Heavy Cream vs. Sour Cream: Which Is King?

Published Categorized as Food
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Sour cream is the king of tang but can’t beat heavy cream in thickness. Sour cream is a little healthier, but both are high in fat content.

Like cousins of the cream family, heavy cream and sour cream have more similarities than differences but sometimes those differences can be crucial to your dish.

Tangy and arguably more flavorsome, sour cream works best in saltier meals while the thicker heavy cream typically works better on desserts.

But there are some meals where the two can be used interchangeably, at which point it comes down to what you want to achieve.

Furthermore, it can come down to health too. While neither is healthy, sour cream is generally lower in fat content.

Heavy cream can also be called ‘whipping cream’ and sour cream is sometimes called ‘soured cream’ in the UK.

Is Sour Cream the Same as Heavy Cream?

Nope, sour cream is not the same as heavy cream. Both are variants of cream with slight differences that make them suitable for different dishes.

Sour cream is often used for saltier foods, such as nachos, chili, or potatoes. Heavy cream can be used for ice creams or toppings for desserts.

However, sour cream and heavy cream can be used in soups, with fruit, and in baking, but with different effects.

It all depends on what the end result should be.

What’s the Difference Between Heavy Cream and Sour Cream?

What makes sour cream different from other creams, including heavy cream, is that it is created by adding lactic acid-producing bacteria to ferment regular cream.

Heavy cream stands out from regular cream by having at least a 36% milk fat content, according to Hasa of Pediaa.com.

However, cream with a fat content of 48% is technically ‘double cream.’ Meanwhile, sour cream has a fat content of approximately 20%.

Sour Cream vs Heavy Cream: Nutrition

Sour cream is a little more nutritional than heavy cream, though neither can be labeled healthy choices.

On top of that, any health benefits from sour cream will likely be too minute to be noticeable.

So, it’s probably not worth stressing too much over the nutritional differences between the two unless there is something you need to avoid or would like to increase in your diet.

While sour cream contains some nutritional benefits over heavy cream, heavy cream has lower sodium and sugar than sour cream and contains more calcium and vitamin A.

Despite this, sour cream is generally seen as the healthier of the two.

Sour Cream vs Heavy Cream: Calories

Heavy cream outranks sour cream in terms of calories, though it can depend on how you are using it and what variety of heavy cream you use.

According to FatSecret, 100g (0.03 oz) of heavy cream can contain up to 345 calories while the same amount of sour cream can contain up to 214 calories.

Across the internet, though, you will see a range of other calorie measurements for sour cream and heavy cream.

But the general rule seems to be that heavy cream is heavier in calories than sour cream—after all, it does have a higher level of fat.

That said, be sure to check the products you are using!

Is Sour Cream Healthier Than Heavy Cream?

Sour cream is better for cholesterol than heavy cream because of heavy cream’s high fat and saturated fat content.

But that’s not all. According to Marygrace Taylor of Live Strong, sour cream is also “Rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus and selenium.”

Both have a significant fat content—sour cream is still around 20% fat, so don’t go thinking it’s healthy. Sour cream and heavy cream should be consumed in moderation.

You can use MyFoodData.com’s nutrition comparison tool to compare different brands of sour cream and heavy cream.

Can I Substitute Sour Cream With Heavy Cream?

Yes, you can substitute sour cream with heavy cream, but it depends on what you’re making. They differ in taste and texture and that will impact certain dishes significantly.

For beef stroganoff, heavy cream can be added but most online recipes use it in conjunction with sour cream.

Natasha Kravchuk of Natasha’s Kitchen uses heavy cream in combination with sour cream in her ground beef stroganoff recipe.

Elsewhere, Casey Rooney of Get On My Plate claims that the best substitutes for sour cream in a beef stroganoff are Greek yogurt and cream cheese.

So, if you don’t have sour cream available but do have heavy cream, you may want to combine it with one of the two.

Sour cream is best known as the top sauce for making mashed potatoes, and heavy cream can be a suitable alternative if you don’t have sour cream.

But do note that you’ll lose the tanginess the acidity provides from the sour cream and your mashed potatoes will be creamier than usual.

You may also consider using heavy cream to substitute sour cream in banana bread, but again it’s not always the first substitute that comes to mind.

Many would advise that you use Greek or regular yogurt instead, just as Rooney recommended for beef stroganoff.

Often, though, recipes with chili or soup are the best cases where you can get away with adding heavy cream instead of sour cream.

So, heavy cream could be your second or third alternative depending on what you already have in the kitchen.

Can I Make Heavy Cream From Sour Cream?

Though sour cream can work as a decent substitute for heavy cream in some recipes, you cannot make heavy cream from sour cream.

The process that turned cream into sour cream cannot be undone, and so it will always have that specific sour taste.

But did you know that’s not difficult to make heavy cream? You could make it from scratch at home—all you need is milk and butter.

Katie Wolf of Skillshare writes: “melt one-quarter cup of butter, and then slowly whisk in three-quarters cup of whole milk or half-and-half.” And your heavy cream is ready to use.

Wolf also highlights that you can use silken tofu, soy milk, coconut milk, or coconut cream as vegan alternatives to heavy cream. Or—depending on the recipe—just use milk.

Can I Make Sour Cream Out of Heavy Cream?

Yes, you can make sour cream from heavy cream and it’s relatively simple to do. As you would expect, using heavy cream will yield thicker results.

Gemma Stafford of Gemma’s Big Bolder Baking uses heavy cream in her sour cream recipe. It involves:

  • Heavy cream (of at least 36% fat content).
  • Lemon juice (or white vinegar).
  • Milk.

Long story short, you need to do is mix the heavy cream with the lemon juice and pour in milk after. It is best to do this in a jar and then leave it for 24 hours.

Many recipes will recommend regular cream over heavy cream, including this one from Zoe Denenberg of Southern Living.

Denenberg’s recipe uses the same ingredients, just cream instead of heavy cream. However, if you want a particularly thick sour cream, heavy cream will be the best way to make sour cream.

Heavy Cream and Sour Cream Ratio

To get the best sour cream from heavy cream, you should use 1 cup of heavy cream, 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice (or white vinegar), and then a ¼ cup of milk.

If you decide to increase your sour cream yield, make sure you keep to the above ratio. Also, note that using more lemon juice or white vinegar will give the sour cream a stronger taste.

And remember to leave it to settle for at least a day before trying it.

By Craig Britton

As children, we’re told not to play with our food. But I find that food tastes best when you experiment with it. I love trying out new recipes and cooking techniques almost as much as I love eating the end result.