Using sour cream instead of mayonnaise can lower the amount of fat and the number of calories in a dish, especially if you use low-fat or nonfat sour cream. Unlike yogurt, sour cream is traditionally made from cream. Lactic acid culture is added, thickening the cream and giving it a sour, tangy taste. Thick, rich-tasting and a little sour, sour cream has a flavor that makes it an easy substitute for mayonnaise in many dishes, including sandwiches and cold salads.
Why Use Sour Cream
While commercial sour cream contains 18 to 20 percent fat, it is still lower in fat than mayonnaise. A single serving of sour cream has roughly half the calories and fat content of mayonnaise. The difference is even greater if you use reduced-fat or light sour cream. Sour cream also generally contains fewer additives than mayonnaise does, especially commercial mayonnaise, which requires numerous stabilizers and additives to keep the spread from breaking apart.
Using Sour Cream Instead
Sour cream can be used as is, or with additives, in dressings, for salads and for sandwiches, substituting directly for mayonnaise. Add sour cream in place of mayonnaise in cream-based dressings. Dressings are diluted with vinegar, oil and sometimes water, and contain a number of seasonings. This makes the taste and texture differences between sour cream and mayonnaise virtually indiscernible. You can also use sour cream as is — without any additives — as a sandwich spread. Its cool creaminess adds richness and texture to a sandwich. In instances where using sour cream instead of mayonnaise affects the taste and texture of the dish — such as with potato or egg salad — adjust the seasonings or use additives to enhance the taste. Keep dishes that use sour cream very cold, as the warmer it gets, the runnier the texture is.
All About That Taste
Sour cream contains less fat than mayonnaise so it is slightly less rich tasting. And, despite its natural tanginess, sour cream is not as sour as some mayonnaise is. The texture, as a cultured dairy product, is also slightly grainier and less thick. Because of these slight differences, you may choose to add in extra seasonings, such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, to increase the tang of sour cream. You can also add in beaten egg yolks to increase the richness. To preserve the taste of mayonnaise but garner some of the benefits of sour cream, substitute half the mayonnaise in a recipe with sour cream.
Other Mayonnaise Substitutes
As an alternative to sour cream, you can also use yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise. Greek yogurt, in particular, with its rich taste and increased thickness, is popular as it is lower in fat and tangier than sour cream. As is the case with sour cream, for yogurt — including Greek yogurt — the warmer it is, the runnier it becomes, which can affect the texture of some dishes, like potato salad. You can also make vegan mayonnaise, which uses apple cider vinegar and ground flaxseeds to create an egg-free — and lower fat — mayonnaise.
References and ResourcesCalifornia Dairy Pressroom: Sour Cream
BeingHealthy.tv: Hold the Mayo!
Men's Health: 8 Fatty Foods With Health Benefits
The Kitchn: After the Dip Is Gone - 5 Ways to Use Up Leftover Sour Cream
Cultures for Health: Sour Cream - Mayonnaise Substitute
What's Cooking America: Ingredient Substitution
The Food Republic: The Do's and Don'ts of Cooking With Greek Yogurt
The Kitchn: Making Vegan Mayonnaise With Flax Seeds - Does It Work?