Heavy Cream vs Sour Cream – Which Is Better?

Heavy cream vs sour cream, what are the differences and similarities? Find out in this article.

Milk and creams have a wide range of varieties and it could be quite difficult to tell them apart.

Different cream products give different results. So, you should know the different creams, their similarities, and what makes them different so that you can choose carefully which cream may blend well with your dish.

What is heavy cream?

Heavy cream is a cream that contains nothing less than 36% – 40% milk fat.

It is the fat that is scooped off fresh milk when it rises. So, it is naturally high in fat. It was traditionally made from unpasteurized cream in France.

This unpasteurized cream naturally contains the right bacteria needed to thicken it.

Heavy cream has more fat than other creams including half and half, whipping cream, light cream, and even sour cream.

What is sour cream?

Sour cream is made by adding bacteria-producing lactic acid to milk or cream to thicken and sour it.

It contains a fat content about 16 to 20 percent lower than heavy cream, typically 20%. Sometimes, it is thickened and stabilized with ingredients like gelatin, renin, and vegetable enzymes.

Sour cream can be gotten through the process of fermenting regular cream with bacteria culture, naturally or intentionally. This makes the cream sour and thick.

Heavy cream vs Sour cream

The cream you go for depends on what and how you intend to use it. Although sour cream has less fat, it has more protein. So, cooking or boiling it will lead to curdling.

Heavy cream naturally thickens and so does not contain any added thickeners. It contains a richer flavor, is less tangy, and is thicker than sour cream.

Therefore, it is preferable to use heavy cream in sauces or soups. If you choose to use sour cream, stir it into your dish after it’s cooked and turn off the heat.

Sour cream is a better option for dishes that do not require the thickness of heavy cream. These may include casseroles and macaroni and cheese. You can also use it as a base for guacamole and salsa.

For adding more moisture to your baked foods as well as sweeter sauces, like meringue and buttercream frosting, heavy cream is a great option.

Sour cream contains lower fat. Therefore, it is considered a better alternative than heavy cream if what you need to do is thin out sauces or dressings or make whipped cream.

However, heavy cream and sour cream can be used interchangeably for dressing or as a topping. You may like the tanginess of sour cream or prefer the richness of heavy cream.

Is heavy cream and sour cream the same?

No, they’re not the same. Although they have a few similarities, they both contain butterfat and give your meals a rich and tangy flavor.

The high-fat content of about 20% in sour cream is enough to make it a good substitute for heavy cream in some savory recipes like soups or chili. However, that doesn’t make it the same as heavy cream.

In addition, heavy cream and sour cream are both components of milk. Nevertheless, heavy cream is gotten from a separation from fresh milk, whereas sour cream has to be mixed with bacteria culture, which is how the sour taste is derived.

Differences between heavy cream and sour cream

Heavy cream is fresh, whereas sour cream is fermented. Other things differentiate sour cream from heavy cream. Some of them include:

Butterfat content

Heavy cream contains 36% butterfat, while sour cream typically contains 20% butterfat.


Heavy cream doesn’t need any thickeners, whereas ingredients like gelatin, vegetable enzymes, and renin are added to sour cream to make it thicker and stabilized.


Compared to sour cream, heavy cream has a richer, creamier taste. Sour cream is a more tangy cream.

Can you use sour cream instead of heavy cream?

Yes, you can. Sour cream is a good substitute for heavy cream in various recipes as long as the sourness doesn’t subdue the flavors you added to your dish.

Moreover, it is gluten-free, keto-friendly, and has a fat level of 20%. With its fat content, sour cream can be substituted in equal amounts for heavy cream in a recipe.

Both creams are particularly good with sweet foods or as a topping for sweets. So, instead of heavy cream, you can sweeten your sour cream with confectioners’ sugar and serve it in place of heavy cream.

If you plan to substitute sour cream for heavy cream in recipes like white chili or sauces, add it after you must have finished cooking to prevent it from curdling.

Can you substitute heavy cream for sour cream in cheesecake?

Yes, you can. Either will do a good job. If you like sour cream and the tang it adds to cheesecake, you’re good to go. Sour cream also gives the same soft texture as heavy cream and adds some moisture.

Is heavy cream better than sour cream in soup?

Sour cream tastes better in soup. This makes it a better alternative to heavy cream in soups. Sour cream can also add a creamy acidic layer to your soup.

Due to its high-fat content of about 20%, sour cream is a good substitute for heavy, savory recipes like chili or soups.

For instance, a mushroom soup recipe requires a little bit of tanginess which sour cream delivers better than heavy cream.

Sour cream is also great for chicken soup. Although it does not contain the strong flavors of chicken soup cream, it gives a similar texture. Also, to thicken the soup, you can use the thickening components of sour cream.

Heavy cream vs sour cream in mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are better when they are very creamy. However, sour cream can substitute for heavy cream in mashed potatoes.

Its consistency is similar to that of heavy cream, and it also adds some creaminess to your potatoes.

Use the same amount of sour cream in place of heavy cream in mashed potatoes.


Can you use cream cheese in place of sour cream?

Yes, you can. If you’re using cream cheese, you have to loosen it up a little before adding it to your recipe. This is because it is thicker.

What are the substitutes for sour cream?

Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, coconut milk,crème fraîche, and cashews can all pass as good substitutes for sour cream.

What are the substitutes for heavy cream?

The best substitutes for heavy cream are; milk and butter, half and half and butter, coconut cream, evaporated milk, Greek yogurt and milk, soy milk and olive oil, and cream cheese.


The bottom line is that both sour cream and heavy cream are good for you and contain nutritional supplements that are beneficial to your health.

Your choice totally depends first on your recipe, the taste, flavor, and consistency you want to achieve.

The most important thing is that each of them perfectly fits the dish you’re preparing as well as your healthy diet.

Thank you for reading.

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