Cream Cheese Vs Sour Cream – What’s The Difference?

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While cream cheese and sour cream look similar, there are many differences between these two dairy products. 

If you’re not familiar with either of these staples, however, you will probably need some help telling the two apart. Or, like us, you may be totally familiar with sour cream and cream cheese, but just want to understand their differences better.

What are the differences between cream cheese and sour cream? The primary difference is that cream cheese is made from milk and cream, but sour cream is made with just cream. They also have different flavors and textures. Sour cream has a sour, tart taste and a soft, spreadable texture. Cream cheese has a mild tangy flavor and a thicker consistency.

Read on to learn more about the differences between these two products and whether they are interchangeable or not. 

Cream Cheese Vs Sour Cream – Differences

Cream cheese and sour cream may look similar if you see them on a plate. However, there are key differences between these two products. 

How Sour Cream Is Made

Sour cream

Sour cream is a dairy product manufactured by adding lactic acid bacteria to the cream.

As a result of this, fermentation starts to take place in the cream altering its texture and taste. Regular cream thickens and, as the name suggests, changes its flavor becoming slightly sour. 

Store-bought sour creams may contain additional ingredients to provide the right texture and flavor of the product. 

Sour cream is typically a product high in fat. However, there are many varieties to choose from. From fat-free sour cream to dairy-free ones, you can use sour cream that is the most suitable for your diet. 

Light varieties of sour cream are lower in fat, while the fat percentage in the traditional varieties usually ranges from 12-16%. 

How Cream Cheese Is Made 

Cream cheese

The manufacturing process of cream cheese is not complicated either. It is also produced due to a fermentation process. However, unlike sour cream that is made from cream, cream cheese is made from milk and cream. 

As opposed to sour cream, low heat is involved in the making of cream cheese. Lactic acid is added to the dairy mix (milk and cream). The mixture is mildly heated to start the fermentation process. 

The dairy mix separates into curd and whey. The latter is then removed to leave behind what is later turned into cream cheese with the addition of salt. 

Can You Make Them at Home?

You can make both sour cream and cream cheese at home. In both cases, you will need some kind of acid to make the cream or milk curdle. 

Making sour cream at home doesn’t require cooking. You simply add the acid into the cream and let it sit for a day. You can also use a small amount of milk. 

Cream cheese, on the other hand, is made by adding the acid to milk simmering on low heat. Once the milk has curdled, all you need to do is to strain and separate the curds from the whey.

A few minutes in the food processor will make the curds creamy. You can add herbs and spices to customize your homemade cream cheese. 

Texture and Taste 

While the name sour cream suggests that this dairy product is sour, it is more tangy and tart than it is truly sour. However, in comparison to the taste profile of cream cheese, it certainly is sour. 

Cream cheese, on the other hand, has a mild taste and a slight saltiness. It is also pleasantly tangy, but in a very soft way. 

As for the texture, sour cream is softer, more spreadable, and sometimes even slightly liquidy. The consistency of cream cheese is much thicker. 

Nutrition Facts 

Sour cream and cream cheese are two dairy products with high-fat content. Cream cheese contains at least 33% milkfat, while the fat content in sour cream typically ranges from 14 to 18%. 

2 tablespoons of sour cream and cream cheese will provide 52 and 80 calories respectively and a good amount of fat.

However, this small amount will not provide you with the essential nutrients your body needs. Thus, enjoy these products with other ingredients in your favorite meals and use them in moderation. 

Here is a chart summarizing the basic nutritional differences between cream cheese and sour cream:

1 Cup  Cream Cheese  Sour Cream
Calories 793 445

Cream Cheese  (Daily Value) Sour Cream (Daily Value)
Total Fat 79 g 121% 45 g 69%
Carbohydrates 9 g  3% 7 g 2%
Sodium 744.7 mg  31% 184 mg 7%
Protein 14 g 28% 4.8 g 9%
Cholesterol 255.2 mg  85% 119.6 g 39%
Potassium  320.2 mg  9% 324.3 mg  9%
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Vitamin D 
Vitamin B-6


Cream cheese and sour cream are very versatile when it comes to their uses. You may eat them as is, with a slice of fresh bread or incorporate them in various cooking tasks, form dips to baked goods. 

How to Use Sour Cream 

Sour cream has so many uses in cooking that you better always have it in your fridge.

Here are some common uses for sour cream:

  • Dips: Easy dipping sauces with sour cream, spices, and herbs are perfect to serve with potato chips or wedges. They also go perfectly with fresh vegetables, including carrots, peppers, and celery. 
  • Salad dressing: Sour cream salad dressings go well with chicken or beef salads. A simple potato salad will also be elevated with a creamy sour cream dressing. In fact, you can use it on any salad you like and it will turn out delicious
  • Baked goods: Sour cream is a staple ingredient in baking. It is widely used in batters. You can make cookies and donuts with sour cream. It is also great for cakes. If you want your cakes to turn out creamy and have an even golden color from the outside, you should certainly use some sour cream. 
  • Baked potatoes: Sour cream is a classic topping for a baked potato. Just add a little cheese, onions, bacon, or whatever strikes your fancy.
  • Soup garnish: Sour cream is the perfect garnish for soups. A spoonful of this ingredient is enough to balance out the taste of cozy cream soups. But what sour cream can be best used for in soups is toning down the heat. If you have made a soup that’s too spicy, top it off with sour cream and you will be good to go. 
  • Sandwich spread: If you use store-bought mayonnaise in your sandwiches, wraps, and burgers, try using sour cream instead. Not only is sour cream a healthier choice but you will be surprised at the unique layer of taste it will add to your food. 

How to Use Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is also quite versatile of a product. If you have a block of cream cheese sitting in your fridge, it’s time to make something delicious out of it. Whether you want a savory dip or a sweet cream cheese feeling, the options are numerous. 

Here are some popular uses for cream cheese:

  • Frosting. Cream cheese frosting is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cream cheese uses. It is extremely easy to make and can be used on cupcakes and cakes. You can also pipe it directly into the cupcakes for a burst of creaminess when you bite into them.
  • Bagel spread. Cream cheese is perfect for spreading on bagels for your morning meal. You can make it sweet with sugar and fruits, or top it off with avocado, salmon, tomato slices, and other ingredients of your choice. 
  • Dipping sauce. Just like sour cream, cream cheese is also used to make delicious dips for veggies and chips. You can use it on its own and add herbs and spices, or mix it with some sour or heavy cream for a creamier texture. 
  • Pasta Sauce. If you are not much of a cook but still want to enjoy pasta with a cheese sauce, adding cream cheese to it while it is still hot is an easy solution. 
  • Soups. If sour cream is best used a soup garnish, cream cheese is at its best when used in soups. From pureed vegetable soups to hearty chicken soup, cream cheese works well in creating a smooth and thicker texture. 

Unlike sour cream, cream cheese is not the best to be used in baking, usually. It performs well used as a topping or filling for cakes and other baked goods. 

Shelf Life

Both sour cream and cream cheese should be stored in the fridge. Store these products at 40ºF to maintain their texture and taste qualities. 

You should use an opened package of cream cheese within 10 days while an unopened one will keep safely for up to 4 weeks after the ‘best by date’.

Sour cream will last for around 21 days after its ‘best by date’ and it doesn’t matter whether it’s opened or not as long as you store it with a tightly closed lid. 

RelatedCan You Substitute Sour Cream For Cream Cheese?

Cream cheese is often a good substitute for sour cream. However, many recipes, such as those for most baked goods.

You can substitute sour cream with cream cheese by blending 170 grams of cream cheese with 45 grams of milk. The texture of this mixture will be similar to that of sour cream. 

You can use cream cheese instead of sour cream to makes dips, sauces, and spreads. 

Up Next: Cream Cheese Vs Cottage Cheese – What’s The Difference?

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