Cultured Cream

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:

    2 cups

Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About


When Americans see crème fraîche, the French equivalent of American heavy cream, they usually assume that because it is thick, it is richer and more flavorful than its American counterpart. The thick texture results not from richness but from the bacterial culture it contains, which contributes acidity. The acidity in turn causes the cream to thicken and gives it a delicate tang.

Although the flavor of authentic crème fraîche cannot be duplicated with American ingredients, heavy cream can be cultured so that it thickens. Combine 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) buttermilk or sour cream with 2 cups (500 milliliters) heavy cream, and gently heat the mixture to body temperature in a saucepan. Transfer the cream to a stainless-steel, glass, or porcelain container. Keep it covered in a warm place until it thickens, usually about 24 hours. As soon as the cream thickens, refrigerate it. It will keep for at least a week, usually longer.

If you’re in a mad rush and need crème fraîche right away, consider working in a small amount of lactic acid (which you can buy in powdered form online). Lactic acid is the same compound produced by bacteria during fermentation, so the effect is almost identical.