The Absolute Best Ways To Use Crème Fraîche

Despite its luxurious, exotic-sounding name, crème fraîche is made from fairly simple staple ingredients. Crème fraîche is fresh heavy cream that sours in the presence of added bacteria cultures — similar to how yogurt is made, via Food Network. According to Master Class, what makes crème fraîche so versatile is its nutty flavor and high fat content. The nutty flavor provides a complementary base for most spices and other condiments without overpowering their flavor profiles, and the high fat content means it works well as a thickener that won't curdle in hot dishes.

Brit & Co. describes crème fraîche as richer and slightly sweeter than sour cream, but with a similarly tangy taste. You can make your own using just heavy cream and buttermilk, per Food Network. But of course, store bought works as well. Whether you're new to the ingredient or already have a batch in your fridge that needs using, test these techniques for the absolute best ways to use crème fraîche.

Fruity cakes and pies, oh my!

When many home cooks think of crème fraîche, sweets come to mind –- and for good reason. Even though crème fraîche pairs well with savory dishes, its reputation as a superstar of the dessert world is well-deserved. According to Vermont Creamery, one of the tastiest and easiest uses is to top a slice of pie with a scoop of crème fraîche. You can mix in a little vanilla or even whiskey for added flavor dimensionality. 

We particularly recommend pairing it with fruit fillings like the one in this raspberry pie; the lighter fruit filling is complemented nicely by the rich creamy topping. It's not just for topping pies, either. Warm fruit desserts like this blackberry peach cobbler are lovely on their own but could always benefit from a scoop. Crème fraîche also loves chilled fruit desserts. Whip it with some vanilla and sugar for a five-minute fruit dip. The BBC recommends adding it to your homemade ice cream for extra richness — or, per Vermont Creamery, you can frost a cake with it.

Add a dollop to your potatoes

Everybody wants the best of both worlds and, when you pair crème fraîche with potatoes, you can have it. The salty, starchy base is begging for an airy, creamy flair. Food Network suggests mixing a dollop of crème fraîche into your scalloped potatoes for an extra creamy forkful. Food and Wine recommends simply topping your potato pancakes with a lovin' spoonful and digging in.

Crème fraîche can transform a predictable bowl of mashed potatoes into an unexpected richer mouthfeel. Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis adds a cup of mascarpone to her mashed potato recipe, but crème fraîche makes for a similar and less fatty substitute. You can even fancy up a plain old hash brown with a dollop or two, per The New York Times. Its fresh, smooth consistency will complement the crispy dryness of the hash brown. Breakfast, anyone? How about Thanksgiving dinner?

Thicken soups and pan sauces

If you live in the Midwest, you know that every season is soup season. If you go further south, you're bound to run into gazpacho. There's a soup for every occasion, and many soups benefit from the delicate touch of crème fraîche. But it's a safe bet that gazpacho probably isn't one of them.

Cream-based broths provide a seamless welcome to dairy-heavy crème fraîche. But, taste is just as important as texture. Food and Wine recommends adding it to soups that share its complex sweety-savory-nutty flavor profile. Try stirring a dollop into soups featuring ingredients like ginger or carrot. Pumpkin and butternut squash offer similar taste advantages. Similarly, Brit & Co. suggests pairing crème fraîche with sweet potato or nutmeg. We recommend adding it to this chestnut soup with caraway.

For a more savory palette, Martha Stewart recommends stirring a little crème fraîche into your pasta water for a next-level spaghetti sauce. This might make for a pasta night for the books but, similar to soups, cream-based sauces respond particularly well to the addition of crème fraîche. Try stirring some into your béchamel sauce next time you make a croque monsieur or eggs benedict