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What is Crème Fraîche? (And How to Use It!)

If you’ve ever wondered, What is Crème Fraîche? This post is here to help. Plus learn where to find it, how to store it, and the best recipes for using it!

a small clear cup of creme fraiche

What is Crème Fraîche?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is Crème Fraîche?” – well, it’s time to get acquainted with this beautiful ingredient!

Crème fraîche (pronounced “krem fresh”) is a cultured dairy product that’s similar to sour cream. It originated in France and is more popular in Europe – but it’s been slowly catching on in the US. And no wonder, because it’s absolutely lovely!

Think of crème fraîche as a luxurious French version of sour cream, with a slightly subtler tang and a bit less thickness.

Crème fraîche is made by adding bacterial culture to heavy cream, then allowing it to thicken and sour. If you can’t find it at the grocery store, it’s easy to make at home – just scroll down for more info on that.

You can use this product much like you’d use sour cream, and I share a variety of ideas in this post. But my own personal favorite way? I like to make crème fraîche ice cream – it’s super delightful!

creme fraiche substitutes

Crème Fraîche Substitute

You can find crème fraîche in the refrigerated dairy section at the grocery store, but here are some easy substitutes:

  • Sour cream. Sour cream is the most common crème fraîche substitute, as they are the most similar in both texture and flavor.
  • Mexican crema. If you just need a dollop or two of crème fraîche, Mexican crema is another alternative. The consistency is thinner and it’s a bit sweeter but it’ll work in a pinch.
  • Greek yogurt. Full-fat Greek yogurt has a similar tangy flavor, though it’s not quite as rich. Still, you can substitute it in many recipes at a 1:1 ratio as it’ll still provide the creamy texture.
  • Cream cheese. Cream cheese doesn’t make the best substitute, since it’s so much denser. In many cases, you’ll have to thin it out with milk. But in cases like soup, a small amount will provide the same rich creaminess.
  • Make your own. You can also make homemade crème fraîche with heavy cream and buttermilk. See the next section for details.
how to make creme fraiche

How to Make Crème Fraîche

You can make homemade crème fraîche with just two ingredients, and it’s easy to do!

Ingredients you’ll need

  • 16 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cultured buttermilk

How to make crème fraîche

  1. Combine the heavy cream and buttermilk in a clean, dry non-reactive jar or container.
  2. Cover and let sit at room temperature until thickened to desired consistency. Check at 12 hours to see if it has thickened and has a tangy flavor. If not, let it sit for up to 6 more hours (18 hours total).
  3. Give it a stir once the mixture has thickened.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight to fully set. It’s now ready to use!

How long will it last?

Store your homemade crème fraîche in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

The exact shelf life will vary depending on things like how fresh your heavy cream and buttermilk are, the temperature of your fridge, and the level of acidity in the crème fraîche.

Ways to Use It

There are so many great ways to use crème fraîche, from dips, to soups and salads, to ice creams!

overhead photo of a creamy, cheesy dip in a serving bowl
Overhead view of a bowl of creamy potato soup
overhead view of creamy coleslaw in a large clear bowl
A bowl of scoops of blueberry ice cream with a spoon.

Some of these ideas call for crème fraîche in the recipe card. And others call for sour cream – in which case, you could substitute some or all of it with crème fraîche.

creme fraiche in a small clear cup

How to Store Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche should always be stored in the fridge. If it’s unopened, you should follow the “best by” date printed on the container. It will have a similar longevity to sour cream. Once you open it, it should keep well for at least a couple weeks.

If separation occurs, stir the liquid back into the crème fraîche, just like you would with sour cream.

Give it the “sniff and look” test. If it smells fresh and looks fresh, it’s probably good yet. But if it smells funky or you see any signs of mold, discard the crème fraîche immediately.

Common Questions

Is crème fraîche just sour cream?

No. While the two are similar, they are not the same. They have a slightly different flavor and texture, with crème fraîche having a slightly softer tang and a bit looser texture.

Is crème fraîche the same as heavy cream?

Nope. Crème fraîche is cream that has been cultured, hence the tangy flavor. If you make homemade crème fraîche, heavy cream will be the main ingredient, though.

How do you pronounce crème fraîche?

It’s pronounced “krem fresh”.

Can I buy crème fraîche at the grocery store?

Yes. It’s typically found in the dairy section, near the sour cream and cream cheese, although some grocery stores might not carry it.

Recipes To Try With Crème Fraîche

Now that you know the answer to, “what is crème fraîche?”, here are my favorite recipes that call for crème fraîche as an ingredient. Remember how I said that ice cream is my favorite way to use crème fraîche?!

These delicious ice cream recipes all utilize crème fraîche, with its creamy texture and tangy flavor.

A bowl of scoops of blueberry ice cream with a spoon.
Made with just 6 ingredients, this Roasted Blueberry Crème Fraîche is fabulously creamy and tangy. And just look at that all-natural blueberry color – isn't it GORGEOUS?!
Get the recipe
A bowl of crème fraîche strawberry swirl ice cream.
Made with roasted fresh strawberries, this Cème Fraîche Strawberry Ice Cream is delightfully tangy with just the right amount of sweetness. This ice cream is a real beauty!
Get the recipe
Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Triple Berry Sauce
Not the greatest photo, I know. This recipe dates back to the early years of this blog, and it's a delicious one. Our family loves this rich, creamy, and slightly tangy Crème Fraîche Ice Cream. We like to top it with fresh berries!
Get the recipe

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