Greek yogurt and sour cream are often recommended as substitutes for each other, but how similar are they? Are they interchangeable? It turns out that they are a lot alike, but with some differences that you should keep in mind when using one as a substitute for the other. We will look at how they compare to each other in the SPICEography Showdown below.
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How does Greek yogurt differ from sour cream?
Greek yogurt and sour cream consist of different ingredients. Greek yogurt is made by using certain bacteria to ferment milk. The kinds of bacteria include Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Sour cream is made with cream rather than milk, and it is fermented with a different microorganism: Lactococcus lactis.
The different ingredients result in Greek yogurt and sour cream having different flavors and consistencies. Greek yogurt typically has a strong sour taste while sour cream is richer and milder. While Greek yogurt gets its consistency from being concentrated by the straining process, sour cream might have thickeners like guar gum or gelatin added to enhance its consistency.
Greek yogurt and sour cream differ nutritionally speaking. Greek yogurt is strained, which removes the moisture (whey) and concentrates everything else. As a result, Greek yogurt is a richer source of protein than sour cream. The bacterial cultures used to make Greek yogurt can be live, while sour cream is usually re-pasteurized to kill bacteria. The live bacterial cultures in yogurt can be beneficial for gut health. In comparison, sour cream contains more fat than all kinds of Greek yogurt, including full-fat Greek yogurt. Typically, Greek yogurt will have between four and 10 percent milk fat, compared to sour cream’s 18 to 20 percent.
Greek yogurt has less lactose than sour cream, which means that the ill effects that it can cause in lactose-intolerant people may be less severe. Greek yogurt also has fewer calories per serving compared to sour cream.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Greek yogurt can do a decent job standing in for sour cream. You can use it as a 1:1 sour cream substitute in most recipes. It is commonly recommended as a lower fat, higher protein alternative to sour cream for people trying to lose weight.
Sour cream can make an effective Greek yogurt substitute, but it’s not ideal. It will give you creaminess and tangy flavor but will also have more fat and calories along with less protein.
When should you use Greek yogurt, and when should you use sour cream?
The aggressively acidic flavor of Greek yogurt makes it an excellent accompaniment for fruit, and it works as a marinade. It is traditional to use it to marinate lamb or chicken in the Mediterranean region from which it comes. Greek yogurt also works well in salad dressings and sauces. You can also use it to replace other cultured creams, like creme fraiche.
While sour cream can work with some sweet preparations, it is commonly used in savory ones. For example, it is one of the main condiments used in Mexican food prepared in the US. Its creaminess helps to tone down the heat from hot peppers. Sour cream is great in baked goods, especially in recipes containing baking soda. Its acid reacts with the baking soda to create leavening; the fat sour cream contains can help to enhance the dish’s richness and flavor.