Yes, you can microwave sour cream with varying degrees of success depending on the type of sour cream you are microwaving and the purpose you are using it for.
When microwaving sour cream there are two things you want to avoid.
First, you want to avoid your sour cream curdling or separating.
Secondly, you also want to avoid chemicals leaching into your sour cream so microwaving it properly is a necessity.
To understand how to heat sour cream in the microwave, you need to understand what sour cream is and how the fat content of different varieties may affect your success or failure.
What is sour cream?
Sour cream is a thick, creamy white substance with a mildly tart, tangy flavor. It is made by combining lactic acid-producing bacterial to dairy cream.
What varieties of sour cream are available?
- Full-fat (known as sour cream)
- Non-dairy vegan alternatives such as soy sour cream
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, for a product to be labeled sour-cream, it must contain at least 18% milkfat to be labeled as such.
Reduced-fat sour cream must contain at least 25% less milkfat than regular sour cream and nonfat sour cream must not contain more than 0.5 grams milkfat per serving.
Non-dairy vegan varieties vary with ingredients and fat content. I don’t use them so for purposes of this article, we are sticking to microwaving dairy-based sour creams.
How to heat sour cream in the microwave?
When heating sour cream in the microwave you want to avoid having your sour cream curdle or separate and you want to avoid chemicals leaching into your food.
First, you must never heat sour cream in its original container.
When you heat plastics in the microwave, especially if they are not listed as, “microwave safe, “ the plastic may release chemicals into your sour cream when heated.
Instead, you should always use a microwave-safe dish such as a glass baking dish or a microwave-safe plate, bowl, or cup.
Always reheat a few tablespoons at a time.
The larger the amount of sour cream you are trying to reheat, the greater chance you will overheat it and cause it to curdle or separate.
First, you must remember that everyone’s microwave is different. Some reheat a lot quicker than others so you will need to adjust your time accordingly.
A good rule of thumb for most microwaves is to heat your sour cream 15 seconds for each tablespoon the first go around.
Then stir your sour cream and heat in 5-second increments thereafter.
If you know your microwave is higher powered and tends to reheat food a lot quicker than most suggested times, err on the side of caution when microwaving sour cream and do so for less time or lower power.
So instead of 15 seconds per tablespoon, maybe try 10 seconds the first go around.
Secondly, no two brands of sour cream are alike. For that matter, no two batches of the same brand are ever exactly alike.
For this reason, you can never guarantee that the sour cream you heat in the microwave won’t curdle or separate.
However, if reheated properly, it will still be safe to consume but you may have small white lumps instead of the creaminess you expect.
Can all varieties be heated in the microwave?
In short, full-fat and reduced-fat varieties of sour cream heat better in the microwave than the non-fat varieties.
If you want to heat a low-fat or non-fat variety, try heating it up first in a 10-second increment then in subsequent 5-second increments to try and avoid separation and curdling.
How is sour cream used?
It is a staple in most kitchens and used to
- garnish baked potatoes
- make quick and easy dips
- thicken sauces and soups
- take frosting
- tenderize baked goods such as cookies and cakes
Can I reheat sour cream on leftovers such as burritos?
Yes, you can reheat leftovers that contain sour cream.
However, depending on the item and the amount of sour cream, it could turn your leftovers into a soggy mess.
When reheating leftovers with sour cream, scoop off the sour cream if it is possible.
Think things like a leftover baked potato. Just scoop what you can off, reheat the potato and add back the sour cream.
If your sour cream is inside a burrito, you could reheat it as it or deconstruct it before reheating.
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The only time I heat sour cream in the microwave is when it is part of some leftovers I am reheating.
If I want to heat up some sour cream to add to a dish without it curdling, I will bring the sour cream up to room temperature by putting the amount needed in a bowl or plate on the counter near the range/oven when I begin cooking.
I let the heat from the range/oven naturally bring the sour cream up to room temperature.
Sometimes, I will temper my sour cream by adding small amounts of the dish I am cooking into the sour cream and mixing it together until the sour cream is warmed.
It doesn’t matter whether you use full-fat, reduced-fat, non-fat or vegan sour cream.
For this ingredient to be cost-effective, I recommend you find one variety and stick to it. Don’t try to switch back and forth between full-fat and non-fat.
Using one variety will improve your cooking skills as your dishes will be more consistent and you’ll have less waste.
A good baked potato with butter and lots of sour cream sounds good right now, doesn’t it?
Let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions. I’d love to connect.