Making sour cream at home is both easy and rewarding. It contains no additives, no fillers or thickeners, and there is no plastic tub to discard. But the best reward: your homemade sour cream contains probiotics and it tastes absolutely delicious! In this tutorial on making sour cream at home, we'll cover:

how to make sour cream

Choosing a Cream

Different creams will produce sour cream with different thicknesses. Keep these tips in mind when selecting your cream.

  • Pasteurized heavy cream or whipping cream will yield the thickest sour cream.
  • Half-and-half can be used, but the sour cream will have a thinner consistency. 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. Learn more about using raw cream to make sour cream here!
  • Avoid ultra-pasteurized (UP) or ultra-high temperature (UHT) cream, as it yields inconsistent results when used for culturing sour cream.


Sour Cream Ingredients

Why Use a Starter Culture?

If you browse the internet, you will find several ways to make homemade sour cream. Some sour cream recipes suggest combining dairy and vinegar to create that thick sour cream texture.

But this won't accomplish the same probiotic-goodness that using a starter culture does. Plus, we think the taste and texture just doesn't compare to anything you find in the store or make in other ways!

What if I Don't Want to Use a Starter Culture?

If you'd like to make homemade sour cream with other ingredients, check out our tips below for alternative ways to make sour cream.

homemade sour cream kits

Sour Cream vs. Crème Fraîche

If you're looking to make sour cream you may have also heard of crème fraîche. Both are cultured dairy products, made in very similar ways.

The difference?

Sour cream is a cultured cream product that contains about 20% butterfat and has a sour flavor. Crème fraîche is a cultured cream product with more butterfat and a milder flavor.

Instructions for Making Sour Cream

  1. Heat cream to 145°F and hold at that temperature for 45 minutes.
  2. Cool cream to 77ºF.
  3. Add starter culture and stir gently until powder is fully dissolved.
  4. Transfer to a glass jar; cover with a coffee filter or tight-weave cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  5. Place the jar in a warm spot, 74-77°F, to culture for 16-18 hours.
  6. Once the sour cream has set, place a tight lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator.
  7. Sour cream will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Step by Step Photo Tutorial

how to make sour cream at home step 3

1. Slowly heat 1-4 quarts of pasteurized cream to 145°F and hold for 45 minutes. It’s OK just to heat the cream to 77°F, but your sour cream will be thinner.

SourCream_04_Process_cool cream

2. Cool the cream to 77°F. If you need to speed up the cooling process, you can place the pan of heated cream in a sink or basin of cool water.

sour cream making process step 5

3. Add 1 packet of starter culture.

4. Stir gently until the powder is fully dissolved.

5. Transfer the cream to a glass container.

6. Cover the container with a towel or coffee filter secured with a rubber band and place the jar in a warm spot, 74-77°F, to culture for 16-18 hours.

7. Once the sour cream has set, cover it with a tight lid and store it in the refrigerator. Sour cream will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

SourCream_09_Process_set cream

You can tell that your sour cream has set when it becomes more or less uniform in appearance. It should appear as one solid mass and be relatively smooth.

SourCream_11_Process_top with sour cream

How to Make Your Sour Cream Even Thicker

Because store-bought sour cream generally contains thickeners and other added ingredients, it is generally thicker than homemade sour cream.

Luckily, there are a few ways to make your homemade sour cream thicker too.

1. Add Dry Milk Powder

There are several varieties of dry milk to choose from. When using dry milk powder to thicken sour cream you'll need to combine a small amount of it with the cream prior to heating the cream. Make sure the milk powder is mixed in well. You can slowly add more cream to the milk powder until it's well combined, then proceed with heating the cream.

2. Heat the Cream to a Higher Temperature

In step 1, heat the cream to 180°F and hold at that temperature for 30 minutes.  Make sure the cream cools completely prior to adding the starter culture.

How to Culture Cream Using Alternative Starter Cultures

While sour cream is traditionally made with a Sour Cream Starter Culture, there are other ways to culture cream, to make a similar product. When using a different culture, there may be variations in flavor, so try a few and pick the one you like best.

1. Use Cultured Buttermilk or Countertop Yogurt

Cultured buttermilk or mesophilic (countertop) yogurt is convenient to use as starter for culturing cream, as well.

Use 1 tablespoon yogurt or buttermilk per cup of cream. Culture as you would buttermilk or yogurt, according to the instructions included with your particular starter culture.

2. Use Milk Kefir Grains or Finished Kefir

Milk kefir grains or finished milk kefir can be used to make Kefir Cream, a good substitute for sour cream.

Use 1 tablespoon finished milk kefir per cup of cream or 1 teaspoon grains for up to 4 cups of cream.