Lime Crema

A simple but magical combination of sour cream, cream and lime, a homemade DIY version of Mexican crema, the sour cream-like sauce for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, eggs, even the tops of soups. In our kitchen, Lime Crema is a staple, like ketchup and mustard. We add a tiny dollop to everything, well, not everything, not to hot-fudge sundaes, say, but pret' near everything else.

Lime Crema ♥, the super-simple DIY substitute for the Mexican sour cream called 'crema' and a great way to upgrade tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and more.

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Upgrading Taco Tuesday.

Ever since last year's deep dive into the ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep project we called Deep Mexico, tacos are supper-time staples around here, not every week, but some times two or three times in a single week. #SoGood. And when my dad was still living with us, he wouldn't feel hungry but would manage to finish a warm, cheesy quesadilla with a little Lime Crema on the side for a dipping sauce.

Lime Crema ♥, the super-simple DIY substitute for the Mexican sour cream called 'crema' and a great way to upgrade tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and more.

We've learned a few tricks.

  • First, always warm up the tortillas, let them get a little toasty and brown. Just throw one into a dry skillet for a minute or two, some times I'll brush one side of the tortilla with a bare whisper of oil first. We've even toasted tortillas outside on the firepit grill! Just a tiny bit of warmth and color and cooking make a big difference: otherwise, flour tortillas are just raw flour, ugh, and even corn tortillas are a corn-y cardboard.
  • Second, a little up-front meal prep puts amazing tacos on the table in minutes. Already, we've fixed on two easy meal-prep recipes, Pickled Jalapeño Rings and Spiced Pickled Red Onions.
  • Third, let's add a third, Lime Crema! This is the magic to our tacos, and the reason we rarely put cheese in tacos. Lime Crema adds this tiny touch of dairy that just somehow makes tacos, turning them from plenty-good-but-ordinary into extraordinary.
  • More meal prep to come! Along the way, I'll also share the house recipes for guacamole and red salsa, also pinto beans and Mexican rice. All these have become signature staples, not just when we're cooking Mexican but just to use, no matter what we're cooking.

So What Is Crema, Anyway?

First, it's pronounced [KREM-uh]. Second, it's unrelated to the frothy bit of foam that acts as a lid on a good cup of espresso.

Lime Crema ♥, the super-simple DIY substitute for the Mexican sour cream called 'crema' and a great way to upgrade tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and more.

Crema is often called "Mexican sour cream" but it's creamier and more acidic than American-style sour cream. You can buy jars of crema in Mexican markets and aisles but Diana Kennedy, an authority on Mexican cooking known especially for her James Beard award-winning cookbooks, says not to bother, that the commercial products are adulterated with vegetable fats for shelf stability like store-bought mayonnaise, say.

Crema is often compared to the French crème fraîche [pronounced KREM FRESH] but in my experience, crème fraîche is thicker and much less tangy. I do occasionally make Homemade Crème Fraîche though, the process is much the same.

Like other condiments, crema is used sparingly, just a dollop at a time.

But all that's kinda clinical, isn't it? I think of Lime Crema this way. It just makes everything it touches a little bit better, it's got this enticing combo of sour and tangy! You see why I make it often to keep on hand?!

RESOURCES We refer to Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados all the time. My Disclosure Promise

Mad Scientist in the Kitchen.

To make Lime Crema, you just whisk equal portions of sour cream and heavy cream, add a little salt and lime juice and let time and temperature do their thing.

Experiments with Lime Crema ♥, with one clear winner and one big loser.

But call me curious. I wondered if lower-calorie ingredients could make good crema.

From awhile back, I already knew that a Weight Watchers freestyle-friendly version of Lime Crema was a disappointment. I'd experimented with 0% Greek yogurt (substituting for the sour cream) and buttermilk (for the heavy cream) and the result was a thin, almost watery crema, nothing special at all.

But I thought I'd give it another try, just to see if that long-ago batch was an anomaly. And as long as I was going all America's Test Kitchen-y, I experimented with some other versions as well.

Experiments with Lime Crema ♥, with one clear winner and one big loser.

  • Base Recipe – 1:1 sour cream:heavy cream, definitely the thickest and best-tasting and my personal favorite.
  • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese – 1:1 cottage cheese:cream, this was surprisingly thick and delicious, even the curds made for an intriguing texture, almost like tiny bits of cheese in sour cream.
  • Non-Fat Greek Yogurt #1 – 1:1 0% Greek yogurt:cream, again, this wasn't the favorite but for any kitchens that keep yogurt on hand (and not sour cream), a definite possibility.
  • Non-Fat Greek Yogurt #2 – 1:1 0% Greek yogurt:buttermilk, this turned out thin and watery again. For anyone super-motivated to play with this option, I think you could probably get to something that's worth making by draining the yogurt, maybe changing the proportions to 2:1, maybe adding a little xanthum gum, maybe upping the salt.

Would half & half work instead of heavy cream? I think so but haven't tried this variation. Would whole milk work? I don't think so, at least not in the 1:1 proportions. Would full-fat Greek yogurt work? Yes, I do believe! Back to the kitchen I go ...

But in the mean time, I'm pleased with the results of the tests, even if my favorite Lime Crema relies on sour cream and heavy cream. It's eaten in small dollops, not by the bowlful ...

You'll Love Lime Crema If ...

  • tacos and quesadillas are mealtime staples
  • condiments already fill the refrigerator door
  • you know how a "dollop of this" and a "drizzle of that" can make a meal
  • some times sour cream tastes a little too rich

  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

But Oops, First, a Quick Progress Report, #3

Back in January, Kitchen Parade had a complete technology overhaul. The big difference? Kitchen Parade is now mobile friendly! Now you can flip through recipes zip-zip on your phone, maybe checking the ingredient list while standing in the grocery store, maybe just browsing for ideas for a special occasion or tonight's supper.

On the flip side, every single page needs a manual update that so far takes almost 84 minutes per page on average. As of today, I'm almost 300 hours in (yikes) and still only 31% complete.

Good news for Weight Watchers! While updating each page, I'm also calculating SmartPoints and Freestyle points. And as promised, last month I launched a brand-new list of Weight Watchers recipes, sorted by Freestyle points. I'm gratified to see visitor stats that prove this huge effort is paying off! Thanks to how I've cooked for years and years now, a full 77% of the recipes on that page top out at five points. It's a real resource for anyone who's looking for healthy recipe ideas, whether following Weight Watchers or not.

More good news? I update and add 15 - 20 new recipes every week!


The DIY substitute for the Mexican sour cream called "crema".
Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time-to-table: 24 hours
Makes 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (100g) heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Zest of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

MIX Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.

REST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE Cover and let rest at room temperature for 24 hours, the Crema will thicken slightly. I know, I know, this is going to be hard for some people and if you find you just can't do it, go ahead, let the resting time happen in the refrigerator.

THAT'S IT! Now serve with tacos, omelets, baked potatoes, grilled fish, smoked salmon, 'bout anything you'd put a touch of sour cream in or on! And yes, after that 24-hour period at room temperature, Lime Crema should be refrigerated.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Definitely let Lime Crema meld and thicken for 24 hours before using it. It makes a huge difference.

LEFTOVERS Lime Crema keeps for a couple of weeks.

LEMON CREMA? To my taste, it's not special. Other flavors I intend to try soon are chipotle and cilantro.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Tablespoon: 38 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 11mg Cholesterol; 23mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 2 & Freestyle 2

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Constancia5/16/2019

    Thanks for this recipe. All the heavy cream I can find in my local stores is ultra-pasteurized. Will that work in this recipe?

    1. Constancia ~ Yes! My grocery stores only carry ultra-pasteurized cream as well. I hope you l-o-v-e Lime Crema!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna