If you run out of sour cream in the middle of a baking project, don't despair: There are other ingredients you can use to replace it. Plus, several sour cream alternatives are actually lower in calories and boast better overall nutrition than the original stuff.
In fact, you can increase the protein content and lower the fat depending on the sour cream substitute you choose, notes Amy Shapiro, RD and founder of Real Nutrition. Even vegans can find a healthy option to replace the dairy.
Next time you whip the rolling pin out, consider these four simple options to use in place of sour cream. All are readily available in the supermarket, and some may even be already sitting in your refrigerator.
Cottage cheese can easily replace sour cream — you'll just need to blend it first. To do so, place one cup of drained cottage cheese in a blender with 4 tablespoons of buttermilk or low-fat milk and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. You can use either small curd or large curd cottage cheese — just note that with the larger curd cheese, the mixture will take slightly longer to blend. Blend the cottage cheese mixture until it's smooth and store it in the refrigerator. You can use this cottage cheese substitute in place of sour cream, cup for cup, as needed.
Buttermilk is another good substitute for sour cream in baked goods. Like sour cream, it offers a bit of tanginess, says Julie Harrington, RD, chef, culinary nutrition consultant and co-author of The Healing Soup Cookbook. "Buttermilk is thinner than sour cream, so trim back on the amount to prevent sogginess in your baked goods," says Harrington.
While you can easily buy buttermilk at the store, you could also make a close substitute at home. Just combine 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with enough milk to fill a cup to make your own buttermilk, and let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes before mixing it into your recipe.
No lemons on hand? Reach for distilled white vinegar instead and follow the same process to make buttermilk. Both vinegar and lemon juice provide the necessary acidity to curdle the milk.
Just note: Since it's a liquid, buttermilk isn't a good replacement option in foods other than baked goods — like dips — that require a thick texture, says Shapiro. Store leftover buttermilk in the refrigerator for no more than a week depending on the expiration date printed on the milk container.
"I like Greek yogurt as the best substitute [for sour cream] as it increases the protein content and lowers the carb count without altering the taste," says Shapiro.
Stir the yogurt first to avoid separation. Use an exact one-to-one for substitution, for example, one cup of sour cream equals one cup of yogurt. Yogurt is also an alternative for chip and vegetable dips. If your goal is to eliminate animal-based products from the recipe, or to avoid dairy, you can use soy-based yogurt.
Another protein-packed option to replace sour cream is tofu. Using either a blender or food processor, mix one 10.5-ounce package of crumbled tofu with 4 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and a half teaspoon of salt. Blend the mixture until smooth and substitute sour cream, cup for cup, as called for in the recipe. You might want to consider using silken tofu for a smoother texture. "With silken tofu, you may want to blend it with apple cider vinegar or lemon and salt to get the flavor you are looking for," Shapiro says.