Sour cream is a popular dairy product that is commonly used as a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes and also as a condiment.
However, for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, the question remains: is sour cream gluten-free? Keep reading to explore all the information you need to know about sour cream and gluten.
What is Gluten?
Before we dive into whether sour cream is gluten-free or not, it’s important to first understand what gluten is. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It gives bread and other baked goods an elastic texture and helps them to rise.
For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten is damaging to the intestines and can cause a range of symptoms, from gastrointestinal distress like bloating and diarrhea, to less specific symptoms like skin concerns and fatigue.
What is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is a dairy product that is made by fermenting cream with the lactic acid bacterial cultures. This process produces a tangy flavor and a thick, creamy texture. Sour cream is often used as a topping for dishes like baked potatoes, tacos, and chili, and is also used as an ingredient in many recipes such as dips, sauces, and baked goods.
Is Sour Cream Gluten-Free?
Pure sour cream is made simply from cream and does not contain any grains or ingredients that contain gluten. However, it’s important to note that there are certain factors to consider before consuming sour cream if you are looking to avoid gluten.
Sources of Gluten in Sour Cream
The following are some potential sources of gluten in sour cream:
- Fillers: While sour cream itself is gluten free, many brands add extra fillers that could be a source of gluten. For example, some sour cream may contain added ingredients such as modified food starch or natural flavors that could be derived from gluten-containing grains. You can check out our complete list of fillers that contain gluten here.
- Gums: Some brands use thickening agents and food gums in their sour cream in an attempt to enhance texture or keep the sour cream from separating. Some of these gums have been linked to GI inflammation.
- Cross contamination: Sour cream that is produced or prepared in a facility that also processes or prepares gluten-containing products or food may also be at risk for cross-contamination. We discuss this more in the following section.
Cross Contamination Concerns
Cross-contamination can occur when gluten-containing products come into contact with gluten-free products, leading to small amounts of gluten being present in the gluten-free product. This can happen in manufacturing facilities, during transportation, in a restaurant kitchen, or even in your own kitchen.
To avoid cross-contamination, it’s important to ensure that food preparers use separate utensils and equipment when preparing gluten-free foods. In addition, it is important to always read food labels carefully to be sure that products are prepared in a dedicated gluten free facility.
Gluten-Free Sour Cream Brands
If you’re following a strict gluten-free diet, it’s important to choose sour cream brands that are certified gluten-free or that have been tested for gluten. Some of our favorite brands of gluten free sour cream include the following:
- Miller’s Bio Farm
- Kalona Supernatural
- Straus Family Creamery
- Organic Valley
- Green Valley Organic Lactose Free
Caution: Many With Gluten Issues Do Not Tolerate Dairy
- Lactose intolerance: Years of gluten induced damage to the intestine can leave a person enzyme deficient, creating a lactose intolerance. If you are lactose intolerant, consume dairy with caution or consider using a digestive aid like Dairy Shield.
- Dairy allergy: Research suggests that dairy allergies are commonly found in those with celiac disease.
- Casein protein reaction: Casein protein (which is found in milk alongside whey) can mimic gluten.
- Leaky gut: Gluten can cause intestinal permeability. When this happens, people often become reactive to staple foods in their diet, and dairy is a common culprit.
- Digestive enzyme insufficiency: Many with gluten induced intestinal damage do not produce the enzyme lactase in high enough quantities to digest dairy effectively.
- Reaction to the beta casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) protein: BCM-7 has been linked to a number of digestive disturbances
- Reaction to the microbial transglutaminase: Also known as meat glue, this ingredient that is used to treat the dairy can mimic gluten
It is important to note that when we refer to dairy, we are referring to A1 dairy. The vast majority of dairy products on the market are made with milk from cows that produce A1 dairy. However, there is another type of dairy that may be a better option. It is called A2 dairy. The terms A1 and A2 refer to different forms of beta-casein, a part of the curds (i.e., milk solids) that make up about 30% of the protein content in milk.
While it may seem like A2 is a newer type of milk, the reality is that when we look back many years ago, all cow’s milk contained A2 beta-casein protein. This is the same primary protein as is in human milk, so we know that our bodies were designed to digest it. So what changed? Over time, there was a genetic mutation in cows in European dairy herds and an A1 beta-casein variation resulted in cows with two types of proteins – A1 and A2. Eventually, A1 beta-casein became the dominant form of dairy in the United States, but unfortunately, A1 dairy can be difficult for humans to digest.
You Can Make Your Own Sour Cream at Home
Another way to be certain that your sour cream is gluten free is to make your own at home. Here’s a simple recipe from Kris Bordess of Attainable Sustainable:
- 2 cups heavy cream, or whipping cream
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- Combine cream and lemon juice in a jar. Screw on the lid and shake lightly until combined. (Note: as soon as the ingredients are combined, you may be able to see the mixture thicken a bit as the lemon juice reacts with the high fat cream.)
- Remove the lid and use a rubber band to secure a thin piece of cloth or a napkin over the jar. This allows the mixture to breathe, while also keeping out bugs.
- Set the jar at room temperature for several hours or overnight until thickened. (Note: in low temperatures, it may take up to 24 hours to thicken. You can set the jar on a heating pad on low to hasten the process.)
- Stir and serve.
- Refrigerate leftover sour cream for up to two weeks.
While sour cream in its pure and simple form is generally gluten-free, it is important to be aware of the potential ways that sour cream could become contaminated with gluten, such as added ingredients or cross contamination. Furthermore, if you are still struggling with gastrointestinal symptoms, you may consider avoiding sour cream and dairy altogether.
However, by choosing certified gluten free sour cream brands and taking steps to avoid cross contamination, you can safely enjoy the many delicious dishes that can be made with sour cream.