If you live in Arizona, you know there’s no shortage of Mexican food of all persuasions, but there’s no doubt that Backyard Taco is among the best. We offer tasty Mexican fare, including authentic street tacos, satiating Bueno Bowls, classic marinated meats, and of course, plenty of delicious toppings.
When it comes to the toppings you’re putting on your Mexican food, there are countless delectable options sure to leave your taste buds happy. If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican meal, toppings play a major role in building those classic flavor profiles. There are distinct varieties of salsa, fresh cheeses, chopped cabbage, cilantro, red onion, and more. In addition, although it is more of a component of Tex-Mex cuisine than authentic Mexican cooking, a nice dollop of sour cream can add a delightful, rich tangy-ess to any taco or burrito.
While sour cream has become a favorite of many taco fans for adding a refreshing creaminess to temper the spiciest salsas as well as savory pork and beef, we want to reiterate that it is not a traditional Mexican topping. But, did you know there is actually a difference between American sour cream and Mexican sour cream? What is Mexican sour cream, and how is it distinct from the sour cream you know and love?
What Is Mexican Sour Cream?
Mexican sour cream – more accurately described as Mexican crema – is known by several other names, including crema agria, crema Mexicana, or most commonly, crema fresca. Similar to American sour cream, it is a cultured dairy item that, despite the name, actually originated from Spanish colonists who had settled in the region from Europe. Prior to the Spanish arrival in Mexico, dairy had not been a major component of the Mexican diet. After the Spanish introduced goats and cattle, dairy had a wider influence and Mexican crema became part of modern Mexican cuisine.
Mexican crema has a flavor that blends a creamy, mellow dairy sweetness with some mild tartness, but it is notably not quite as sour as its American counterpart. While freshly made crema can be thicker than American sour cream, added ingredients like lime juice create a thinner consistency than the majority of sour creams found elsewhere in the world. This makes it perfect for drizzling on tacos, burritos, bueno bowls, and other classic Mexican street foods.
Mexican crema primarily acts as a flavor balance, but the dairy also works to counter Mexican spices and chilies as a tasty, tangy form of relief. The basic properties of the dairy, while delicious on their own, actually act as a direct foil to high-acidity or hot dishes. Despite this, Mexican crema is also used on sweet foods like fruits as a tangy dressing.
Where Can You Find Mexican Crema?
Today, Mexican crema can be found as a staple in most Mexican households. It’s the perfect condiment to garnish dishes like soups, tacos, elote, and enchiladas. Similarly, it is readily available in the majority of Mexican street food shops as a drizzle of tartness to act as a garnish.
In fact, Mexican crema is much more widely available than it was years ago. Today, it is an item most grocery stores sell in their ethnic food sections. As you can see, its popularity isn’t isolated to Mexico and Latin America, but it has become known worldwide due to its association with Mexican regional cuisine.
How Is Mexican Sour Cream Made?
While you can purchase Mexican sour cream from most stores, it’s actually incredibly easy to make at home. The classic recipe features just four main ingredients: heavy cream, buttermilk, lime juice, and salt. Many people enjoy adding spices or herbs to a Mexican sour cream, like cilantro, cumin, or tajin. At its base, however, crema is always just these four ingredients.
To create Mexican sour cream, a home or professional chef will combine a cup of heavy cream with two tablespoons of buttermilk, mixing them together in a bowl or even a glass jar. Once combined, it’s important to cover tightly and allow the Mexican sour cream to sit out for twelve to twenty-four hours in a warm location. A kitchen counter works nicely. The acid from the buttermilk prevents spoiling and allows the mixture to be properly cultured.
Once the time has passed, the chef will add a tablespoon of lime juice, some salt to taste, and any other flavored ingredients they would like to include. Once that is finished, the crema is ready for consumption. You can use it to top any classic Mexican dish or any other dish that might need some tangy-ness.
It should also be noted that if you don’t have access to Mexican sour cream – whether you’re unable to find it in a store or are intimidated by creating it yourself – there are some great substitutions. Some chefs will purchase crème fraîche and add in some lime juice because of its similar consistency to Mexican sour cream. In a pinch, you can even season regular sour cream with lime juice and salt until it is of drizzling consistency.
Mexican Sour Cream vs American Sour CreamWhile they share a similar name and dairy base, there are a considerable number of differences between Mexican sour cream and American sour cream.
First, the fat content is quite different. American sour cream’s fat content typically is around twenty percent, which means it has a tendency to curdle more easily when adding it to a hot dish or preparing it while cooking. Mexican crema, on the other hand, is considerably higher in fat, with thirty percent total fat content. Because of this higher fat content, Mexican crema is less likely to curdle, making it great as a topping on hot dishes but also as an ingredient to enhance the richness.
The consistency of American and Mexican sour creams is another significant difference. American sour cream has more of a whipped thickness that lends itself to dipping or spreading. Mexican sour cream is significantly thinner when prepared with lime juice, which gives it more of a soft, sauce-like consistency. This makes Mexican sour cream a bit more versatile as both a topping, a sauce, and a condiment.
Is American Sour Cream a Part of Mexican Cuisine?
To understand where American sour cream fits into your burrito, take a look at the history of Tex-Mex cuisine. Tex-Mex cuisine originated during the late 1800s when Texas Mexican Railway workers created a fusion of American and Mexican cuisine. This cuisine has its roots in Tejano home-style cooking.
While Tex-Mex cuisine does borrow heavily from traditional Mexican cuisine, one of the biggest differences between Tex-Mex and Mexican involves the base ingredients used during preparation. For example, while traditional Mexican dishes use whole or dried chilies, Tex-Mex often substitutes chili powder instead. Similarly, the meats used in Tex-Mex cuisine can range from ground beef to shredded chicken, instead of Mexican classics like Al Pastor or Barbacoa. Another common difference is that Mexican cuisine heavily relies on corn tortillas, while Tex-Mex will also incorporate flour tortillas. These changes were brought about both by regional influence as well as the ingredients available.
The introduction of American sour cream follows this same progression. Though Mexican cuisine uses crema to provide that tangy richness to authentic dishes, American sour cream was far more readily available north of the border. Tejano cooks and Tex-Mex restaurants alike substituted what they had on hand to stand in for Mexican sour cream. Thus, American sour cream became an almost ubiquitous part of Tex-Mex cuisine.
Add Mexican Sour Cream To Your Favorite B.Y.T. Dish
We understand that sometimes you just get that sour cream craving, which is why we always give our customers the option to add it on the side. You never know when you’ll need a little something extra cool and refreshing with your order. That goes double for any dish with an extra chili kick.
Authentic Mexican Cuisine at Backyard TacoAt Backyard Taco, we take pride in our origins. Owners and creators Ruben and Marisela have been cooking delicious food and sharing their Mazatlan, Mexican culture with customers since 2005. The two prepared delicious tacos in their backyard for friends and family, but when the line for their delicious tacos had become a mile long, they knew they needed to share the love with the rest of the Mesa area.
To this day, Ruben and Marisela love sharing their authentic flavor and food at over five locations in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa S., Mesa N., and Queen Creek. Every location serves up what we like to call #Mexcellence. Of course, you can also enjoy our delicious burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and more.
Whether you order sour cream with our delicious dishes or not, when you are at Backyard Taco, you’re one of our amigos. Be sure to stop by for a plate of backyard love, and don’t forget that we can also cater your next event too! To learn more about how to get your fill of authentic Mexican cuisine, be sure to check out our menu or visit your local spot today.
Dr. Tyler loves tacos! He is one of the owners of Backyard Taco, and can sometimes be found moonlighting there at night or on the weekends.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduted from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.
Dr. Tyler enjoys serving in his community. He is a provider for the Smile Back Foundation, which offers scholarships for free dental treatment to underprivileged East Valley students. He is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.
Dr. Tyler Robison’s favorite pastimes include spending time with his family on the lake, at the beach, or on the slopes. He is an avid and crazy snowboarder! He has three incredible sons and one sweet daughter: Caden, Jace, Crew, and Bliss.