Sour cream is a versatile ingredient that can add wonderful depth and a rich tanginess to many different dishes, from savory dinners to sweet desserts.
If you find a good deal on sour cream, it can be worthwhile to grab a few containers, knowing that you have lots of different options for making delicious food with it.
But what do you do if you went a little sour cream crazy and you’re not sure you can use it all up by its expiration date? Fortunately, you have some options for extending sour cream’s shelf life.
Can you Freeze Sour Cream?
Yes, you can freeze sour cream, but there will be changes to the sour cream’s texture. For this reason, it’s recommended that you use frozen sour cream in cooked dishes or baked products.
Whereas pierogies are excellently complemented by fresh sour cream, you would likely want to avoid using sour cream that had been frozen for this purpose.
How Long Does Sour Cream Last?
Sour cream has a similar shelf life to other dairy products like yogurt.
How Long Does Sour Cream Last After Opening?
Sour cream’s shelf life may be shorter once opened because it has a chance to be exposed to outside bacteria. Once opened, sour cream is usually good for up to 3 weeks. If the sour cream is still white and still smells good, then it should be fine to eat.
To make your opened sour cream last as long as possible, be mindful of how you might accidentally introduce new bacteria or encourage bacterial growth. Only use a clean spoon when serving sour cream and never leave the container out on the counter at room temperature.
Always keep your sour cream at or below 4°F to halt bacterial growth.
Pros and Cons of Freezing Sour Cream
There are several pros to freezing extra sour cream, but there are a few cons to consider as well.
One major upside to freezing sour cream is the cost factor. If you’re a regular user of sour cream and you find it for a good price, it can be worth it to grab an extra container or two and place them in the freezer to be transformed into baked goods or perhaps a casserole in a couple months’ time.
It’s also useful to know that if your meal plans get disrupted for whatever reason and you find yourself unable to use up your container of sour cream, you can freeze it and make use of it at a later date.
The major downside of freezing sour cream is how it can negatively affect the texture of the sour cream. Because water molecules expand as they freeze, the water content in the sour cream begins to separate and change the structure of the cream.
Fortunately, this difference in texture is not noticeable if the sour cream is cooked as part of another dish or incorporated into a tasty baked good.
But if you’re making tacos and in need of some complementary sour cream, you should use choose fresh and avoid frozen.
Always follow the best food safety practices when thawing sour cream. To thaw sour cream, simply place the container in the fridge overnight.
Never leave sour cream out at room temperature.
How Long is Sour Cream Good for After the Expiration Date?
Sour cream usually comes with a sell-by date and it is generally accepted that you can eat sour cream for up to 3 weeks after this date, as long as the sour cream still looks and smells fresh.
Sell-by and expiration dates are important pieces of information to be mindful of but always trust your senses. Even if the expiration date hasn’t passed, if you notice that the sour cream has become yellow, seems to smell ‘off’, or if it has any visible mold growth, then dispose of the whole container.
Can You Freeze a Casserole with Sour Cream In It?
Yes, you absolutely can! Because freezing sour cream alters its texture, using it in a frozen casserole that masks those changes is one of the best ways you can use up frozen sour cream.
When reheating the casserole, make sure the whole casserole reaches an internal temperature of at least 140°F. This is the safe way to reheat any product, and it ensures the once frozen sour cream is fully cooked.
How to Tell if Sour Cream is Bad?
There are a few ways to tell if sour cream has spoiled. Although sour cream is a product that relies on certain good bacteria for its unique taste, it’s fairly easy to tell when bad bacteria has been introduced to your sour cream.
Once sour cream begins to spoil, it will lose its fresh white color and start to take on a yellowish tinge. You might notice that it has a different and decidedly more unpleasant scent. If you notice any visible mold growth, it’s definitely time to toss the container of sour cream.
One sign that you don’t need to worry about is if some of the water content of the sour cream has begun to separate and pool at the top of the container. If this does happen, just thoroughly stir the sour cream with a clean utensil to evenly redistribute the water and then serve as usual.
What Can I Substitute for Sour Cream?
There are many different substitutes for sour cream out there, including vegan options. If you find yourself suddenly out of sour cream but in need of some for a recipe, here are substitutions you can make using other common kitchen ingredients.
This is an easy substitute and both sour cream and plain yogurt can be used interchangeably in a number of recipes
Greek or full-fat plain yogurt works best, as it will approximate the fat content in sour cream, but any plain yogurt will do in a pinch if what you’re in search of is that characteristic tanginess. In fact, plain yogurt is tangier than sour cream and can work even better in certain recipes.
Substituting plain yogurt for sour cream is easy as most of the time you can exchange the two at a simple 1:1 ratio.
If you’re looking for sour cream substitutes for baking, it’s recommended that you include 1 tsp of baking soda for every 1 cup of yogurt.
Buttermilk + unsalted butter
Buttermilk has a similar flavor profile to sour cream, but despite its name it has very little fat content. Buttermilk is the slightly acidic product that is left once the fat content in cream has been churned and separated to create butter.
To ‘re-fat’ buttermilk and bring its texture closer to sour cream, you can lightly whip it together with soft, unsalted butter.
To best approximate the fat content of full-fat sour cream, mix ¾ cup buttermilk with ⅓ cup of butter.
Evaporated milk + vinegar or lemon juice
Evaporated milk has been gently simmered to reduce its water content; the result is a thicker product that has a slightly ‘cooked’ taste but is incredibly shelf-stable and is easily found at the grocery store among canned goods and baking essentials.
Make sure not to confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk; like evaporated milk, condensed milk has been reduced through cooking, but condensed milk also contains sugar.
Condensed milk would make for a weirdly sweet sour cream substitute, so make sure to check the label and use only plain evaporated milk.
To make a sour cream substitute out of evaporated milk, mix 1 cup evaporated milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar. Thoroughly mix and allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
This mixture will be runny but will work as a sour cream substitute for cooked sauces or soups.
If you chill the evaporated milk and whip it together with the lemon juice, you can create a lighter, fluffier product that can work as a low-fat sour cream substitute in a wider variety of recipes.
There are a few different brands of vegan sour cream that are available on the market now. There are also many brands of plain, vegan yogurt that can be substituted for sour cream much like regular full-fat dairy yogurt.
There are a couple of options for making your own vegan sour cream at home. The easiest of these involves blending silken tofu with lemon juice and adding salt to taste.
How Sour Cream is Made
Sour cream is made, as its name implies, by souring cream. This is done by introducing bacteria that consume the lactose, or milk sugars, and then produce lactic acid; this lactic acid is what gives the sour cream its characteristic rich tanginess.
Traditionally sour cream would be made by skimming the cream off fresh milk and then allowing this to ferment at room temperature, but modern methods are more controlled and sour cream that is purchased at the grocery store is subject to strict food safety guidelines.
It’s also incredibly easy to make your own sour cream at home with just a few simple ingredients and a little patience.
How to Make Your Own Sour Cream
To make sour cream, you will need:
- a clean, sanitized glass container
- ¼ cup milk*
- 1 cup fresh cream
- 3/4 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
*You can also make this recipe by substituting the milk with an equal amount of buttermilk and omitting the lemon juice or vinegar.
Mix all the ingredients together in the jar and then cover and leave out at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Although it’s not normally advised to leave dairy products out at room temperature, this gives the good bacteria time to break down the lactose in the cream.
By using a perfectly clean container and keeping it covered, you can avoid introducing any bad bacteria that could spoil your sour cream.
Cover the glass container with either cheesecloth or a paper towel secured with a rubber band. Don’t place an airtight seal on the container. Allowing airflow while keeping the cream safe from outside contaminants will produce the best results.
Once the sour cream has had time to ripen at room temperature, give it a thorough stir. At this point, you should fully seal the container and then store it in the refrigerator at or below 4°F to halt any further fermentation or bacterial growth.
Homemade sour cream may seem runnier than the store-bought kind; this is because store-bought sour cream often has other ingredients added to make the texture thicker.
Also unlike store-bought sour cream, homemade sour cream has a shorter shelf-life as it has no extra preservatives. If made in a clean container and then properly stored in the refrigerator, homemade sour cream will easily last for 2 weeks.
Although you may need to wait a day for it to ripen, homemade sour cream is both simple and satisfying to make.
How to Use Sour Cream
Sour cream can be used in many different things; it is an incredibly versatile ingredient. You can use sour cream on baked potatoes and on tacos. Fresh sour cream with dill makes a simple but delicious accompaniment to pierogies.
You can incorporate sour cream into any number of sauces, casseroles, and even baked goods. Some coffee cakes and cookies are made wondrously moist and given a tangy depth of flavor with the inclusion of sour cream.
To Sum Up
In answer to the question “Can you freeze sour cream?” — Yes, you most certainly can! Just be aware that there may be some textural changes, as with most frozen products.