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Is there an acceptable substitute for sour cream?

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.

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  1. 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: tulipano

        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

          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

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

      2. You can use creme fraiche if it is avialable.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DanaB

          I think that would be the closest match too

        2. 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

            Yes, and maybe a little queso blanco.

          2. 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

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

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

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

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

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Divamac

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

                                  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

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