Can You Microwave Sour Cream?

With its tangy but rich and creamy texture, sour cream makes a versatile ingredient for almost any dish. You can enjoy it in savory entrees or sweet desserts and baked goods. Sour cream is also a star on its own as a dip or sauce. 

But what happens if you have some leftovers that have sour cream in them and you want to microwave it? Perhaps you just want to try some heated sour cream.

Microwaving sour cream, or any dairy product for that matter, is a much-heated debate. Can you microwave sour cream? We usually think of sour cream as a cold side and something we wouldn’t put in a microwave other than a fridge.

Today, I’ll tell you all I’ve learned about microwaving sour cream.

In this article, you’ll find out if we can microwave sour cream and in what situations. How we should go about microwaving it, including tips and tricks you can try out if you decide to microwave your sour cream.

What is Sour Cream?

Before diving into microwaving sour cream, I thought you should know what sour cream is and the different variations. They are all important information you should note when and if you microwave or heat sour cream.

Sour cream is a product of the fermentation (souring) of fresh cream by lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria is what makes sour cream thick and gives it its name, sour cream. 

The usual fat content of sour cream is around 20%. However, there are different varieties of fat content in sour creams, such as low-fat sour cream or non-dairy sour cream. All will make a difference when heated. 

You usually find sour cream in the supermarket pre-packed in a plastic container with a thin foil seal. You can also make fresh sour cream in your very own home. Both are just as delicious and can be enjoyed on their own when baking or cooking.

Can You Microwave Sour Cream?

Microwaving sour cream may sound bizarre and foreign to you. After all, we tend to enjoy our dairy products, such as milk, yogurts, and sour cream, cold. However, in some instances, when needed, you can microwave sour cream

Fresh Sour Cream

As previously mentioned, there are different variations of fresh sour cream. So when it comes to microwaving sour cream, you have to keep in mind the different variations to ensure the best texture and quality when reheated to prevent curdling and separation.

Ideally you should only consider microwaving sour cream if is full-fat or low-fat. You should avoid microwaving non-fat sour cream. Why? Because non-fat sour cream is the most likely to curdle and separate quickly under high temperatures.

If you simply must microwave non-fat sour cream, be sure to use the lowest possible setting on the microwave. Even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll avoid curdling – but it does reduce the chances a bit.

Frozen Sour Cream

What about microwaving frozen sour cream? To thaw frozen sour cream, the best way would be to give it time and let it gradually defrost in the refrigerator. However, if you are in a rush, you can microwave frozen sour cream. 

Be warned that when frozen sour cream is microwaved or heated, the texture may change and become watery and not as thick as before.

I would recommend that you only microwave frozen sour cream when it’s already been incorporated into other recipes, such as frozen mashed potatoes or cakes. I’d avoid microwaving it if it’s just to defrost the sour cream alone. It may take longer but I’d advise letting it defrost in the fridge if you can. 

How to Microwave Sour Cream

With any dairy product, you’ll know that it is not easy to heat up in the microwave. Unfortunately, I learned it the hard way, through one too many milk and butter messes in the microwave. Likewise, with sour cream, you will have to microwave and heat your sour cream with time, patience, and care. 

Here’s how you can microwave sour cream at home:

Transfer sour cream onto a microwave-safe container. To microwave sour cream, make sure to transfer the sour cream from the plastic container into a microwave-safe container or plate.

Place a microwave-safe lid over the container. Place a microwave-safe lid over the dish. This will prevent any possible splats from the sour cream and save you from cleaning your microwave. Alternatively, you can also cover it with a paper towel to do the job. 

Heat at low to medium heat at 20-second increments. Place your container or plate into the microwave and heat at low to medium heat at 20-second increments.

Heat again at lower time increments. If not warm enough, heat at lower periods such as 10 to 15-second increments prevents curdling and separating of the sour cream. 

Tips for Microwaving Sour Cream

Now you know the basics of microwaving sour cream, here are some essential tips and tricks you can take note of when microwaving sour cream. I’ll explain some ways you can avoid problems when microwaving sour cream.

Use A Microwave-safe Container

When microwaving sour cream, never heat in the original plastic container or in plastic containers that are not microwave-safe. Chemicals from these plastic containers can leach into the sour cream when heated.

Instead, you should use a microwave-safe container or bowl to reheat your sour cream. They are usually made out of glass or ceramic. 

Heat Small Portions

Heating sour cream in small portions at a time helps to prevent it from curdling and overheating. I would recommend starting by microwaving the sour cream in small batches, such as a few tablespoons. Afterward, slowly incorporate it together every time you heat it. 

You can still microwave a large batch of sour cream, and you will most likely be fine. But be sure to mix it thoroughly each round to prevent curdling and separation.

Microwave At Intervals of Low to Medium Heat

Next, the temperature and time when microwaving your sour cream are crucial. If heated at a high temperature too fast, sour cream will start to boil and curdle.

You can start at 20 seconds at medium heat for every tablespoon of sour cream to be safe. Followed by 10 to 15 seconds at medium heat. Making sure to keep an eye on it and mix it well.

Pay Attention to Low-fat or Non-fat Sour Cream

As I’ve mentioned earlier, low-fat and especially non-fat sour creams heat inconsistently, so you will need to pay close attention when microwaving. They also curdle and separate far easier than regular sour cream.

You can start by microwaving low-fat or nonfat sour cream at 10 to 15-second intervals at low to medium heat to minimize curdling and separating. 

How Many Times Can I Microwave Sour Cream?

With sour cream, once you’ve microwaved it once, you are generally not recommended to microwave it again. You should only microwave sour cream once

This is because the lactic acid bacteria in the sour cream has probably already been destroyed. Making it more prone to being spoilt and losing its taste and texture. 

Can You Eat Curdled Sour Cream?

If you spot small lumps or separation of the sour cream after it’s been microwaved, it probably means that your sour cream has curdled. 

Curdling when microwaving is normal, and it happens as the sour cream is reheated quickly at a high temperature. Since it is high in fat content, this causes the separation and curdling in sour cream.

It is generally safe, and you can eat curdled sour cream. The only thing to bear in mind is that the texture or appearance of the sour cream will change. However, the taste and quality should remain the same.

If the sour cream had curdled before you microwaved it, be sure to give it a sniff and make sure it has not gone off.

Tips to Avoid Curdling Sour Cream when Microwaving

  • Gradually add sour cream towards the end of the recipe. This way, the sour cream would heat together with the other ingredients in the dish rather than be heated separately. 
  • Add a small amount of flour or cornstarch to thicken the cream and recombine the ingredients.

Is It Safe To Eat Heated Sour Cream?

It might feel odd eating heated sour cream as you’re used to cold and fresh sour cream. However, it is safe to eat heated sour cream. 

There are some things you should take note of. According to the USDA, reheated food should be kept hot and consumed within 2 hours. 

For example, if sour cream has been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it may no longer be safe to eat. The sour cream may have gone bad due to the harmful bacteria that breed at room temperature. 

Can You Microwave Foods That Contain Sour Cream?

Sour cream is fully incorporated into some foods, such as mashed potatoes or cakes. This makes it impossible to separate sour cream from the potatoes. 

Luckily, you can microwave foods that contain sour cream. Just heat it as per usual, as you would with any other food. 

Foods like nachos or burritos, which sometimes contain sour cream, can become soggy when reheated. It can be challenging to separate the sour cream from the other ingredients, so you can just leave it in – you’ll do no harm.

However if possible, and if you have time to spare, you can try to separate the sour cream from the fresh food and microwave your dish without sour cream. You can add the cold sour cream later once your dish is heated.

How to Store Leftover Sour Cream

So what should you do with leftover sour cream or dishes that contain sour cream? 

Food that is already mixed with sour cream like salads, or nachos, should probably be eaten as soon as possible to get the maximum freshness. If you still can’t finish it, the leftovers can be stored in the fridge and eaten within 3 days to get the best quality. 

For leftover sour cream that has not been mixed with food, you can keep it in a clean container and store it in the fridge or freezer. Opened and leftover sour cream will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.

A general rule of thumb is to consume your sour cream as soon as possible to enjoy it’s tangy and rich goodness at its best quality.