By Lillian Downey

Sour cream is a popular addition to all kinds of cuisine. It's used in sauces and soups to add thickness and a creamy texture. It's also used to top foods such as nachos and tacos. It's a common base for party dips and vegetable or salad dressings. If you are out of sour cream, if you're trying to reduce your fat intake or if you avoid dairy, you may find yourself looking for a suitable alternative.

close-up of a baked potato served with sour cream in foil
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Sour cream atop a baked potato


Knife with mayonnaise
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Mayo can be used in place of sour cream in many recipes. Usually, salads and salad dressings with sour cream bases take to mayonnaise well. Mayo has a similar fat content to sour cream and is egg based, so those avoiding fat and dairy might consider other options, such as fat-free sour cream, mayo or vegan substitutes of either.


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Browsing the yogurt case at the grocery store

To replace sour cream as a topping, yogurt may be your best choice. It's thick and creamy, and offers a similar texture. Using yogurt as a topping is common in Indian cuisine, where it often cuts the heat associated with spicy chutneys. Fat-free, full fat and vegan versions are available. Opt for plain yogurt and add your own seasonings.


close-up of a bowl of dip
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If American-style Mexican food is your forte, the obvious choice for sour cream substitution is guacamole. Guacamole can be prepared so that it's more creamy than chunky. When chilled, it can provide the cool texture of sour cream and can cut through some of the spice of hot salsas and sauces.


Tofu on plate on white background
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Vegans have been making their own version of sour cream using tofu for years. It's used in the same way you'd use traditional dairy-based sour cream; however, it's low in fat and contains no dairy or other animal products. See the Resources section for a recipe. Prepared versions are also available in stores.


Person pouring milk in tin pitcher by potatoes
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Pouring cream

If you traditionally thicken sauces and stews with sour cream, regular cream will provide similar results. Add lemon juice after stirring in cream to regain some of the tartness of regular sour cream.

Cottage Cheese

Plum tomatoes with cottage cheese
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Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese works best as a sour cream substitute on baked potatoes and in dips. It can be heated, but works best cold. For a texture that more closely resembles sour cream, add it to a blender or food processor with a few drops of lemon juice.