Supereasy Homemade Cream Cheese and Sour Cream

| 10/31/2008 9:52:22 AM

Tags: cheese making, artisan cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese recipes, The Crunchy Chicken,

Two items that we seem to buy every week from the grocery store are cream cheese and sour cream. Why I haven't already started making these myself sooner is beyond me. Most likely because I didn't realize how extremely easy it was to do both. For the cream cheese, I've read several recipes that call for fancy equipment or hard-to-find ingredients, but there are other ways of making it that won't make your throw your hands up in frustration. And, considering the amount of plastic packaging involved with both items, making them at home will also limit the amount of waste involved (although we do recycle both kinds of containers). These recipes are so easy, you'll wonder why you never tried them before.

cream cheese bagel

Homemade Cream Cheese

1 quart homemade or store-bought plain yogurt (whole milk or low-fat, depending on your preference)


Place a clean kitchen towel or clean muslin in a colander. Place the colander in a bowl that is large enough to hold it. Add the yogurt to the lined colander and wrap the towel over the top to cover (or use a plate). Leave this to drain for about 5 hours in the refrigerator. If you want a thicker consistency, leave it longer, making sure to empty what is draining so it doesn't reach the bottom of the colander and get reabsorbed. Store your finished cream cheese in a resealable container in the fridge. Better yet, use one of your old packaged cream cheese containers to do the job!

Your cream cheese will last as long as your yogurt would, so if you used purchased yogurt (rather than making it yourself), check the expiration date and use that as your guide. (I highly recommend trying to make the yogurt yourself since this will cut down on additional waste especially if you can get your milk in returnable glass bottles.) If you want to get fancy, you can add flavorings to your cream cheese. Try adding homemade strawberry jam for strawberry-flavored cream cheese. If you spent time dehydrating onions, then adding those (or fresh green onions) and chives from your garden will make a tasty chive-and-onion cream cheese spread.

Homemade Sour Cream

homemade sour cream

7/10/2013 4:18:24 AM

 To TomCosmos...

Calves are not "killed for their digestive juices." They are killed for veal, a perfectly delicious product, and no more "inhumane" than killing them seven months later for steaks, prime rib, brisket, and pot roast. Rennet is just a by-product of the process. On the dairy farm, every cow must deliver a calf every year to keep her lactation cycle going. Half of those calves will be female (heifers), and will grow up to be milk cows. The other half will be males, and it is not economically feasable to raise all of these to maturity. In fact, virtually NO commercial dairy farms will ever raise ANY male calves to an age at which they could be called bulls and used for breeding. Virtually none of the cows on dairy farms in America will ever encounter a real bull in their lives. Reproduction of dairy cattle is an artificial process involving frozen semen that is stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen. 

So, don't villianize the killing of calves as inhumane. If you purchase dairy products at all, you have bought into this process. The alternative is to give up milk and milk products or to buy a farm and a cow, and then YOU have to decide what to do with Bosssie's male offspring. Hint: they make VERY expensive pets.

6/26/2013 1:03:32 AM

A little friendly sarcasm:

I'm sorry but I looked for a good, easy cream cheese recipe and came across many like yours. I tried the process and wondered why it doesn't even taste close to cream cheese. What you describe is how to make the, now fashionable, "Greek Yogurt" (yogurt with less whey). Not a bad thing, just not cheese. To get the real taste you need a starter culture. I don't know if any earlier posts addressed this issue or not. I guess not since you would have changed the title by now. I do hope you correct your misleading title and cream cheese references, and can only hope others will become wise to the difference.

PS - Surprisingly a couple of layers of Cheese Cloth works well to get Greek style yogurt also. And you can search online for uses of the mystery liquid you mention (whey) instead of wasting it.  :-)

And a little serious note:

One reason I posted this on MEN was to impart this bit of cheese info. The rennet used to make most cheeses including cream cheese comes from the intestines of calves. Calves have the most since they need to digest their mothers milk when they are young. I don't like the idea of killing calves for their digestive juices. Rennet can be made from vegetable sources and I have found a good cheddar that is made with it at Trader Joe's (not an ad). It can be found. Anyone looking for more humane treatment of animals, look for products using vegetable base rennet.

lisa foss
2/1/2013 12:07:14 AM

I've tried 2 different sour cream recipes, the second being the one above. Neither one has thickened! What am I doing wrong??

kathy mccutcheon
10/13/2012 2:33:23 AM

I tried the heavy cream and white vinegar.. AWEFULLY bitter.. going another route..

jean nick
8/26/2012 1:08:31 PM

You need "cultured buttermilk" a very different product that the liquid left over from making butter. Cultured buttermilk is made from whole milk and it is sort of like drinkable yogurt.

sundee himburg
7/19/2012 11:26:22 PM

this was ages ago so I hope that sad little jar is not still sitting out and you may have gotten your answer, but just in case... your mistake was your buttermilk. the butter milk you used from making your own butter is NOT the same thing as "buttermilk" what you used has none of the starter cultures that you need to get the milk to curdle. If no one had explained that to you before I can see how that mistake is easy to make.

nancy miller
7/14/2012 7:03:11 PM

it is the same for yogurt.. you need the starter.. or just a container of plain *active ingredient* yogurt for your first batch.

kalila kale
6/28/2012 11:47:50 AM

It won't work. You need the culture from the buttermilk.

ak kennel
6/25/2012 4:43:22 PM

Try it and then post the results here!

ak kennel
6/25/2012 4:42:23 PM

It's a culture to start the cream towards turning into sour cream without spoiling. Simple food science. How yeast for bread and citric acid for cheese works.

deni baldwin
6/12/2012 7:20:37 PM

Instead of buttermilk for sour cream, could I use whey?

avi avy
4/2/2012 8:12:09 PM

I find it weird that sour cream is an ingredient in the recipe for making sour cream....

misty lindholm
1/16/2012 6:24:34 PM

I am going to try this too, and from my understanding, you are to place the yogurt onto the towel (or muslin) that you have placed into the colander (towel is to line the colander). This colander should be sitting in a bowl. So you have (from bottom to top): bowl, colander, towel, and yogurt. This amount of yogurt should be small enough (and the towel large enough) so the towel can then be folded up and around it - like you're wrapping it as a gift :). I am wondering if the plate then placed on top of that might help it all drain more quickly (heavy plate pressing down on the yogurt…???). Anyway, the liquid from the yogurt will drop down and pass through the towel, through the colander and into the bowl. And you probably already understand the rest, but I’ll put that in my own words too, just in case : To prevent the draining liquid from getting pulled back up into the yogurt through the towel (reabsorbed), be sure you are constantly checking the level of the liquid (a clear glass bowl would be really nice for this), and pouring it off if it is getting too high (coming near the bottom of the colander). If you have a bowl that is kind of tall, but still wide enough to fit the colander into, you may get a bowl/colander combo that leaves enough space at the bottom for all of the liquid without draining, or at least fewer times to pour off/drain. Such a tall bowl would most likely not also be glass, so if you have a choice between this tall bowl versus a glass bowl, you would just have to pick which option you prefer (glass bowl = visual of liquid to see when to drain; tall bowl = more room at the bottom for liquid to collect, resulting in fewer necessary drainings). Anyway, I hope this helps it make more sense. Good luck!

misty lindholm
1/16/2012 6:04:24 PM

Before I found this site I had tried a sour cream recipe similar to this, without success. I used buttermilk I had left from making butter (butter was made from store bought heavy whipping cream and a bit of whole milk) - about a week old and refrigerated - with half and half (also store bought). I scalded the jars in boiling water, which were small, so I had cut the recipe in half (1 c half/half & 1.5 Tbsp buttermilk). Even then, I had to split the makings into the two half cup jars. Due to that, I measured the half & half, added the buttermilk to the measuring cup and mixed the combo just slightly with a wire whisk before pouring into the hot jars, which I then shook to mix more thoroughly; I then let both jars sit at room temperature. The contents did start to settle but the instructions were to let it sit at room temperature until it reached the desired consistency, which it never did, and now it just looks curdled and is separating. I am going to try your method instead, but I don't want to make the same mistake(s) again. From what I've shared so far, can you tell what mistake(s) was/were made? Also, is there any way to save what I have left from my first attempt? It is still just sitting out - it's been about four days now. Thanks in advance!

sana cheema
12/29/2011 11:10:41 PM

i live in India and its hard to find inexpensice cream cheese here. i really want to try this recipe. but .. i know this is going to sound silly, but i dont really understand this recipe that well. the part where we have to put the yoghurt in the colander. are we supposed to put it on the towel? can anyone please explain a little more or give me a demonstration =

deborah antle
7/24/2011 2:59:30 AM

I teach English in South Korea, and cheeses are expensive here, too. A friend just posted this recipe for cottage cheese. I haven't tried it yet, but I thought I'd pass it on. Place 1 gallon of any type milk in a large cooking pot. Heat on medium to medium high heat until your electric thermometer hit 120 degrees F. Remove from heat and pour 3/4 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar in the pot. Stir slowly for 2 minutes and immediately the milk and whey will begin to separate. Set aside for 30 minutes covered to become room temperature. Line a colander with a cheese cloth and pour the whole pot through the colander. Let drain 5 minutes. Gather the cloth containing the cottage cheese and rinse under cold water 3-5 minutes until completely cooled. Squeeze excess water out and put in a bowl add 1 1/2t salt and stir. Break up curd into bite size pieces. You can stir in 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream to make it creamier, but it adds a lot more fat. Store in refrigerator.

barbara murphy
5/24/2011 1:33:46 AM

Hi, my husband and I teach in Pago Pago, American Samoa and diary products such as sour cream and cream cheese are OUTRAGEOUSLY priced when you can find them. I am going to try the recipes I have found online. Has anyone tried either of these using UHT milk that is common in the foreign countries or does it require regular milk? Does anyone know if you can make homemade cottage cheese? Thanks for the help. BJM

johanna stubbe
3/28/2011 7:45:46 PM

Looking for down-home country advise. We are currently missionaries studing spanish in Bolivia and I am looking for things I can make and do at home. We will be moving to our village in June with even less amenaties. Thanks for all the wonderful advise and I hope to use what I find on this site frequently. Thanks so much!

1/28/2011 6:52:47 AM

Heavy cream and buttermilk will result in creme fraiche, highly coveted in cooking sauces or used with fresh fruit.

12/5/2010 1:03:58 PM

I have used this cream cheese for cheese cake and it turned out great.

cammie rogers_1
9/8/2010 7:20:07 AM

I made cream cheese for the first time. It came out wonderfully! Very creamy! however, I am wondering if I can sweeten it just a little. The recipe I used called for whole milk, Rennet, and Mesophilic M.

6/6/2009 12:41:14 AM

What can I do to take the sour taste out of my cream cheese?

5/11/2009 2:14:45 AM

can i use hommade creamcheese in the cheesecake??

5/11/2009 2:14:05 AM

can i use hommade creamcheese in the cheesecake??

1/8/2009 3:57:05 PM

Can I use real buttermilk left over from when I make butter, or do I have to use cultured buttermilk from the store? Thanks!

kimberly smith_2
10/31/2008 3:01:50 PM

This is a new idea for me with the cream cheese (we make ours from our goat milk, cultured with yogurt, and make LOTS of cream cheese from curds), but I do make sour cream very similarly, with home cultured buttermilk (it's easy to keep a culture going!), and cream skimmed from our goat milk. I'll never go back to store bought! Kim

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!