Creme fraiche is a truly magical condiment. A serving can elevate mashed potatoes to the degree of cloud-like food for the Gods. One tablespoon in a bowl of soup adds a richness and depth that no sour cream can achieve. A bowl of creme fraiche acts as a perfect dip for crackers, peppers, and cucumbers. In short, there is little in the world of food that creme fraiche cannot achieve.
True to its name, crème fraîche comes to us from the dairy-producing regions of France. It translates as "fresh cream," and it refers to milk that’s been left overnight in a cool area to separate. The cream, which rises to the top, ferments very slightly and ends up with a nuanced, sharp flavor that is to sour cream what natural vanilla ice cream is to popsicles.
Buying creme fraiche in the United States can be expensive, and the results vary greatly from producer to producer. Some add coagulants and additives that have no room in traditional creme fraiche. But how to get your hands on real creme fraiche? You won’t believe how simple and easy our creme fraiche recipe is — and how quickly you will be on the road to Frenchifying all your dishes with a dollop of homemade creme fraiche.
Find more recipes by Ksenia Prints on At The Immigrant’s Table.
Gather your ingredients for the simplest creme fraiche recipe ever
Brace yourself because the shopping list for this creme fraiche recipe is quite long. To make traditional creme fraiche in the comfort of your own home and with two minutes of active work, you will need cream and buttermilk.
And that’s it.
Like we said earlier, in the French dairy industry, creme fraiche came to refer to a naturally occurring process in which cream separates from freshly procured milk. So it stands to reason that when making creme fraiche that is as close to the traditional product as possible, you shouldn’t add much at all to it. One word of advice: Try to buy the best full-fat whipping cream you can find. If you can find organic cream from local cows, invest the money in it.
Ingredient spotlight: buttermilk for this creme fraiche recipe
With only two ingredients, what you use for your creme fraiche matters. We already recommended you go for the best cream you can find, but what about the buttermilk? And what is buttermilk, in the first place? Old-fashioned buttermilk referred to the whitish liquid that remained after the churning of butter. It was very low in fat and possessed a slightly sweet flavor.
Today, buttermilk is made in a commercial process that is similar to yogurt making, in which pasteurized low-fat milk is left to ferment for a period of up to 24 hours. The closest you can get to buttermilk at home through natural circumstances is when your milk starts to go sour. Buttermilk is crucial for baked goods like biscuits, cornbread, and traditional fluffy pancakes. Many people try to take a shortcut to making quick buttermilk by adding lemon or vinegar to milk and waiting ten minutes for it to curdle.
Unfortunately, that shortcut will not work for this creme fraiche recipe. You will need to actually go out and buy buttermilk — or make your own through churning butter, but that may be more work than it’s worth.
Combine buttermilk and cream for this creme fraiche recipe
Making this creme fraiche recipe is truly as easy as can be. First, you get some cream. Then, you pour in a bit of buttermilk. Finally, you mix them together. Honestly, it took us longer to write this recipe than it will take you to make delicious, unadulterated, traditional creme fraiche in your own kitchen.
If you need more information about mixing cream with buttermilk, we recommend using a transparent jar with a lid for making creme fraiche. First, it allows you to easily see how your creme fraiche changes its texture. Second, it allows you to easily store it in the refrigerator once it’s ready.
Cover jar and place in a dark, cool place to make this creme fraiche recipe
With your cream and buttermilk mixed in a jar, it’s time to let time do its thing and ferment your creme fraiche recipe. The way creme fraiche works is by introducing buttermilk to high-fat cream. When you do that, you add lactic bacteria to cream and allow it to ferment naturally at room temperature. This is similar to the French process, where the naturally occurring lactic bacteria in unpasteurized cream was left to ferment by itself.
To emulate that effect, cover your jar of creme-fraiche-in-the-making with a cheesecloth and a rubber band, and place it in a dark, cool area. Any corner of your kitchen counter that is away from direct light will do just fine.
Creme fraiche can ferment overnight, but for the best-tasting, richest results, we recommend waiting the full 24 hours.
Stir your creme fraiche
From our experience, the hardest part of making creme fraiche is waiting the full 24 hours without tasting, shaking, or otherwise interfering with the alchemy happening inside your jar.
Once you’ve overcome that hurdle, congratulations! You’re well on your way to feeling tres francais with dollops of creme fraiche on everything. After 24 hours of waiting, feel free to go ahead and stir your creme fraiche. Go ahead, stir it — and see how thick, creamy, and rich it has become. Now, taste it and feel the tingling sensation of eating a delicious, clean, homemade product spread through your body.
It’s hard to believe all this came from cream, buttermilk, and a little bit of waiting.
Serve this creme fraiche recipe as dip or a condiment
Creme fraiche can be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can add a tablespoon to any soup for a thick, velvety texture. Alternatively, you can add finely chopped fresh herbs like chives, tarragon, or basil or dried herbs like oregano and chili flakes to make an easy homemade vegetable dip. Or why not use it in place of yogurt or mayo with some herbs in a creamy salad dressing?
We also like to mix it in into mashed potatoes for the silkiest texture imaginable, dollop some over berries with a sprinkle of sugar, or fold it into scrambled eggs for an exceptional breakfast. The options are pretty much endless.
A bowl of creme fraiche acts as a perfect dip for crackers, peppers, and cucumbers. There is little in the world of food that creme fraiche cannot achieve.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- In a jar or small bowl, combine heavy whipping cream and buttermilk. Stir a few times to combine well. Cover with cheesecloth or a breathable fabric, and set aside in a cool, warm place out of direct sunlight for 24 hours. After 24 hours, creme fraiche should be thick and slightly tangy to taste. Seal and transfer to the fridge.
- Creme fraiche will last in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator for a week.