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6 Best Substitutes For Crème Fraîche

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Crème fraîche on wood spoon

We get it — crème fraîche is one of those ingredients that can deter you from choosing a recipe that includes it. It’s not something most people have in their fridge all the time (if you do, props to you), and even the name sounds fancy and fussy.

However, crème fraîche is actually a pretty simple ingredient, and there are several substitutes you can use if you don’t want to make a trip to the grocery store. Made from heavy cream that takes on a tangy, rich, sour flavor from the addition of bacteria, you can think of it as the posh cousin to other dairy products like sour cream. Some of the absolute best ways to use crème fraîche include using it in savory contexts like soups, potatoes, and sauces, as well as sweet applications like cakes and pies. Context matters when you’re swapping out crème fraîche for other ingredients, and some substitutions work better in some recipes than others.

To help make your (culinary) life easier, we’ve rounded up some of the best substitutes for crème fraîche.

Buttermilk And Whipping Cream

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Buttermilk being poured into glass

Many people assume that they have to buy pre-made crème fraîche, but it’s actually incredibly easy to make your own homemade version. This is by far the best substitute, since it’s essentially just a fresher, DIY version of what you’d pick up in the dairy aisle. It’s also usually significantly cheaper, since crème fraîche’s expensive-sounding name usually comes with a price tag to match.

The best crème fraîche recipe only requires two simple ingredients: buttermilk and heavy cream. All you have to do is add a splash of buttermilk to your heavy cream, and let the miracle of fermentation get to work for you. The only thing that’s difficult about this method is that you do have to plan ahead. Letting the mixture sit in a cool, dark place for at least 24 hours is crucial, so this swap won’t work if you’re in the middle of cooking dinner when you realize you don’t have any crème fraîche on hand.

However, if you have the time, making your own crème fraîche from scratch is delicious, and you can rest assured knowing the finished product is free of any coagulants or additives that you might find in store-bought brands. We recommend using the absolute freshest dairy you can find for this, even if it means making a trip to the farmers market. Trust us, it’s worth it!

Greek Yogurt

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Glass jar of Greek yogurt

If you’re like us, the sheer number of dairy products out there can be overwhelming (and often downright confusing). However, when it comes to the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt, it’s clear Greek yogurt is a far better choice to use as a substitute for crème fraîche. Greek yogurt is strained multiple times, which results in a thick texture that mimics the consistency of crème fraîche.

It’s not as smooth or as mild as the real thing, but it has enough of a tang to provide the complexity and bite that crème fraîche lends to recipes. We like this swap because it’s versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory applications. Plus, you probably already have a container in your fridge (because we know there’s nothing like a Greek yogurt parfait for breakfast).

One word of caution: this is not the time to reach for a fat-free option. Opting for full-fat Greek yogurt is key to achieving the best results because the fat provides the creamy mouthfeel you’re looking for, and it also softens up the otherwise overpowering tang.

Ricotta

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Ricotta cheese on white background

Ricotta isn’t the best crème fraîche substitution in the world, but it will work if you’re desperate. However, if you’re making something where a smooth texture is important, such as a salad dressing or a velvety sauce, you should probably skip this one.

There are a few things to know about ricotta cheese: It’s made from whey (not curds), it has a relativity mild flavor, and it has a slightly grainy texture. It’s great when paired with hot honey as an unexpected topping for toast, or in a variety of classic Italian dishes.

As far as using it as a substitute for crème fraîche, it works best in cases where a thick consistency is desirable, such as in a hearty pasta sauce. Keep in mind that crème fraîche has a higher fat content than ricotta (via Jules Cafe Bakery), so the final product of your dish won’t be quite as rich as if you used the real deal.

Mexican Crema

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Jar of Mexican crema

A staple in many Mexican recipes, Mexican crema is, as its name suggests, a creamy dairy product that can be a great swap for its French counterpart. It provides the same mildly tangy flavor and a smooth texture, albeit with a thinner consistency. It’s buttery, silky, and neutral enough to not alter the flavor of dishes that call for crème fraîche too significantly.

Since Mexican crema isn’t as thick as crème fraîche, it works best in recipes that call for using it as a drizzle or a topping. For example, swapping Mexican crema for the crème fraîche in this recipe for chestnut soup with caraway crème fraîche would work perfectly. You can find Mexican crema in most large grocery stores, and brands like Cacique offer nice options. The best part is, having a jar of this on hand gives you all the more reason to whip up a tasty Mexican dish for dinner!

Sour Cream

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

White bowl of sour cream

Sour cream makes a great substitute for crème fraîche for several reasons. For one, most people already have a tub of the stuff sitting in their fridge, so it can be a lifesaver if you happen to be halfway through cooking before you realize you don’t have crème fraîche. Secondly, it’s easy to find, so if you find yourself doing your grocery shopping at a bodega or even a gas station, you’ll still probably be in luck. Finally, its signature sour flavor can serve the same purpose as crème fraîche in plenty of recipes.

That being said, there are some key differences to keep in mind. The most important thing to be aware of is that sour cream has lower fat content than crème fraîche and is more prone to curdling when exposed to heat (via MasterClass). This means that while you can add crème fraîche to a soup as you cook it, you’ll want to save sour cream for topping purposes only. No one wants curdled sour cream in their bowl!

Another thing to note is that while the flavor of crème fraîche can be classified as mildly tangy, sour cream is downright sour — so we recommend skipping this swap for dessert recipes.

Cream Cheese

food, 6 best substitutes for crème fraîche

Cream cheese on grocery shelf

You already know that cream cheese is the ultimate bagel topper, but there’s more to this delicious spread. This beloved dairy product is more utilitarian than you might think, and can work as a substitute for crème fraîche in some situations.

If you’ve ever wondered whether cream cheese is actually cheese, the answer is yes. Since it meets all the requirements outlined by the FDA, a tub of this spread is technically in the same category as a wheel of brie. Taste-wise, it’s in a unique category that shares enough similarities with crème fraîche to work as a swap.

Texture-wise, though, it’s a lot thicker, so we recommend reaching for this one in instances when the crème fraîche is being used as an ingredient rather than as a garnish, drizzle, or topping. We also recommend pulling it out of the fridge and allowing it to come to room temperature so it’s easier to work with before you use it. Otherwise, the thickness will make stirring it into a recipe feel like an arm workout.

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