipes, Gluten free Recipes, How-To, No-Cook Recipes, Quick Recipes, Recipes, Recipes under $3, Sauce Recipes, Soy Free Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes
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