Sour cream is the result of fermenting regular cream. The fermentation process is responsible for thickening the cream and giving it a sour taste. Sour cream’s rich and unique flavor is the reason why it has become a staple in the kitchen of an American household.
For vegans, however, sour cream is off-limits. This can be quite frustrating because sour cream can be used in so many ways in cooking and serving food, not to mention that the taste of fermented cream itself is so addicting.
The good news is there are easy alternatives to sour cream which will allow vegans to still enjoy its tangy goodness. But first, we will show you the main ingredients of sour cream and how it is made, which would explain why this food product is against the vegan practice.
What Makes Sour Cream Non-Vegan?
The fact that we call sour cream as such is enough reason to deem it non-vegan. Sour cream’s original form before fermentation is regular cream, a known dairy product. People who have long been into the vegan discipline are well aware that dairy is strictly forbidden in the vegan diet.
There are instances where the presence of dairy or milk in a certain food product is hard to determine. Sometimes, vegans would not even know that there are milk contents in the food that they are eating, which is a very dreadful experience. The only way to know for sure is to ask the restaurant or the store regarding the ingredients of their products.
However, the case is very different with sour cream. The cream is a dairy product produced by skimming the topmost fat-filled layer of milk after the de-homogenization process. From the get-go, you would know that sour cream is dairy and therefore is not vegan-approved.
How Is Sour Cream Made?
Sour cream is made by introducing lactic acid bacteria into regular cream so that the latter undergoes fermentation. Lactose, the simple sugar present in dairy products, is converted by the bacteria into lactic acid.
As the concentration of acid increases in the fermented cream, the cream becomes thicker and assumes a curd-like appearance. This is because of casein, a type of protein abundant in milk. Casein gets precipitated out as it reacts with lactic acid.
There are people who prefer their sour cream to be soft. That is why the milk protein that was precipitated out during fermentation is broken down, thus making the curds lighter and easier to digest.
The breaking down of protein also helps prolong the fermentation process, as this provides the nitrogen needed by the bacteria to grow and reproduce. With this, the soft variety of sour cream tends to have a more pungent kick.
Meanwhile, thick sour cream is created by the addition of milk solids not-fat or MSNF. Although, manufacturers have other healthier options to make the sour cream’s texture fuller, like adding enzymes and vegetable gums such as carrageenan.
Can You Consider Sour Cream Made From Organic Milk Vegan?
You will encounter advertisements for food products that are made from organic ingredients and are therefore vegan-friendly. While it may be true that these products are good for the health, being organic does not mean that it is already allowed in the vegan diet.
We should not forget that the reason for the vegan movement is the ethical implications of eating animal products. There are claims that the animals involved in producing organic milk are raised in a stress-free environment. Still, that does not take away the fact that animals are exploited for public consumption, even if the byproducts are considered organic.
What Are The Uses Of Sour Cream?
The reason why many people are into sour cream is that you can use it right out of the lid. As soon as you purchased sour cream from the store, you can instantly use it for your cooking needs. There is no need to wait longer and process the cream.
Sour cream can be eaten directly if you are craving its taste. It can also be used as the main ingredient to your recipe that requires a creamy and tangy taste. Although, this cream can also be used raw without the need of cooking it over a stove fire.
Those who like eating chips and other savory snacks prefer using sour cream as a dip. It can also serve as a garnish by whipping the cream all over your food.
Sour cream can also be used as a substitute for whipped cream. This is why bakers include sour cream in their pastries.
It can be mixed with the dough so that the sour cream flavor is easily noticeable. Sometimes, sour cream is simply placed right on top of baked goods as a frosting.
What Are The Vegan Alternatives For Sour Cream?
With all the uses of sour cream mentioned above, vegans might feel like they are missing out a lot if they completely avoid it. Sometimes, it is just hard to eat your enchiladas or burritos without having sour cream as a dip. That is why you can always look for vegan substitutes for sour cream, which offers a similar taste and texture.
Homemade Vegan Sour Cream
The first thing you can do to find a vegan substitute for sour cream is to make it all by yourself. You just have to trust your creativity and cooking skills on this.
Shop for fresh cashew nuts from the nearest whole foods store. Then, soak the raw nuts in boiling water. The next step is to puree the boiled nuts using lemon juice, sea salt, and cider vinegar. The outcome of this mixture should mimic the cream-like texture of sour cream, as well as its stingy flavor.
Aside from cashew nuts, you can also use the vegan all-time favorite, tofu. In this case, you can blend the tofu-based cream with rice milk.
You can also make a good sour cream substitute by pureeing coconut milk. Coconut milk can be bought from the grocery store. At home, you can make the same steps mentioned above to produce cream out of coconut milk.
Coconut milk cream as vegan sour cream is perfect with baked goods such as cakes and bread. Use ¾ cup of coconut milk cream together with a tablespoon of lemon juice or cider vinegar, which is equivalent to 1 cup of sour cream.
If you don’t feel like preparing a vegan sour cream from scratch, there are worthy vegan substitutes that you can buy straight from the market. The first in the list of store-bought sour cream alternatives is soy yogurt. This is a good substitute for sour cream, especially if you pick the plain and unsweetened kind.
You cannot tell the difference if you use soy yogurt as a dip, mainly because it has the same sour taste that matches the salty flavor of your favorite snacks. There is also no need to worry about soy yogurt being non-vegan because all of the ingredients used in making one are certified vegan-approved.
The main ingredients of commercial soy yogurt are soy milk, cornstarch, evaporated cane juice, and live bacteria culture for fermenting purposes. Some manufacturers also add tricalcium phosphate, which is a good source of calcium for vegans because it is derived from rocks instead of animals.
Commercial Vegan Sour Cream
Luckily for you, some sour cream manufacturers have started to make a vegan variety of their products. Although, as always, you still need to check the label of these store-bought vegan sour creams and do your own research about their ingredients.
Just make sure that these products do not have hidden milk content in them. Some manufacturers still put little amounts of milk in food products that they claim to be vegan-friendly as a natural sweetener.
We suggest that you look for commercial vegan sour cream made with the soy milk powder, tofu, soy protein isolates, soybean oil, carrageenan gum, locust beam hum, maltodextrin, or rice starch. These ingredients are guaranteed vegan.
Another thing you should consider is the source of lactic acid that made the cream sour. It should be derived from a non-dairy source.
Sour cream is a product that makes it quite challenging for someone to become a full-fledged vegan. Sour cream has many great uses as it has already become a staple in our cooking. However, there are plenty of plant-based ingredients which can be used as a substitute for sour cream.
In your search for a good vegan substitute for sour cream, you must remain vigilant. Sometimes vegan products in the market still have traces of animal-derived contents, particularly dairy. Also, you should be mindful of the organic food products that are being advertised as safe for vegans.