When it comes to choosing foods for a keto diet, fat is where it’s at.
Keto is short for a ketogenic diet — a high fat, very low carb eating pattern that forces your body to use fat for fuel instead of glucose.
The first rule of keto is to keep your carbs very low and choose high-fat foods instead.
You may wonder whether sour cream is keto-friendly or has too many carbs like some other dairy foods.
This article takes a look at the composition of sour cream keto and whether you should include or skip it on a keto diet.
What Exactly Is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is a dairy product that originates from Eastern Europe. Its roots likely trace back to a Mongolian alcoholic beverage called kumis, which was made from fermented milk.
The sour cream we know today is made by fermenting heavy cream with specific types of bacteria that produce lactic acid, giving it the distinctive ‘sour’ taste. Although this is a commercial process, sour cream can also be naturally derived by fermenting cream at room temperature.
This means sour cream shares many similarities with yogurt and cream cheese — they’re all fermented dairy products made using slightly different processes.
As you probably know, sour cream is most commonly used in the U.S for dips, garnishes, and Tex-Mex dishes like burritos.
As its name suggests, sour cream is made from cream that’s been soured by an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or more commonly, by lactic acid bacteria. As the bacteria grow in the cream, they thicken it and impart a sour, tangy flavor similar to that of yogurt (1Trusted Source).
Regular sour cream is made from cream that has at least 18% milk fat (2).
However, you can also buy low-fat sour cream. It has at least 25% less fat than the original, full-fat version. Nonfat sour cream that contains no more than 0.5 grams of fat per 1/4 cup (50 grams) is also an option (2).
When considering sour cream for a keto diet, it’s important to read the labels because as the fat content decreases, the carb content increases.
Here are the nutrition facts for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of each type of sour cream:
Regular sour cream gets its thick, smooth texture from fat. To achieve the same texture and mouthfeel without fat, manufacturers typically add thickeners, gums, and stabilizers like maltodextrin, corn starch, guar gum, and xanthan gum.
Given that these ingredients are derived from carbs, they can increase the carb content of low fat sour cream a bit — and that of nonfat sour cream significantly.
Regular sour cream is made from cream. As such, it’s high in fat and low in carbs. However, nonfat sour cream has no fat and contains ingredients that increase its carb content quite a bit.
Carbs and Ketosis
The keto diet has been around for at least a century as a way to reduce seizure activity in children with epilepsy. Yet, it has become mainstream because it can aid weight loss and improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels in those with metabolic disorders (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
A study in 307 people found that another side effect of the diet is that it may help reduce carb cravings, compared with low fat diets (9Trusted Source).
It works by switching your body into ketosis, which means you’re burning ketones, a byproduct of fat, instead of glucose for energy.
To make the switch, only about 5% of your total calories should come from carbs, while as much as 80% of your calories should come from fat. The remainder of your calories comes from protein (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
To get into and stay in ketosis, it’s essential to stick to your carb and fat goals, which depend on your personal calorie needs. For example, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, your goal would be 25 grams of carbs, 178 grams of fat, and 75 grams of protein per day.
When planning meals, that means fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy foods like yogurt are off-limits, as they’re too high in carbs.
For example, one average-sized piece of fruit, 1/2 cup (117 grams) of cooked oats, or 6 ounces (170 grams) of yogurt each provide roughly 15 grams of carbs (10Trusted Source).
On the other hand, fats, such as butter and oil, are encouraged. They contain no or very few carbs and mostly fat.
Regular, full fat sour cream is nutritionally closer to a serving of fat than a serving of a carb-based food and, therefore, keto-friendly.
However, if you choose nonfat sour cream, you’ll rack up about the same number of carbs as you would from eating a serving of fruit, which will likely be too high for a keto diet.
A keto diet may provide health benefits like weight loss and improved metabolic health. To follow it, you must keep your carb intake quite low. While full fat sour cream can work on a keto diet, nonfat sour cream will likely be too high in carbs.
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Using Sour Cream On A Keto Diet:
Full fat sour cream can be incorporated into keto-friendly recipes in a variety of ways.
It’s a creamy, tasty base for a dip. Mix it with herbs or spices like curry powder and use it as a vegetable dip.
To make low carb sour cream pancakes, whisk together the following ingredients to make a batter:
Pour pancakes of your desired size onto a hot, oiled griddle until they’re golden brown on both sides.
Sour cream also makes a delicious, tangy cream sauce for pan-fried chicken, and it helps boost the fat content of a leaner protein dish.
To make a sauce, sauté a few tablespoons of minced onion and a clove of garlic in a pan with some olive oil. Add about 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of full fat sour cream and enough chicken stock to thin the sauce.
When you’re making a sauce with sour cream, don’t let it come to a full boil, or the sour cream will separate.
Since there are some carbs in sour cream, make sure you count them toward your daily carb budget. Depending on how you want to spend your carb budget, you may have to limit your portion of sour cream.
Full fat sour cream is keto-friendly and can be used in recipes if you’re looking for a tangy flavor and creamy texture. Given that it contains some carbs, make sure you account for them and limit your portion size if necessary.
Is Sour Cream Keto Friendly?
Sour cream is a keto-friendly choice that adds more fat to your diet, but it’s important to avoid low-fat and nonfat versions and always read the labels. Remember when the fat content decreases, the carb content increases.
These are the nutrition facts for a 100-gram or 3.5-ounce portion of each type of sour cream:
Non-Fat Sour Cream: 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 16 grams of carbs
Low-Fat Sour Cream: 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, and 7 grams of carbs
Full-Fat Sour Cream: 19 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 5 grams of carbs
You might also want to check whether other foods you’d eat with sour cream are acceptable – for example, the carbs in potatoes make them too high to enjoy with sour cream.
How Many Carbs In Sour Cream?
If you’re wondering, “Does sour cream have carbs?” it does. As long as you pay attention to serving sizes, though, you won’t have a problem.
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of full-fat sour cream contains 0.6 grams of net carbs [*]. This is the most “keto” sour cream you can find, especially if you limit net carbs to 20-30 grams per day.
TIP: Many U.S. nutrition labels round up or down to the nearest whole gram. This is why you may see some labels say 1g per 2 tablespoons, for example. If you want to be precise, you’d need to manually calculate, or just use my Easy Keto Meal Plan app that calculates macros for you.
How Many Carbs In Reduced Fat Sour Cream?
Reduced fat sour cream contains less fat, but higher carbs.
One tablespoon of reduced fat sour cream contains 0.8 grams of net carbs [*].
How Many Carbs In Fat Free Sour Cream?
You could still enjoy this variety of sour cream on keto, but the net carbs will add up quickly.
A single tablespoon of fat free sour cream has 1.9 grams of net carbs — more than triple the amount of full fat sour cream [*]!
Keto Sour Cream Recipes:
Sour cream adds so much flavor to recipes and keeps dishes moist. It’s fantastic for sauces, dressings, casseroles, and even keto desserts. Since you can have sour cream on keto, try it in these delicious low carb recipes!
- Keto Beef Stroganoff – Sour cream adds the perfect amount of tang to the savory sauce in this dish.
- Keto Chocolate Cake – Sour cream in a cake? Believe it – This secret ingredient helps make every slice perfectly moist.
- Caramelized French Onion Dip – Sour cream makes the best dip, and this flavorful recipe is no exception.
- Keto Sour Cream Cucumber Salad – Pairs crunchy cucumbers with an herby, creamy dressing.
- Loaded Cauliflower Casserole – Tastes like a baked potato with all the fixings… including sour cream.
- Keto Ranch Dressing – This homemade dressing swap gets plenty of flavor from herbs, spices, and sour cream.
- Cream Cheese Cookies – Includes sour cream for unexpectedly rich taste.
- Walking Taco Bowl – All the taco toppings you could want in a less-messy bowl!
- Overnight 7-Layer Salad – Almost looks too pretty to eat, and uses a simple sour cream dressing to top off all the layers.
- Stuffed Summer Squash Boats – Stuff your squash with a seasoned beef mixture that gets extra flavor from a touch of sour cream.
So, is sour cream keto? Most definitely – just be sure to use full-fat varieties and pay attention to serving sizes.
Sour Cream Nutrition Facts
Please keep in mind that while sour cream is keto friendly, it is also very calorically dense.
Per 2 tablespoon serving of sour cream yields:
How many carbs are there in sour cream? Depending on the brand, most sour cream products will have one gram of net carbohydrates per 2 tbsp serving since there is no dietary fiber to subtract.
Make sure you also get sour cream that has minimal ingredients to prevent unnecessary carbohydrates and calories.
Also, sour cream has a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
How To Buy The Best Keto Friendly Sour Cream?
Conforming to the daunting keto-diet guidelines is not enough. You have to be extra vigilant when cruising around a grocery store in search of a keto-approved food items. Tossing just about anything in your shopping cart won’t cut it. Dairy products seems to throw keto devotees off their balance the most, especially when it comes to picking the right sour cream. That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of tips you can use, when perusing the sour cream shelves, that might just make your keto journey a little less bumpy.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. They ramp up your carbohydrate intake which in turn hampers the process of creating a ketosis state.
- Favor non-GMO and no preservatives tags on packaging. Studies on GMO products are controversial. Scientists and consumers debate regarding possible health and environmental risks from cultivation and consumption of genetically modified food (5).
- Opt for high-quality grass-fed organic sour cream.
- Look for high-fat but not margarine produced. Food items like hydrogenated margarine are high in trans and saturated fats shoot up “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Keep a sharp eye on the nutrition label. You should always pick out sour creams with the lowest carbohydrate content.
- Don’t let ads sweet-talk you into buying “low fat”, “low calorie” sour creams. Brands tend to bend the rules by adding sugars, artificial sweeteners and chemicals to make up for the taste and texture loss, reduce fat content and curtail the amount of calories.
Alternative Recipe Of Sour Cream On The Keto Diet
Another way to make sure adding a spoonful of sour cream to your salad won’t kick you out of creating a ketosis state is by making it yourself. This recipe consists of measly 2 ingredients, so anyone would be able to do a stand-up job whipping up a batch of sour cream at home instead of buying it:
- Heavy cream (35% M.F.)
- Starter culture (lactic acid bacteria)
The proportion depends on the type and thickness of products. Use approximately 1 liter of heavy cream and 1 packet of starter culture.
- Heat heavy cream in a saucepan to room temperature or a bit warmer.
- Combine warm heavy cream and starter culture.
- Stir it and transfer to a jar.
- Leave the jar for 16-18 hours at room temperature to give your “concoction” time to ferment.
- When your sour cream is ready, pop it in the fridge.
Making sour cream at home will never have you wondering about any keto-derailing ingredients or health-jeopardizing additives. Moreover, you can store it for 2 weeks and add it to any recipe you have in mind. Enjoy your sour cream-filled keto journey!
Sour cream is a great keto-friendly product that is bursting with flavor and nutrients. However, it is important to remember that serving portions should be calculated accurately in order not to overshoot your carbohydrate allotment.
Full fat sour cream is made from heavy cream and therefore contains more mostly fat rather than carbohydrate. On the other hand, light or nonfat sour cream has a more even ratio of carbohydrate to fat, which isn’t ideal for people adopting the ketogenic diet. As a golden standard, you should always opt for a full fat sour cream (20% M.F. and higher).
Eating even fermented dairy can be unhealthy for people intolerant or sensitive to lactose. Furthermore, sour cream includes natural sugar because lactose breaks down into glucose and galactose. Therefore, people with diabetes and other conditions that might become exacerbated by a spike in blood sugar levels should consult with a doctor or a dietitian prior to starting a ketogenic diet.
Because it does contain some carbs, make sure you count them toward your daily carb budget.
What are your favorite recipes starring sour cream? Share recipes and tips with the keto community!