How To Make Sour Cream: Learn to Make It AND Creme Fraiche!

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How To Make Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche

Learning how to make sour cream is surprisingly easy, and it sets in just 24 hours. Also, we’ll show you how to make delicious creme fraiche!

Coming from Minnesota, where dairy cows seem to outnumber people, I grew up drinking whole milk, using skimmed cream in my coffee, and eating what seemed like tons of sour cream. My potatoes would sure seem lost without it. And now as an adult, I enjoy creme fraiche just about as much. But, imagine my surprise, when I looked at the ingredients on the package one day. Gelatin? What kind? Where did it come from? Thickeners? Why? I asked myself why I don’t just make my own…and now I do!

The Difference Between Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche

While the ingredients may seem similar and the directions virtually the same, what is the real difference between sour cream and creme fraiche (crème fraîche).

? Not much, but it is different. Sour cream has added milk and is a bit thinner than creme fraiche. And creme fraiche is not only thicker, but smoother and creamier. Both can vary widely depending on the milk and cream used, type of pasteurization, and region and flavor of the milk or cream itself. Of course, the type of acid used makes a difference too.

How to Make Sour Cream

Learning how to make sour cream is easy, and only takes around 24 hours to set! It isn’t cheaper, but knowing what’s in my food goes a lot further with me than how much something costs.


  • ¼ cup milk (whole, unpasteurized is best)
  • ¾ teaspoon white vinegar (fruit based)
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. In a quart jar, mix the cream and vinegar together, then add the milk. Screw a lid on tightly and shake well.
  2. Remove the cover and put a clean towel secured with a rubber band over the top.
  3. Leave it on the counter overnight (up to 24 hours) for it to set up.
  4. Give it a stir and cover it with a jar lid. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so, if it lasts that long!

Note: Because there are no artificial thickeners, your homemade sour cream may be thinner than commercial brands you may be used to. Have no fear, it’s fine. I’ve gotten used to the consistency and like it better since it blends in recipes so well.

How to Make Creme Fraiche

Creme fraiche is a thicker version of sour cream, but much creamier and often sweeter due to the cream itself. You can add a bit of sweetener if you like, just before using it. I use some powdered turbinado sugar (run through a coffee/spice grinder) when I use it on strawberries or peaches. So much better than whipped cream!


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk


Mix the cream and buttermilk together in a jar and place them on the counter as in the recipe above. In about 24 hours you’ll have nice thick creme fraiche. Add a touch of sweetener, as I did, or leave it straight for topping all sorts of dishes.

Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche Safety Considerations

People often ask me how safe it is to leave milk and cream unrefrigerated overnight. The acid in the vinegar and buttermilk is enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so there is no danger of spoilage. You might be tempted to use ultra-pasteurized milk or cream, but don’t. This works much better with organic or even raw milk if you have access to it.

Bonus Chicken Casserole Recipe

After learning how to make sour cream, one of my favorite ways to use it (besides just on baked potatoes) is to make this casserole. I once worked in a deli and was asked to come up with a recipe that would keep good in the hot bar and use excess chicken. We always had rotisserie chicken left at the end of the day, but you could use turkey just as well.


  • 2 cups cubed chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups stuffing (use up those leftovers!)
  • 2 cups cream soup (chicken or celery work well)


Mix all of the above together and bake at 350° for about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.

I used cream of broccoli soup and added chopped broccoli once and it was a big hit. Try adding a cup of salsa for a Mexican flair. Top with crushed tortilla chips and bake as directed.

Now that I have goats, I’m going to try making sour cream with goat milk. It doesn’t separate like cow’s milk, so it may work. I’ll let you know!


We also have a great article on homemade whipped cream that you should check out!

Have you made your own sour cream or creme fraiche? How did it turn out? Share below!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Diane says

    The way I learned to make sour cream is just let the cream (raw) sit on the counter for about 24 hours. That’s it. It begins to sour. If you want more sour taste, leave it a bit longer. Easy peasy. Raw cream only, though.

  2. Carol L says

    Do you have a link for the fruit based white vinegar? I have ONLY found white vinegar and that says nothing so I know that it is petroleum based, as are MOST white vinegars you can find today. I have been able to find one brand that is grain based: ‘Essential Everyday’ brand. But NEVER any that are fruit based!
    (I use white vinegar in massive amounts for all of my cleaning products and won’t use regular, as they are all petroleum based. I have found the above mentioned brand in 1/2 gallon sized for my recipes).

    Interesting that my daughter makes ricotta using the same recipe! She uses lemon juice, but consumes it immediately and doesn’t let it set 24 hours. She also makes only enough for one serving, (or two when I’m there!) and we eat it for the current meal.

  3. Nicole says

    I’m wondering if there’s any way to make this as a dairy-free version…would almond milk react the same way with the vinegar?

  4. Bethany says

    This looks awesome & I’d love to try it! Problem is, I don’t have access to raw milk or cream. Will it work with store-bought milk & cream? I hate to spend the money on the cream if it’s not going to work.

    Another question: You say that the sour cream is thinner than store-bought. Could that be adjusted by not adding so much milk to it? Or is the milk ratio important?


    • Debra Maslowski says

      Yes, Bethany, you can use store bought cream and milk as I mentioned above. They will work just fine as long as they aren’t ultra pasteurized. And I’m not sure about adding less milk. The thinner consistency never bothered me, so I never gave it a thought. It makes sense and I’ll be trying it with the next batch.

      • Tara says

        I buy the 2% milk at Wal-Mart so how do I know if it’s just pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized? What do I need to look for?

  5. Janet says

    So this only works with raw cream? I don’t live on a farm and don’t have access to anything other than store bought milk and cream. : (

    • Debra Maslowski says

      No, you don’t need to get raw cream, Janet. You can use store bought, just be sure the cream hasn’t been pasteurized too much. If it is, then it won’t work. There should be some regular whipping cream or heavy cream in the same section as the milk. Otherwise, you can do as I suggested above and but whole milk that’s not homogenized and pull the cream off the top yourself.

      • Janet says

        Thank you Debra. I did take a good look at the organic half and half and cream that I currently have and both are ultra pasteurized. I am going to be looking at all of the cream when I go back to the store and see if I can find some that would work. : )

    • Debra Maslowski says

      You can use lemon juice, Denise, but again,. it may not be acidic enough. You may need something stronger. Try it and see how it goes. You may also need to refrigerate it after a few hours to keep the bad bacteria from forming.

  6. Junko says

    Can I use raw apple cider vinegar for the making of sour cream? I have the raw unpasteurized milk but the cream is pasteurized. Is that OK?

    • Debra Maslowski says

      The raw apple cider vinegar is fine, Junko, but it could discolor your sour cream. That’s the main reason for using distilled vinegar. Also, be sure to check the acidity content to be sure it’s comparable. Pasteurized cream is ok, as long as it’s not ultra pasteurized. This process destroys too much of the bacteria needed to form the sour cream.

  7. Barb says

    Ok, so here’s my silly question (as the wife of someone in the restaurant industry who is always reminding me about the “ok” amount of time to leave things out)- it’s ok to leave dairy products unrefrigerated for that long? I have no idea what they do to the sour cream I get in the store (and probably don’t want to) and never thought much about where the “sour” comes from- but it’s from leaving it out over night?

    • Debra Maslowski says

      It’s not a silly question, Barb. I was unsure of it myself. But I read, and now have experienced, that the acid from the vinegar is enough to keep bacteria from forming. I’ve never had a batch spoil on me.