Sour cream is a wonderful addition to many recipes and dishes. It’s a delicious addition to any meal, either as a topping or as an ingredient to various baking recipes. From chicken and beef stroganoff to green-bean casserole and macaroni and cheese, there are literally endless possibilities when it comes to incorporating sour cream in your cooking.
The problem is, handling sour cream can be tricky. Heating it the wrong way can lead to a clumpy, greasy mess that’s unusable and unappetizing. So what do you do if you need to use sour cream from the fridge and you’re short on time? Can you heat it in the microwave?
Can You Microwave Sour Cream?
You can microwave sour cream, but it needs to be in a specific way, or you’ll end up with curdling or separation.
Here’s a short guide on how to microwave sour cream:
To microwave sour cream, first, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a paper towel or lid. Try to heat up no more than two tablespoons of sour cream at once, and nuke it for 15 seconds on high power. Continue heating the sour cream in 5-second intervals until you reach the desired temperature.
If the sour cream has curdled, you can try to thicken it by mixing in a tablespoon of cornstarch with a few teaspoons of hot liquid. Just be sure not to reheat the sour cream more than once because doing so will cause it to lose its flavor.
What Should You Know Before Putting Sour Cream in the Microwave?
Sour cream is mainly made by mixing cream with a lactic acid culture. The bacteria produce lactic acid, which thickens the cream and gives it a tangy, sour taste. It’s actually rather salty than sweet. In terms of consistency and appearance, it is very similar to yogurt.
In most kitchens, this kitchen staple is used to:
- garnish baked potatoes
- make dips and salsas creamier
- thicken soups or sauces
- flavor baked goods
- make frosting
There are several varieties of sour cream with varying degrees of fat and tang. You can find full-fat, reduced-fat, non-fat, and even non-dairy versions. Not all of these are suitable for heating. In general, the full fat and reduced-fat varieties heat up better than the non-fat versions.
The non-fat versions are more likely to curdle or separate. The sour cream doesn’t tolerate heat well without fat, making it more susceptible to curdling or separating. This is why you need to use the proper method if you want your sour cream appropriately heated.
If you want to heat a low-fat or not fat variety, try reducing the microwave power to 50% and heat in short intervals. Check it every 5-10 seconds until the sour cream is warmed.
What does curdling mean? Is it dangerous? In the case of sour cream, you’ll notice small lumps on the surface of the sour cream. These lumps are formed due to proteins that become denatured and bind together when exposed to heat.
Fortunately, eating curdled sour cream is totally safe. It doesn’t change the flavor or the texture, but it’s unappealing to look at.
Is It Safe to Microwave Sour Cream?
Eating warmed sour cream is perfectly safe, providing you use the proper method to store and heat it. Regardless of the type of sour cream you use, always follow the USDA guidelines for food safety.
To ensure your food is safe, any perishable food should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Foods that have been left out at room temperature for too long can develop bacteria which can lead to food poisoning.
If you have left your sour cream out longer than 4 hours, don’t eat it. Instead, throw it out and heat up a new batch that has been properly stored in the fridge. When properly refrigerated, sour cream has a 2-week shelf life longer than the best by date written on the container.
How To Microwave Sour Cream
Microwaving is a preferred method for heating sour cream if you need it quickly and don’t want to wait for it to heat up on the stove. Here’s how:
- Prepare a microwave-safe bowl or cup
- Put 2 tablespoons of sour cream in the bowl
- Cover with a paper towel
- Nuke on high for 10-15 seconds
- Check the temperature; if it’s not warm enough, give it another 5 seconds.
1. Put the Sour Cream in a Microwaveable Container
The first thing you need to do is place the sour cream in a microwave-safe bowl or cup. Don’t use the original container the sour cream came in as the plastic can melt and leach chemicals into the sour cream.
2. Cover with a Paper Towel
Cover the bowl with a paper towel or another microwave-safe lid to prevent any spattering. If you use a lid, you want to vent it slightly to prevent any pressure buildup inside.
3. Heat Up in Small Amounts
To minimize the chance of your sour cream curdling during the microwaving process, don’t heat up more than two tablespoons of sour cream at once.
4. Microwave in Short Bursts Until It Is Warmed
Nuke the sour cream on high for 15 seconds. After the first initial round of heating, nuke the sour cream again, but this time set the microwave to 5-second intervals. Keep heating the sour cream in 5-second intervals until you reach the desired temperature.
If you are using non-fat or low-fat sour cream, reduce the microwave power to 50%. By reducing the microwave’s capacity, you create a more moderate heat that will help prevent the sour cream from curdling.
Tips to Avoid Curdling Sour Cream when Microwaving
For the best result, use full or half-fat sour cream. Non-fat sour creams are more likely to curdle when microwaved. In addition to this, you can add a tablespoon of flour before heating the sour cream. Not only will this prevent curdling, but it will also make your sour cream thicker and more stable.
If the sour cream has curdled, you can try to thicken it by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch and a few tablespoons of hot water. Stir this mixture until the cornstarch for a few minutes until fully dissolved, and your sour cream is thickened.
In addition to using a microwave, you can also heat sour cream on the stove together with your food. This is the preferred method if you are making soup. Add a small portion of the hot soup to the sour cream and stir it. Then add it back to the entire soup or casserole.
Can You Reheat Leftovers with Sour Cream?
Yes, you can safely reheat your leftover burritos and enchiladas that come with sour cream. The main issue with reheating food with sour cream is that it can turn the food into a soggy mess. In order to prevent this from happening, try your best to scoop off as much of the sour cream as possible before reheating.
How Many Times Can I Microwave Sour Cream?
You should only microwave sour cream once. It’s not recommended to heat it more than once since, at this point, lactic acid bacteria in the sour cream might have been destroyed, and the sour cream will turn bland and without flavor.
So can you microwave sour cream? Yes, you can. Just make sure you stick to the proper guidelines for food safety and heating times. It’s also important that you use full or half-fat sour cream as nonfat sour creams are more likely to curdle when microwaved.