Thursday, December 3, 2009

Homemade Crema Mexicana

Crema is the traditional garnish for many Mexican foods. With a stronger flavor and richer texture than sour cream, it can be used in place of sour cream on almost everything from dips to main dishes and even desserts. Once you've tried it, sour cream just won't do anymore. And the best part is that it's so easy to make at home that you can easily avoid the higher price that good crema demands at the stores.

Besides spooning crema on top of enchiladas, tacos, nachos, soups, etc., try adding a dollop on top of fresh fruit or jello for a surprising twist. Add chopped chives and bacon bits to it for baked potatoes, or chives and dill to top grilled fish. Mix equal parts crema and a regular store-bought spaghetti sauce to make a wonderful (time saving) cream pasta sauce that the family will love. Use it in place of milk to make mashed potatoes. It's also great mixed in guacamole (or spooned on top). Or use it plain as a dip for veggies, it's great! At the end of this post I'll give you a few simple recipes using crema Mexicana just to get your brain juices flowing.

Leave the sour cream in the stores, and whip up a batch of homemade crema Mexicana. With just three ingredients, it's so easy a cave person can do it!


  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk (use leftover buttermilk in biscuits and pancakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt (you can safely leave out the salt if you want a milder crema)

Warm the cream to room temperature, either by leaving it out in a warm place for an hour or so or by heating it in a small saucepan at low heat just until the chill is off the cream (do not heat above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or it will curdle!).

In a clean glass jar, combine ingredients and stir gently until well combined and salt is dissolved. Cover the jar loosely and set in a warm place (between 80-90 degrees) overnight. A gas oven with the warmth of the pilot light works very well. The crema should look noticeably thicker, about the consistency of an egg custard. (You can also let it stand at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, until the cream is thickened and tart.) Stir the crema well, cover it, and refrigerate it for around 4 hours to complete the thickening. Refrigerate. Use as needed. It keeps for 7 to 10 days.

That's it. Didn't I tell you it was easy? Now here are a few ideas for its use:

Crema Avocado
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup Crema
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Juice of 1 Mexican lime
Place ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined. Don't over-mix; you don't want it too runny.

Crema Chipotle
  • 2 cups Crema
  • 1/2 tsp canned crushed or minced garlic (or 1 big clove, roasted and peeled)
  • 2 Tbsp canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Puree ingredients in a blender. I'd like to note here that this is a favorite of mine when spread over a fresh bagel and topped with lox!

Crema Marshmallow Topping
  • 2 cups Crema
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream
Blend all ingredients together until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving. It is great served on top of your favorite pie or as a dip for sliced fruits of all types.

Tangy Crema Salad Dressing:
  • 1 cup Crema
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the sour cream, milk, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.

I think you get the idea? Once you've got a big batch of crema in the fridge, the sky's the limit!

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain