If you don’t have sour cream on hand, you can make your own with just 3 simple ingredients.

By Zoe Denenberg
April 13, 2020
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It’s no doubt that mayonnaise holds a special place in our big Southern hearts, but the value of sour cream cannot be understated. This fundamental ingredient has so many uses, both sweet and savory. Sour cream adds fluffiness to pound cake, forms the base of party-favorite dips (like Homemade Onion Dip), and brings tang to a wide variety of salad dressings (Herbed Buttermilk Ranch, Creamy Honey Mustard, Green Goddess… you name it). No baked potato or taco skillet is complete without a dollop of sour cream—and once you taste fresh sour cream, you’ll never go back to the pre-made stuff.

When you’re low on provisions, it’s time to improvise. Luckily, there’s an easy technique to make your own sour cream with just 3 simple ingredients. But you’ll need to plan ahead—homemade sour cream requires a full 24 hours to sit, allowing the lactic acid bacteria to thicken and ferment. The result? A true sour cream that you’ll want to keep stocked in your fridge at all times. Taco night will never be the same.

How to Make Sour Cream

Sour cream is exactly what it says it is (soured cream). The technique for making sour cream is similar to that of making other thickened dairy products, like buttermilk and yogurt. In fact, you can use buttermilk to make your sour cream!

Since homemade sour cream does not use any artificial thickeners, it may be slightly thinner than the tubbed sour cream you usually pick up at the store. But don’t worry—it still packs the same tangy flavor.

To make sour cream you’ll need 3 ingredients: Whole milk, cream, and distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also use buttermilk in place of the milk and cream.

  1. In a mason jar, whisk together 1 cup cream and 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes, then add ¼ cup whole milk. Stir well to combine.
  2. Cover the jar with a lid or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, and let sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Chill before serving and enjoy.

Once you’ve made your first batch of homemade sour cream, the possibilities are endless. Use it to top baked potatoes (or in a Twice Baked Potato Casserole). Drizzle it over Chili Cheese Enchiladas, Chicken Tamale Pie, or Sheet Pan Nachos. Use it to moisten biscuits or Grandma’s pound cake. Any way you have it, this homemade sour cream is a crowd-pleaser.