The 8 Best Substitutions For Sour Cream

Sour cream is a cooking staple that can be replaced in recipes relatively easily. Whether it's cheesecake or a dollop on your taco salad, sour cream is one of those ingredients that you don't realize you have until you need it. But storing it in the refrigerator for long periods of time can cause it to spoil, which is not ideal for your dinner plans!

If you find yourself in that situation, don't worry. There are a plethora of other options you can substitute for sour cream. For the most part, you can create alternatives with common ingredients found in the kitchen, such as milk, butter, lemon juice, and vinegar. But first, let's cover what sour cream is. 

According to Spruce Eats, the product is made when lactic-acid bacteria are added to dairy cream to create a tart flavor. Normally sour cream is used for dips, to thicken sauces, and to garnish meals. It can also be used to moisten and tenderize baked goods, which is why substitutes are not hard to find. Keep reading for some easy kitchen swaps you can use in recipes that call for sour cream.

1. Heavy Whipping Cream + Lemon Juice

The best substitute for sour cream is heavy whipping cream mixed with lemon juice — this is essentially homemade sour cream. Heavy whipping cream is made from the high-fat part of fresh milk. According to Healthline, when fresh milk is left to "stand," the heavy cream makes its way to the top and is then scraped off. By adding lemon juice to this ingredient, a sharp flavor similar to that of sour cream comes out. Plus, it's super easy to whip these two ingredients together at home.

Because the taste is so similar to sour cream, this alternative can be used for any recipe that the ingredient is called for. This combination would be delicious in baked goods, like this old-fashioned sour cream sugar cookie recipe!

Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, and you're ready to get cooking.

2. Milk + Lemon Juice

Another easy substitute for sour cream is milk and lemon juice — it's essentially homemade buttermilk. Don't have regular milk in your fridge? A can of evaporated milk will work just as well. Evaporated milk is produced when regular milk has had some of the liquid removed by evaporation. 

Milk is not as thick when blended with lemon juice, therefore it is a second-choice alternative to heavy whipping cream. Still, the lemon juice-milk combination will work in a pinch if you need sour cream and can't get to the store to buy a new tub of it.

To substitute milk and lemon juice for a cup of sour cream, use 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (via Tastessence). This replacement will work best in baking and in sauces. This is also a solid choice for when you're topping a meal like burritos or nachos with "sour cream."

3. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is another solid option, as it is the most recommended stand-in for sour cream. Replace the amount of sour cream called for in the recipe with the same amount of yogurt. 

According to Healthline, Greek yogurt is strained and has a lower percentage of liquid versus regular yogurt. This leads to a thicker and tangier substance that is like sour cream. And when you just want a dollop of sour cream to top a baked potato or a bowl of chili, Greek yogurt's tanginess can be a good thing.

If you're using it in baking, good news — that's it, you're finished. Dips or dressings using this substitute may taste more tangy than usual. One caveat is sauces, where using yogurt could cause curdling from the heat. If you have to use Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute in a sauce, the thicker the yogurt (such as Greek yogurt), the better, as more fat will make it less likely to curdle in cooking (via The Spruce Eats).

4. Buttermilk

Another possible substitute for sour cream is buttermilk. This product is derived from leftover liquid from the butter-making process. Because of this, buttermilk is more acidic, leaving a tangy flavor. The lactic acid bacteria is added in after the heating process, similar to that of sour cream. When used correctly, buttermilk (or sour cream) can elevate baked goods to the next level, like with this buttermilk biscuit recipe.

Use the buttermilk in equal measure to the sour cream in baking. However, add it slowly, as buttermilk is a thinner ingredient, and you may need to use less than called for to prevent your mixture from becoming watery. 

The buttermilk substitute works best in baking. Outside of baking, it is better to use one of the other recommendations for sour cream substitutes. (After all, you can't exactly use buttermilk to top a plate of cheesy nachos or to whip up a bowl of cucumber-dill dip.)

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese can also be used in place of sour cream in a pinch. Due to the fact that it is a cheese curd product, it consists of a creamy texture. Healthline explains that curds are the leftover solid portions of milk during the cheesemaking process. As a result, cottage cheese is also lower in calories than sour cream. What a win for the low-fat, high-protein diet!

The tastes of cottage cheese and sour cream are similar, and the addition of a bit of lemon juice will make the cottage cheese almost indistinguishable from sour cream. It will even work in tacos. 

If you want your cottage cheese to take on a texture closer to that of sour cream, add two tablespoons of milk and one teaspoon of lemon juice to 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and mix until you have the right consistency. Your dinner guests will be none the wiser!

6. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese can also be used in place of sour cream if you don't have a tub of the tangy stuff on hand and can't get to the store. This food product is often in many people's fridges for that morning bagel or midday snack. Note that cream cheese is thicker than sour cream, so you'll have to loosen it up before using it in your recipes (via The Pioneer Woman).

For the best results, mix 3/4 cup of cream cheese with 3 tablespoons of milk or buttermilk and blend to get a pretty decent sour cream replacement with a similar texture (via HuffPost). An important step to note is to let the cream cheese come to room temperature before mixing it with the milk. 

This substitute goes well with any recipe you're dealing with. We're partial to adding sour cream to cake recipes for that extra dash of pizzazz!

7. Cashews

Okay, so this next sour cream substitute idea is a little outside the box. But cashews are a great alternative to sour cream! The snack is high in fat, and Healthline explains that this makes them an awesome dairy-free substitute. With 5 grams of protein, 155 calories, and 12 grams of fat per ounce, this is a surprising choice that works well and adds some nutrition to your meal.

Cashews can be utilized to make a vegan sour cream by soaking the nuts in a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, and sea salt. 

Although this is not the perfect substitute for baking, using soaked cashews in place of sour cream is acceptable for soups and side dishes. Still not convinced? You can use cashews to make everything from plant-based coffee creamer to vegan cashew cheese. This nut is a lot more versatile than many people give it credit for!

8. Vegan Sour Cream or Vegan Yogurt

Vegans or people who can't eat dairy may need a sour cream substitute for dietary purposes. In those instances, you'll need a non-dairy substitute, like vegan sour cream (or the soaked cashews mentioned above).

Vegan yogurt can be used in place of sour cream in much the same way that you can swap sour cream for regular or Greek yogurt. Simply replace the sour cream in the recipe with an equal amount of vegan yogurt (via The Spruce Eats). Again, this is not an amazing alternative for baking purposes, but both are great for soups and side dishes. (When you want to top a savory soup or a baked potato, a dollop of vegan yogurt is better than nothing!)

The great thing about sour cream substitutes is that they generally require things you already have, and there are enough options that you can usually find something that will work with your recipe. Don't be afraid to get creative in the kitchen!