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Substitute for Sour Cream in Baking: 13 Great Alternatives

If you have lined up your ingredients for a baking recipe and discovered that you’re out of sour cream, you don’t have to immediately run to the store. Instead, use a substitute for sour cream in baking. Read on to find out more.

substitute for sour cream in baking

It happens to the best of us: preparing for a recipe only to find out that you are running quite low on a crucial ingredient like sour cream or don’t have it.

Sour cream is used in baking goods due to its fat and moisture contents that add richness to your dishes. When looking for an alternative to sour cream, it’s essential to find an ingredient with similar qualities.

This article describes the 13 best substitutes for sour cream in baking recipes, along with their fat contents and substitution suggestions.

Let’s start by understanding what sour cream is exactly.

What is Sour Cream?

Sour cream is the result of lactic acid-producing bacteria added to pure dairy cream. The bacteria cause the cream to thicken and add different flavors, including a sour taste.

Crème fraîche is a dairy product created in the same way as sour cream, but it’s thicker and has more fat content: 19% fat compared to sour cream’s 20% fat.

Thanks to the tangy flavor of sour cream, it’s a popular ingredient for baked goods like cakes.

In the next section, discover the benefits of sour cream in baking.

What Does Sour Cream Do in Baking?

Sour cream has several benefits when used in baking: adds moisture, makes baked goods richer, helps cakes turn brown, and activates baking soda.

Let’s take a closer look at each advantage of using sour cream in baking:

  • Firstly, sour cream adds moisture, which is why is such a vital ingredient in baking recipes. Although milk and buttermilk can do the same, sour cream moistens batter without thinning it, resulting in tender cakes that crumble finely.
  • Secondly, sour cream enriches baked goods since it has more fat content than other dairy products. For instance, 100g (4oz) of whole buttermilk has 3g of fat, and 100g (4oz) of whole milk has 8g of fat. Sour cream surpasses them since 100g (4oz) of sour cream has 20g of fat.
  • Thirdly, sour cream has low acidity. So it slows down the browning process, ensuring that cakes bake uniformly (including the insides). If you don’t use sour cream, there’s a risk that the outside of your cake will burn despite the quality and temperature of your oven. 
  • Fourthly, since sour cream has acid, it activates baking soda just like baking powder to help cakes expand as they bake, so you don’t need baking powder anymore. And some people wish to avoid the excessive use of baking powder due to health concerns

In the next section, check out the top substitutes for sour cream in baking.

The Best Substitute for Sour Cream in Baking: 13 Alternatives

Despite the benefits associated with sour cream, some people may not like the tangy flavor of sour cream or may not be able to use this ingredient in baking for other reasons: dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, following a vegan diet, or the health concerns we mentioned earlier. Plus, since it’s so high in fat, sour cream is a poor choice for those sticking to a weight loss program unless the diet plan calls for high-fat meals (like keto).

If you’re looking for a substitute for sour cream in baking, here are the best alternatives: whole buttermilk, whole milk, evaporated milk, milk powder, heavy whipping cream, plain kefir, Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, cream cheese, crème fraîche, ricotta cheese, Mexican crema, mayonnaise, coconut cream, and cashew cream.

Let’s start with buttermilk.

1. Whole Buttermilk

whole buttermilk

Whole buttermilk is a decent sour cream substitute in baking (and vice versa) because it has a tangy flavor that mimics sour cream.

You can use whole buttermilk in recipes that require moisture, like quick bread and cakes.

Whole buttermilk is thinner than sour cream. On top of that, it has a significantly lower fat content than sour cream: 3% (whole buttermilk) vs 20% fat (sour cream). So it’s best to mix whole buttermilk with butter (81% fat) to obtain the same consistency and not ruin your recipes.

Use 3/4 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 cup of butter to replace 1 cup of sour cream.

In the next section, check out regular milk.

2. Whole Milk, Evaporated Milk, or Milk Powder

fresh regular milk

Whole milk, evaporated milk and milk powder are all quick and easy substitutes for sour milk in baking since they can save your recipe in a pinch.

You can use whole milk or evaporated milk for cakes, cookies, and quick bread. Aside from baking, these ingredients can be added to soups or sauces, in which case you should let them sit for 15 minutes first.

Milk powder is better for those who like to plan ahead and fill their pantry with long-term ingredients since it has a longer shelf life than whole milk or evaporated milk. 

It’s better to use whole milk than low-fat milk, although you won’t get the same tangy flavor as sour cream. For this reason, whole milk is an excellent sour cream alternative if you wish to avoid the sharp taste of sour cream.

Compared to sour cream which is 20% fat, whole milk and evaporated milk are 8% fat, while milk powder is 27% fat.

Whole milk, evaporated milk, or milk powder alone won’t enhance the flavor of your baked goods since they aren’t acidic. But you can fix this issue by adding a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.

Use 1 cup of whole milk, evaporated milk or milk powder and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to replace 1 cup of sour cream. 

In the next section, check out heavy whipping cream.

3. Heavy Whipping Cream

heavy whipping cream

Heavy whipping cream is an excellent substitute for sour milk in baking since it’s thicker than milk. It has a higher fat content of 36%, so it’s significantly closer to sour cream (20%).

Heavy whipping cream has the same tangy flavor as sour cream, so you don’t have to combine it with any acidic ingredients. As such, you can use this ingredient in any baking recipe that calls for sour cream.

When replacing sour cream with heavy whipping cream, apply the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out plain kefir.

4. Kefir

plain kefir

Plain, unsweetened kefir is a great substitute for sour cream in baking. It has a similar tanginess and high moisture content. But kefir is thinner than sour cream, so you have to use it in smaller quantities.

Kefir made with whole milk has 8% fat, so you can’t expect the same texture from cakes like sour cream. Neverthless, it’s an excellent ingredient for pancakes, biscuits, cookies, or breads.

It is an excellent substitute for when you don’t have sour cream but want to bake.

When using plain, unsweetened kefir to substitute sour cream, apply the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out Greek yogurt.

5. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt is the most versatile substitute for sour cream in baking. It moistens cakes and has similar tanginess and consistency as sour cream.

You can either use low-fat, regular, or fat-free Greek yogurt. Regular Greek yogurt works best out of the three because it has a higher fat content (9%). It works well in baked goods or as a topping or dip

When replacing sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, use the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out plain yogurt.

6. Plain Yogurt

plain yogurt

Plain yogurt is a great sour cream replacement.

Compared to Greek yogurt, plain yogurt is thinner and harder to find since most yogurt options on the market are sweetened and flavored.

Plain yogurt has 5% fat, which is significantly lower than sour cream (20% fat).

You can use plain yogurt in baking goods that call for sour cream, although it can also be used as a topping or for a dip.

To use plain yogurt in place of sour cream, apply the 1:1 ratio in recipes like bread, cakes, cookies, and dressings.

In the next section, check out cream cheese.

7. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese

Cream cheese is a suitable sour cream substitute in baking. But it’s thicker than sour cream.

Low-fat cream cheese is 15% fat while regular cream cheese is 34% fat, so you can choose any of them to replace sour cream in cooking, which is 20% fat.

To make cream cheese thinner to add it to baking recipes, you can mix it with a bit of water, milk, or buttermilk.

So to replace 1 cup of sour cream, add 3/4 cup of cream cheese with a tablespoon of water, milk, or buttermilk.

In the next section, check out crème fraîche.

8. Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is a popular French sour cream, slightly less sour than regular sour cream. This ingredient has a similar consistency and tangy flavor to sour cream, but it’s creamier and richer.

Light crème fraîche has a nearly identical fat content to sour cream: 19% (sour cream is 20% fat).

When replacing sour cream with crème fraîche, stick to the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out ricotta cheese.

9. Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese

Ricotta cheese is a fine substitute for sour cream in baking, especially whole-milk ricotta cheese since it’s 13% fat (compared to sour cream’s 20% fat). 

There are some notable differences between ricotta cheese and sour cream. Firstly, ricotta has a grainy texture compared to the creaminess of sour’s cream. Secondly, ricotta is sweet while sour cream is tangy. Thirdly, ricotta is not as smooth as sour cream. Finally, you won’t obtain the same moisture from cakes as if you were using sour cream.

To replace sour cream with ricotta cheese in baking, mix 3/4 cup ricotta with 1/4 plain yogurt and use this in place of 1 cup of yogurt.

In the next section, check out Mexican crema.

10. Mexican Crema

homemade Mexican crema

Mexican crema is a great substitute for sour cream in baking since it adds moisture and makes cakes rich. But it’s slightly thinner and less sour than sour cream. Furthermore, Mexican crema has a high fat content of 30%, surpassing sour cream by half (20% fat).

However, crema is just as good a substitute as any when used in recipes that call for sour cream.

When replacing sour cream with Mexican crema, stick to the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out mayonnaise.

11. Mayonnaise

homemade mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a wonderful substitute for sour cream in baking (and vice versa) since it adds moisture to cakes and muffins. You can also use it as a topping after making it thinner with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

Regular mayonnaise is too fat (75%), but light mayonnaise is excellent (22%) since it comes close to the fat content of sour cream (20%).

When using mayonnaise as a sour cream substitute, stick to the 1:1 ratio.

In the next section, check out coconut cream.

12. Coconut Cream

Coconut cream

Coconut cream is a dairy-free sour cream substitute. It goes well with recipes that require the consistency and fat content of sour cream provides. While sour cream is 20% fat, coconut cream is 35% fat. 

The only problem is that coconut cream has a distinct coconut flavor that will be felt in the resulting baking goods. So you should only use when you don’t mind the coconut taste.

Before using coconut cream in your baked goods, blend it to a smooth consistency and add lemon juice or vinegar to give it a similar tanginess as sour cream.

Mix 1 cup of coconut cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and use this mixture to replace 1 cup of sour cream.

In the next section, check out cashew cream.

13. Cashew Cream

Cashew cream

Cashew cream has a milder flavor than coconut, and you can use it as a vegan sour cream substitute in baking, for toppings or dips. It has a nearly identical fat content to sour cream: while cashew cream is 21% fat, sour cream is 20% fat.

Cashew cream doesn’t bring out the same tanginess as sour cream in baked goods, so you will have to combine it with lemon juice or vinegar.

Mix 1 cup of cashew cream with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and use this mixture to replace 1 cup of sour cream.

In the next section, find out additional information about sour cream substitutions.

Substitute for Sour Cream in Baking (FAQ)

This section gives you straightforward answers to common questions about sour cream.

Can you freeze sour cream?

Yes, you can freeze sour cream. Thoroughly mix the sour cream, put it in a resealable freezer bag that’s slightly larger than your amount of sour cream, remove any excess air from the bag, label the current date, and keep it in the freezer up to 4 months.

How to make sour cream?

To make your own sour cream at home, you will need:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Pour the heavy cream into a clean bowl.
  2. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice or vinegar.
  3. Stir until the mixture thickens and forms a soft peak.
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, until the mixture turns sour and thickens further.
  5. Once the sour cream is ready, transfer it to a clean container and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Is sour cream keto?

Yes, sour cream is keto. Since it’s made from cream, which is high in fat, it fits well into a ketogenic diet. Plus, the lactic acid bacteria in sour cream also help to promote gut health.

How much acid does sour cream have?

Regarding acidity, sour cream has a pH level of 4.5.

The next and final section summarizes the entire article on sour cream alternatives.

Conclusion

Sour cream is a popular ingredient, especially in baking. However, some people don’t like the taste or have other dietary preferences.

Fortunately, sour cream is not short of dairy and non-dairy substitutes you can use in your baked dishes.

However, some sour cream substitutes work better when used for toppings and dressing than baked goods. It all depends on what you are making.

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