on December 10, 2019
Do you ever find yourself wishing a keto diet gave you more food variety?
We get it — eating low-carb may be great for losing weight and fighting chronic disease, but the limitations can sometimes feel overwhelming. When you go keto, you suddenly have to start reading every product label and tracking all your food.
If you don't have any allergies or sensitivities to lactose, you can enjoy a variety of dairy products while on the keto diet — however, not all dairy is keto friendly.
Thankfully, sour cream is amongst the delicious staples you can continue to enjoy and stay in ketosis. Sour cream is a versatile food that can be used as a dressing, food toping, soup thickener or combined with yogurt.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the macronutrients of sour cream, the best ways to eat it, and how to find high-quality options.
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.
But hang on a minute — How exactly does sour cream fit into a keto diet?
Let's have a look at the nutrition facts.
In short, it’s low carb, high in fat, and also contains some protein.
According to the USDA, a tablespoon (12 g) of sour cream contains 2.3 g fat, 0.3 g protein, and 0.5 g carbohydrates, with only 24 calories.
Even better, sour cream composed primarily of ‘good fats’; just 4% of total fats are trans fats.
These good fats or unsaturated fats are where most (70 - 80%) of your calories should come from to maintain a healthy keto diet. Some other examples of ideal dairy products for your keto shopping list include:
Total Carbohydrates (g)
Net Carbs (Total Fiber) (g)
The exact breakdown of macronutrients and calories varies between brands, so make sure to check the label before you buy it.
Most people on a keto diet stick to a carb count between 20 - 50 g per day, so even if you want a couple of tablespoons with your food, you’re unlikely to break ketosis.
But there’s one small catch: high-quality brands are likely to contain fewer net carbs since they use less added ingredients. Certain brands may add preservatives and thickeners, such as sweeteners, gelatin, and maltodextrin — avoid these ingredients in your sour cream.
Sour cream is a fermented dairy product. Although dairy is typically viewed as a risk factor for heart attacks, it may actually have protective qualities for the cardiovascular system.
A recent study from Lund University in Sweden found a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease in women who had a higher intake of fermented dairy products, though no significant observations were made in men.
A study that surveyed 1782 men found that a high intake of dairy fat is associated with a lower risk of obesity. This may not come as a surprise to those who follow the keto diet, but it serves as a helpful reminder that you don’t need to feel guilty for indulging in a sour cream garnish.
Another study concluded that consuming dairy products can increase satiety. When you feel full for longer, you're less likely to overeat or eat out of boredom, which can promote weight loss goals.
Sour cream also contains a significant number of vitamins and minerals. Adding just one cup to your yogurt will give you around a fifth of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin A, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus.
Keeping your gut healthy is a vital part of an overall healthy lifestyle; one of the best ways to ensure this is by eating foods high in probiotics, which are live microorganisms that balance the bacteria in your body.
However, only high-quality sour cream contains probiotics — look for labels that say ‘contains active cultures.’
Not all sour cream is created equal.
Look for brands that prioritize high-quality ingredients such as dairy from grass-fed, organic cows, and avoid preservatives and other additives that make it less suitable for a keto diet.
Before buying, check the labels for sweeteners like maltodextrin and aspartame. Any product that claims to be ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’ is likely to contain artificial sweeteners; instead, opt for the product highest in fat.
Here are the best sour cream brands we’ve come across:
You could even make your own sour cream with the use of a starter culture and heavy cream. The process is extremely simple and can be completed in five easy steps:
When you’re following a keto diet, understanding what you’re eating is essential; by making your own sour cream, you can ensure that what you’re eating is low carb and free of artificial sweeteners that can spike your blood sugar.
One of the added benefits of home-made sour cream is that it naturally contains healthy probiotics.
Just make sure to choose a high-quality starter culture; this one is gluten-free, GMO-free, and contains live active cultures.
Sour cream is best known as a garnish for potatoes — but potatoes are firmly off the table on a ketogenic diet. So, how can you use sour cream?
Here are some creative low carb recipes for you to incorporate into your keto diet.
If you’re craving yogurt but worried about the net carb content, try mixing sour cream with Greek yogurt or heavy cream to create a high fat, low carb, and sugar-free version.
The Keto Mama's low carb yogurt recipe recommends combining with a sweetener like erythritol alongside nuts, raspberries, and blueberries — you can also use monk fruit sweetener if you must add some sweetness to your yogurt. Just remember to enjoy the sweets (even the low carb, sugar-free options) in moderation.
Why not give this recipe a go for a special weekend breakfast?
Sour cream is a versatile ingredient; you can use it for semi-sweet dishes and in savory salad dressings, to spruce up your vegetables.
Anyone can make this ranch dressing: just mix the sour cream with some seasoning (like garlic powder) and heavy cream. Another tasty option is this honey mustard salad dressing made with full-fat sour cream, powdered erythritol, apple cider vinegar, and dijon mustard.
Of course, you don’t have to use the dressing for salads only — you can make dips or garnishes for grass-fed meats using the same recipes.
If you're looking for a simple way to add sour cream to your diet, why not try adding a couple of spoonfuls to soups or keto casseroles? It’s a great way to add some extra flavor and increase the fat content with no preparation time.
For instance, this pumpkin soup is made from heavy cream, pumpkin puree, and seasoners, then sour cream is added as a garnish to serve. Pumpkin may not be a typical keto ingredient, but a small dose of pumpkin puree won’t increase your carb count too much.
This sour cream muffin recipe is the solution to when you're missing dessert.
It's sweetened with erythritol and the natural sweetness of lemon juice. You can pour the coconut and almond flour-base batter into muffin linings or a cake pan for those special occasions.
Thanks to the eggs, butter, and full-fat sour cream, one muffin or a slice of loaf contains 25 g of fat and 8 g of protein. You won't even believe this isn't a high carb dessert — there's only 4.5 g per serving.
Let’s recap. Sour cream is a keto essential that almost everybody should add to their shopping list. It's a versatile ingredient you can add to savory dishes or retrofit into a sweet treat while still maintaining a ketogenic diet.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to low-carb meals, it’s a great ingredient to break up the boredom and add some extra flavor.
Like most foods, you’ll need to watch your serving sizes and ensure you choose a high-quality brand — but, as long as you’re careful, a good sour cream shouldn’t affect your net carb content too much or interrupt the ketosis process.
Looking for more inspiration to spice up your keto diet?
Our blog is an excellent resource for keto recipes and up to date research on the topic written by nutritionists, dieticians, and experienced keto dieters.