What Is Crème Fraîche?

Meet sour cream's thicker, sweeter cousin. Here's a complete guide to buying, storing, making, and using crème fraîche.

We've all been there—you’re in the kitchen and stumble across a recipe that calls for something you've never even heard of, like crème fraîche. You may be wondering what is crème fraîche and what is a substitute for crème fraîche? Can you make it at home? How long can you store it? Don't worry—we've compiled all the answers for you down below. Read on to learn more about this European dairy staple.

Creme Fraiche

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What Is Crème Fraîche?

Crème fraîche is the European equivalent of sour cream. It’s used widely throughout Europe but less commonly in the United States and Canada. It's a dairy product much like sour cream, but crème fraîche has a higher fat content, making it great for cooking because it's less likely to curdle! 

Crème Fraîche vs. Sour Cream

They may seem similar, but a significant difference between crème fraîche and sour cream is that crème fraîche tastes less tangy than sour cream. Its subtle taste makes it more versatile in a variety of dishes. It's also creamier and richer, with a texture comparable to softened cream cheese. 

How to Make Crème Fraîche

If a recipe calls for it, you can easily make crème fraîche at home. All you need is heavy cream and cultured buttermilk. Add 1 tablespoon of cultured buttermilk (do not use lemon juice and milk) to 1 cup of heavy cream on the stovetop. Gently mix it until warm, then transfer it to a glass bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let it stand for 24 hours at room temperature. Then give it a stir and refrigerate until chilled. Your crème fraîche is now ready to use!

Substitutes for Crème Fraîche

You can find crème fraîche in European specialty grocery stores as well as the dairy or cheese aisle of gourmet food stores. If you can’t find it and don’t want to make your own at home, don’t worry. You can substitute sour cream for crème fraîche, but just know it will have more tang. You can also substitute Mexican crema (crema Mexicana) if you have that on hand.

If your recipe involves boiling, avoid substituting it with sour cream. It will curdle because of its lower fat content.

How to Use Crème Fraîche

Much like sour cream, crème fraîche is used in cooking or as a topping or garnish, such as on soups or a baked potato. In Europe, it's also used to top fruit or fruity baked goods, such as scones. With scones, it may be whipped with sugar or vanilla to give it a sweeter taste. It can also be used as a substitute for mayonnaise in a salad for a fresh, rich flavor.

It works well with sweet dishes just as much as it does with savory dishes. You can blend it with herbs and citrus as a meat topping. You can also pair it with eggs and use it as a topping on an omelet with veggies for a fancy breakfast or brunch. We love blending it into pancake batter for light, fluffy cakes or as a topping for our Blueberry Ice Cream Pie.

How to Store Crème Fraîche

Homemade crème fraîche can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container. Store-bought will keep well as long as it’s refrigerated. Pay attention to the use-by date and ensure you finish your crème fraîche by then. Once opened, it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Despite its similarities to sour cream, crème fraîche does not keep well in the freezer, so plan to use it before it goes bad!

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