Use Sour Cream As More Than Just A Topping To Give Chili A Creamy Twist

If tailgates, dinner parties, and the general "soup season" have cropped up on your appetite radar, there's probably a good chance that one dish has crossed your mind: chili. If "warming cozy bowlful" is the name of your game, we're right there with you — and sour cream is the ticket to take you there.

Don't get it twisted, when it comes to chili, sour cream is more than just a topping. For an extra tangy, rich bite, incorporate a dollop (or five) into your batch. This is already common practice in many white chili recipes (which, ironically, are often made with green chiles), but a dollop of stirred-in sour cream can benefit red chili, as well. The slightly tart flavor will add brightness and complexity to your tried-and-true chili recipe, while the thick texture creates heartiness and a creamy mouthfeel.

As for the garnish, rest assured, a handful of shredded cheese and diced scallions can more than get the job done on their own. Still, there's one pitfall to keep in mind before dumping a container of sour cream straight into your lovin' potful: curdling. Here's how to avoid it.

Stir things up this soup season (literally)

Sour cream is the result of adding a lactic acid-producing bacteria to regular dairy cream. It's a low-key miracle of science, like yogurt, and this microbial reaction can be undone just as quickly as it comes together. To prevent it from curdling in the heat, bring your sour cream to room temperature before adding it to your chili. You could also whip up a quick slurry of one tablespoon of flour per half cup of sour cream to help maintain its structural integrity and stave off curdles.

Alternatively, you could hit that sour cream with a quick temper. Not the rage kind — more like the way you might add eggs to custard to prevent separation. To do it, scoop a few generous spoonfuls of sour cream into a heat-safe bowl and slowly add in spoonfuls of your hot chili broth, stirring to combine. This will gradually bring the sour cream up to temperature. From there, you can transfer the warmed-up sour cream into your pot of chili, curdle-free.

Crème fraîche would work here, too. It has a higher fat content than sour cream, which would make for a richer, thicker bite, but it's admittedly lacking in sour cream's tangy flavor. For best results, use full-fat sour cream here instead of light.