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What Makes Mexican Crema Different From Sour Cream?

enchiladas topped with Mexican crema
enchiladas topped with Mexican crema - Valente Romero/Shutterstock

If you're a fan of Mexican cuisine, you probably have an affinity for the tangy white sauce called Mexican crema that accompanies enchiladas, mole poblano, and other iconic Mexican dishes. While you likely suspect that this ultra-creamy concoction is similar to sour cream, you might also notice that it has its differences. While both are fermented and tangy toppings, Mexican crema is more pourable than thick, spoonable sour cream. This makes it perfect for adding a cooling element by drizzling over finished dishes and swirling it into soups or sauces.

But Mexican crema isn't just sour cream with a thinning agent like water or lime juice added to make it pourable. This tangy condiment is made in a different way, which gives it a higher fat percentage than sour cream: 30% in Mexican crema versus around 20% in sour cream. This important distinction makes it far more versatile in cooking. The higher fat content prevents it from curdling in hot or acidic dishes like sour cream can, and opens it up to a wide variety of uses.

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What Makes Mexican Crema So Unique

tomato soup in bowls topped with cream
tomato soup in bowls topped with cream - Monicaninker/Getty Images

The higher fat content of Mexican crema -- sometimes called crema fresca (fresh cream) -- makes it more like the tangy French condiment crème fraîche than sour cream. Crème fraîche is another cultured cream with a fat content of 30% or above. While crème fraîche is thick and not as pourable as Mexican crema, it also doesn't break in hot or acidic dishes. Mexican crema's tangy, cultured flavor is sometimes called a cross between the two with the bonus of being pourable which leads to greater coverage when drizzled over dishes.

The unique fat percentage and consistency of Mexican crema give it a flavor profile that works almost anywhere you'd use sour cream or crème fraîche. With a fat content nearing whipping cream, which is also above 30%, it is even suitable for sweet dishes. Mexican crema's flavor is described as tangy with a hint of sweetness versus sour cream's more acidic flavor. This is likely because while sour cream is fermented with an acidic starter, Mexican crema is traditionally made with the more mellow buttermilk.

How To Use Mexican Crema And Where To Get It

enchiladas topped with red sauce and Mexican crema
enchiladas topped with red sauce and Mexican crema - Krayfeerr Mendez/Shutterstock

You can use Mexican crema anywhere you need to add bright creamy flavor but don't want the weight of sour cream. It's a perfect topper for traditional Mexican dishes like grilled Mexican street corn and cheesy enchilada-like entomatadas, but you could also experiment with other dishes. Chef Aarón Sánchez uses it to top his chorizo and beef hamburgers. Try it in coleslaw, soup, chili, or even as an unexpected ingredient for the best instant mashed potatoes. It will also taste great drizzled over sweet dishes like a bowl of fresh fruit or a flourless chocolate cake, just like crème fraîche.

You can make Mexican crema from scratch, but you can also buy high-quality jars of Mexican crema. If you want to buy it there are several things you should keep in mind. Since this is commonly made from fresh cream, the best-tasting versions will be found in the refrigerated section of major supermarkets or Mexican and Latin American markets. While you can find cremas that aren't refrigerated, they could contain stabilizers that will change the flavor, so be sure to pay close attention to the ingredients. Also, always look for the term " Crema Mexicana" -- products that are just labeled "crema" or "Mexican-style cream" are not the same thing and may taste much different. While the authentic stuff might cost more, it will taste better and last a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.