Everything You Can Do With a Container of Sour Cream

A small blue bowl full of sour cream.

With the texture and tang of great yogurt and the richness of buttery cream, it's no wonder we love adding a dollop of sour cream to everything from fully loaded nachos to classic baked potatoes and chili. It's the kind of versatile ingredient that pairs equally well with hot, spicy foods and cooling sweet ones. Of course, it's also plenty good all on its own—given the opportunity, I'll gladly sneak a few spoonfuls over the kitchen sink.

But sour cream also plays more an unexpected role in some of our favorite dishes, from biscuits to savory sauces, potato salad, and beyond. Whether you have a half-used tub languishing in the fridge or you just want a few dozen excuses to keep it around the house, here are some great ways to use it all up.

More Moist and Flavorful Batters and Doughs

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Sure, most folks love to dip their pierogi in sour cream, but how about folding the sour cream right into the dough? Turns out the fatty dairy product helps keep the dough tender and flaky as it fries—it's a trick we use in our sweet cheese pierogi, not to mention these filled with spinach-artichoke dip and all the flavors of Philly cheesesteak. The same principle also applies to sweeter preparations, like the dough for our sour cherry-filled kringle.

Of course, sour cream can be used to enhance more than texture. It adds body and fermented flavor to these extra-flaky buttermilk biscuits and all five of our cornbread variations. We even throw it into sweet potato pancakes to offset the sweetness with some sour tang.

Creamier Sauces for Meat

A bowl of onion and mushroom beef stroganoff over noodles, with a dollop of sour cream.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

If you've ever added cream to finish a sauce or round out your braising liquid, then this tip won't surprise you. But unlike the milky sweetness you'll get from heavy cream, sour cream also packs a more acidic punch. It's a crucial ingredient in many meat-heavy Eastern European dishes—think hearty onion and mushroom-packed beef stroganoff and chicken paprikash (though it works just as well with pork). Then again, you don't need meat to be the star to make a great sour cream sauce—just ask this chile and onion-packed creamed corn.

Amped Up Salad Dressings

A small white bowl with macaroni salad, sprinkled with parsley.
Joshua Bousel

You've probably made your fair share of mayonnaise-based dressings for pasta and potato salads over the years, but there's no reason sour cream can't take its place as a richer alternative. In fact, there are plenty of cases where it most definitely should: take this fingerling potato salad, for instance, which gets a complementary dose of mustard, scallions, and dill. Sour cream is the secret to our extra-tangy, creamy macaroni salad, and even the dressing for this apple coleslaw. Not a fan of mayo-style salads? Try out this charred corn salad with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and radishes instead—just a small dollop of sour cream goes a long way.

As a Base Flavorful Dips

A small plate of beet latkes and horseradish sour cream sauce. One latke is torn in half.
Vicky Wasik

Sour cream on its own makes a great dip for everything from vegetables to all things fried. But much like mayo, it's easy to up the ante with aromatics, herbs, and spices. Horseradish gives it some extra oomph and contrasting heat as a companion for our crisp and sweet beet latkes. But for something a little more versatile, try it puréed with scallions, cilantro, and lime or added to mayonnaise for a more nuanced chipotle-spiked dip.

Tangier, Richer Desserts

A Japanese soft cotton cheesecake next to a slice of the cheesecake on a plate.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Like its fellow fermented dairy products, yogurt and buttermilk, sour cream has a distinctively acidic-tangy quality that cuts through sweetness while delivering richness and nuance—all great qualities when it comes to changing up your dessert routine. It lightens the dense heaviness of typical cheesecake in this light and airy Japanese variation and keeps our chocolate cupcakes from spilling into cloyingly sweet territory. Sour cream also enhances the tenderness of baked goods, from mini chocolate chip and oatmeal muffins to this extra-moist bundt cake studded with fresh blackberries. And, whisked into a frosting, it provides a bright, uplifting contrast to a fudgy pretzel layer cake.

Give Body to Delicious Fillings

Crispy Mashed Potato Casserole With Bacon, Cheese, and Scallions
Vicky Wasik

Sour cream is responsible for the moisture and richness of the potatoes in our crispy mashed potato casserole with bacon, scallions, and cheese. Or give sour cream a go in stuffed Mexican peppers in a red chili sauce, where it blends smoothly with ground beef, cheese, and crushed tomatoes.

September 24, 2015