By Nadia Hassani

What is Creme Fraiche? What is Creme Fraiche Used for?

Creme fraiche, called the same in America as in France where it originates (and it's properly spelled "crème fraiche"), is a thick, rich and slightly tangy cream that is used as a finishing touch for sauces and soups, or spooned over fruit or warm desserts such as cobblers.

Because of its high fat content of up to 45% milk fat, creme fraiche does not curdle when boiled, which makes it ideal to use in sauces and soups.

Photo by Getty Images

What is a Substitute for Creme Fraiche?

In America, widely available sour cream can be used to substitute creme fraiche but with clear limitations. Because sour cream, unlike creme fraiche, curdles when added to simmering or boiling dishes, add it to hot dishes only after taking your pot off the heat.

The reason why sour cream should be used with caution to substitute creme fraiche is because the two are different. Sour cream has only about 18% milk fat and it gets its thick consistency from adding milk solids and stabilizers. It has a stronger tangy taste whereas creme fraiche consists of only fermented cream, and it tastes milder.

If a dish calls for creme fraiche, with a little advance planning, you can easily make your own creme fraiche, which is also more budget-friendly than store-bought creme fraiche. All you need is heavy cream, buttermilk and 8 to 12 hours. It is important to use the cream with the highest fat content that you can find – heavy cream or heavy whipping cream that has at least 36% milk fat. Regular whipping cream, aka light whipping cream, only contains 30 to 35% milk fat.

What is the Difference between Mascarpone and Creme Fraiche?

The consistency between mascarpone and creme fraiche might seem somewhat similar but they are different dairy products. Mascarpone is a curd cheese made of cream that has been curdled by adding tartaric acid for thickening. Mascarpone has a sweeter taste than creme fraiche. It is more solid and therefore added to fillings of savory dishes and desserts such as tiramisu where a thick, not at all runny consistency is required. Creme fraiche, on the other hand, is soft enough to be easily dissolved in sauces and soups.

VIDEO: Chef John's Creme Fraiche

Store-bought sour cream can't measure up to the fabulous texture and taste of homemade creme fraiche! "Besides the amazing taste and luxurious texture, maybe the best thing about crème fraiche is its ability to be cooked," says Chef John. "Because of it's composition and fat content, it doesn't curdle and separate when you heat it like sour cream. This makes it an incredibly versatile addition to countless recipes." See how it's done.

Some Favorite Recipes with Creme Fraiche

Chef John's Pork al Latte

"Pork shoulder meat is braised in a creme fraiche sauce until amazingly tender and delicious," says Chef John. "Serve on polenta with crisp sage leaves for garnish."

Photo by Chef John

Chocolate Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

No cooking necessary with this rich, egg-free dark chocolate ice cream that's made with creme fraiche and bittersweet chocolate.

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Chipotle Creme Fraiche

This recipe really wakes-up Mexican-inspired appetizers, sides and main dishes. "It takes Mexican dishes to another level that sour cream just can't reach," says vegchef. "Great as a dipping sauce or to top any Mexican dish, such as fish tacos, burritos, nachos, enchilada pie, etc. Anytime you'd ordinarily use sour cream or whenever you want a more gourmet topping or dip."

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Scallop Gratin

"As far as I'm concerned, a simple gratin is the most delicious way to cook fresh scallops," says Chef John. "Serve with French bread for dipping."

Photo by Jody

Chef John's Chicken a la King

"Chicken à la King is one of my favorite classic comfort foods," says Chef John. "This recipe is easy to adapt -- you can make it thicker or thinner by changing the amount of roux and having a little extra stock on hand. Usually I make this with leftovers from a large roasted chicken. Serve over pasta, toast, rice, or mashed potatoes.

Photo by Chef John

Chef John's Classic Beef Stroganoff

"This is a fairly lean version of beef stroganoff," says Chef John. "This is something you can easily adjust to your tastes. I like a little thicker version, with just enough creme fraiche-based sauce to coat the meat and noodles."

Photo by abapplez
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