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Sour Cream Substitutes in Baking: 11 Options to Try

Petr Goskov /123RF

Looking for a sour cream substitute for baking? These alternatives retain the texture and flavor of your favorite recipes.

There are few things as satisfying as the tangy, creamy taste of sour cream in your baked goods.

But what if you’re out of it, or need a dairy-free or lower-fat option? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered as always!

In this post, we’ll explore the best substitutes for sour cream in baking. We’ll go beyond just listing them out — we’ll give you the inside scoop on how each one stacks up to the real thing, and how you can make it work in your next recipe.

1. Greek Yogurt

Imagine spooning into a rich, thick, and velvety heap of Greek yogurt. It’s not only satisfyingly substantial but also imparts a delightful tartness. This Mediterranean staple is a star in its own right, and shines as a sour cream alternative.

However, Greek yogurt is even tangier and thicker than sour cream. This extra tang can even add depth to your recipe, while its high protein content makes your baked goods incredibly moist.

How to make it work: Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream at a 1:1 ratio. For a less tangy flavor, you can try mixing in a bit of baking soda to neutralize the acidity.

Dietary considerations: Greek yogurt is a superb option for anyone looking for a healthier alternative, due to its high protein and low fat content. However, it is still a dairy product, so it isn’t suitable for those with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy.

2. Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche, a velvety delight from the heart of France, carries a rich, nutty flavor with a hint of tang. Picture it like sour cream’s luxurious and sophisticated cousin.

Although Crème fraîche and sour cream share similarities in texture, Crème fraîche is richer and less tangy. While it can be pricier and less accessible, its subtle flavor and sumptuous texture might just be worth it.

How to make it work: Replace sour cream with Crème fraîche on a 1:1 basis in your recipes. It’s also heat-stable, so it’s a better choice for recipes that involve high heat.

Dietary considerations: Like sour cream, Crème fraîche is a dairy product, making it unsuitable for vegans or anyone with a dairy intolerance.

3. Buttermilk

Buttermilk, a creamy, tangy dairy product, is a staple in Southern cuisine and a secret weapon in baking. It offers a unique blend of tartness and richness that will make your baked goods sing.

While buttermilk is tangy like sour cream, it’s considerably thinner. This means it’s an excellent substitute in recipes where sour cream is used for its acidity rather than its texture.

How to make it work: For every cup of sour cream, use 1 cup of buttermilk. Keep in mind that because of its liquid consistency, it might change the texture of your recipe slightly.

Dietary considerations: Buttermilk is a lower-fat alternative to sour cream, making it a great choice for anyone watching their calorie intake. However, as a dairy product, it’s not suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

4. Plain Yogurt

Just like its thicker cousin, Greek yogurt, regular plain yogurt is a versatile and tangy dairy product. It’s perfect for creating moist, tender baked goods, from muffins to cakes.

Plain yogurt is less thick and slightly less tangy compared to sour cream (and also, it’s slightly less creamy than Greek yogurt). This might slightly affect the texture and flavor of your baked goods, but in most cases, it works pretty well.

How to make it work: Replace sour cream with plain yogurt on a 1:1 ratio. If your recipe depends on the thickness of sour cream, you might want to reduce the amount of other liquids in your recipe.

Dietary considerations: Plain yogurt is another good lower-fat alternative to sour cream. However, just like the others so far, it is a dairy product and is not suitable for those with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy.

5. Kefir

Kefir, a fermented milk product, combines the creaminess of yogurt with the fizzy tang of fermentation, bringing a unique flavor profile to your baked goods.

However, Kefir is thinner and more tangy compared to sour cream, which might make a difference in some recipes. Nonetheless, its tanginess can bring an extra depth of flavor to your baked goods.

How to make it work: For each cup of sour cream, substitute with one cup of kefir. Due to its liquid consistency, you may need to adjust the other liquids in your recipe to maintain the right texture.

Dietary considerations: Kefir is a fantastic source of probiotics, which are good for gut health. However, as a dairy product, it’s not suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

6. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese, with its mild flavor and unique curdled texture, might not be the first thing you think of as a sour cream substitute. But when blended until smooth, it can work surprisingly well in baking.

Although its flavor is milder and its texture lumpier than sour cream, once pureed, it achieves a smooth consistency that works quite well.

How to make it work: Blend cottage cheese until it’s smooth and use it as a 1:1 substitute for sour cream. Adding a bit of lemon juice can enhance its tanginess.

Dietary considerations: Cottage cheese is high in protein and lower in fat compared to sour cream, making it a healthier substitute. However, as it’s a dairy product, it’s not suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

7. Skyr

Skyr, a dense Icelandic dairy product, is thick, creamy, and packed with protein. Similar to Greek yogurt, it’s made by straining whey from the curd, which results in a dense and smooth texture that can be compared to cheesecake.

While Skyr shares the creaminess of sour cream, it carries a milder flavor. The taste is subtler, making it a great base for both sweet and savory dishes.

How to make it work: Substitute Skyr for sour cream at a 1:1 ratio. Its high protein content may make your baked goods more dense and moist, so be mindful of this when choosing recipes.

Dietary considerations: Skyr is a good source of protein and often lower in fat than sour cream, making it a healthy alternative. However, it’s a dairy product, so it’s not suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

8. Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise, a creamy, rich emulsion of egg yolk, oil, and vinegar, might be a surprise contender as a sour cream substitute. Its thickness and high fat content can contribute to moist and tender baked goods.

However, mayonnaise has a savory flavor that isn’t quite as tangy as sour cream. It can work well in savory baked goods, but might alter the taste of sweet recipes.

How to make it work: Substitute mayonnaise for sour cream at a 1:1 ratio. It might be more suited to savory recipes, given its unique flavor profile.

Dietary considerations: Mayonnaise is egg-based, so it’s not suitable for vegans or those with an egg allergy. It’s also high in fat, so it might not be the best choice for those watching their calorie intake.

9. Coconut Cream

Coconut cream, the thick, rich, and slightly sweet cream that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk, provides a dairy-free alternative to sour cream. It can impart a lush, tropical twist to your baked goods.

While it has a similar thickness to sour cream, coconut cream has a distinct coconut flavor. Depending on your recipe, this might be a delightful addition or a bit distracting.

How to make it work: Use coconut cream as a 1:1 substitute for sour cream. If you want to reduce the coconut flavor, you could mix in a bit of lemon juice for added tanginess.

Dietary considerations: Coconut cream is a great choice for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or following a paleo diet. However, it is high in saturated fats, so those watching their fat intake should use it sparingly.

10. Vegan Sour Cream

Vegan sour cream substitutes, made from tofu, cashews, or other plant-based ingredients, aim to recreate the tangy creaminess of sour cream without any animal products. They offer a convenient and ethical alternative for those following a plant-based diet.

The flavor and consistency of these substitutes can vary widely based on the ingredients used. Some may not have the same richness or tang as dairy-based sour cream, but they can still perform well in many baking recipes.

How to make it work: Use vegan sour cream substitutes at a 1:1 ratio for sour cream. Keep in mind that the taste and texture may vary based on the brand or recipe, so you might want to experiment a bit to find your favorite.

Dietary considerations: Vegan sour cream is suitable for vegans, those with lactose intolerance, or anyone following a dairy-free diet. However, some might contain processed ingredients or allergens like nuts or soy.

11. Silken Tofu

Silken tofu, the creamiest variety of tofu, can be blended into a smooth, dairy-free substitute for sour cream. It’s a bit of a blank canvas, ready to take on the flavors of your recipe.

While blended silken tofu can mimic the consistency of sour cream, it lacks the tangy flavor. However, it can still work well in baking, particularly when mixed with a bit of lemon juice.

How to make it work: Blend silken tofu until it’s smooth and use it as a 1:1 substitute for sour cream. To mimic the tanginess of sour cream, add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Dietary considerations: Silken tofu is an excellent option for vegans, those with lactose intolerance, or anyone following a dairy-free diet. It’s also a good source of protein and lower in fat than many other substitutes.

Why We Use Sour Cream in Baking

Sour cream is a baker’s secret weapon when it comes to creating moist, tender, and flavorful baked goods.

Its magic lies in its unique composition:

Sour cream’s high-fat content and acidity work together to make cakes, muffins, and other treats irresistibly tender and moist.

The fat plays a critical role in adding richness and keeping the texture of your baked goods soft and palatable.

The delicate tangy flavor of sour cream elevates the taste of baked goods, adding complexity and depth.

Meanwhile, the acidity helps activate baking soda, leading to a finer crumb structure and lighter texture.

Aroma plays a huge role in how we perceive the flavor of food, and sour cream is no exception. The creamy, slightly tangy aroma of sour cream subtly infuses your baked goods, enhancing their overall appeal.

It’s this unique combination of aroma and flavor that can make the difference between a good cake and a great one. It helps balance out the sweetness in desserts and brings a subtle yet distinct flavor that can’t be replicated by using milk or cream.

So, sour cream is not just a background character, but a star player that can have a significant impact on the final result, affecting everything from aroma and taste to texture and crumb.

The Takeaways

Choosing the right substitute for sour cream in baking can be a game-changer.

While sour cream’s creamy, tangy character adds richness and complexity to baked goods, there’s a whole world of substitutes available that can bring similar benefits to your recipes.

If you’re after the tang and creaminess of sour cream, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and skyr are your best bet. They mimic the texture and flavor profile of sour cream remarkably well, making them excellent choices for most recipes.

For a dairy-free or vegan alternative, coconut cream, vegan sour cream, or blended silken tofu can work wonders. Each has its unique flavor and texture, so the best substitute really depends on your specific recipe and personal preference.

Remember, successful substitution isn’t just about achieving the same texture or flavor — it’s about understanding what the ingredient brings to your recipe and finding the best alternative that works for you.

So whether you’re out of sour cream, accommodating dietary restrictions, or just feeling adventurous, these substitutes have got you covered.

Happy experimenting in your baking journey!


Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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