What is Crème Fraîche?

Traditionally made from unpasteurized cream that’s left to ferment naturally, crème fraîche (pronounced krehm FRESH) is a slightly sour, thickened cream. It’s tangy and nutty, more politely rounded than sour cream, and without so much bite. Use it as a garnish or as an ingredient.

Cooks cherish crème fraîche for its ability to endure heat – to readily melt with a remarkable reluctance to curdle, even when boiled hard it doesn’t “break” or become unstable when added to sauces. This is due to its high fat content. This makes it an ideal, silky enrichment for stirring into soup, Hungarian Goulash, sauces or anything else that could do with a bit of extra creamy zing. Crème fraiche is additionally delicious when you whip it with a little powdered sugar and vanilla. It can be ladled over fresh berries, or any kind of fruit, or can make up a sweet filling for crepes.

Crème fraîche marries well with both the sweet and the savory, as well as the cool and the cooked. Dollop it on fresh fruit or just about any pastry dessert for a tangy contrast. A classic pairing is with tarte Tatin, a caramelized apple tart. Crème fraîche is refreshing on a slab of ripe tomato with salt and a little fresh pepper or with a shaving of smoked salmon dressed with capers, red onion, and a squeeze of lemon. It’s perfect with potatoes – tucked in a gratin, topped on a steaming baked potato. or tossed with steamed red-skinned potatoes, parsley and chives. You can serve a dab of it on a little canapé, such as a rice cracker, with a slice of avocado. Whisk it into your beef Stroganoff or use it to finish a braised chicken dish. Dress up a green-chile and pork burrito. or pair it with anything elegant, like caviar.

Buy It or make it. Until recently, crème fraîche was a pricey import. But in the last few years American chccsemakcrs have delivered their domestic versions to market, and many are quite good. But to say that it’s now a cheap and widely available product would be a half truth. Fortunately, it’s quite simple to make from scratch .

How to Make Crème Fraîche

Yields 1 pint: (recipe may be multiplied or divided) This crème fraiche isn’t as thick as the commercial product, but it tastes terrific. We developed this recipe using ultra-pasteurized heavy cream because it’s most widely available. If you can find regular pasteurized heavy cream, use it: Your results will likely be thicker. Also, if it’s a warm day, the cream may thicken in a shorter amount of time. 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup buttermilk (with active cultures) Heat the cream to 80° to 85°F, being careful not to overheat. Transfer it to a clean container, stir in the buttermilk, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm spot at room temperature until slightly thickened, about 24 hours. Chill well before using. After chilling, the crème fraîche should be about as firm as loose yogurt. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Substitute for Crème Fraîche

For 1 cup (240 ml, 225 grams)  use 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream or 1 cup (240 ml) whipping cream plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk or yogurt or 1/2 cup (120 ml) whipping cream plus 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream or 1 cup (225 grams) mascarpone cheese

Recipes with Crème Fraîche

Caramel Crème Fraîche Sundaes with Cashews

yield: Makes 6 to 8

Ice cream

  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 7 1/2 to 8 ounces crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crème fraîche caramel sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup Crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


  • 1 cup raw whole cashews
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • Whipped cream


For ice cream: Whisk 1/2 cup milk and egg yolks in medium bowl. Bring 1 1/2 cups milk, cream, sugar, and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens enough to leave path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 6 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into medium bowl. Place over large bowl of ice water and cool, stirring often. Whisk in crème fraîche and vanilla. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to container. Cover and freeze at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.

For caramel sauce: Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides and swirling pan, about 16 minutes (time will vary depending on size of pan). Remove pan from heat. Mix in cream, crème fraîche, and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until sauce is smooth. Discard vanilla bean. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before serving.)

For cashews: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix cashews, oil, and salt in small bowl. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until nuts are golden, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight.) Scoop ice cream into dishes. Spoon warm caramel sauce over. Top sundaes with whipped cream and cashews.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2004

Lime Granita with Candied Mint Leaves and Crème Fraîche

yield: Makes 6 servings

For a fun presentation, serve the granita in hollowed-out lime halves. To prepare the limes, snip the membranes with scissors, then scrape clean with a grapefruit spoon.


2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
candied mint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
12 fresh mint leaves, washed, patted dry
1 large egg white, beaten until foamy

Créme fraîche

1/2 cup créme fraîche or sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

For granita:

  • Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to boil in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup. Stir in lime juice. Transfer lime syrup to 11 x 7 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Cover and place in freezer. Stir every 45 minutes until frozen, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD Granita can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep frozen.
  • For candied mint leaves:
  • Place sugar on small shallow plate. Brush both sides of 1 mint leaf lightly with egg white; dredge in sugar. Transfer mint leaf to rack. Repeat with remaining mint leaves. Let mint stand at room temperature until dry, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

For créme fraîche:

  • Mix créme fraîche and sugar. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Using fork, scrape granita to loosen. Spoon granita into bowls or lime halves; drizzle with créme fraîche, garnish with candied mint leaves, and serve immediately
  • Image by Peter from Liverpool, UK / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)


Meyer Lemon Creme Fraiche Linguine

Cooking notes: mise-en-place is very important here. Make sure everything is prepped in advance, as this pasta cools down quickly and thus must be eaten immediately upon preparation. It makes a great first course. It could also go very well with chicken as a main.  


1 pound of linguine
a chunk of Parmesan (to be grated)
2 Meyer lemons
3 large handfuls of arugula, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche
freshly ground black pepper

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling rapidly, add salt (generously) and then the pasta.
  • While the pasta cooks, grate a handful of parmesan into a large bowl and zest the two lemons into the bowl. Add the arugula to this bowl as well. Juice one of the lemons and reserve the juice**.
  • When the pasta is cooked (make sure it’s still al dente), quickly drain it and add it to the serving bowl that’s holding the cheese and lemon zest. Don’t worry about getting the pasta completely dry. It should be slicked with water, as that will help thin out the cheese and the thick crème fraîche to a tossable consistency. Next, add the lemon juice and toss again. Last, add the crème fraîche and continue to toss well, until the sauce is well-distributed, the arugula is wilted, the the cheese is melty. Grind some pepper into all this and toss once more. Serve immediately.

Adapted from “Cooking For Mr. Latte” by Amanda Hesser You may also want to read Types of cream and their uses.

Image by Peter from Liverpool, UK / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)