From soups to sauces to desserts, adding a dollop of it can make foods creamier and create a richer depth of flavor. But can you freeze crème fraîche without sacrificing its taste or texture?
With a velvety texture and a zingy tanginess, crème fraîche not only enhances flavors, it can also add body and structure to a dish. When it’s fresh, it’s smooth, silky, and creamy. And it’s easy to make at home.
But what if you bought or made too much? Can you freeze leftover crème fraîche?
Yes, you can safely freeze crème fraîche, and it should keep for up to 4 months. But you do run the risk of altering that originally creamy texture.
Read on to discover the best ways to freeze crème fraîche, and how to defrost it properly, so you retain as much of that soft, rich goodness as possible.
What is crème fraîche?
Crème fraîche is a thick cultured cream that is made with heavy cream and buttermilk. It has a soft, velvety texture and a pleasant tanginess, and it’s less likely to curdle when heated up, due to its high-fat content. That makes it ideal to add to things like hot soups and sauces in order to add extra flavor and body.
This versatile ingredient can also be added to desserts, fresh fruit, and in other foods like baked potatoes or salad dressings.
It’s most closely similar to sour cream, but with higher fat and a more muted tanginess.
How to freeze crème fraîche
You can freeze crème fraîche using a couple of different methods, depending on how you use it in your cooking.
Use freezer bags
If you use a lot of crème fraîche at a time, you may want to freeze it in bulk. So a good way to do it is by using freezer bags.
- Simply pour your crème fraîche into freezer-safe plastic bags.
- Seal the bags tightly to avoid any leaks.
- Label the bags with the date you placed them in the freezer.
💡 Tip: It’s a good idea to portion out the crème fraîche into separate bags so you don’t need to defrost the entire amount when you’re ready to use it.
Use ice cube trays
Since most recipes only call for a dollop of crème fraîche, another great way to freeze it is by using ice cube trays. This lets you defrost it in smaller portions — one or two cubes at a time if that’s all you need.
I like using an ice tray with a silicone bottom and a lid. That helps keep other odors away while in the freezer. And the soft bottom makes it super easy to pop the cubes out. Here’s how to do it:
- Spoon your creme fraiche into the individual tray cubes, leaving some room at the top for it to expand as it freezes.
- Cover the tray with the lid or with plastic wrap or cling film.
- Flash freeze for several hours, then remove them from the tray.
- Transfer the frozen crème fraîche cubes to a large freezer bag to store long-term.
- Lay the bag out flat so the cubes are in a single layer to help prevent them from sticking together.
Moving them from the ice cube tray to a freezer bag frees up the tray so you can use it to actually, um, make ice!
How to properly thaw out crème fraîche
When thawing out your frozen crème fraîche, the fats and liquid will have a tendency to split, and it may be a bit grainy. Here are some steps you can take to help recapture some of the original velvety, creaminess that may have been affected by the freezing process.
First, don’t rush it. It will take several hours for crème fraîche to thaw out, so it’s best to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you intend to use it.
Avoid tying to defrost crème fraîche in the microwave. This can increase splitting, and you could start to cook it by accident.
After your crème fraîche has thawed, there’s a good chance it may have separated at least somewhat. So grab a whisk and give it a good mix.
You want to try to re-combine those ingredients as much as possible in order to get to that original consistency. Once fully whisked, it’s ready to use.
How long does crème fraîche keep in the fridge?
If you plan to use your crème fraîche soon after you buy it or make it, you may not need to freeze it at all. Unopened creme fraiche can stay good in the fridge for a fairly long time — 2-3 weeks.
However, once you open it, the shelf life decreases quickly, as it will only keep for about 3 days.
For store-bought creme fraiche, check the expiration or use-by date and don’t consume it after that.
What are good substitutes for crème fraîche?
In a pinch and don’t have any crème fraîche on hand? No problem. You can swap it out for one of several commonly found ingredients. Here are some suggestions.
One of the best substitutes for crème fraîche is sour cream, as it has a similar tangy flavor and consistency. But it contains less fat (about 20% compared to 30%), so it won’t make dishes feel as rich or creamy.
One important note: unlike crème fraîche, sour cream can curdle when it gets hot, so avoid adding it to very hot soups and hot sauces.
Another good substitute for crème fraîche is plain Greek yogurt. It’s also thick and slightly tangy. And even though it has a lower fat content, you’ll still get a soft, creamy texture. Swap it out 1:1. So if your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche, you can use 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt instead.
With a sweet, creamy tanginess, Mexican crema can also be used in place of crème fraiche. However, it has a much thinner consistency and won’t work as well as a thickening agent. So it’s best to use this in dishes that call for a small amount of creme fraiche as a garnish or topping.
How do you make crème fraîche?
Crème fraîche is easy to make at home, which comes in handy if you realize you’ve suddenly run out. It only contains two ingredients:
- heavy cream
To make your own follow these simple steps.
Step 1 – In a clean glass jar, combine 2 cups of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk.
Step 2 – Cover tightly with cheesecloth or another breathable material at let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. After 12 hours, check to see if it’s thickened enough. If not, let it sit for another 6-12 hours as needed.
Step 3 – Once thickened, stir it, seal the jar (or other airtight container), and refrigerate for another 24 hours. It will continue to thicken in the fridge a little. That’s it!
💡 Tip: For best results, use heavy cream that has at least 36% milk fat. This will create a richer, thicker crème fraîche.
Anytime you freeze crème fraîche, it can split and affect the creamy texture. So freezing it multiple times isn’t recommended. Instead of a soft, creamy consistency, you’ll end up with a chunky, grainy crème fraîche.
Mascarpone is a dense cream cheese made with heavy cream and tartaric acid (for thickening). Overall, it’s sweeter and thicker than crème fraîche. That makes it a good option as a filling for desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. On the other hand, crème fraîche is more commonly used in savory recipes like soups and sauces.
More food storage answers
Wondering whether and how you can freeze some of your other favorite foods? Check out the posts below.