How to Make Creme Fraiche

Today’s guest post is compliments of food blogger Melanie McMinn from FrugalKiwi. Melanie, a US expat living in New Zealand, is a goddess of cheap and easy household DIY. Things are insanely expensive in her neck of the woods, and she’s figured out how to live the good life on the cheap. This post is the ultimate in budget luxury!

Why would you want to learn how to make creme fraiche? In these cash strapped times, we can’t always squeeze luxury ingredients into our Ramen Noodle budgets. So what’s a food lover to do?

DIY. Some specialty ingredients, like creme fraiche, are expensive to buy, but cheap to make. And not only cheap. Easy. Fun. Not to mention satisfying.

Creme fraiche, thicker and less sour than sour cream, is gorgeous on fresh fruit – and if that is the only thing you use it on, you’ll be glad you did. It’s also excellent to substitute for sour cream in recipes because it does not curdle. Plus, it’s a standard ingredient in many French, Scandinavian and other European recipes.

I can see you are chomping at the bit already, so here’s what you need to learn how to make creme fraiche. Cream. Plain yogurt or real buttermilk (milk with vinegar will NOT work). A thermometer. Time. That’s it. Crazy, I know. For this they charge the earth!

Don’t be worried if you add a bit more or less yogurt or buttermilk than noted. Your creme fraiche recipe will still get there in the end. More will make it tangier, less will take longer to thicken.

Once you’ve got your creme fraiche recipe made, how about an authentic Scandinavian dish for test driving your new dairy delight? The second recipe is a Swedish salad, commonly served at Christmas, from Swedish expat Sven of Chez Sven Bed and Breakfast in Cape Cod. This recipe is courtesy of his lovely lady and co-owner, Alexandra.

Creme Fraiche Recipe

How to Make Creme Fraiche

  • 1 Tbs of plain yogurt or buttermilk for every half cup (118ml) of cream.
  1. Any kind of cream will work when learning how to make creme fraiche – whipping cream, heavy double cream, single cream, etc. I use single or “regular” cream since I can’t get anything with higher fat content at the grocery store here, but heavy cream will set up faster.
  2. Slowly heat your cream in a heavy sauce pan to 162°F (72°C) whilst constantly stirring. Once it reaches 162°F, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Leave for half an hour. Place the pan in a sink full of cold water and stir to prevent a skin from forming.
  3. When it cools to 88-95°F (31-35°C) add in the yogurt or buttermilk and stir well.
  4. Now comes the part that Western minds have trouble handling. Place the mixture in a warm place for 1-3 days. Cover to keep out kids, pets and bugs. Cultures need warmth to grow and we are creating beautiful cultured cream here. The warmer the space, the faster your cultures grow and thicken the cream. In New Zealand, the warmest part of the house this time of year is the hot water cupboard, so that is where mine goes and at three days it can still be pretty runny.
  5. When the cream is thickened, store in the refrigerator and you’ve got 1-3 weeks to use it. Your nose will tell you when it is time to go.

Sven’s Beet Salad Recipe, aka Rödbetssallad

  • 3 beetroots, cooked
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish paste
  1. Peel the beets and apples, then cut them into 1-inch cubes.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix beets, apples, creme fraiche and horseradish, adjusting horseradish to taste.
  3. Serve with some akvavit for a real taste of Sweden. Skål!

This brightly colored Swedish salad is a great way to use your homemade creme fraiche recipe.

Other guest posts from Melanie McMinn:

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Ola says

    I pay a lot of money for this product. I will try to make it, but I am a little bervous about leaving it out. We will see, even if it fails it’s not expesnive to try!

    • steph says

      Melanie mentions in her comment below that it’s only three days in a cool climate. If it’s warmer where you’re at, it could be as little time as a day. :)

  2. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart says

    Hmmm… the 3-day thing might kill it for me. Sometimes my plan-ahead abilities fall apart in the kitchen … as I madly defrost something at 6 pm.

    • steph says

      That’s usually my situation as well – defrosting something last minute. But with a bit of creme fraiche in the fridge, you could easily mix it into something you’re preparing quickly!

  3. Melanie McMinn says

    If you live somewhere warmer than New Zealand-and most people do-you may only need to leave it out for a day. Remember, until recently mankind had to survive without fridges and they managed to survive well enough to beget all of us!

  4. MarthaAndMe says

    Can you clarify one of the instructions? It says to leave it on the stove for half an hour THEn put it in the sink and cool to the temp cited. Just want to make sure that’s correct. I want to try this, but I’m a little creeped out about leaving it out as well.

    • Melanie McMinn says

      MarthaAndMe, that is correct. You are essentially repasteurising the cream for extra safety, so you take it up to the correct temperature and let it stay at or near that temp for a time before cooling it down enough to add your active cultures.

        • Melanie McMinn says

          I’ve never made yogurt, but my understanding of the yogurt making process is that it needs higher temps. So yes, it does matter.

  5. Kristen J. Gough says

    I’ve never tried making creme fraiche, but I could definitely follow these instructions. I do a much cheaper version (and of course, not as tasty) but simply thinning down my sour cream with milk. I know, I know, not even close, but…The other creme fraiche substitute I’ve used is Mexican creme. I can’t think of the name right now, but it goes on special at the Mexican market we frequent.

  6. Muse in the Kitchen says

    This is so perfect for us! We sometimes have a very difficult time even buying creme fraiche at the grocery store – lovely to know it’s so easy to make! ~ Belle

  7. Presley says

    Wow, I never knew – this is just like making yogurt except starting with cream instead of milk (and slightly different temperatures). I used creme fraiche instead of cream to make fudge when I was in France and had trouble finding the usual ingredients, and it was the best batch I ever made, so I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to do this.

    By the way, when I make yogurt I put the mix in a thermos for the waiting period – this may make it work faster because it loses heat more slowly. My yogurt takes about 8 hours. But that may just be another difference between milk and cream, too. Worth a try, anyway.

    And don’t be freaked out about leaving it out – you’ve killed any other cultures with the heating, and the culture you’re putting in is 1) good for you and 2) converting sugar to acid, which most other bacteria can’t live in.
    .-= Check out Presley

  8. David K says

    Works perfectly and so easy. I use Greek style yoghurt as this is unsweetened and gives a great flavour. As for leaving the mixture standing, I’m in Australia, and even in Summer this was no problem up to about 3 days, after which I returned the mixture to the fridge and it kept thicking up over a period of 1 week. Thanks for the recipe, I use the creme fraiche in a martha stewart inspired Silverbeet and Cheese quiche and it works well

  9. Bern Gallagher says

    Magnifique! I’ve tried several creme fraiche recipes and your ranks at the top! Thanks for your tip about the water heater closet. Your (mine now) creme fraiche was a perfect accompaniment to caviar on blinis. Now if I can only find a blini recipe to rival your creme fraiche. Heaven would be found!


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