How to Make Sour Cream


Sometimes it seems difficult to find a quality sour cream at the local grocery store. Organic sour cream is rare in many parts of the country and even if you can find an organic option, often it has been ultra-pasteurized or has added stabilizers to thicken the product.

Fortunately, making sour cream at home is easy. To make sour cream you will need cream and a starter culture. While making sour cream takes only a few minutes of prep time, allow a full 24 hours for the sour cream to culture and cool prior to serving.

Choosing a Cream

The first step to making sour cream is choosing an appropriate cream for the project. There are several factors to consider:

  • Whipping cream (whole cream) will yield the thickest sour cream.
  • Half-and-half can be used but the sour cream will have a thinner consistency than if whipping cream is used. Dry milk powder can be added to improve the consistency if desired.
  • Raw cream can be used but will yield a thinner consistency than if pasteurized whipping cream is used.
  • Avoid ultra-pasteurized (UP) or ultra-high temperature (UHT) cream as it tends to yield inconsistent results when used for making cultured foods.

Choosing a Starter Culture

There are several options for starter cultures. Each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages but all will yield delicious sour cream.
  • Use a direct-set sour cream starter culture: The advantage of a direct-set culture is that the powdered starter can kept in the freezer until you are ready to make sour cream. Combine one packet of the starter with 1 to 4 quarts of cream and allow the mixture to culture in a warm spot (70° to 80°F) for 16 to 18 hours before placing the sour cream in the refrigerator to cool. 
  • Use buttermilkyogurt (homemade or from the store), or milk kefir. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of buttermilk, yogurt, or milk kefir per cup of cream, cover lightly, and allow to culture for 12 to 18 hours in a warm spot (70° to 80°F). When the culturing process is complete, place the sour cream in the refrigerator to cool.  
  • Use a direct-set aromatic cheese starter culture such as flora danica or mesophilic aromatic type B: If you are a cheesemaker and have either of these cultures on hand, they can be added to cream at the rate of about 1/8 teaspoon per quart and cultured for around 18 hours in a warm spot.

Making Sour Cream

  1. Once you've chosen your cream and starter culture, mix the cream and starter culture together.
  2. Cover the container lightly to allow any gas created during the process to escape. (A towel or loose lid both work well.) Place the mixture in a warm spot (between 70° and 80°F works best) for 12 to 18 hours. The mixture should thicken and when tipped should not run up the sides of the jar, but rather pull away from the side of the jar.
  3. Once the mixture has set, cover the jar with a lid and place it in the refrigerator for 6 or more hours to halt the culturing process and cool the sour cream.

If a thicker sour cream is desired, a small amount of dry milk powder can be added before culturing. Alternatively, prior to mixing in the culture, the cream can be heated to 185°F and held at that temperature for 30 minutes. Be sure to allow the cream to cool completely prior to adding the starter culture. This heating process will generally yield a thicker sour cream.



Homemade Sour Cream

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