Sour cream has a distinct taste that is hard to replicate. It’s made with regular cream that is fermented with lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria is responsible for thickening the cream and gives it a sour taste.
But if you can’t eat dairy or if you don’t like the taste of sour cream, then you may need to switch it out in your favorite recipes. Check out this complete guide to sour cream, including its nutritional information, how to use it, and what to replace it with.
What is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is essentially fermented cream. It is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cream that contains at least 18% milkfat. This helps thicken the cream and makes it taste sour.
According to the California Dairy Pressroom, the two primary types of sour cream are cultured sour cream and acidified sour cream.
Cultured sour cream is the most common type that involves adding bacteria to 18% milkfat cream. Acidified sour cream is made by adding vinegar to the cream instead of using a fermentation process.
How is it Made?
Cultured sour cream involves taking pasteurized light cream, adding Streptococcus lactis bacteria to it, and incubating it at 72 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches the desired thickness and flavor.
The bacteria that is added to the cream acts as a thickening agent to the protein while also contributing to the classic sour flavor of the cream.
Sometimes, nonfat milk solids and other stabilizers are added to extend the shelf life. The amount of fat found in the cream depends on the fat content of the milk that it is made from.
Here is a breakdown of the fat content in different types of sour cream:
- Regular sour cream: 18% milkfat or more
- Light sour cream: must contain at least 25% less fat than regular sour cream (many brands contain up to 40% less fat)
- Non-fat sour cream: contains no more than 0.5% fat and usually contains stabilizers
A 100-gram serving of cultured sour cream contains the following (1):
- 198 calories
- 19.35 grams of fat
- 4.63 grams of carbs
- 2.44 grams of protein
Vitamins and minerals:
- 101 mg calcium
- 0.7 mg iron
- 10 mg magnesium
- 76 mg phosphorus
- 125 mg potassium
- 0.33 mg zinc
- 0.018 mg copper
- 0.015 mg manganese
- 3.7 mcg selenium
- 0.9 mg vitamin C
- 0.2 mg thiamin
- 0.168 mg riboflavin
- 0.093 mg niacin
- 0.472 mg pantothenic acid
- 0.041 vitamin B1
- 6 mcg folate
- 19.2 mg choline
- 0.21 mcg vitamin B12
- 447 IU vitamin A
- 0.38 mg vitamin E
- 1.5 mcg vitamin K
How Many Carbs Are There in Sour Cream?
Depending on different brands, ingredients, and types (light vs full fat), the amount of net carbs per 100-gram serving of sour cream can vary between 3.5 grams to 4.6 grams.
A serving size of 2 tablespoons (or 30 grams) of pure cultured cream, such as Daisy Sour Cream brand, contains only 1 gram of carbohydrates.
Health Benefits of Sour Cream
Sour cream was once avoided due to its high saturated fat content. Luckily, we now know that sugar and not fat is to blame for many of the diseases that are prevalent today, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
When used in moderation, sour cream is a healthy part of the ketogenic diet. You can use it in many low carb recipes, especially desserts.
Here are some other health benefits of sour cream:
It contains many different vitamins and minerals.
As you can see above, sour cream contains over 20 different vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and several B vitamins.
It’s high in good fats and low in carbs.
Sour cream is a great source of dietary fat and is relatively low in carbs in comparison. A 100-gram serving contains nearly 20 grams of fat and less than 5 grams of carbs. This makes it a good addition to your high-fat, low-carb diet.
It assists with the absorption of certain nutrients.
Because it contains a good amount of fat, sour cream can help you absorb the nutrients of other foods that you pair it with. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, all require dietary fat to be absorbed.
This means that when you eat sour cream with foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins, it can help you absorb them better.
Dietary fat can also help you absorb antioxidant nutrients. One study found that people who ate a salad with full-fat dressing absorbed the salad’s carotenoid nutrients better than reduced-fat dressing (2).
Always eat your vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods with at least a small amount of dietary fat to ensure you get the most out of them.
It’s good for your digestive and immune systems.
Fermented foods are good for your digestive system because they contribute to the health of the “good” bacteria in your gut.
Approximately 75% of your immune system is found in your gut, which means that boosting your digestive health also improves your immunity.
Sour cream contains probiotics, which have been shown to positively influence the microbiome. They also help restore gut health in the presence of gastrointestinal disease by alleviating inflammation (3).
Is Sour Cream Keto-Friendly?
Can you eat sour cream on the keto diet? The short answer is yes, but there is a catch. Sour cream is not as low in carbs as other dairy products, such as cheese and heavy cream. However, you can still eat sour cream on a keto diet if you keep your portion sizes down.
How much sour cream can you eat?
As shown above, a 100 gram serving of cultured sour cream contains less than 5 grams of carbs and nearly 20 grams of fat.
Restricting your total daily carb intake to between 20-25 grams per day tells your body that you want it to burn fat and not carbs as energy. To stay in ketosis, you should not eat too much dairy because the carbs can add up quickly.
If you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau on keto, we suggest to limit dairy products including sour cream for a few days to see if this could help you breakthrough the stall.
Best Sour Cream Alternatives
Most recipes that include sour cream don’t call for more than a small amount. This is a good way to keep your carbs in check.
If you’re not a fan of sour cream or you have a hard time digesting dairy, then you can switch it out for another food item with similar texture and consistency.
Here is a list of keto-approved sour cream substitutes that contain dairy:
Full-fat yogurt makes a good replacement for sour cream, especially if you’re looking for another fermented food option. You can even find flavored yogurt to enhance your recipe.
Most store-bought brands of yogurt are not allowed on keto because they contain too many carbs and added sugar or fruits. When choosing this product, make sure to pick a brand that contains only plain full-fat Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt contains fewer carbs and grams of sugar than traditional yogurt as long as you buy the unsweetened kind. It also does not contain as much lactose, which is ideal if you are sensitive to dairy.
A 100-gram serving of Greek yogurt made from whole milk contains 97 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3.98 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein (4).
Heavy whipping cream
Heavy whipping cream contains lots of fat and virtually no carbs. This makes it a great substitute for sour cream on a keto diet.
However, heavy cream is not as thick as sour cream. Make sure you keep this in mind if you’re using it in a recipe that depends on sour cream for its volume.
Cream cheese features a thick consistency, just like sour cream. It’s an ideal substitute for sour cream in just about any low-carb recipe. The only thing you’ll be missing is the sour taste.
A 100-gram serving of cream cheese contains 350 calories, 34.44 grams of fat, 5.52 grams of carbs, and 6.15 grams of protein (5).
Coconut cream has a thicker consistency than coconut milk, which makes it a better choice if you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative for sour cream.
It’s low-carb, vegan-friendly, and can be used on a plant-based or keto diet. Make sure you buy a brand of coconut cream that does not contain added sugars or carrageenan.
A 100-gram serving of coconut cream contains 197 calories, 19.67 grams of fat, 3.28 grams of carbs, and 1.64 grams of protein (6).
Nut butter might be a bit of a stretch, but it has a smooth, sticky consistency just like sour cream. Plus, vegan so you can eat it if you’re sensitive to dairy.
We recommend using a neutral-tasting nut, like cashews. These pair well with other ingredients and would not be too much of a stretch if you were looking to swap out the sour cream.
A 100-gram serving of unsweetened cashew butter contains 609 calories, 53.03 grams of fat, 27.3 grams of net carbs, and 12.12 grams of protein (7).
Tahini is made of ground-up sesame seeds. It has a thick consistency like sour cream, but with a nutty flavor. You could use tahini in place of sour cream in both meat-based and plant-based dishes. It’s also higher in protein and lower in net carbs than sour cream!
A 100-gram serving of tahini contains 643 calories, 53.57 grams of fat, 3.56 grams of net carbs, and 25 grams of protein (8).
Cottage cheese is made with milk. However, if you’re not sensitive to dairy then you can use cottage cheese in place of sour cream.
A 100-gram serving of cottage cheese contains 98 calories, 4.3 grams of fat, 3.38 grams of carbs, and 11.12 grams of protein (9).
Ricotta tends to be higher in carbs than other cheeses. It can be made from goat, sheep, cow, or buffalo milk. Ricotta is soft, just like sour cream.
It contains 161 calories, 11.29 grams of fat, 6.45 grams of carbs, and 11.29 grams of protein per 100-gram serving (10).
Ghee or clarified butter
Ghee or clarified butter is a good dairy alternative to sour cream if your recipe calls for something creamy but you’re not a fan of the sour taste.
It contains 882 calories, 100 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbs and 0 grams of protein per 100-gram serving (11). Look for ghee and grass-fed butter that comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows.
Because it’s so calorie-dense, you will likely need to reduce the amount you use and accommodate for this in your recipe. Also note that, ghee and butter will not be a good replacement for sour cream in some recipes.
For those who are curious, here are some non-keto items that can be used in place of sour cream:
- Soy-based sour cream
Soy is not usually eaten on a keto diet because it’s a legume. Most legumes contain too many carbs to be eaten on a low-carb diet.
However, soy-based sour cream is an option if you need a dairy-free alternative to soy that isn’t too carb-heavy. You can also use other soy-based products in place of sour cream, such as tofu.
Just make sure it contains the same texture and thickness as sour cream.
- Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is a sweet milk that has a syrup consistency. It’s usually canned and made with milk and sugar, which makes it off-limits on a low-carb diet.
However, if you need a replacement for sour cream and you don’t mind if it has lots of sugar or carbs, then try this sweet, dedicant replacement instead. It works especially well in desserts.
Some Keto-friendly Recipes Using Sour Cream
You can eat sour cream as is. It makes an excellent dip for your vegetables. You can also add it to your favorite recipes.
Here are some dishes you can use sour cream in:
Sour cream is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cream. This creates a fermented cream with a thick consistency and sour taste.
If you don’t have sour cream available or do not like the taste of sour cream, then we recommend using an alternative. Our top choices for keto dieters are coconut cream, heavy cream, Greek yogurt and cream cheese.
If you need a vegetarian or vegan option, then try nut butters, coconut cream, soy-based sour cream, and tahini. Make sure you count your carbs if you need to stay in ketosis.
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