It probably comes as no surprise that commercially available brands of sour cream and crème fraîche bear little to no resemblance to their form in healthy, traditional diets. Usually containing numerous additives and thickeners, modern cultured cream is also (ultra)pasteurized, meaning it contains no probiotics or enzymes. This fact alone should convince you to steer clear and try your hand at making homemade sour cream and its milder tasting cousin crème fraîche.
These cultured dairy toppings are two of the simplest fermented foods to make, in fact. Only one step is required and you don’t need any sort of specialized starter!
It is an easy and nutritious “upgrade” to your family’s diet from unhealthy, hard to digest, allergenic commercial versions.
Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche
You’ve probably already guessed from the name, but crème fraîche is a traditional French topping. Historically, it is made by thickening heavy cream with the addition of small amounts of cultured dairy. Examples are yogurt, soured milk or buttermilk. Kefir is also acceptable, though it is not traditional to French cuisine.
Sour cream is very similar, containing a bit less fat (20% vs 30% for crème fraîche). This is accomplished by diluting heavy cream with a slightly larger amount of cultured dairy than is necessary to make crème fraîche. The result is a cultured cream that is more tangy in flavor.
Because crème fraîche is so mild tasting, it is fabulous atop soaked pancakes or sprouted waffles instead of a sweeter tasting whipped topping. A spoonful added at the table to a bowl of soup made with homemade bone broth adds beneficial enzymes to this fully cooked dish. Be sure the soup is not too hot when you stir it in, else the precious enzymes and probiotics will be lost!
Sour cream’s stronger flavor makes it a favorite with baked potatoes and homemade dips. My favorites are this recipe for a sweet onion dip. This recipe for artichoke dip is a good one to take to parties. Some people use homemade sour cream instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches too.
Look how thick and yummy it looks when you scoop it out with a spoon when it is ready to eat! My hubby is in love with it and happily posed for this picture! Notice also how beige this grassfed cultured cream is. Store bought sour cream and crème fraîche are white indicating a very low level of nutrition as the dairy cows were likely confined with little to no grazing on green pasture.
Which Cultured Cream to Choose?
Ultimately, the choice of when to use each of these healthy cultured creams is dependent on your own set of taste buds. My recommendation is to make both because it is so easy and affordable to do so! They last for many weeks in the refrigerator, giving you ample time to discover which one you prefer with your favorite dishes.
Homemade Sour Cream and Crème Fraîche Recipe
Probiotic-rich homemade sour cream and crème fraîche recipe made in a single step. A traditional and healthy substitution for commercial brands that contain numerous additives and thickeners.
- 6 ounces heavy cream preferably raw and grassfed
- 2 Tbl plain whole milk kefir
- 5 ounces heavy cream preferably raw and grassfed
- 3 Tbl plain whole milk kefir
Place heavy cream in a half pint sized, 8 ounce mason jar. Stir in the appropriate amount of kefir depending on whether you wish to make crème fraîche or sour cream.
Be sure to leave an inch at the top. Screw on the lid and leave on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours.
Use and enjoy!
Refrigerate after 24 hours on the counter. Both of these cultured creams will last for many weeks in the refrigerator, although the flavor will grow stronger over time.
Fresh, raw grassfed cream works best for this recipe. You may use slightly soured raw cream too, but it will result in a stronger flavor to your cultured cream.
In a pinch, you may use pasteurized grassfed cream (Natural by Nature is a good brand available at Whole Foods). Do not use ultra-pasteurized (UHT) cream. Note that the risk of the fermentation "not taking" is greater when using pasteurized cream, though still quite low given that the fermentation time is only 24 hours.
You may use either store bought or homemade kefir to culture the sour cream or crème fraîche. I do not suggest commercial yogurt, as it is not fermented for a sufficient length of time to be strong enough to culture the cream. If you make proper, 24 hour yogurt at home, then you may use this instead of kefir.
Other options to mix with the heavy cream include raw clabbered milk or cultured buttermilk. Enjoy the process of experimenting to find the fermented dairy that produces the most desirable texture and flavor for your homemade sour cream and crème fraîche!
Remember that home fermentation is not an exact science - it is a highly creative endeavor affected by many variables including the season of the year, the temperature and humidity of your home, and even the amount of light in the kitchen. Enjoy the journey of learning what works best in your home!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
I am so excited to try these! I use sour cream and creme fraiche all the time and am thrilled to know I can culture it my self! I can get raw kefir here in San Diego – do you recommend using it in these instances or would it end up being a bit too soured?
Raw kefir would work fine as a starter! I use that myself 🙂
Camille - Stacy Russell Isagenix Online
SOOOO simple and easy! Thanks for sharing! Just wondering if you make your own yogurt too? I recently purchased an Instant Pot pressure cooker, which has a “yogurt” feature, but every time I’ve tried to make homemade yogurt, it is not as thick as my family would prefer. They don’t want “drinkable” yogurt. Any suggestions?
I use a Vita-Clay to make yogurt on the yogurt setting. Super easy! See this article for more info. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/vitaclay-review/
Sarah, how fabulous of you to offer this recipe to us. Thank you! 🙂
When you say to leave it on the counter overnight, I’m wondering if my house is too chilly. I’m in PA with frigid winters (this one especially) and with oil prices so high, and just me now, I keep the thermostat way down to the mid-high 50s.
If so, I could do what I do when I make the yogurt from fresh, raw milk and put it into the ice chest with warm/hot water – wrapped in towels.
Thanks for all your information.
Every home is different … do what you know works for your living environment and your experience with other types of ferments.
Can you use the cream from making whey from raw milk with this recipe?
What you are referring to is not cream but actually cream cheese. It is already fermented and quite different in both taste and texture to sour cream. I don’t recommend using it to try to make sour cream as it won’t turn out smooth like in the picture above and the taste won’t be right.
Can I freeze kefir?
I have never frozen it myself, but others tell me that you can. It can cause issues with the texture when it thaws though, so be aware of that.
Did you mean pint size OR 8 oz. jar? Will the cream expand as it sours?
Thanks for catching that typo. I meant half pint! :o)
Definitely use an 8 ounce jar!
Heavy cream: um, not sure I’d buy the 30$ Gucci creme, but would something from, like, Trader Joe’s work? Also, Kifir. Any store bought would work?
Raw cream is the absolute best, but if you can’t get that, I suggested in the recipe notes above to check out Natural by Nature which is grassfed pasteurized cream available at Whole Foods. I don’t shop at Trader Joe’s, so not familiar with what they have. Most brands of plain organic kefir at the healthfood store would work. There is one … can’t remember the brand … but I checked it and was shocked that it had additives! So, just be sure to read the label carefully and only get a brand that has grassfed milk and probiotic culture listed in the ingredients!
Thank you I have been wanting to make my own sour cream, and so easy (easier than going to the store)! Thanks for all of your research, insight, and fab recipes!
I love homemade sour cream! Mine looks just like yours in the jar, with a nice yellow tinge. The problem is I end up eating the whole thing off the spoon before I get a chance to make anything with it- oh well!