Sometimes a single drop of Mexican Crema will be the missing final touch on your taco masterpiece.
But if you've ever fretted when you see Mexican Crema listed in a recipe, then spend five minutes reading this post and next time you see it called for you'll be an expert on your options.
Homemade Mexican Crema Recipe
Creme fraiche, sour cream, heavy cream, Mexican Crema -- what's the deal with all these creamy incarnations?
It's probably easiest to think of them as a group of close relatives that look similar but act differently based on fat content and culturing agent used.
Creme fraiche starts with high fat content cream and uses buttermilk as a culturing agent to thicken it up. This also happens to be the perfect starting point for a delicioso homemade Mexican Crema.
Start by warming up one cup of heavy cream to room temperature. You're not cooking it; just warming for a couple minutes to bring it up to room temp. This will accelerate the thickening process a bit.
Now add 1 Tablespoon of buttermilk to the pan and mix well.
Pour into a jar and cover without tightening the lid.
Now the hard part. You have to let it sit on the counter overnight as it prefers to thicken at room temp (or slightly warmer). Keeping the lid slightly loose will allow just enough air circulation. And since most creams and buttermilks bought from the market have already been pasteurized, you don't have to worry about it spoiling too quickly.
12-24 hours later it will have thickened up considerably. Fasten the lid tight and refrigerate. After a few hours in the fridge it will thicken up even more.
So this is essentially creme fraiche. Take a taste; it's already got incredible flavor. (Note that you can increase the thickness by adding more culturing agent at the beginning of the process.)
To turn this into a Mexican Crema that will outdo anything you can buy at the market, add the juice of 1/2 a lime and a generous pinch of salt to the mixture.
Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt if you want.
This will produce a rich, tangy crema that does wonders on the entire breadth of Mexican cuisine, with a special nod to tacos.
And of course one of the real benefits to a genuine crema is the thick consistency that lets it cling to the food instead of dispersing.
There are also a few substitutes you can use if waiting around 24 hours to eat your taco doesn't sound appealing.
Sour cream is similar to creme fraiche but it usually has a lower fat content and uses different culturing agents. A quick way to shift it back towards the creamy mouthfeel of Mexican Crema is to dilute it with buttermilk.
Add a big dollop of sour cream to a bowl. Dilute it with 1-2 Tablespoons of buttermilk and serve as is.
This produces a crema that works great in a pinch but will develop an inferiority complex when compared to the version we cultured for 12-24 hours.
It's also worth mentioning that sour cream usually has live culturing agents in it. So sometimes you'll see crema recipes that use a combination of heavy cream and sour cream as the culturing agent. I haven't tried this personally but just know that it is a viable option if you don't want to run out to buy buttermilk.
Your homemade Mexican Crema should keep for at least a couple weeks in the fridge if not longer, but of course its lifespan will vary depending on culturing agent used. But since it's so easy to make you have special permission to make tacos again tomorrow night.
Want the latest recipe? Click your favorite from these options and follow me: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube.
Homemade Mexican Crema
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon buttermilk
- 1/2 lime
- pinch of salt
- Slightly warm 1 cup heavy cream to room temperature in a saucepan
- Add 1 Tablespoon buttermilk to the pan and mix well
- Add mixture to a jar and lightly cover
- Keep jar on counter (or in warm place) for the next 12-24 hours.
- Fasten lid tightly and refrigerate
- In a few hours it will thicken even more
- Add the juice of 1/2 lime and a generous pinch of salt to the jar and mix well
- Taste for seasoning
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge
Want to receive Mexican Please recipes via email when they are posted? Sign up below to subscribe. All recipes are spam free.
Will additional buttermilk increase the sourness?
I would consider this an improvement.
Hey D! Hmmmm yeah you would think so but I haven't tested this yet, will put it on the list though. Cheers.
Howdy! i hate buying buttermilk because the smallest container @ my local market is a quart and i never finish. So i was wondering if you had any experience with buttermilk powder?
Thank you for your time! Cheers Chaz
Hey Chaz! I don't think this will work because the powdered version won't have live cultures. Cheers.
Howdy thanks for your help! I bought some buttermilk powder and after your input I did some research and i believe you are correct. So since i have the powder I am going to flavor my heavy 1 cup cream and 1/4 sour cream starter with about a tablespoon buttermilk powder.
Hi. I use my buttermilk powder to make from scratch ranch dressing. Make sure to refrigerate your powder tub. You can use some of the rest of your liquid buttermilk in the carton from the market to make ranch as well. Not sure if you can freeze the buttermilk in ice trays & then place in freezer bags to use it for the crema recipe when needed? Not sure if freezing will kill the live cultures... 🌺🌿
Freezing the buttermilk will not kill the cultures. I do this all the time. As you suggested, freeze in ice trays (1 tbsp per section) then pop the frozen cubes into a ziptop freezer bag for storage. Thaw in refrigerator or on counter when needed. Don't microwave them to thaw...that will kill the cultures.
I made this last night having never tasted Mexican Crema before. I goofed up and put everything together at once and set it overnight in a warm spot without realizing I was supposed to wait until after it was done to add the lime juice and salt. In the morning when I tasted it, it tasted just like key lime pie! When I put it in the fridge it cooled to a lovely texture and I used it to top your Calabacitas soup. Sooo good!
Hey thanks for your note Maddy, good to know that method works too! Cheers.
Rick bayliss says either buttermilk or sour cream. There is a recipe for homemade buttermilk by just adding a little vinegar or lemon juice to low fat milk. It thickens in a few minutes and sure tastes like buttermilk but I don't know if it would work here. Yoghurt has live cultures, too but I don't know if it would work well, either. I have spent some time on Cozumel and opposite it on the mainland, Playa Carmen.
Thank you for sharing your recipe for Mexican Crema. It was the perfect finishing touch to my shrimp street tacos using my homemade tortillas. I substituted half and half for the heavy cream and after 12 hours the crema had become thick and delicious. I used an instant read thermometer to bring the half & half up to room temperature before adding the buttermilk. I think it is important not to overheat the heavy cream or half & half as that can kill the culture in the buttermilk.
Hey thanks for mentioning this Rocky, that's a good point to not overheat the cream. Cheers.