How to Make Sour Cream

Since we talked last week about the benefits of culturing dairy, I thought I’d jump right in with one of the easiest and most versatile products you can make: Sour Cream!

Although you can buy a starter culture, or simply set out raw cream to sour, this is our favorite method. You can’t even imagine how easy this is. But first, why make your own sour cream?

  1. You can choose the best possible ingredients, so that you know that your finished product is high quality and full of probiotics.
  2. You won’t be adding a bunch of junk, which is found in some store-bought sour cream.
  3. It’ll make you feel like Miss Super-home-maker! ;-)

How to Make Sour Cream

  1. In a clean jar, mix one part real cultured buttermilk (store-bought or homemade) with three parts cream, stirring gently.
  2. Cover with a coffee filter (use a rubber-band to hold it on, if needed) and leave it on your counter for 24 hours. Stir it to see if it’s thick. (If it isn’t- which mine often isn’t- stir again and recover, leaving for another 12 hours).
  3. Once it is to the desired thickness (the longer you leave it, the thicker it gets), put a lid on it and stick it in the fridge. It will last for weeks and will have a fresh, tangy flavor.

See, I told you it was easy! Just look at how thick this is!

Here are three delicious sour cream dips you can make for dipping chips, veggies, crackers or even meat! :-)

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46 comments to How to Make Sour Cream

  • What do you think about using soured yogurt as sour cream?
    Maybe it doesn’t have the same properties, but it sure tastes similar.

    • That’s a great use for soured yogurt! I’ve also used old kefir this way and it works great. And it’s actually very healthy, because what makes it “sour” is the good bacteria having consumed more of the milk sugar. :-)

  • Jennifer P

    What is “real cultured buttermilk”?

    • If you read the labels on the buttermilk at the grocery store, some of them will say things like “pasteurized buttermilk, thickeners, flavorings” and such. That means that it doesn’t have the live bacteria in it anymore. What you want is something like “cultured milk (it may even say “cultured pasteurized milk” and that’s fine) and it shouldn’t have a bunch of extra ingredients, if you can help it. The main point, though, is that it must have live “cultures” (aka “bacteria”) or it won’t culture your cream for you. :-)

  • huh. i’d never thought to make my own sour cream. even as someone who eats as little food as possible, this hadn’t even occurred to me. good on ya ;)

    p.s. it’s The Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop today and i adore your post. it’s exactly what we’re looking for! you’re welcome to stop by and link up if you like! we’d love to have you!

  • Great post! Can’t wait to try it! I’ve been meaning to make sour cream as part of my homemade dairy series, but keep putting it off for one reason or another ;) If and when I do FINALLY post about it, I’ll be sure to link up with this post :)

    I’d also like to invite you to link this up with us at Tiny Tip Tuesday!

    Have an awesome weekend!

    • I’m so glad you like it! Thanks so much for the encouraging comment and the invite to the link-up. I’ll be sure to pop by next Tuesday to share my post. :-)

  • This is great! I’ve often wanted to make my own sour cream, but was afraid it might be *too* sour. How does the taste compare to that of store bought?

    • My hubby was just saying tonight how the flavor is far better than store-bought! One thing we really love is that we can control how long it cultures, which means we can let it get as strong as we like. Ours is thick and creamy, but it’s actually not any more sour than what comes from the store. It’s more that the flavor is richer. :-)

  • I just recently started making our sour cream and I love it! There’s absolutely no reason to buy it anymore.

  • Susan

    Can I cover the jar with cheesecloth or paper towal instead of a coffee filter?

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  • Tracey

    Does it have to be raw cream? I don’t have access to raw dairy :(
    Also, would “natural” sour cream from the store be the same without the better taste of course? The only ingredient is cultured cream.

    • Thanks for the question, Tracey! I typically use low-heat pasteurized organic cream from the store with all-natural cultured buttermilk. You *can* use regular cream and buttermilk, but it really is healthier to use the low-temp pasteurized if you can find it. We’ve bought “natural” sour cream occasionally, but it just doesn’t have good flavor and it’s also not nearly as healthy as organic low-temp pasteurized. It’s certainly better than the ones with all kinds of additives, though! :-)

  • Judy Laaper

    My sour cream thicken up a little but then nothing, its still runny. Do I throw it out?

    • Uh-oh! Well, it depends on how long you cultured it and at what temperature. Mine will only take about 12 hours if I happen to be making stock at the time and have an unusually warm kitchen. Other times, when my kitchen is more on the cool side, it can take 36 hours to thicken. I’d suggest smelling it. If it still has the fresh, tangy smell like buttermilk, stir it up and let it keep going for another six hours. If it smells bad, I’d just try again with a fresh batch.

      If you’d like to send more details, I’d be happy to let you know what I’d do! I did have one batch that didn’t turn out and I think it was because my buttermilk wasn’t quite right when I got it, so that’s a possibility, too.

  • Judy Laaper

    I had it on my table for 24 hours, gave it a stir and its now in the fridge for a another 24 hours and it still smells tangy.Do I wait for another 24 hours in the fridge?

    • It sounds like it should be fine to eat, just a bit thin. After about 12 hours in the fridge it is as thick as it will get, but if you’d like it thicker, you can put it back out overnight.

  • Judy Laaper

    I live in Canada we don’t have half and half, I did use cereal cream. Is that all right to use?

    • Ah-ha! “Cereal Cream” is only about 10% milk fat, so it will be a lot thinner than whole cream. I use heavy cream straight from the farm or “heavy whipping cream” from the store, which makes for a much thicker product. Using half and half or cereal cream will work just fine as far as flavor and probiotics, but it won’t ever thicken as much as heavy cream. :-)

  • 1 part is like 1 cup right? Ty for recipe I’m going to try this soon!

    • One “part” can mean anything, like one cup or one pint. It just gives you the right ratio to use. In this case, it’s one to three. :-)

  • I’m going to copy your recipe on my page I have on Facebook if u don’t mind. I will say who it’s from and not steal it.

    • It actually works better if you tell people what the recipe is for and then link to it. Otherwise, other people will just copy it from you and it will get “stolen” from your page. :-)

    • I made sour cream yesterday and it’s in the fridge after setting it out for 30 hours , it’s thicker than store bought! :) Never buying it again, making my own from now on.

  • This is great! I’ve been wondering how to make it! If I make it with just milk cream do I just do the same thing? I’ve been buying low-temp pasturized non-homogonized whole milk, so I can skim the cream off the top…I was thinking I might make butter, but I would love to make sour cream too!

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  • Sarah L

    I was wondering.. can’t you use cultured sour cream as a starter instead of buttermilk? I think I might try it just to see..

  • Ellen

    My sour cream has set for almost 24 hours now and no thicker. We keep the house extremely cold, should it be in a very warm place like a pan of warm water like making yogurt?

    • Hi Ellen, Yes, it’s probably just that it needs a warmer temp to culture. You could put it in the oven with just the light on to slightly warm in and keep it out of cold drafts, or put it in a cooler with a hot water bottle or warm towel wrapped around it. :-)

  • Tammy

    Hi, thanks for sharing this recipe! My sour cream has been sitting out for 48 hours now… it’s a little thicker but not as thick as store bought sour cream. Do I leave it out longer? Also, it smells yeast-y. Is that normal? Thanks!

  • Arda Waltman

    I have left cream that was skimmed off of raw milk out for three days to make sour cream-it did finally thicken, but can you tell me is it okay or could it have grown bad bacteria in it?

    • I’m sure that by now you’ve already either used it or trashed it- sorry for the late reply! If it’s from a source you trust and it smells like it should, I’d guess it’s perfectly good. As with any food, there’s always a chance that bad bacteria could grow, but with cultured raw dairy, my experience has been that it’s pretty obvious from smell and appearance if something is wrong with it. When in doubt, toss it. :-)