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Is there an acceptable substitute for sour cream?

tulipano Oct 4, 2006 11:52 PM

I want to have a Mexican themed party, and tacos are really not the same without sour cream. Where I live sour cream simply doesn't exist. Neither does buttermilk.

Greek yogurt, and all other forms of dairy goodness are easily findable.

  1. rworange Oct 4, 2006 11:55 PM

    Do you live outside the US? If so, where? It might be easier to suggest a substitute based on your location.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rworange
      tulipano Oct 5, 2006 10:46 AM

      I'm in southern Italy.

      1. re: tulipano
        rworange Oct 5, 2006 04:36 PM

        Hmmm ... marscapone thinned with milk? Actually I'm thinking marscopone on a taco is sounding pretty good. I might go out and try that myself.

        Anyway, interesting about no sour cream in Italy. In another forum one person from Italy said she was starting to see it in, of all places, some health food stores. It was being imported from Germany.

        If not, the most interesting substitute I saw was Paula Dean's idea of combining yogurt with butter to come up with mock sour cream.

        What about powdered milk, is that available? There is the idea of using powdered milk, water and vinegar, but that sounds yucky to me.

        There's the classic way of adding buttermilk to cream.

        Before you say that in the OP there is the mention of no buttermilk in Italy ... you can make your own buttermilk by adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk. This has how to make buttermilk plus other ideas for sour cream substitutes

        More ideas, but quite frankly even if they sell Cool Whip in Italy ... I'd skip that one.

        An idea using cottage cheese, milk and lemon juice.

        That should give you a little to play with. Some may work, some not.

        1. re: rworange
          dandelion Dec 22, 2006 07:16 PM

          I've done marscapone on a taco before, but I thinned it with some lime juice. It works okay, but it's a lot richer in taste and texture than sour cream.

          1. re: rworange
            munch_kin Dec 28, 2006 03:20 AM

            Yes, I have used the butter and yogurt idea, some years ago, and no one said anything, so I guess it worked out!

      2. DanaB Oct 4, 2006 11:57 PM

        You can use creme fraiche if it is avialable.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DanaB
          Ttrockwood Aug 11, 2013 06:07 PM

          I think that would be the closest match too

        2. Eat_Nopal Oct 4, 2006 11:57 PM

          Well Mexican Crema is a lot more like Greek Yogurt than it is like the supermarket chain Sour Cream (Knudsen's etc.,)... so there you go... and if you add just a tiny bit of buttermilk & some marscapone... you will achieve pretty much the same effect.

          Although... I must say, I never have Crema with Tacos.... typically just Raw Onions, Cilantro & Salsa.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Eat_Nopal
            flavrmeistr Aug 11, 2013 05:45 PM

            Yes, and maybe a little queso blanco.

          2. paulj Oct 5, 2006 12:02 AM

            Seems to me that on dish like this taste is about all that matters. You are not cooking with it. If you like the taste of Greek yogurt on your tacos, then use it. It won't be the same as typical American sour cream, but that isn't the same as Mexican creams either.

            I've been buying Greek style yogurt from Trader Joes for some time now, and use it for a variety of cases where I might use sour cream, or even plain cream.

            Keep in mind that tacos, at least as served by street stands in Mexico, or taco trucks in the USA, don't normally come with sour cream of any sort. So its use on tacos (such as the hard shell ones) is an innovation, and you are free to take the innovation a step further.


            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj
              Eat_Nopal Oct 5, 2006 04:26 AM

              Paulj... by the way have tried Lebanese style yogurt... aka Kaffir Cheese aka Mediterranean Yogurt Cheese... its an even better substitute for Sour Cream than Greek Yogurt.

              Lebanese restaurants serve it with dry mint, drizzle of olive oil & olives (and bread of course)... and it always makes a nice appetizer. TJs should carry the Lebanese version too.

              Also what do you think of TJ's Greek vs the Fage brand from Greece?

            2. k
              Kater Oct 5, 2006 12:08 AM

              I think creme fraiche is your best get, thinned with a bit of milk. Or you may be able to get crema, it depends where you are.

              You also could chose a taco that is served without dairy.

              1. FoodFuser Oct 5, 2006 05:21 AM

                If Greek yogurt or Labneh are unavailable in your area, you can make drained yogurt. Use plain yogurt (Dannon, or another pure brand without gelatins/thickeners), and drain it thru a coffee filter for several hours, or thin cloth. I use an old washed pantyhose leg suspended into a jar. The yogurt will, over 18 hours, lose about 50% of its volume as whey. I use it just like that for many sour cream applications, and sometimes stir in some fresh cream for a little more mouth feel.

                If you want to culture your own higher fat sour cream, it's very easy, as in this link:


                1. galleygirl Oct 5, 2006 01:28 PM

                  Quark may be easy to find in Italy. Its a European, tho predominantly German cultured milk (around 11%). Same mouth feel as sour cream, a more natural tartness, tho not as tart as yogurt ...

                  1. s
                    Steve Oct 5, 2006 01:33 PM

                    Fromage Blanc is pretty much the same thing as sour cream.

                    1. galleygirl Oct 5, 2006 01:37 PM

                      That would be a good substitute, too, but fromage blanc is usually fat free, or close to it...

                      1. t
                        tulipano Oct 6, 2006 09:58 AM

                        thanks so much for all these great ideas...

                        Quark sounds like something I might be able to find if I lived in Milan, but not so much here in the South.

                        The area I live in has spectacular local stuff, but (maybe because of that) they're not real big on trying new things.

                        1. Chocolatechipkt Oct 6, 2006 03:07 PM

                          The Greek yogurt I've been buying is very much like sour cream, both in taste and consistency.

                          1. Divamac Oct 7, 2006 08:41 PM

                            i have used whole milk yogurt in place of sour cream for years in everything I make.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Divamac
                              Anne H Dec 22, 2006 05:53 PM

                              Yes, this is what I was going to say, I use yogurt on my tacos all the time. Not as good as cream (nothing is), but it makes me feel virtuous, and it does give a very similar bit of cool creaminess.

                            2. g
                              Gecko46 Dec 22, 2006 09:06 AM

                              I live in the Gulf, and, although I can <i>buy</i> sour cream here, it's gold plated -- about US$4 for pint or so. I find <i>labneh</i>, spoken of above, to be virtually identical to sour cream. The variety I buy here is slightly thicker than US sour cream, but that's usually not a problem.

                              1. a
                                annimal Dec 22, 2006 02:43 PM

                                I've read recipes for crema but I think they all use buttermilk. However, I vote for using a thick whole milk, unflavored yogurt as a substitute. I've done it many times, and it's great.

                                1. j
                                  JudiAU Dec 22, 2006 03:40 PM

                                  Can you get French dairy products like creme fraiche or make it? Whole fat greek yogurt is also a good sub.

                                  1. b
                                    butterfly Dec 23, 2006 11:30 AM

                                    We live in Spain and use the Danone/Dannon greek yogurt (which is full fat, of course) for any recipe calling for sour cream. I think it works perfectly and has a better flavor and texture than regular American sour cream and is closer to the actual texture of Mexican sour cream.

                                    We haven't really found a good workaround for buttermilk, unfortunately.

                                    1. f
                                      finewineserver Dec 23, 2006 04:09 PM

                                      I haven't tried it with tacos, but when cooking/baking I always substitute plain yogurt for sour cream.

                                      Southern Italy...sigh. I'm in dreary New England - not even any snow yet.

                                      1. m
                                        meatpieking Dec 29, 2006 02:51 AM

                                        Try placing some plain Yoghurt in a sive lined with a paper towel or some cheese cloth. put this over a bowl so it can drain overnight in the fridge.

                                        1. zorra Dec 29, 2006 04:06 PM

                                          I blend equal parts yogurt and cottage cheese in the blender to make an acceptable substitute,but that may not be an option available to you--unless you just happen to have your blender. I would think that a rich whole milk yogurt would be a good substitute.

                                          1. f
                                            FlavoursGal Dec 29, 2006 09:16 PM

                                            How about fromage frais (called Quark, here in Canada), thinned with a little milk? I use quark as a virtually fat-free alternative to sour cream all the time. It's much thicker, but flavourwise it's pretty similar.

                                            1. amyzan Dec 30, 2006 01:37 AM

                                              http://www.heiditrefethen.com/?p=79 This person had the same conundrum. I'm not sure how her substitution would taste, but it seems to have worked.

                                              1. c
                                                cleanplate Dec 30, 2006 04:07 PM

                                                What about making more of a flavored topping with Greek yogurt and a little bit of lime, chili powder and chopped cilantro? Not exactly sour cream, but I'll bet it would taste good.

                                                1. p
                                                  PinkLady8 Aug 11, 2013 05:12 PM

                                                  For a replacement for buttermilk, just use regular milk and some butter. generally, about two-parts milk to one part butter or half and half will work. Of course, if you can't get those individually, I don't know what else would help you.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: PinkLady8
                                                    paulj Aug 11, 2013 06:06 PM

                                                    How is this a replacement for buttermilk? Where's the sour taste come from?

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