Home » Can sour cream be heated in the microwave? - The Ultimate Guide

Can sour cream be heated in the microwave? - The Ultimate Guide

Can sour cream be heated in the microwave? - The Ultimate Guide

Sour cream is one of the foods that people mostly put as a topping, even on the saltiest of dishes. It is also a common ingredient in various pastry recipes, soups and even salads. In fact, we can’t think of a dish that tastes bad with a little sour cream on top. And you?

While sour cream is a food of endless possibilities, it’s also not as easy to handle as you might think. At the very least, heating it incorrectly can lead to unpleasant results.

With that being said, can you heat sour cream in the microwave?

While we wouldn’t normally microwave sour cream unless it’s part of some leftovers, you can safely microwave sour cream as long as it comes fresh from the container. All you need to know are several small steps to prevent the cream from separating or curdling. 

In the following guide, we will talk about the entire process of cooking sour cream in the microwave along with several additional tips and rules that we recommend following.

Can sour cream be heated in the microwave?

Sour cream is similar in consistency, appearance, and taste to yogurt. It is more salty than sweet, although its flavor is considered neutral. It’s usually sold in cubes with foil on top, but you can usually find fresh sour cream in more specialty stores.

Different types of sour cream have different fat content, which determines its density. Sour cream is obtained by fermentation with bacteria, just like yogurt. The existence of these bacteria is what makes the heating process slightly tricky.

When exposed to high temperatures, bacteria in sour cream or any kind of dairy product are killed.

Yes, you can microwave sour cream , but you need to remember several key niceties that we’re going to discuss below.

How to heat sour cream in the microwave: And rules to follow

If we could explain the process of cooking sour cream in the microwave in just a few words, it would probably be “gentle, careful, and slow.” Cream, in general, is not the most durable product and great care must always be taken with handling and storage. 

Here’s how to heat sour cream in the microwave:

  • Transfer the sour cream from the original container to a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Place a paper towel or microwave-safe lid over the bowl to minimize splatter.
  • Microwave on high heat in 15 second increments for each tablespoon of sour cream. You can also microwave on low heat in 20-second increments for each tablespoon of sour cream.
  • If you are microwaving large batches of sour cream , divide the sour cream into smaller portions and heat individually before transferring the hot sour cream to a larger bowl or container for serving.

For ease of explanation, we’ve divided all aspects of microwaving sour cream into our own “rules,” listed below.

Follow these steps and we can promise you that you will avoid all possible problems.

1. Never microwave sour cream in the original container.

Although this is a no-brainer for those of us who deal with cooking at home, it is also a common mistake among people.

It refers to all types of food, with the exception of containers that have a sign that approves the use of the microwave. However, we would be surprised if you ever found a sour cream with that sign on the packaging.

Why should you transfer the sour cream to a plate or any other microwave-safe container?  When heated in the microwave, the chemicals used to make the plastic are released from the container.

Chemicals contaminate sour cream and make it unsafe to eat. 

2. Never reheat sour cream that has been pre-heated.

As explained above, the bacteria used to make sour cream, which is why it tastes and stays that way, dies depending on the temperature. Once you heat the sour cream, you can’t reheat it later.

In other words, you should only heat sour cream that is new from the container or fresh sour cream from the store.

3. Always heat sour cream in small portions.

Controlling the entire process of heating sour cream in the microwave is key to the success of the operation. You must be careful not to overheat it, as it will separate or curdle.

You can generally heat up a large batch of sour cream, but spending a couple more minutes near the microwave is highly recommended to heat it up in smaller batches. 

If possible, allow the sour cream to come to room temperature before microwaving it.

According to experts, you should microwave on high for 15 seconds per tablespoon or 20 seconds on low.

In other words, imagine that you need 6 tablespoons of sour cream. This is 6×15 seconds or a total of 1 minute and 30 seconds in the microwave.

If you feel the sour cream isn’t hot enough after this period, continue heating in 5-second intervals until you reach your desired heat. Sounds like a lot of work, but you really have to check it between each interval. 

4. Fat content matters when microwaving sour cream.

In the old days, there were not so many types of sour cream. If you plan to cook the sour cream in the microwave, consider using only the whole or low-fat types of cream.

This is because fat-free sour creams do not keep well at high temperatures. Of all the types, fat-free sour cream is the easiest to separate and curdle.

However, if you are on a strict diet or just prefer fat-free products, you can use the microwave. However, we recommend that you reduce the power to low or at least medium.

Microwaving sour cream on low power will slow it down, but decrease the chance of curdling . However, there is no guarantee that it will not happen anyway.

What does curdle mean? It is dangerous?

The most common problem with sour cream that has been exposed to high heat is curdling. You’ll know it if you see little lumps on the surface of your sour cream that weren’t present before heating.

Fortunately, curdling is completely safe, since it does not change the taste or quality of the sour cream.  The only negative effect it has is the appearance.

In the end, if you’re not cooking for a special dinner, you can get over the blemishes and enjoy the tasty cream.

Can food that contains sour cream be reheated?

Yes, you can safely reheat foods that contain sour cream, but the end result depends on how much sour cream is in it. 

The main problem you may experience is that sour cream makes the food more soggy.

If the sour cream happens to be on top of the food you plan to microwave, you can remove the cream and add it later when the dish is hot.

This would avoid the problem mentioned above, but the sour cream probably wouldn’t get as hot as you’d like.

What is a good substitute for sour cream?

Although sour cream is very popular and absolutely delicious, there are people who simply cannot use it due to allergies or intolerances, or simply do not like its taste.

Although no other food can substitute for 100% sour cream, there are several options that come close to or at least pair well with most recipes that call for sour cream.

Here are some good substitutes for sour cream (depending on the recipe):

  • creme fraiche
  • greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cashew cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • buttermilk
  • cream cheese

Is sour cream the same as crème Fraiche?

Although both creams are made identically using bacteria to add flavor and thickness, sour cream and crème Frache are completely different foods that are often confused. 

The main difference is the fat content. Crème Fraiche is significantly higher in fat, making it suitable for cooking at higher temperatures.

As you probably already understand, sour cream curdles easily at high temperatures, which also means that crème Fraiche is another great substitute depending on the dish you’re cooking.

Can sour cream be frozen?

Freezing sour cream is perfectly fine as long as you’re willing to lose the normal texture and attractive appearance of the cream. In other words, frozen sour cream retains its quality but loses its consistency.

This means that it won’t be suitable for use as a topping once thawed, but it will be perfectly fine to use in baking or other regular recipes.