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Homemade Crema (Mexican Sour Cream)

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Yields about 1 cup.

  • by Jennifer Armentrout from Fine Cooking
    Issue 84

Crema is the Mexican version of French crème fraîche. Both are slightly soured and thickened cream, milder and less thick than American sour cream, with crema being the thinnest. The recipe for Lime Chicken with Poblano Sour Cream will have a more authentic touch if made with crema. You can buy crema in Mexican markets or even in some supermarkets, but it’s easy to make it yourself, and the result has a smoother flavor than that of the commercially prepared version.

Use crema as you would sour cream, dolloping or drizzling it on soups, tacos, potatoes, or anything else that needs a little tang. Start with pasteurized cream if you can find it—it makes a richer, thicker crema than ultrapasteurized cream does.

more about:
  • 1 cup heavy cream (pasteurized or ultrapasteurized)
  • 1 Tbs. buttermilk (with active cultures)

In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium-low heat to about 95ºF, just enough to take off the chill. If it goes over 100ºF, let it cool before continuing.

Stir in the buttermilk and transfer to a clean glass jar. Set the lid loosely on top of the jar—don’t tighten—and let sit in a warm spot, such as near the stove or on top of the fridge, until the cream starts to thicken, 18 to 24 hours. Stir, tighten the lid, and refrigerate until the cream is thicker and thoroughly chilled, 12 to 24 hours more. Stir well before using. The crema should have a thick but pourable consistency.

Make Ahead Tips

Crema will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, continuing to thicken as it ages.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on 1 Tbs.; Calories (kcal): 50; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 3.5; Protein (g): 0; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): 0; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 5; Cholesterol (mg): 20; Fiber (g): 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Aahh...Creme fraiche by any other name...and just as good! Well, as good as the "homemade" version that I have been making for twenty years or so. At any rate, crema is vastly superior to most commercial varieties labelled sour cream. I have found, over the years, that you get a better outcome if you use relatively fresh buttermilk (been in your fridge less than 1 week) and cream that is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized.

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