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Creme Fraiche v. Sour Cream v. Mexican Crema

onocoffee Jan 22, 2009 07:02 AM

Can someone explain to me the difference between the three? I've looked at recipes for all of them and they're pretty much the same. The flavors of the commercial ones I've tried are a bit different but the online recipes suggest there's little to no difference.


  1. HaagenDazs Jan 22, 2009 07:15 AM

    There's really no significant difference, you're right. There may be quality differences between different producers but one is not necessarily better than the other.

    Sour cream tends to be the thickest of the 3 with creme fraiche coming in second and Mexican crema being the runniest. There are all kinds of cultured creams though and if you find a Mexican grocery you're likely to see crema Salvadoreña (from El Salvador) which is my favorite for Tex-Mex dishes at home.

    4 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs
      metalgrannie Apr 28, 2011 09:01 PM

      Well, now I'm thoroughly confused. I just came back from my first trip to California (from Florida) and my friend took me to a large Mexican supermarket. She bought some Crema Fresca Casera, but I noted that the same brand had Crema Agria (sour). After coming home, I went to a couple of local chain markets and they had Nicaraguan, Honduran and Salvadorian cremas, they were packaged in a plastic bag, so I could tell they were a yellowish color. The El Mexicano brand crema casera that she bought was in a plastic canister and was very, very white. I went on this board looking to see if creme fraiche could be substituted for crema fresca casera . . . . .

      1. re: metalgrannie
        hill food Apr 28, 2011 09:42 PM

        sure, in a pinch...(actually wouldn't be bad, maybe just a tad more bite) really more or less the same thing after all

        1. re: metalgrannie
          DiningDiva Apr 29, 2011 10:45 AM

          Mexican crema is not really sour cream. Creme Fraiche can be used, and is often recommended, as a substitute for crema.

          If you read the labels of all the varieties of crema available in Mexican markets in CA you will discover that most of them are actually sour cream of some variant. The Crema Casera from El Mexicano is not sour cream. It is the closes you'll come to crema in the U.S. It's thinner than it's crema counterparts and the flavor is less sour, more cream-like with a very slightly sweet flavor to it. If you compare the ingredient label on the Crema Casera to the other cremas the difference is clear. Crema in Mexico is closer to the Crema Casera than to the Crema Agria. If you're looking to finish a dish with crema as called for in Mexican recipes Crema Casera is what you want.

          1. re: DiningDiva
            metalgrannie Apr 29, 2011 11:59 AM

            Thank you all!

      2. c
        chez cherie Jan 22, 2009 07:48 AM

        agreed that they are pretty interchangeable. i do find creme fraiche to be more heat-stable than sour cream, so for stroganoff and things like that, i reach for cf.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chez cherie
          Niki in Dayton Jan 22, 2009 07:57 AM

          My experience echoes yours; sour cream is less heat-stable but I find creme fraiche and crema to be interchangeable. I'll use either crema or cf when I make chipotle cream chicken (mix chipotles with crema or cf, coat thin sliced chicken breasts and broil, flip over, add more of the mixture, and broil again, serve over rice and top with chopped cilantro). Sour cream, on the other hand, tends to separate under the broiler and while the taste is very similar, it doesn't look as good...

          1. re: Niki in Dayton
            Will Owen Jan 23, 2009 11:53 AM

            While all of the various Latin-American crema varieties are readily available here in SoCal, and commercial crème fraiche as well, I've gone back to making my own crème fraiche for cooking for two reasons: I like it better, and it saves money. I can always use regular sour cream, so I get some of that plus a pint or half-pint of regular heavy cream, and beat some of the former into the latter to a ratio of 1:4, i.e. 1/4 cup sour cream to a half-pint of sweet (this is not a critical ratio, so you can eyeball it if you want). Beat that up in a bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and put it somewhere warmish for a few hours. Some times it thickens more than others, probably due to atmospheric conditions, but it's always good and it cooks down beautifully without curdling.

            1. re: Will Owen
              MisterMom Feb 17, 2012 07:52 AM

              Thanks for the recipe! This is what I was looking for.

        2. s
          Steve Jan 22, 2009 06:09 PM

          Not to complicate things, but what about fromage blanc? I think that is more comparable in density to sour cream than creme fraiche which seems generally lighter to me.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Steve
            hill food Jan 24, 2009 02:28 PM

            or the humble quark with its sharp tang.

            1. re: Steve
              Delucacheesemonger Apr 29, 2011 06:07 AM

              Huge difference here in France between creme fraiche, which here is very lightly sour but curdles quite quickly in heat so used after cooking off stove; and fromage blanc, which is very very young cheese, can be cow, goat, or sheep, usually raw and smooth cottage cheesy here. If you let your creme fraiche age a while you get sour cream, but still raw and thick and wonderful. One of the products l miss most in states.

            2. p
              PAO Jan 24, 2009 04:11 PM

              I find Mexican crema to be sweeter than sour cream. Homemade crema is much better than store bought in my experience.

              4 Replies
              1. re: PAO
                metalgrannie Apr 29, 2011 09:44 AM

                @PAO: Would you mind sharing your recipe for home-made crema? I'd like to try making it. Thank you.

                1. re: metalgrannie
                  khintx Jan 6, 2012 12:32 PM

                  I'n not PAO, but this is how I make mine:

                  I just mix 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 1/4 sour cream and +/- 2 tsp confectioners sugar (to taste) in a glass air tight container and leave it in a warm place to sit for 24-36 hours, stirring only once.

                  It's wonderful. You can double that if you want more.


                  1. re: khintx
                    LaLaLovely76 Aug 28, 2013 09:31 AM

                    Thx. Now what is the purpose of having it sit out for 24-48 hours?

                    1. re: LaLaLovely76
                      seamunky Aug 28, 2013 09:50 AM

                      So the bacteria can have a nice warm pool party in the cream.

                      More reading here:

              2. i
                igorm Apr 30, 2011 05:45 AM

                To me, the consistancy goes from sour cream, the runniest, to Mexican crema, to creme fraiche. As far as the taste is concerned, sour cream has more tang than the other two and very little difference between crema and creme fraiche. I like to use all three in cooking and it depends what it is, Like someone said, the sour cream breaks up more in heat and if I am going to make something like beef stroganoff, I use creme fraiche and crema when making enchilada sauce.

                1. Jetgirly Apr 30, 2011 11:57 AM

                  I've always HATED sour cream, but when I moved to Mexico and did a homestay while apartment-hunting my "Mexican mom" would put crema on EVERYTHING and I loooved it. It's not gross (IMO) and runny like sour cream, and the taste is much more neutral. Now I've left Mexico, and as the grocery stores here don't even sell creme fraiche, much less crema, I'm cream-less and sad (no, I won't make it myself!).

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