Creme fraiche is a thick cultured cream that has a mild tangy flavor with a creamy, silky texture. It is excellent stirred into cooked pasta and sauces or dolloped onto desserts like whipped cream. If you can't or won’t use it in recipes that call for it, you're going to need a creme fraiche substitute. We've created a list of alternatives that may already be sitting in the fridge at home.
What can I use to replace creme fraiche?
The best creme fraiche replacement will depend on how you intend to use it in cooking. Recipes often call for creme fraiche in food that is cooked to a high temperature. That’s because this dairy product has a high butterfat content and won't curdle. To replace creme fraiche where it will be heated then your best options are mascarpone, sour cream, cream cheese, or Crema Mexicana. For use in desserts where no cooking is involved then cream cheese, ricotta, or natural high fat yogurt are also good options. You could also make your own by combining cream and buttermilk, but it is best to prepare this the day before using it.
Mascarpone is a fresh cheese that hasn't been aged and is made from a base of whole cream. It is essentially a type of cream cheese but has a much higher milk fat content which can reach 75%. This gives it a rich, buttery texture that won't spoil when heated (unlike heavy cream). Mascarpone is slightly sweeter than creme fraiche and doesn't have that subtle tang. Some people also detect a subtle nutty flavor in mascarpone.
Although mascarpone is suitable for adding to savory cooked food like soups and sauces, you will find it is a relatively expensive ingredient. You may discover that cheaper options like sour cream do a similar job. However, when it comes to desserts it is hard to compete with the rich and creamy mouthfeel of mascarpone. Use it to make indulgent cheesecakes and baked goods or scoop onto fresh fruit as you would cream. Mascarpone can also be used to make delicious frosting for your next batch of cupcakes.
2. Sour cream
Sour cream is a dairy product that is made by fermenting regular cream with a bacterial culture. It has a tangy flavor with a smooth, creamy texture and is a versatile ingredient in sweet and savory dishes.
Thanks to its fat and acid content, it is useful in baking for adding moisture, activating baking soda, and controlling the browning. It also makes a delicious topping on Mexican food, balancing out hot spicy dishes. For soups, stews, and sauces, sour cream will add an extra depth of flavor and richness without curdling.
If you decide to use sour cream to replace creme fraiche your food will have a tangier flavor with less creaminess. It won't taste out of place or unpleasant in most dishes, but we don't recommend dolloping it onto fresh fruit or using it as a topping on desserts. Use sour cream in equal amounts as you would crème fraiche.
3. Cream cheese
Cream cheese is a mild-tasting soft cheese that is slightly sweet and tangy, with a smooth texture that is ideal for spreading. It is commonly used to make cheesecake, but it has many other uses including replacing butter in baking and frosting, and for thickening sauces.
You can use cream cheese as a substitute for crème fraiche in most recipes. Keep in mind that cream cheese has less sour flavor so you may want to add a squeeze of lemon juice or lemon extract for a more authentic flavor.
We don't recommend using cream cheese as a topping on desserts or fresh fruit. The flavor would be okay but its texture is a little too dense.
4. Crema Mexicana
Crema Mexicana is a type of cream cheese with a mild flavor that has a subtle tangy undertone. It has a thick texture with a delicious rich mouthfeel that is perfect for sauces and soups.
The benefit of this alternative is that it is cheaper than crème fraiche and it won't separate when heated. The biggest challenge with Crema Mexicana is that it won't be available in some locations. If you can't find it in your local supermarket then try a specialty store or search online.
Ricotta is a whey cheese that is mild tasting, creamy, and light. It is low in salt content with a unique pebbly texture. At first glance, it may seem that this cheese won't be suitable for replacing crème fraiche as it doesn't look as smooth. However, it can easily be transformed into a much denser, creamier texture by processing in a food processor until the desired texture is reached. We suggest adding a splash of olive oil to help smooth out the consistency.
For recipes where you mix ricotta into other ingredients, blending isn’t required. Use it in desserts like cannoli, parfaits, tiramisu, and cheesecake, or for savory applications like soup and dips. Our favorite uses for ricotta are stuffing into ravioli or tossing into hot pasta.
6. Full fat Greek yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt can be found in practically any supermarket and you can usually buy a large tub at a reasonable price. It will have a tangier flavor than crème fraiche with a texture that isn’t as smooth. But it will still work as an excellent substitute using a 1:1 ratio in desserts and baked goods.
If you want to add it to a soup or sauce, then avoid using high heat as curdling is likely. Instead, stir in the yogurt at the end of cooking.
Do you enjoy topping pancake stacks or other desserts with a creamy element? If you're looking for a healthier option with more protein and less fat, then yogurt is an excellent choice.
7. Make your own
Making crème fraiche at home is easy and requires only two ingredients with no specialist equipment. You need some time up your sleeve because it is best when left for 24 hours to thicken.
- 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
- 1 tablespoon buttermilk
- Combine cream and buttermilk in a Mason jar or any other type of jar where the lid can be sealed.
- Cover the jar and set aside on the kitchen bench. Let it sit untouched for 24 hours.
- Stir the mixture and use immediately or replace the lid and refrigerate for 10-14 days.
Summary of crème fraiche substitutes
|Substitute||How it compares to crème fraiche|
|Mascarpose||Sweeter with less tanginess|
|Sour cream||Tangier and less creamy|
|Cream cheese||Denser texture, less tang|
|Crema Mexicana||Very similar but can be harder to find|
|Ricotta||Less sweet, more pebbled texture|
|Greek yogurt||Less smooth and tangier|
|Make your own||Very close match but time-consuming|
- In French, creme fraiche translates to “fresh cream”. It can also be spelled crème fraîche.
- It is a soured cream that has a pH of approximately 4.5 and a butterfat of 30-45%.
- Creme fraiche can usually be found next to cream cheese in the dairy aisle of the supermarket.
Crème fraiche is a thick type of cream that is great for adding silky texture to food like soups and sauces. It is also useful for desserts, baking, and dolloping onto pancake stacks and fruit salads. If you’re looking for a substitute then mascarpone, sour cream, or cream cheese will all make useful replacements. For a healthy alternative then consider light sour cream, ricotta, or yogurt.
The best option will vary depending on the recipe so the ingredients listed on this page won’t be suitable for every dish. Cream cheese is dense and isn’t suitable for scooping onto desserts as a garnish. Yogurt may separate if exposed to high temperatures. But for most applications, the above list will mimic the flavor and texture of crème fraiche and no one will know you’ve made the change.
What recipe are you trying to replace crème fraiche in? Please let us know in the comments below.