What Is Sour Cream, Actually?

Look, there’s no getting around it…the words “sour” and “cream,” especially when used together, are not the most enticing descriptors for something one wants to ingest. If you’re the type of person who is reluctant to eat sour cream just based off the name, I certainly won’t begrudge you. 

However, for the valiant crowd who pushed past those initial reservations, sour cream is a welcome friend whose presence only adds to the flavors surrounding it. It has a myriad of uses not only as a plain dollop, but as a baking ingredient, a chip dip, and a base for fillings and rich salad dressings. 

But what is sour cream—beside a Swiss army knife of a food? Let’s find out. 

How is sour cream made?

Alright, let me put on my lab coat before saying what I’m about to say: Sour cream is made by adding a culture of lactococcus lactis to pasteurized light cream and incubating at 72 degrees until the desired flavor and thickness is reached. The lactic acid produced by the culture coagulates the protein, thickening the cream and adding the characteristically sour flavor!

There, no more lab coat for me until a new Muppet movie gets released and I hit the opening night midnight screening dressed as Beaker. 

Is sour cream dairy? 

Unfortunately for our lactose intolerant friends, that “cream” part of sour cream is definitely not ironic. Sour cream indeed has dairy. Luckily, we live in an enlightened age that offers a wide variety of vegan sour cream options, from such dutiful companies as Forager, Tofutti, and Follow Your Heart. Be thankful you aren’t living in medieval times when no one was making vegan sour cream! Although, seems to me you’d have bigger problems like the plague or getting accidentally catapulted during a battle. I personally hate when that happens. So embarrassing to try and maintain your cool while hurtling off into the distance. It’s always like, “And on top of this, we haven’t yet invented dairy-free sour CREEAAAAAaaammmm..(thud).” It truly was a dark age! 

What does sour cream taste like? 

Though tough to pinpoint, sour cream has a milky rich flavor with a slight acidic tang, that makes it live up to its sour moniker. The taste is similar to creme fraiche and Greek yogurt. But, much like everything on the culinary spectrum, you gotta just give it a try for yourself! 

Sour cream, in all its divisive glory, will always be able to find a home whenever a nacho plate needs to upgrade to “supreme” level, whenever donut batter wants to be even tastier than it already is, and whenever someone wants to fill their Super Soaker with something a little more interesting than plain old water. Sour cream: It’s always an option!

best sour cream

Best Sour Cream

Now that you know all about sour cream, find out what the best sour cream is. We ate sour cream like yogurt in order to find the best sour cream for you.

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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