Sour Cream vs Heavy Cream: 6 Differences You Need to Know

When a recipe says you have to use cream, you might feel confused about the right type. You could use a bit of sour cream, while the recipe calls for a spoonful of heavy cream. Sour and heavy cream are often confused, and some newbie cooking enthusiasts think both could be used interchangeably.

Both types of cream differ in taste, texture, and other aspects. If you want to understand more about their differences, this sour cream vs. heavy cream comparison will help you.

In addition to discussing their distinctions, we will also shed some light on their basic features.

Sour Cream vs. Heavy Cream
The main differences between Sour cream and Heavy cream are their taste, texture, fat content, calorie count, uses, and way of making. Both types of cream have fat content, but the heavy cream contains higher levels. The fat content in the heavy cream is at least 36%.

What is Sour Cream?

Sour cream is scientifically known as cultured cream. It is made by fermenting the cream. However, not all creams can be made sour. It should be pasteurized and contain nearly 20% fat. Fermentation happens when bacteria that produce lactic acid are added to the ideal cream.

Over the world, sour cream is mainly used in savory dishes and baked goods. It can be used in very few sweet recipes. It is used to make sauces and toppings. However, you can only cook it for a short time.

You should only add sour cream when you are about to remove the cooking pot from the heat.

In addition to avoiding direct stove heat, it is important to avoid adding cold sour cream to hot items. Allow it to come to room temperature before adding it to a hot dish or liquid.

Sour cream tastes exactly as its name suggests; it is sour like Greek yogurt. On the other hand, sour cream has a thicker texture than regular yogurt.

What is Heavy Cream?

Heavy cream is the primary source of whipping cream. This is why you might find products labeled as “heavy whipping cream.” The only real difference between heavy and whipping cream is that the latter is sweetened and thickened.

Whipping cream is made of cold, heavy cream sweetened and beaten with an electric whisk.

Heavy cream is extracted directly from the fat layer that forms in milk. You can find it in the layer that accumulates on the top surface of boiled, fresh milk.

Unlike sour cream, making heavy cream does not require homogenizing. It only takes some more evaporation until all the water is gone and only the fat is left.

Heavy cream got its name from its high-fat content, which usually ranges between 36% and 40%. Sometimes, you can find whipping cream brands with a fat content of 30%.

This lighter version can’t hold its shape and texture like a heavy whipping cream. Heavy cream can be integrated into savory meals, such as soups. But there are other purposes for this fat-rich cream.  

What are the Differences between Sour Cream and Heavy Cream?

Many confuse sour and heavy creams because they are the dairy cream family members. They are not, however, the same thing.

Both are derived from milk, but sour cream production differs significantly from heavy cream. Also, both of them have some thickness in their texture and levels of natural fat.

1. Taste

As both names suggest, the taste of heavy cream is heavy and creamy. The richness and creaminess of heavy cream beat those of sour cream. Also, you might sense a bit of natural sweetness in the heavy cream.

This is how heavy cream can be sweetened to give you whipping cream. Sour cream is tangy and sour, like the taste of yogurt. Sour cream is sourer than yogurt.

2. Fat content

Both types of cream have fat content, but heavy cream has more fat. Sour cream usually contains a level of fat ranging between 18% and 20%. Sometimes, you can find sour cream labels with lower concentrations that won’t exceed 10%.

Heavy cream, however, has higher concentrations of dairy fat. It usually ranges between 36% and 40%. Heavy cream with 40% fat content is usually a preferred choice for restaurants due to its richness.

3. Texture

Heavy cream is way less thick than sour cream. This is how you will find external ingredients added to sour cream to give it some thickness. This is different from heavy cream.

It is naturally thin, and you can quickly pour it into your tea or coffee. So, no other external thickeners are added to it. The texture of sour cream is similar to yogurt, whereas heavy cream is similar to milk.

Some brands, however, produce thick, heavy cream. But this is not the general rule for making heavy cream.

4. Calorie count

Sour cream and heavy cream are not low in calories. However, they neither give your body the same amount of calories. The heavy cream has more calories due to its higher fat content. It is impossible to determine the precise calorie count, as brands vary in the levels of fat content.

However, the average calorie count of 100 grams of heavy or whipping cream is around 350. The same 100 grams of sour cream will only give you 210 calories.

5. Uses

In this comparison, you will find their uses as a guide. Many people believe they could be used interchangeably. But this is not true. Both types of cream can be substituted on a minimal scale due to the notable differences in taste and texture.

The main purpose of using heavy cream is to make whipping cream, chicken, or fish soups. You can’t use sour cream for the same purpose.

Sour cream is mainly used for dressing salads and cooking savory sauces. Also, heavy cream can’t be used in this context. However, using them interchangeably is only possible when making particular cakes, such as lemon.

6. The way of making

Another significant difference exists between these two famous types of cream. Making sour cream is more complicated, as it requires fermentation and homogenizing. Heavy cream, on the other hand, is extracted from the fat layer on top of fresh milk.

Sour Cream vs. Heavy Cream: Are they the same?

No, Sour cream and Heavy cream are not the same. They are different products that come from dairy milk and cream. However, they have different textures, tastes, uses, and ways of making them. You can use sour cream to increase the tanginess of a specific recipe, so it is not commonly used on desserts.

Heavy cream has a minor natural sweetness, which is why it is used to make many desserts. Also, it is an ideal choice for whitening soups. Adding sour cream to these soups will give them a tangy, undesirable taste. Additionally, heavy cream is the only option for making whipping cream.

Sour cream has a less fat content and a lower calorie count than fat-rich heavy cream. However, the latter is usually found in liquid like milk, while sour cream has a thicker texture like yogurt. Making sour cream is more complicated, while you can extract heavy cream directly from boiled milk.

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