When it comes to choosing foods for a keto diet, fat is where it’s at.
Keto is short for a ketogenic diet — a high fat, very low carb eating pattern that forces your body to use fat for fuel instead of glucose.
The first rule of keto is to keep your carbs very low and choose high fat foods instead.
You may wonder whether sour cream is keto-friendly or has too many carbs like some other dairy foods.
This article takes a look at the composition of sour cream and whether you should include or skip it on a keto diet.
As its name suggests, sour cream is made from cream that’s been soured by an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or more commonly, by lactic acid bacteria. As the bacteria grow in the cream, they thicken it and impart a sour, tangy flavor similar to that of yogurt (1).
Regular sour cream is made from cream that has at least 18% milk fat (2).
However, you can also buy low fat sour cream. It has at least 25% less fat than the original, full fat version. Nonfat sour cream that contains no more than 0.5 grams of fat per 1/4 cup (50 grams) is also an option (2).
Regular sour cream gets its thick, smooth texture from fat. To achieve the same texture and mouthfeel without fat, manufacturers typically add thickeners, gums, and stabilizers like maltodextrin, corn starch, guar gum, and xanthan gum (6).
Given that these ingredients are derived from carbs, they can increase the carb content of low fat sour cream a bit — and that of nonfat sour cream significantly.
Regular sour cream is made from cream. As such, it’s high in fat and low in carbs. However, nonfat sour cream has no fat and contains ingredients that increase its carb content quite a bit.
The keto diet has been around for at least a century as a way to reduce seizure activity in children with epilepsy. Yet, it has become mainstream because it can aid weight loss and improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels in those with metabolic disorders (7, 8).
A study in 307 people found that another side effect of the diet is that it may help reduce carb cravings, compared with low fat diets (9).
It works by switching your body into ketosis, which means you’re burning ketones, a byproduct of fat, instead of glucose for energy.
To get into and stay in ketosis, it’s essential to stick to your carb and fat goals, which depend on your personal calorie needs. For example, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, your goal would be 25 grams of carbs, 178 grams of fat, and 75 grams of protein per day.
When planning meals, that means fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, and dairy foods like yogurt are off-limits, as they’re too high in carbs.
For example, one average-sized piece of fruit, 1/2 cup (117 grams) of cooked oats, or 6 ounces (170 grams) of yogurt each provide roughly 15 grams of carbs (10).
On the other hand, fats, such as butter and oil, are encouraged. They contain no or very few carbs and mostly fat.
Regular, full fat sour cream is nutritionally closer to a serving of fat than a serving of a carb-based food and, therefore, keto-friendly.
However, if you choose nonfat sour cream, you’ll rack up about the same number of carbs as you would from eating a serving of fruit, which will likely be too high for a keto diet.
A keto diet may provide health benefits like weight loss and improved metabolic health. To follow it, you must keep your carb intake quite low. While full fat sour cream can work on a keto diet, nonfat sour cream will likely be too high in carbs.
Full fat sour cream can be incorporated into keto-friendly recipes in a variety of ways.
It’s a creamy, tasty base for a dip. Mix it with herbs or spices like curry powder and use it as a vegetable dip.
To make low carb sour cream pancakes, whisk together the following ingredients to make a batter:
- 2/3 cup (70 grams) of almond flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of full fat sour cream
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of maple extract
- 2 eggs
Pour pancakes of your desired size onto a hot, oiled griddle until they’re golden brown on both sides.
Sour cream also makes a delicious, tangy cream sauce for pan-fried chicken, and it helps boost the fat content of a leaner protein dish.
To make a sauce, sauté a few tablespoons of minced onion and a clove of garlic in a pan with some olive oil. Add about 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of full fat sour cream and enough chicken stock to thin the sauce.
When you’re making a sauce with sour cream, don’t let it come to a full boil, or the sour cream will separate.
Since there are some carbs in sour cream, make sure you count them toward your daily carb budget. Depending on how you want to spend your carb budget, you may have to limit your portion of sour cream.
Full fat sour cream is keto-friendly and can be used in recipes if you’re looking for a tangy flavor and creamy texture. Given that it contains some carbs, make sure you account for them and limit your portion size if necessary.
Regular, full fat sour cream is made from cream and contains far more fat than carbs. Therefore, it’s considered keto-friendly. However, low fat or nonfat sour cream is not.
Full fat sour cream can provide some variety in a keto diet when used as a dip base or incorporated into recipes to boost the fat content.
Because it does contain some carbs, make sure you count them toward your daily carb budget.