Creme fraiche (crème fraîche) is a soured cream containing about 30–45% butterfat and having a pH of around 4.5. It is soured with bacterial culture, but is less sour than the U.S.-style sour cream. Creme fraiche also has a lower viscosity and a higher fat content compared to sour cream which contains about 20% butterfat.
A good substitute for creme fraiche depends on how it will be used. Due to high butter fat content creme fraiche does not curdle at higher temperatures which makes is good for sauces and soups. If that’s how you plan on using it, you need a substitute that will behave similarly when heated. Otherwise, look for similar texture and taste.
Sour cream is a very good substitute for creme fraiche as both are very similar. If using in a salad or as a topping, they’re pretty much interchangeable. Sour cream is little more tangy and less fatty.
Many people report successfully using full fat Greek yogurt as a substitute for creme fraiche, especially used in desserts. Again, you don’t want to use light or non-fat version. Go full fat for best results. Due to higher protein content and lower fat content compared to the real deal, this substitute is more suitable for salads or as a topping.
Mix of sour cream and heavy cream
If you want less tang and more fat, whip up some heavy cream to mix it with sour cream. A typical ratio is 50% sour cream and 50% heavy cream. Adjust the ratio as needed. Because of higher butterfat content, this mix of sour cream and heavy cream is a much better substitute for creme fraiche if you are looking to use it in hot sauces or soups. It’s also creamier and less tangy.
Crema Mexicana is a white, fresh cream cheese, with a mild to sour flavor. It has a very thick, rich mouth feel. It normally finds application in soups and sauces among other things. It’s a tarter thicker version of sour cream and costs about half of creme fraiche. It cooks beautifully where sour cream tends to separate. Crema Mexicana is an excellent substitute for creme fraiche if you are looking to use it in hot soups or sauces.
Philadelphia Cooking Creme
There is a product out called Philadelphia Cooking Creme. Some find it to be a great substitute for creme fraiche and it doesn’t separate at high temperatures.
Make own creme fraiche – method 1
If the reason you are looking for a creme fraiche substitute is that your local stores do not sell it, make your own. For that you will need Creme Fraiche C33 starter culture and about 24 hours of time.
To make creme fraiche, heat 1 quart of pasteurized light cream (18%-36% butter fat) or half and half to 86F. Add 1 packet of starter culture, mix and let set at room temperature, undisturbed, for 12 hours or until thickened (as in yogurt). Ladle curd gently into a butter muslin lined colander, hang and drain 6-12 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy!
Make own creme fraiche – method 2
To make creme fraiche the quick(er) and easy way, combine 2 cups of heavy cream (pasteurized, not ultra pasteurized or sterilized, and with no additives) with 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk or sour cream in a saucepan. Heat very lightly, until the instant read thermometer reads 85F. Transfer into a clean container. Cover the container and let it sit at room temperature (65F to 75F) for about 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. The cream will keep about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.