All About Sour Cream

Sour cream is a thick, rich, and tangy-tasting dairy product that’s made by fermenting cream with lactic acid. While it’s most commonly used as a topping for baked potatoes and chili, sour cream can also be used in baking to enhance the flavor and texture of cakes, quick breads, and more.


Sour cream is a staple ingredient in central and eastern Europe, where it’s typically added to soups and stews like goulash or borscht. It’s thought that immigrants from these regions introduced Americans to sour cream at the start of the twentieth century.

Early versions of sour cream were created when fresh milk sat at room temperature, which caused the cream to rise to the top. Naturally occurring bacteria would sour the cream, resulting in what we know today as sour cream.

Nutrition Profile

While sour cream is made from milk, it doesn’t deliver the same nutrition benefits as other dairy products. It’s not a significant source of protein, vitamins, or minerals.

A two-tablespoon serving of regular sour cream contains around 59 calories and 6 grams of total fat, about half of which is saturated fat. Light sour cream has around 40 calories and three grams of total fat. Fat-free sour cream provides around 22 calories and no fat, but slightly more carbohydrates. One other notable difference between these three varieties is the texture and creaminess that they bring to your dish.

In the Kitchen

The uses for sour cream in the kitchen go far beyond topping foods, and they include both sweet and savory applications. Because of its rich and acidic qualities, it creates a moist and tender texture in baked goods and makes a desirable base for dips and dressings. It helps thicken soups and sauces, and produces a tangy flavor as well.

When cooking with sour cream, it’s important to monitor closely to prevent curdling and add it gradually as late as possible during preparation. Regular and reduced-fat sour cream are easily interchangeable in recipes, but the fat-free variety is best substituted to cold dishes, rather than those that are cooked or baked.