How to Make Sour Cream

by lydia on May 9, 2012

Fresh cream from grass fed cows is just about one of life’s greatest pleasures. Not only is it divinely delicious, it is rather highly nutritious (now I am getting all poetic on ya).  The beautiful thing about sour cream is that the fermentation/culturing process makes it more nutritious and digestible. Fermentation breaks down casein, or milk protein, one of the most difficult proteins to digest. Culturing restores many of the enzymes destroyed during pasteurization including lactase, which helps the body absorb calcium and other minerals. Lactase produced during the culturing process allows many people who are sensitive to fresh milk to tolerate fermented products. Both B and vitamin C content of milk increase during fermentation.

Sour cream is recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride to help with people who are prone to constipation (and yes, this has been a remedy for me in the past!) Thankfully, it’s allowed on the Introduction part of the GAPS diet if you pass the sensitivity test.

Whether or not one is on the GAPS diet, sour cream is a wonderful healthful addition to a real food diet. It adds richness, flavor and provides satiety. Fresh cream from grass fed cows is the optimal choice for making your own sour cream. It can be difficult to obtain fresh raw cream. I often collect the cream off the top of my raw milk until I have enough to make a quart (thankfully now I have a regular source of raw Jersey cream). If you can’t get raw cream or raw milk, try to find pasteurized cream from grass fed cows. Regular pasteurized cream would be the 3rd best, but definitely avoid homogenized and ultra-pasteurized cream.

How to Make Sour Cream
Recipe type: Condiment
  • 1 quart raw cream from grass-fed cows, OR
  • 1 quart grass-fed pasteurized cream, or regular pasteurized
  • ½ cup homemade yogurt, kefir or good quality store-bought sour cream
  1. Method for raw cream:
  2. Place raw cream in a quart jar, and then stir in the yogurt/kefir/or store-bought sour cream.
  3. Place in a dehydrator on 95 degrees for 24 hours.
  4. OR, place in a thermos on the counter wrapped with a towel for 24 hours.
  5. OR place in the oven with the pilot light or stove light on for 24 hours.
  6. Method for pasteurized cream:
  7. Place one quart of cream in a saucepan, heat to 160 degrees, then let it cool to 110 (this helps to untwist the proteins and it kills off any microbes that may have contaminated the cream).
  8. Pour into whatever vessel you will ferment it in and add the ½ cup homemade yogurt/kefir or store-bought sour cream.
  9. Ferment/culture as directed above.
  10. I actually prefer to ferment in an anaerobic vessel, such as a Pickl-it, Probiotic Jar or Boss Pickler. This ensures that no aerobic bacteria or mold can thrive and the lactic acid bacteria. It also tastes better to me.

Try my Homemade Ranch Dip – one of my most used recipes at my house. I have some on hand at all times for the kids to snack on veggies with. Good fats help to enhance the nutrient absorption in raw veggies!




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caroline May 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm

thanks! i needed a sour cream recipe today..this is perfect timing and it looks deliscious!

Kate May 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Love your site! So does creating lactase eliminate lactose? Can we say sour cream is lactose free? Because GAPS is lactose free, correct? And why does GAPS say under foods-to-avoid “acidophiles milk.” I’m not sure what that means. If I do have an occasional coffee as a treat, should I put heavy cream or raw milk or are neither of these an option?

lydia December 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Kate – Sour cream is for the most part lactose free, it may contain traces of lactose. It will have lactase which will help with the little bit of lactose that could be remaining. That is why it’s acceptable on GAPS and because it’s such a healing food with good fats, enzymes and probiotics.

Neither raw milk or cream are an option if you are following GAPS. If you are having coffee at home you could use a little bit of soured cream in your coffee with honey – if you are not following GAPS you just use what you know you tolerate. For example, I do not tolerate even raw milk, but I can do raw cream -so that is what I go with.

Kate May 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Do you know why, occasionally, my yogurt or sour cream separates (curdles?) and doesn’t get thick? Is there a way to “reconstitute” this? The way you would add more fat if this happened to a roux? Is there something to do? Did it get too hot? I heat on stove to 110 degrees. Then I wrap in towel and put on low heating pad.

lydia December 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Kate – (I know this reply is SUPER late) Yogurt does that if it is contaminated with the wrong bacteria or if it gets too hot. Old milk will also do that if it is raw and you leave it raw.

Shelli June 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I’d like to do this with raw goat milk. How long does this cream last for? I regularly make yogurt, can I make this sour cream with my goat milk yogurt culture? I thought the cultures were different with sour cream and yogurt. Thank you in advance for your response.

lydia December 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm


Sour cream lasts the same as yogurt -about 2 weeks if you want the bacteria to be live and kickin’ Yes, you can try the goat milk culture.

Shelli June 25, 2013 at 6:59 pm

One more thing. I have to pasteurize the raw goat milk in order to make yogurt. I understood so the natural cultures of the raw milk wouldn’t compete with the yogurt culture. How would raw milk or cream react to yogurt or sour cream cultures?

lydia December 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm

It is not necessary to pasteurize raw milk to make it into yogurt however your yogurt will be thicker if you do so and you will have some of the innate bacteria from the milk there. Older milk must be pasteurized before making it into yogurt.

You can certainly use your yogurt as a culture for your sour cream and it should work.

nadine June 25, 2013 at 8:25 pm

why do you cook the pasteurized but not the raw?

lydia December 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The pasteurized cream gets heated to untwist the proteins and kills off any microbes that may have contaminated the cream.

stacey December 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Recipe for for pasteurized cream says to Ferment/culture as directed above.
Where above is this information?

lydia December 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Stacey – once you heat and cool the cream you ferment it just like with raw cream – in a vessel with whichever starter you choose for the allotted time. Look at step 2 in the recipe directions.

Tina February 28, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I am very excited to make such nutritious sour cream! I’m assuming I could also use this method to culture my cream before I make it into butter?

lydia March 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

Yes Tina!

Sadaf December 9, 2016 at 10:49 am

Hello. Why do you need to add a culture to the cream? If you leave raw cream out, it naturally becomes sour cream I thought.

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