Cream Cheese vs Sour Cream – Differences, Similarities & Uses

As a chef, you’ve probably used both sour cream and cream cheese to do one thing or the other. They are so versatile in culinary use. However, can you tell the core differences between sour cream and cream cheese?

The truth is, if you are unfamiliar with either of them, you may misplace one for the other. Perhaps you are familiar with them but you want to learn more about their core differences.

This article explains the differences between sour cream and cream cheese, their nutritional benefits, and their uses.

So, let’s dive right in.

What is sour cream?

Sour cream is a dairy product made by infusing cream with lactic acid bacteria. As a result, fermentation occurs in the cream, affecting its texture and flavor.

Sour cream is often a high-fat product. However, there are numerous variations to pick from, depending on your diet, which ranges from fat-free to dairy-free.

Finally, there are also sour creams in light variations, lower in fat. However, some have fat percentages ranging from 12–16%.

What is cream cheese?

Cream cheese, like sour cream, is also created through fermentation. However, cream cheese is produced from milk and cream, unlike sour cream, which is made from just cream.

Cream cheese is made by mixing lactic acid into the dairy mixture (milk and cream), and the fermentation process begins when the mixture is mildly heated.

Then curd and whey are removed from the dairy mixture, which will be later strained out, leaving behind the cream cheese, with the addition of salt.

Differences: sour cream vs cream cheese

While sour cream and cream cheese may taste similar in the same dish, they have significant differences. Here are some of the differences:

  1. Both sour cream and cream cheese are high-fat dairy products. However, cream cheese contains at least 33% milk fat, while sour cream generally includes 14 to 18% fat.
  2. Sour cream is not only sour, as its name implies, but also tastes acidic. Cream cheese, on the other hand, has a mellow flavor that is slightly salty. It is sour as well, however, in a subtle way.
  3. In terms of texture, sour cream is softer, more spreadable, and slightly liquid, while cream cheese is much thicker.
  4. Sour cream has less protein and carbs than cream cheese. Cream cheese is higher in both protein and carbs than sour cream.

Similarities: sour cream vs cream cheese

Cream cheese is typically a suitable substitute for sour cream, especially while baking.

To make this substitution, mix 170 grams of cream cheese with 45 grams of milk. This mixture will give you a similar texture to sour cream.

Uses of sour cream

Generally, sour cream can be used in a lot of different ways.

You can eat it by itself, with a piece of fresh bread, or add it to various dishes, from dips to baked goods, and so on.

Here are some of the uses:

1. To make dip sauces

Simple dipping sauces made with sour cream, spices, and herbs go well with potato chips or wedges. They also pair well with fresh vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and celery.

2. For salad dressings

Dressings made with sour cream pair well with chicken or beef salads. Adding a rich sour cream dressing will improve a basic potato salad. You may also use it on any salad of your choice.

3. For baking

Sour cream is indispensable in making cookies, doughnuts, etc. Also, if you want your cakes to be creamy and evenly golden on the outside, you should add sour cream.

4. To garnish your soup

Sour cream is the ideal soup garnish to balance your soup’s flavor and spice level. If you have prepared an excessively spicy soup, you can garnish it with sour cream to reduce its spice.

5. Spread for sandwiches

Replace mayonnaise with sour cream to make tastier burgers, sandwiches, and wraps

Uses of cream cheese

Cream cheese is also very versatile, and there are several things you can do with it.

However, unlike sour cream, cream cheese cannot be for essential culinary creation but excellent as a dessert topping or filler.

Here are some popular ways you can use cream cheese:

1. Frosting

If you think about cream cheese uses, the first thing that comes to mind is probably cream cheese frosting. It is simple to make and may be used on cakes and make your cupcakes more creamy.

2. To make dipping sauces

Cream cheese is often used to make tasty dips for vegetables and chips.

Also, it can be used on its own with herbs and spices. And for a creamier texture, you can mix it with another sour or heavy cream.

3. Bagel spread

Cream cheese is ideal for spreading on bagels for your morning breakfast.

You can add sugar and fruits to make it sweet or add avocado, salmon, tomato slices, or any other vegetables of your choice.

4. To garnish your soup

You can effectively use cream cheese to garnish your soups. Cream cheese works well, from pureed vegetable soups to chicken soups, to create a smoother, thicker texture.

Preservation: Sour cream vs cream cheese

Both cream cheese and sour cream should be kept in the fridge at 40ºF to keep their texture and flavor.

An open pack of cream cheese should be consumed within 10 days. Unopen packs can be kept for up to 4 weeks after the “best by” date.

On the other hand, sour cream will stay good for about 21 days after its “best by” date, opened or unopened.


Can cream cheese be frozen?

Yes. It is very okay to freeze your cream cheese.

What is an excellent sour cream substitute?

Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, crème fraîche, and buttermilk are all suitable sour cream substitutes.

Does mayonnaise taste the same as sour cream?

No. Mayonnaise tastes better and has more flavor than sour cream.

Is sour cream the same as yogurt?

No. Sour cream is made from fermented dairy cream, while yogurt is made from fermented milk.


Cream cheese and sour cream are different dairy products made through other production methods and have distinct flavors and textures.

Cream cheese is soft and has a mild taste, but its texture is nothing compared to sour cream which is softer. However, sour cream is lighter while cream cheese is thicker. When it comes to desserts, almost everyone loves cream cheese.

Mascarpone is another cheese that looks and tastes a lot like cream cheese. It is a perfect substitute for cream cheese in many recipes. You should learn how to use mascarpone in recipes that require cream cheese.

Thanks for reading.