And what the heck is it?

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I can’t remember the first recipe I made with crème fraiche. But I definitely remember licking crème fraiche off of the spoon, not wanting to waste a bit of it.

If you’ve never tried it before, crème fraiche is a type of soured cream popular in France. It’s an extremely rich and creamy dairy product, with a silky custard-like texture and a delicate tang. It’s wonderful stirred into sauces or hot cooked pasta, or even dolloped on desserts in place of whipped cream. It’s dreamy paired with fresh fruit or anything with chocolate in it. Like I said, you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful.

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While you can find crème fraiche in the United States, it can be hard to get in some grocery stores. (Look for small tubs of it in the dairy aisle, near the cream cheese.) Sour cream (which has less fat) is the best and easiest substitute, but it’s not as rich or tangy as crème fraiche. Full fat plain Greek yogurt is another substitute, but it doesn’t have the same smooth texture or mild flavor. Once you’ve had the real thing, it’s hard to go back, even though it can be pricey and hard to find.

Which is why I often make crème fraiche at home. All you need is buttermilk and heavy cream. Combine 1 cup cream and 1 tablespoon buttermilk in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid, like a Mason jar. Partially cover the jar with a clean kitchen towel and let it stand at room temperature up to 24 hours. (Yes, this is safe—the acid in the buttermilk prevents harmful bacteria from developing.) The longer you let it sit, the thicker it will become. When it has thickened, stir the crème fraiche and store in the refrigerator up to two weeks.

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