Plus, how to make DIY crème fraiche at home.   

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No crème fraiche? No problem. Here’s everything you need to know about what to substitute for crème fraiche — and how to make your own DIY alternative:

What Is Crème Fraiche and What’s a Good Substitute?

A teaspoon with a dollop of thick cream on it
Credit: milanfoto

Crème fraiche is a dairy product made of cream and bacteria culture. It can be used fresh, spooned over fruits and desserts, or added as a thickening agent to sauces, soups, and stews

Though crème fraiche is a staple in Europe, it’s not so common in the United States. You can find it in some grocery stores and specialty shops, but many American home cooks choose to make their own (more on that later) or use sour cream as an easy-to-find substitute

Crème fraiche and sour cream are alike in a lot of ways and they can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio (if your recipe calls for ½ cup crème fraiche, use ½ cup sour cream). 

Crème fraiche and sour cream are both creamy, rich, and tangy, but they do have some very notable differences that will affect the outcome of your recipe. 

Crème Fraiche vs. Sour Cream

Creme Fraiche
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Sour cream is about 20 percent fat and crème fraiche is about 30 percent fat. This small — yet important — distinction means crème fraiche is not prone to curdling. Sour cream, meanwhile, is prone to curdling when heated. 

This means you should really only try to substitute sour cream for crème fraiche if it’s being used cold or at room temperature. If you must use sour cream as a thickener, wait until the soup or sauce is off the heat source before stirring it in. 

Crème fraiche is also thicker, richer, and less tangy than sour cream, so you should consider how important those factors are before substituting ingredients. 

Other Crème Fraiche Substitutes

Cream with Whole Fresh Fruit
Credit: wilatlak villette

Sour cream isn’t the only perfectly adequate crème fraiche substitute. You can also try one of these alternatives:

  • DIY crème fraiche: Your best bet is, without a doubt, making your own substitute. All you need is buttermilk, heavy cream, and a little bit of patience. Scroll to the next section for more information about how to make your own crème fraiche.
  • Mascarpone: If you’re short on time, try using mascarpone. The Italian cream cheese has a comparable texture and taste, but mascarpone is sweeter. It works best as a substitute in dessert recipes. Substitute on a 1:1 ratio.
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt: Though it isn’t nearly as rich as crème fraiche, you can use full-fat Greek yogurt as an alternative in a pinch. Substitute on a 1:1 ratio.

How to Make Crème Fraiche

Glass cup of kefir or buttermilk and in a spoon
Credit: mescioglu

You really don’t need a recipe to make crème fraiche at home, but you may find it helpful to have specific measurements and instructions — that’s where Chef John’s super simple, one-step recipe comes in.

All you have to do is combine two cups of heavy cream with three tablespoons of buttermilk in a jar, then wait for two days for the mixture to magically thicken. 

Make sure to use cultured buttermilk and the freshest pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) cream you can find. You can use your new DIY crème fraiche anywhere you’d normally use store-bought sour cream (but it’ll taste so much better).