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How to make Sour Cream recipe - All you need is 3 ingredients and a jar, that's it!

How to Make Sour Cream (Bold Baking Basics)

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Learn How to Make Sour Cream at home with this sour cream recipe and then use it to make your baking even better — or enjoy on its own.

Hi Bold Bakers!

One of my oldest and most used Bold Baking Basic recipes is Sour Cream! Knowing how to make sour cream is key for both your sweet and savory cooking and baking.

From topping tacos and chili to adding onto your scones and rich chocolate cakes, I use sour cream all the time. I always have some of my easy Homemade Sour Cream in the fridge, so using this simple method means that you too can have your own fresh sour cream on hand. Let me tell you, too: Bold Bakers have been asking me about Homemade Sour Cream for quite some time. Whether it’s because it’s unavailable in your region, or maybe you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get it, here it is! And it’s so simple. You will be happy to know you just need 3 ingredients and a jar, that’s it.

How to Make Sour Cream

Before I tried this recipe, I actually had no idea how sour cream was made. Well, it turns out the name say’s it all because it’s literally preserved soured cream. Unlike other homemade dairy products, this method for sour cream requires no cooking at all and very little effort. To make my homemade sour cream all you need is a nice clean jar, milk, cream, and fresh lemon juice. Oh, and a little bit of time, because you have to leave it covered on the counter top overnight. Make sure to use a breathable cloth (no lids or plastic wrap), as your sour cream will have a more fragrant flavor with exposure to the air. And that’s it!

After combining all of the ingredients they will do the work for you. The acid in the lemon reacts with the cream, similar to making my Homemade Buttermilk. After a night on the counter, I give the mix a good stir, and BAM, Homemade Sour Cream. The final sour cream is thick, rich, and tangy. There is no difference between this sour cream and the store bought stuff, making it an amazing recipe to have on hand!

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Why is My Sour Cream Thin?

The consistency of your Homemade Sour Cream might be slightly looser than something store-bought, but it will provide all the same flavor and moisture to your baking. The reason for this is because there are no artificial thickeners that are always added commercial brands of sour cream.

How to Store Sour Cream

Because there is nothing in the sour cream to preserve it, you will want to store it in an airtight container in your fridge. That said, it will last for a good 2 weeks! This rarely lasts that long for me so sometimes I even double down and make a larger batch.

How to Use Sour Cream in Baking

Dairy is a really important ingredient when it comes to baking. It serves many purposes like replacing eggs, making richer cakes, and because it contains acid it tenderizes the gluten so it yields incredibly soft cakes too. This Sour Cream recipe can be used in the place of buttermilk, or even yogurt. One of my favorite ways to use it in my baking is in my Chocolate Bundt Cake. In this case, my sour cream makes all the difference, adding a very distinct richness and moist texture.

[ If you like making your own ingredients at home you’ll love my recipe for How to Make Yogurt! ]

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4.43 from 68 votes
How to make Sour Cream recipe - All you need is 3 ingredients and a jar, that's it!
How to Make Sour Cream

Learn How to Make Sour Cream at home and then use it to make your baking even better or enjoy it on its own.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 cups
Author: DIY Natural
  • 1 cup (8oz / 240g) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice (or white vinegar)
  • ¼ cup (2oz / 60g) milk
  1. In a jar, mix the cream and lemon juice (or vinegar) together, then pour in the milk. Screw a lid on tightly and shake well.

  2. Remove the lid and put a clean piece of kitchen paper over the jar and secure it with a rubber band.
  3. Leave it on the counter overnight (up to 24 hours) for it to set up.
  4. After 24 hours it should be quite firm. Give it a stir and cover it with a jar lid. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or so if it lasts that long!
  5. Note: Because there are no artificial thickeners, your homemade sour cream may be thinner than commercial brands you may be used to. Have no fear, it’s fine. I’ve gotten used to the consistency and like it better since it blends in recipes so well.

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Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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  1. ChelseaLaine on March 14, 2019 at 10:01 am

    What if we tried to scoop off the top and strain out some of the liquid? Would that make for thicker sour cream, or ruin the flavor? Thanks, Gemma!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 15, 2019 at 4:21 am

      Hi Chelsea,
      If you are using cream there should not be too much liquid, it really should thicken up nicely for you. . The cream which I use for most of my recipes is fresh dairy cream. This needs to be at least 35% fat content to whip well. This is from cows milk. It is a liquid product found in the chill cabinet in your store. It will spoil in a few days, even when refrigerated. It has no additives, it is just natural cream, skimmed from milk. This is what works best for this recipe. It is also what works best for this recipe,
      Gemma 🙂

  2. callison on March 12, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Do you think this would work with heavy cream and skim or lowfat milk?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      I’m not sure about that but I don’t see why not. I think it would work just fine.


  3. Gracie08 on March 12, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Made your sour cream recipe. Think it turned out good. Will try it in a recipe sometime during the week. Yes it is thinner than store bought but like you said it will work good in cooking. It is too thin to make onion dip with. If there is anyway I can thicken it to make dip please let me know. I make my own onion soup mix to add to the sour cream. I find it easier to date what I make with the expiration date so that I don’t have to remember them.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 14, 2019 at 2:54 am

      Hi Gracie,
      Do tell me about the cream you started with, that will affect the finish a lot.
      Store bought sour cream is often not all cream, and is thickened with carrigeenan or such. Read the labels where you buy yours, that will tell you. For your dip you could thicken the sour cream too, by adding a little cornstarch, mixed with cream/milk/water to the hot cream.
      There are means! A heavy cream 35% fat content should thicken up without and additions.
      I hope this is of help to you,
      Gemma 🙂

      • Gracie08 on March 15, 2019 at 8:52 pm

        Once I left it sit in the refrigerator for a day it thicken up. I think it might work fine for dip now. If I still want it thicker I will try your suggestion. Thanks for helping.

  4. Terri Ann Croston on March 3, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Hi there! I’m curious to try this right away! I’m wondering what the result would be if I used buttermilk? Any idea?

    Thanks! Terri

    • Gemma Stafford on March 5, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Hi, i’m not sure about that, if you try it let me know!

  5. Zain on February 28, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    Your recipe for Sour Cream is excellent. Very simple. Thanks for sharing

    • Gemma Stafford on March 1, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      I am delighted to hear that, thank you!

  6. Krys on February 23, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Hey Gemma,

    So the other day I made two batches of sour cream. The first one was give or take half pouring cream (~40% fat) and half whole milk and some lemon, probably more than two teaspoons (I hadn’t scrolled down and seen the actual recipe. Ironically this batch turned out great and I made some good cheese with it.

    The second batch I made I followed the recipe and upon tasting it the other day it was quite bitter and not sour at all. Both batches were made at the same time and left out for 24 hours. The first batch smelled like bad feet but tasted great and nice and tangy, the second batch smelled the same but just tasted bitter, did I not use enough lemon juice perhaps?

    I’m particularly curious if it makes any difference the ratio of milk to cream and also the amount of lemon juice?

    Absolutely love your style btw, easy to watch, easy to follow, and beautifully concise ( ‘ v ‘ )

    • Gemma Stafford on February 24, 2019 at 3:06 am

      Hi there,
      I am delighted you are using your instincts to make these recipes.
      I am not too sure how you managed the second recipe, you did not really tell me! Proportions are really important, and it is sour ‘cream’ not sour milk, which will be more of a curd when finished.
      Actually a lot of store bought ‘sour cream’ is actually more like a milk, which has been stabilized/thickened with a gelling agent, such as Carrigeenan. Natural fresh cream will be best for this homemade recipe, but it sounds like you found a solution for you,
      Gemma 🙂

  7. Andrea Lee on February 19, 2019 at 8:59 pm


    I followed the recipe and was really excited and when I went to stir it, the top had turned into sour cream but not the rest of the 99% of it……I bake all the time and have no idea what happened. Do I need to let it sit longer? I live in Taiwan. So very hot and humid.

    • Gemma Stafford on February 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

      Hi there, the heat can effect it, i might give it a stir and allow it to set for another day. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Andrea Lee on February 22, 2019 at 1:54 am

        I did have to leave it out longer. I also did give it a stir. It worked! I only left it out five more hours but definitely think it could sit out longer as it still tastes “sweet” I guess is the word. It worked great when I made my homemade ranch!!!! ♥♥♥ I will play with it some more. Thank you for the recipe.♥I can’t wait to try the ricotta cheese recipe.

        • Gemma Stafford on February 22, 2019 at 11:57 am

          Great job! I am delighted to hear that, enjoy!

          • Andrea Lee on March 10, 2019 at 10:05 pm

            I think I figured out why it took so long for it to turn into sour cream. The lemons over here in Taiwan do not seem to have as much acid in them. I figured this out last night when trying to make the ricotta cheese. It just would not curdle well even though I doubled the amount of fresh lemon juice. I decided to add in vinegar and Bam. Much better. They do taste pretty sweet compared to ours in America. Also, they do not burn as much when a drop gets into your eye😂

            • Gemma Stafford on March 11, 2019 at 9:28 am

              Great tip, so glad you got it to work!

  8. Franz on February 16, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Hi Gemma,
    Could I sub the cream with 1/4 cup butter and 3/4 cup milk? Thank you so much in advance! 🙂 I appreciate your efforts to help us!

    • Gemma Stafford on February 16, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      Hi Franz,

      That is a great question! Unfortunately that won’t work for this recipe. Hope this helps.


  9. Desire mckune on February 14, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Hi, I live in India so options are very limited… I only have uht cream 25% fat… how do I get to the end result? It’s for a NY cheesecake so alternatives would be fab if the above won’t work… I made it as in the recipe but, with the above cream, just now

    • Gemma Stafford on February 14, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      I have heard about Malai from other Bold Bakers based in India, which has a very high fat content. I think, based on what they’ve shared, you can certainly use this as well to replace heavy / whipping cream.

  10. Rehema on February 13, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Hi Gemma
    Is it ok if i substitute yoghurt for sour cream

    • Gemma Stafford on February 14, 2019 at 1:24 am

      Hi rEhema,
      It depends on the recipe and the purpose of the cream?
      No straight answer to this one!
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Santiago on February 12, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Hi Emma! That sour cream looks amazing. I’m just concerned about leaving the mix of cream and milk overnight out of the refrigerator. Would it be safe to eat it?

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Hi, yes this will be fine 😀 Let me know how you go if you give it a try.

  12. Valentina on February 11, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Hey can I substite lemon juice with orange or does it have to be lemon juice…
    P.s. I love your recipes

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Thank you, i’m delighted to hear that! I would suggest lime juice instead.

  13. Ela on February 11, 2019 at 4:43 am

    How can we make Creme fraiche

    • Gemma Stafford on February 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

      OH, that’s a great idea, i’ll have to look into that!

  14. Saqib on January 29, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Gemma,

    I am involved in Airline catering and love your recipes. I often take valuable tips from you. Keep it up.

    • Gemma Stafford on January 30, 2019 at 4:13 pm

      I am delighted to hear that! Same to you!

  15. Sandra Brushwood on January 19, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Hi Gemma!
    Can I use evaporated milk in place of either the heavy whipping cream or the whole milk? Or maybe just use evaporated milk and lemon juice?

    • Gemma Stafford on January 19, 2019 at 8:39 pm

      I would no suggest that as it will make the sour cream sweet.

      • Ram bikram shah on January 20, 2019 at 7:54 am

        Please advise if this recipe is only good for baking or also for Mexican burritos

        • Gemma Stafford on January 21, 2019 at 12:35 am

          Hi Ram,
          Thank you for being in touch.
          This is a natural sour cream, you can use it as you wish.
          The issue is that store bought sour cream is often thickened, with carrigeenan or such, and also can have additional ingredients. If this is what you are used to then this original style may feel odd to you, however it is the real thing!
          Gemma 🙂

      • Sandra Brushwood on January 21, 2019 at 1:09 am

        Evaporated milk is just cooked down milk. I think you’re referring to sweetened condensed milk. I was thinking I could just add a little water to make it like regular milk or heavy cream.

        • Gemma Stafford on January 21, 2019 at 2:31 am

          Hi Sandra,
          Yes, I know. The issue is that the milk has been heat treated, and this may interfere with its ability to culture. Also it is not cream, though in commercially produced sour cream milk is often used, soured, and thickened, with something like gelling agents. Take a loo at trhe packs in the store, it is informative.
          The fat content of evaporated milk will be the same as the milk you started with. 3.5% is as good as it gets.
          Cream on the other hand, at the heavy end of it, is 35% fat content, a different thing. I ohpe this hleps,
          Gemma 🙂

  16. Farheen on January 16, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Gemma,

    I just came across your recipes yesterday when searching for tiramisu. I’m from UAE, and here it’s hard to find mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, sour cream n so on. So, i would like to know i have this thick cream, is it the same as heavy cream? Hope you can help. Also can nestle cream be used as a thick, heavy or double cream instead? Like I said it’s hard to find such creams here.

    • Gemma Stafford on January 19, 2019 at 2:26 am

      Hi Farheen,
      The cream which I use for most of my recipes is fresh dairy cream. This needs to be at least 35% fat content to whip well. This is from cows milk. It is a liquid product found in the chill cabinet in your store. It will spoil in a few days, even when refrigerated. It has no additives, it is just natural cream, skimmed from milk.
      In some places, where there is no dairy industry, there are manufactured products, usually made with milk powders and fats. These are good for some applications, but they are not fresh cream. I am sorry, it cannot be actually made!
      Nestle cream is a powdered whipping cream, which may work in this recipe, but it tends to collapse when another ingredient is added to it. You can try a little sample, if this works then it will be good for this tiramisu recipe, but not so much for ice cream. I am really not sure as I do not get this product, but from other bold bakers I hear that it liquefies when you add something to it.
      I hope this helps,
      Gemma 🙂

  17. Crazimax on January 5, 2019 at 7:27 am

    Hi. So I tried yesterday at 1.30 pm. It is now 11.24 am and while it thickened, there was no separation and the taste is no different to the extra whipping cream . I used extra whipping cream, whole milk and white vinegar. I live in the Caribbean and the weather is hot but this time of the year it is cool. I kept it in the oven overnight.

    • Gemma Stafford on January 12, 2019 at 4:14 am

      Hi there,
      I am not sure what you mean by separation! This should not separate, it should set up, and slightly sour.
      I use heavy whipping cream, 35% fat content, and whole milk for this. I presume this is what you have there too.
      If you add more lemon juice, or vinegar it may very well separate and form a curd. I am thinking this is an issue of comparison with store bough sour cream, which tends to be lower in cream and thickened, and stronger in flavor. I hope you will enjoy using it, it should taste really good when chilled.
      Gemma 🙂

  18. Greg Knibbs on January 2, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Fantastic blog

    • Gemma Stafford on January 2, 2019 at 11:55 am

      Thank you so much!

  19. Leticia on December 30, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Hi Gemma here in UAE heavy cream is hard to find… What should I used then to make one?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 30, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Hi there, if you can get double cream that will work too!

      • Rekha on January 11, 2019 at 8:56 am

        I am able to get only single cream here, 25 percentage fat cream. What should I do

        • Gemma Stafford on January 11, 2019 at 9:51 am

          Hi there, what you can do is melt 1/4 cup of butter and add it into the cream to up the fat content to match content of heavy cream. I hope that helps, enjoy!

  20. oferia on December 11, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Hi Gemma
    I live in DOminican Republic, and my kitchen is very hot.
    what is the best temperature to live the jar overnight?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 11, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      would keep this in the coolest place possible. Enjoy!

  21. Khadija on December 9, 2018 at 12:04 am

    Can i use UHT pasteurized cream for this recipe?

    • Gemma Stafford on December 9, 2018 at 4:06 am

      Hi there,
      UHT cream is treated with heat and I am not sure it will work for you. It depends on what you have where you live, the cream has been denatured by the process and is difficult to culture.
      A quick solution, if you are using it as a side dish, is to add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the cold cream, season, refrigerate and use.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  22. Gale Serafica-Agustin on December 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Is there any substitute for sour cream in making baked cheesecakes?
    And is full cream milk is the same as full fat milk?
    Thanks gemma! You are the best!

    • Gemma Stafford on December 6, 2018 at 10:47 am

      Hi there, instead of sour cream you can use Greek yogurt, nascarpone or creme fraiche. Full cream has a higher fat content than full fat milk so i would suggest sticking with heavy cream for this.

  23. Michelle on November 30, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Hi Gemma is this the same as creme fraiche? I saw a recipe for creme fraiche online that was cream + buttermilk, but perhaps it would yield the same results? Love your bold basics, thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on November 30, 2018 at 9:31 am

      Hi there, great question! I’ve never tried that but it sounds like it might work!

  24. Lani on November 29, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Hi thanks for your recipes. i would like to make this for eating not just baking. How’s do I thicken the mixture?

    • Gemma Stafford on November 30, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      To thicken it you can strain it with cheesecloth in the fridge. Allow it to sit in the cheesecloth set inside of a strainer over an empty bowl over night. the next day you can discard the liquid and the sour cream should be much thicker.

  25. Andisbeach on November 24, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    I love your videos. Could you post a recipe for dairy-free sour cream? Thank you. Andrea

    • Gemma Stafford on November 25, 2018 at 4:19 am

      Hi there,
      Thank you for your kind words. I will add that idea to my list. It is not impossible, actually a lot of store bough sour cream is actually thickened, with carrigeen Moss or cornstarch, and that is what you would do using non dairy like Soy/Almond/coconut milks. Then you will use an acid ingredient, such as vegetarian yogurt/lemon juice/cider vinegar etc.
      I have added this to my list, thank you for the suggestion,
      Gemma 🙂

  26. Merlina Ong on November 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Hi Gemma,
    I totally love your work. I live in Singapore and the weather is pretty much warm, as high as 30+C . So I was wondering if leaving the jar 24h is advisable. Appreciate your reply.

    • Gemma Stafford on November 13, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks so much, Merlina.

      Place it in a cupboard if that is a cooler spot. Just keep it in the coolest part of your kitchen. It should be fine.


  27. Terryz on November 13, 2018 at 8:57 am

    I tried this followed directions and I found my sour cream was not sour and tasted more like slightly sour butter

    • Gemma Stafford on November 13, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      Oh funny, Terry. I’m sorry to hear that. If you don’t want to eat it you can use it in baking where you would normally use yogurt.


      • Gina Gobble on December 25, 2018 at 8:24 am

        This is my first try with any of your recipes. I only had heavy whipping cream. Like someone else mentioned, it isn’t sour. Could I add more lemon juice (or white vinegar) to sour it a little more?

        • Gemma Stafford on December 26, 2018 at 7:41 am

          yes you can do that, Gina 🙂

          Thanks for giving my recipes a try.

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