Adding sour cream to dishes can be a great way to infuse creaminess and tanginess. But is sour cream gluten-free? Or should you look for an alternative if you have gluten sensitivity?
Sour cream is one of the most versatile dairy products. It can add some zippy, tangy flavor to dishes, either as a topping for foods like tacos or chili, or as a main component in dressings and dips. It can even help baked goods stay moist.
The good news is that plain sour cream is gluten free, as none of the ingredients used to make it contain gluten.
But if you have gluten intolerances, there are some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to buying other types of sour cream. Read on to find out more.
What is sour cream?
Traditional sour cream is made by mixing a lactic acid culture with dairy cream. The bacteria in the resulting cultured cream thickens the mixture and gives it a slightly sour flavor. This is where sour cream gets its tanginess (and its name).
Sour cream similar to crème fraîche, but with less fat — around 20%. So whereas crème fraîche can be used in cooking, sour cream will curdle. That’s why it’s often used as a topping or condiment for savory foods.
Not only can it add some creamy flavor and complexity, it can also help thicken dishes. And since it’s usually served cold, it can create a pleasant balance in hot or spicy foods.
That said, sour cream can be used effectively in baked goods like cakes or muffins to help add some tanginess and keep them from becoming too dry.
Does sour cream contain gluten?
Most sour cream from grocery stores will have a combination of the following in its ingredients list:
- Cultured cream
- Cow’s milk
None of these items contains gluten, so regular sour cream is generally safe for those with Celiac disease, gluten allergies or gluten sensitivities, or if you’re simply on a gluten-free diet.
But some manufacturers will add other ingredients like preservatives or flavorings. It’s those items that in some cases may have gluten-containing ingredients, even in small quantities.
So be sure to check the food labels carefully to see if any added ingredients may be derived from wheat products or other gluten-containing sources.
Gluten-free sour cream brands
A wide range of gluten-free sour cream brands are currently available. Here’s a list of some of the most popular.
- Costco Kirkland Sour Cream
- Friendship Dairies
- Good Culture
- Horizon Organic
- Kite Hill
- Nancy’s Organic
- Organic Valley
- Safeway O Organics
- Trader Joe’s Sour Cream
- Whole Foods 365 Sour Cream
Is sour cream vegan?
One of the main ingredients in sour cream is dairy cream, and in some cases milk. Since those items come from animals and are animal products, sour cream can’t be considered vegan. So it isn’t compatible with a vegan diet.
Is sour cream dairy free?
Since the cream in sour cream derives from cow’s milk — and because sometimes milk itself is added — sour cream does not fit a dairy-free diet. However, you can [make your own sour cream] dairy-free by substituting coconut milk for heavy cream. See below for more.
How to make homemade sour cream
If you don’t want to have to worry about whether your store-bought sour cream has additives that may contain gluten, it’s easy to make your own!
You only need 3 natural ingredients: heavy cream, milk, and distilled white vinegar. You could also use lemon juice instead of vinegar, but an acid component is necessary in order to activate the cream so it can thicken.
Here’s a simple recipe for how to make it:
- In a glass jar, stir together 1/4 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Then add 1 cup of heavy cream and mix.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a paper towel.
- Leave out for 24 hours to let the mixture thicken.
- Then move to the fridge to cool.
💡 Tip: To make dairy-free sour cream, simply swap the heavy cream and milk for 1 cup of coconut milk. Combine it with 1.5 tsp of lemon juice and 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Then chill it in the fridge to thicken.
You should always keep sour cream refrigerated either in its original packaging or in another airtight container. It should stay good for up to a couple of weeks after its sell-by date.
You can also freeze sour cream for up to 3 months. Simply thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight before you plan to use it. You may need to give it a good whisk before using as it may separate during the freezing process.
Crème fraîche is a thick cultured cream made with heavy cream and buttermilk. It has a soft, smooth texture and a subtle tanginess. It also has high-fat content, which means it’s less likely to curdle when heated up. So it’s ideal to use in hot foods like soups and sauces.
Sour cream is tangier than crème fraîche and is lower in fat. It’s great as a topping for hotter foods — rather than mixed into them — in order to add extra flavor. It’s also a good option for creating cold dips and dressings.
More answers about gluten in foods
Wondering whether some of your favorite foods are gluten free or not? Check out the posts below.