Best Sour Cream Substitutes

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Need a sour cream substitute? Learn about all the best options, including dairy-free choices!

We’ve all been there: You’re halfway into making one of your favorite dishes, and you reach for the sour cream, only to realize what you thought was a full container only had a spoonful remaining.

Thankfully, you don’t need to worry.

A bowl of sour cream and other ingredients on a table.

Whether you want to make cinnamon coffee cake or avocado crema, there are lots of options when it comes to a sour cream substitute. Chances are you might even have one (or more) of them already in your fridge!

What exactly is sour cream?

Sour cream is a versatile ingredient that adds richness and a tangy flavor to a wide range of dishes, from tacos and baked potatoes to creamy dips and desserts.

It is made from cream skimmed off milk, and then fermented or cultured until it reaches the desired thickness and tang. 

Sour cream usually contains between 18 and 20% butterfat, compared to 36-38% in heavy cream.

Why use a sour cream replacement?

I know I’m not the only one who has been in the middle of making a recipe and realized I’m missing ingredients! We often run out of sour cream, or only have a bit of what is needed for a recipe (thanks to all the tacos we eat!). However, running out of sour cream is just one reason to use a replacement.

Many cooks and bakers look for sour cream alternatives that can make their dishes just as moist, but with lower levels of fat.

If you’re looking to make a switch to a more plant-based lifestyle or need to avoid dairy for health reasons, you might need a sour cream substitute as well.

Sour cream substitute options

Luckily, there are lots of options for substituting sour cream, no matter what you’re using it for.


One of the most common sour cream substitutes is yogurt. It’s wildly available and the tangy flavor is a good match for sour cream. It’s also rich in probiotics and protein, so it’s a go-to for many.

Use plain yogurt as a 1:1 replacement in most recipes, especially in baking. 

A bowl of yogurt with a spoon in it.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, and it’s an excellent substitute for sour cream in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s higher in protein, which can be a bonus in some recipes.

Greek yogurt comes in a variety of fat levels from whole milk yogurt to nonfat yogurt. Full-fat Greek yogurt contains much less fat than full-fat sour cream, cup for cup, so don’t be afraid to use it!

Use plain Greek yogurt as a 1:1 substitute for sour cream.


Buttermilk has a tangy flavor that closely resembles that of sour cream. Because it is much thinner than sour cream, it works best in salad dressings or marinades.

You can use buttermilk in place of sour cream in baked goods as well, but consider reducing from a 1:1 swap to achieve the same consistency in the final product.

Butter + Milk

Don’t have buttermilk on hand? A great substitute for sour cream in baking is to combine melted butter, milk, and lemon juice.

For each cup of sour cream, use 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter plus 3/4 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

Butter on a table next to a measuring cup.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is an affordable swap that can be used in various recipes. 

To swap 1 cup of evaporated milk for 1 cup sour cream, whisk in 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand about 5 minutes to thicken, then use as directed in the recipe.

A can of evaporated milk and a bottle of lemon juice.

Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche is like sour cream’s sophisticated cousin, with a milder tang and a higher fat content. You can usually find creme fraiche in the deli area, near the feta, goat cheese, and mascarpone.

It’s ideal for topping desserts, fruit, or soups. I’ve also stirred it into cheese sauces for a velvety finish and extra tang.

Use it as a 1:1 substitute for a creamy, slightly tangy taste.

A container of creme fraiche sitting on a table.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a popular ingredient swap these days, showing up in everything from pancakes to smoothies.

It can be transformed into a sour cream alternative by blending it until smooth. It’s a good choice for dips, spreads, or casseroles. Start with a 1:1 ratio, and blend until the texture matches sour cream.


Quark is a creamy, soft cheese that is popular in Europe. It has a similar texture to sour cream and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. A 1:1 substitution typically works well in most recipes, though you might want to thin the quark slightly by blending in milk.

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is a dense, rich substitute for sour cream that works best in baking, as it can be quite heavy. Use it in recipes like cheesecakes, where the tangy flavor of sour cream is needed. 

Because cream cheese is so thick, you will need to adjust it slightly before using in the recipe.

To swap for 1 cup of sour cream, first soften the cream cheese to room temperature, then blend 6 ounces with 1-3 tablespoons of milk or water until smooth. If you want it to be thinner, blend in more liquid, but take care to not add too much.

A box of cream cheese sitting on a table.

Dairy-Free Sour Cream

Perhaps the easiest substitute of all, dairy-free (vegan) sour cream is a simple 1:1 swap. 

Vegan sour cream is made with a variety of bases, depending on the brand. Some use tofu or cashews, while others rely on nondairy milks like almond or coconut.

Make sure you taste the vegan sour cream before swapping it for sour cream, as the different ingredients all add somewhat different flavors that can affect the recipe.

Mexican crema

Mexican crema is a great substitute for sour cream. It comes in a few different varieties, so make sure you get the kind that best matches your recipe.

Crema Mexicana is generally thin and pourable. It works best for dressings or topping your favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes like cauliflower tacos or green chile chicken enchiladas.

Crema Mexicana Agria is the thicker version that most closely matches sour cream. It is available in tubs or jars.

Creama mexicana on a table next to a bowl.

Choosing the Right Sour Cream Substitute

When selecting a sour cream substitute, consider the flavor, texture, and nutritional content that best complements your dish.

Keep in mind that yogurt and its derivatives are healthy choices, while options like evaporated milk and cream cheese may be richer and heavier.

Experiment with these substitutes in your recipes to find the perfect match for your taste and dietary preferences.

Recipes using sour cream

Now that you have a selection of substitutes in your back pocket, why not give some recipes a try?

Tart raspberries are perfect with the tangy flavor in raspberry cream pie. For another dessert option, churn up a batch of rich strawberry pretzel ice cream.

Get dinner ready with twice baked mashed potatoes or cheesy tater tot casserole, where sour cream or its substitutes play off the savory flavors.

Sour cream substitutes are great in dips as well. Try using one in green onion dip or bacon onion dip.

A bowl of sour cream with a wooden spoon next to it.


Sour cream substitutes are plentiful, making it easy to adapt your recipes when you’re in a pinch or looking for healthier alternatives.

From yogurt to creme fraiche, each option offers a unique texture and flavor, allowing you to maintain the delicious qualities of sour cream while exploring different ingredients.

Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen and try out these alternatives to enhance your favorite dishes!


About Megan

I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…

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