What Is Creme Fraiche?

It may sound fancy, but creme fraiche is a useful ingredient and easy to make at home.

Updated on December 19, 2023

Related To:

Sour cream

185931461

Sour cream

Photo by: YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg and Emily Saladino for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network. Emily is a culinary editor at Food Network.

Creme fraiche sounds fancy and expensive. It’s not fancy, however, and it doesn't have to be expensive at all. In a way, creme fraiche is just soured heavy cream, but soured in a very precise way that can be controlled by whomever is making it. That would be you, we hope, because it’s easier to make at home than yogurt, ice cream or even a simple salad dressing. Intrigued? Here, everything you need to know about what creme fraiche is and how to make it.

What Is Creme Fraiche?

Creme fraiche is a rich, tangy dairy spread made from fresh heavy cream that has been soured and thickened by carefully added live cultures.

Creme fraiche can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and can be added before, during or after cooking.

Homemade blinis made with; flour, buckwheat flour, egg yolks, yeast, milk and egg whites. Traditionally eaten with blinis you can create your own recipe, here shown with; creme fraiche, smoked salmon, caviar of course, topped with dill. Colour, horizontal format with some copy space.

1313472261

Homemade blinis made with; flour, buckwheat flour, egg yolks, yeast, milk and egg whites. Traditionally eaten with blinis you can create your own recipe, here shown with; creme fraiche, smoked salmon, caviar of course, topped with dill. Colour, horizontal format with some copy space.

Photo by: ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

What Does Creme Fraiche Taste Like?

Creme fresh tastes like a fresher, richer, tangier version of sour cream. Richer because it has more butter fat, tangier because of a different set of bacteria and fresher because it’s typically made in smaller batches. The flavor of creme fraiche is more aligned with another cultured cream: Mexican crema. It’s thicker than crema, but a little milk or cream can easily thin it to the consistency for drizzling sauce like crema.

707445015

Photo by: Johner Images/Getty Images

Johner Images/Getty Images

How to Use Creme Fraiche

Creme fraiche can be used for so many things because it is stable when heated. That means it can be added to soup for richness and tang when you are cooking, and it won't curdle — unlike sour cream or yogurt, which need to be dolloped in at the end.

Of course, creme fraiche can also be dolloped on any number of things. A bowl of creme fraiche on a platter alongside traditional caviar or smoked salmon accoutrements is, in our opinion, one of the best places for it to show up. Thinned to a thick pouring consistency, it can be used in place of Mexican crema on tacos, nachos and enchiladas. Its flavor is closer to traditional crema than thinned sour cream would be.

In another savory application, adding it to mashed potatoes brings just the right touch of acid to balance the fat in the butter.

In the sweets category, a few tablespoons added to heavy cream when making whipped cream can stabilize the cream so you can prepare it ahead of time and it won’t deflate. That also helps if you’re using whipped cream as the sole frosting on a cake. It is also the perfect foil for the sweetness of fruit blintzes or a crepe with sweet, macerated fruit or a jam filling.

Homemade slow cooker chicken taco with corn on rustic  plate viewed from above

671330666

Homemade slow cooker chicken taco with corn on rustic plate viewed from above

Photo by: istetiana/Getty Images

istetiana/Getty Images

Creme Fraiche Vs Sour Cream

Creme fraiche is made entirely from heavy cream, which is 36 to 40% butterfat. Sour cream is made in a similar process, but it is only 20% cream. The extra cream in creme fraiche imbues it with the magical properties of more butterfat. When sour cream is heated, it breaks (curdles) because it doesn’t have enough fat to keep it together. Sour cream is great for a dollop to be added to a soup or a taco, but adding it to a soup and then cooking it will break it down. Creme fraiche will keep it together: its butterfat will stay in suspension and you’ll have a creamy soup.

In terms of flavor, sour cream is pretty sour. Creme fraiche is creamier, and it has a fresher flavor that is tart or tangy as opposed to sour.

Creme Fraiche Substitutes

First on the list of creme fraiche substitutes is, of course, sour cream. Both are cultured, thick and sour. Other stand-ins include plain, full-fat yogurt or reduced-fat sour cream. Bear in mind that neither of these can be added to a cooking soup or sauce: they can only be stirred in after the cooking is finished or they will curdle. For a vegan dish, coconut milk fat can be subbed in, but it will also provide coconut flavor. To get the fat from a can of coconut milk, refrigerate the can for a day before opening it. The fat will solidify somewhat and be easier to skim off the top.

Close-up of glass jar filled with kefir, Brussels, Belgium

1326582098

Close-up of glass jar filled with kefir, Brussels, Belgium

Photo by: © Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images

© Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images

How to Make Creme Fraiche

You can certainly buy creme fraiche at most markets, but why not make your own for a fraction of the cost? You need only two ingredients to make your own creme fraiche: heavy cream and buttermilk with live active cultures. Here's how to do it:

Step one: Combine heavy cream and buttermilk. For every 1/2 cup of creme fraiche you need, combine 1/2 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of buttermilk. A jar with a tight-fitting lid is perfect for this process: you can shake it with the lid on to mix it well, then loosen the lid and set aside. Let the jar sit at room temperature overnight.

Step two: Check thickness and flavor. The next morning, taste it and check it for thickness. We like it on the thicker side because you can always thin it with cream as needed. It may take more than 24 hours to become really thick and tangy, especially if the only kind of cream you could find is ultra-pasteurized. When it’s done, tighten the lid and refrigerate it for up to a week.

Homemade Creme Fraiche

Don't worry about the creme fraiche spoiling while it's sitting on the counter; the acid in the mixture prevents bacterial disease associated with dairy products.

How to Store Creme Fraiche

Store creme fraiche in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. This goes for homemade creme fraiche as well as opened packaged containers of creme fraiche that you buy at the supermarket.

Recipes with Creme Fraiche

A dollop of creme fraiche adds richness to this carrot soup, while the fried sage adds a flavor-packed crunch.

FNM120110LearnToLoveIt004.PSD

Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

Salt-roasting the beets is a great way to make them, but if you want to make this dish in less than 20 minutes, buy a package of roasted beets and go from there.

A Golden Brown Baked Dish with Herbs to serve as a Frugal Weekend Dinner Side

Frugal Party Side_262

A Golden Brown Baked Dish with Herbs to serve as a Frugal Weekend Dinner Side

©Food - Jamie Kimm Prop - Marcus Hay

Food - Jamie Kimm Prop - Marcus Hay

The extra cream in the creme fraiche allows it to melt into the sauce for these luscious scalloped potatoes.

Food Network Kitchen Scrambled Eggs Beauty

Food Network Kitchen Scrambled Eggs Beauty

Photo by: LUCY SCHAEFFER

LUCY SCHAEFFER

With butter, heavy cream and creme fraiche these scrambled eggs have the dairy trifecta working to make them the creamiest ever.

Make a double or triple batch of the croutons when you make this soup because you’re going to want to put them on way more.

Related Links:

Next Up

What is Half and Half? And What’s a Substitute For It?

We all know where to get half and half: next to the cream and milk in the dairy aisle. But do you know what half and half actually is? Why it’s called half and half? Is there a substitute for half and half? It’s confusing! We untangle all the info for you.

What Is Quark?

Is it cheese or yogurt or something else entirely?

Gelato vs. Ice Cream: What's the Difference?

One is American and one is Italian. The differences don't stop there.

How to Tell If Yogurt Is Bad (Without, Uh, Tasting It)

Plus, how to store yogurt so it lasts longer.

How Long Can Milk Sit Out?

Plus how to keep milk fresher for longer.

Frozen Custard vs Ice Cream: What’s the Difference?

One key ingredient sets these frozen sweet treats apart.

What’s the Difference Between East Coast Butter and West Coast Butter?

Shocker: butter comes in different shapes based on where you live.

More from:

Cooking School

What's New