Make Your Own Sour Cream

Sour cream is hard to carry on a boat, as it turns green in a week or so even in the refrigerator.  And if you don’t have much room in the refrigerator — or no refrigerator at all — it can be impossible.  The great thing, though, is that you can quickly and easily make your own from ingredients that are easy to carry and last almost forever!

Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this article showing exactly how easy it is to make your own sour cream this way!

Image of media crema can

Nestle and several other Latin American dairy companies make a great product called “Media Crema” (literally translates as “half cream” or what we’d call “light cream”).  In the US, it almost always comes in cans like the one shown and is generally stocked with the Latin/Mexican foods in larger supermarkets.

In Mexico and Central America, you can also buy it (and sometimes “crema” or “heavy cream”) in vacuum-sealed boxes similar to juice boxes, as shown in the second picture (Lala is a huge brand in Mexico).  For some reason, I’ve never seen the boxes in the US.  I’m told that there are similar products in the Caribbean — if you know of brands and whether it comes in cans or boxes, please add this information to the comments below.

Either type of container holds about 8 ounces, or 250 ml — 1 cup.  And they both work equally well for making your own sour cream.  Best of all, they both last virtually forever (I think they usually have an expiration date of about 6 months away).  I found the little boxes easier to stow as they fit tightly together with no wasted space, plus they wouldn’t roll with the motion of the boat.  But if you’re in the US, you might not have a choice.

The procedure to make your own sour cream is simple.  Put the contents of the can or box of media crema in a plastic container that has a lid.  Mix in 1 teaspoon of vinegar (you won’t taste it if you use white, other types are very slightly noticable), lemon juice, lime juice, or white wine.  If you want a thicker sour cream, mix in a second teaspoon after the first teaspoon is mixed in.  Don’t use more than 2 teaspoons.

You can either use it immediately or, for the best results, put the lid on and refrigerate it for a half hour before using.  It will last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator.

Use it in any recipe, just as you would any other sour cream.  Note that this makes 1 cup, or a half pint — many dip recipes call for a pint, so you’d need a double batch.

No one ever believes how easy it is to make sour cream with ingredients that don’t require refrigeration — so here’s my video:

Since learning this method, I always keep the ingredients on hand . . . and real, rich, thick sour cream is just minutes away!

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  • vrkelley
    Posted at 01 March 2011 Reply

    Plain yogurt can substitute for sour cream also.

    • Regina
      Posted at 15 January 2014 Reply

      Thank you!!! I live in Panama and it is very difficult to get sour cream here.
      Will try this recipe as soon as I can. I will try it with lime also. (I’m partial to lemon and limes vs vinegar)

  • Joy
    Posted at 28 August 2011 Reply

    After you put the vinegar into the container with a lid, what do you do? Shake it, stir it, let it sit, use a hand blender? Isn’t something missing here, or am I making too much of the procedure?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 28 August 2011 Reply

      Your reaction is about like mine the first time I heard of making my own sour cream. I couldn’t believe it was that easy! But it is.

      Just mix the vinegar in. I use a small spoon and stir a few times (maybe 3 to 5 seconds is all). I guess you could shake it. I wouldn’t use a hand blender as it would add air.

      You can then use it immediately, but it’s even better if you put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

  • on Facebook
    Posted at 16 November 2011 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn … love sour cream!

  • Charlotte on Facebook
    Posted at 16 November 2011 Reply

    You must spend so much time writing and researching your blog, and we thank you!

  • on Facebook
    Posted at 16 November 2011 Reply

    Thanks, I enjoy it! So many people passed their knowledge on to us when we were newbies and now I’m happy to pass it on. And if you have a tip you want to share with other readers, be sure drop me a note:

  • Jacquie Marks on Facebook
    Posted at 15 September 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing, often I will go to make a recipe and it calls for sour cream……which often I do NOT have on hand.

  • Thomas Jensen on Facebook
    Posted at 15 September 2012 Reply

    Sandra and I tried this at home; it was great. We buy sour cream at the supermarket, but we keep this on hand too.

  • JesseBo
    Posted at 18 July 2013 Reply

    Does not work wit Nestle Cream tat is sold in the Philippines! Tried it twice and it never thickened.

  • Candy Kiesel
    Posted at 26 October 2013 Reply

    I’m so excited to find your web site and THANK YOU so much for the time you have invested!! We are getting ready to start our 3rd season of staying on the boat 6 months at a time. We are motor, not sail but still have a great love of the water! We will be back on St. Somewhere Dec. 2nd and I just found all of this wealth of information! We travel the south of Florida and the Bahamas so the cardboard info was wonderful. I tried your sour cream recipe tonight and it was wonderful!! I did add the extra teaspoon of vinegar as we like ours thick. Again thank you so much for your time!

  • MaryS
    Posted at 20 March 2014 Reply

    JessBo, I live in the Philippines too. I was going to try this recipe with Nestle Cream, but then saw your comment. Have you tried other brands of cream like Alaska? There’s another one, but I forget the brand. If not, where did you go to get your sour cream? I need sour cream for a cheese cake I’m making 2 days from now. I hope you could point me to a store that sells sour cream. I live in Manila. Thanks in advace.

  • Shawn Haugen
    Posted at 09 April 2015 Reply

    Great idea! I’ll be trying this!

  • SV Matilda
    Posted at 09 April 2015 Reply


  • Diane Emigh
    Posted at 09 April 2015 Reply

    I’ve been doing this for years—great tip!!

  • Lauren
    Posted at 09 April 2015 Reply

    I recently made buttermilk on board with 1tbsp vinegar adding milk to make 1 cup combined. Stir & leave alone for 10 minutes. Made delicious banana pancakes. Used long life milk. Thabks for the sour cream tip!

  • Cate McCarty
    Posted at 10 April 2015 Reply

    Way cool

  • Thomas Jensen
    Posted at 10 April 2015 Reply

    I saw this, either in your book, or an earlier article you posted. It works great. I bought my first can of crema, ever, to try it out and now I keep a can on hand all the time. Thanks.

  • Monique Bea
    Posted at 10 April 2015 Reply

    Hope l can buy this product in Australia. ..

  • Kathy Barth
    Posted at 11 April 2015 Reply

    Been doing this for a couple of seasons now. So convenient!

  • Ernesto Novillo
    Posted at 11 April 2015 Reply

    Natalia, the search for sour cream is over! 🙂

  • Dennis Bagby
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    Baylie Blankenship

  • Karen Ulakovic Drass
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    I never knew this. Thanks for sharing!

  • The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    Great tip! Adding crema to my provisioning list 🙂

  • SV Belle Ile
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    I will add this to my provision list for our winter trip to the Exumas. Thanks

  • Terri Zorn
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    Not cruising yet….but will try at home.

  • Diane Emigh
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    I’ve been doing this for 4 years now and it still tickles me that it’s so easy and cheap!

  • Darcy Soeters
    Posted at 09 October 2015 Reply

    I love all your stuff!! You are a galley guru!!

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 10 October 2015 Reply

    Genius!! What a great idea.

  • Lorraine McLean
    Posted at 10 October 2015 Reply

    Alan O’Boyle 🙂 Lesley Hayes

  • Judy Mackay
    Posted at 10 October 2015 Reply

    In the US I buy Whipping Cream in a shelf stable box from Trader Joe’s. They only carried it at Christmas time until a year ago and I would buy it by the case. Now I a pick up a box or two every time I shop. I use it in everything from baking, whipping, as well as souring it for sour cream. I even use it as a base of ice cream and leftovers taste great as a treat in my coffee.

  • Oh Sail Yes
    Posted at 11 October 2015 Reply

    Whoa! What a fantastic idea!

  • Donita Stepke-Thompson
    Posted at 12 October 2015 Reply

    Not a Nestle product. No way.

    • Peggy Jo Hall Adams
      Posted at 13 October 2015 Reply

      I’m clueless. WHY?

    • Lacy Goodman
      Posted at 14 October 2015 Reply

      Just to chime in my two cents about Nestle. The CEO thinks water should be a private commodity that people should have to pay to have access too. They manufacture formula then try to smear breastfeeding in ad campaigns. Oh and they are bottling water in drought stricken California with a permit that expired in 1997 (?) I believe. Corporate greed at it’s finest.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 15 October 2015 Reply

      There are some other brands available, depending on where you live.

  • Mimi Winter
    Posted at 12 October 2015 Reply

    thank you. I needed that.

  • Donna
    Posted at 12 October 2015 Reply

    There are some boxed creams available here in the US, I buy mine from gosner foods. You can go to their website, they sell boxed milk and heavy cream. They do have an expiration date but the whip cream doesn’t really go bad it just gets thicker so it is more like cream cheese. But it would work great for this application.
    They also sell flavored milks like chocolate and strawberry, not my favorite but kids tend to really like them.

  • Nanci Dickerman
    Posted at 12 October 2015 Reply

    wait wait wait…..i can make sour cream with shelf stable products? Holy Moly batman happy food storage dreams

  • Belinda Bacon-Reinagel Wolfe
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    I’ve made it. Works great – tastes great.

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    Perfect post when we are restocking the boat with everything. These 2 items will be on my list…vinegar already was. ☺

  • Patty Thompson
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    I love your tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • Diane Elizabeth Larson
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    This is so cool! We did this years ago in Mexico and I had forgotten all about it! Thanks for reminding me

  • Lizzy Belle
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    I use kefir to make my own sour cream, soft cheese, drink yogurt etc. etc. Easy, cheap, super healthy 🙂

    • Laine Common
      Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

      I’m planning on doing kefir when we move on to our boat! Any tips or tricks?

    • Lizzy Belle
      Posted at 10 March 2016 Reply

      Laine Common Just remember that the ” grains” feed on the lactose in milk, so they need animal milk to stay healthy.
      For instance, if you let them ferment coconut milk, they’ll need to go in real milk after cos they’ re hungry 🙂
      But take care of them, and they’ll last a lifetime. Make sure you start with a good quality!
      Edit: should getting milk be a problem: you can store or dry them and use them again when you have access to milk 🙂
      If you’re cruising, water kefir may be a better option then milk (since we always have water 😉 )
      Good info on about both kefirs.

      • Julie
        Posted at 09 November 2016 Reply

        You can also make water kefir using grains you can find online.

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    Defiantly going to try this! Thank you

  • June Rowland Madden
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    Going to look for some.

  • Helen Bell
    Posted at 08 March 2016 Reply

    I didn’t like the sour cream :/ I’m sad to say. It tasted like cream. Maybe I’m just picky but too eachtheir own. We like the store bought sour cream. 🙁

  • Linda M Fletcher
    Posted at 10 March 2016 Reply

    Annie Fletcher

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 14 July 2016 Reply

    UHT cream is also available from Parmalat and other companies. The famous Land-O-Lakes Mini-Moos that many of us use without thought in restaurants are UHT half & half.

    If you plan to use cream for whipping I have seen reporting (Nigella Lawson) that the fat content should be 30% or more.

  • Jessica Heinicke
    Posted at 14 July 2016 Reply

    I have had this recipe in the back of my mind for years and only just tried it yesterday. It is amazing! Cream and vinegar went in, sour cream came out! I can’t tell you how excited I am! ?

  • Alison
    Posted at 25 October 2016 Reply

    In Canada you can get canned “thick cream”. Carnation & other brands. Haven’t tried making sour cream with it but I will. Thanks for the tip! I’m going to write it into my Boat Galley cookbook so I don’t forget!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 26 October 2016 Reply

      It’s already in there — page 99. Or look in the Index under “Sour Cream from Scratch.”

  • Stephanne
    Posted at 25 March 2017 Reply

    I used heavy whipping cream and turned out wonder!! Thank you!! I used a blender and super thick n creamy.

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