Woman eating plain Greek yogurt

Plain Greek Yogurt vs Sour Cream: A Nutrition Comparison

I know not everyone is a fan of dairy, but as a dietitian, and personally, I love it! So much nutrition packed in a small and tasty package! And maybe you’ve found yourself standing in the dairy aisle wondering, should I use plain Greek yogurt vs sour cream in my recipe? 

Generally, I opt for plain Greek yogurt, but let’s dive into the details, comparing plain Greek yogurt vs sour cream in terms of taste, nutritional value, versatility, and overall culinary charm.

First stop, production and taste!

Production Process and Taste Test

Plain Greek Yogurt vs Regular Yogurt

Greek yogurt and regular yogurt share a common origin – both are dairy products made from milk that undergoes a fermentation process using beneficial bacteria.

The two main types of bacteria commonly used in the yogurt-making process are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These bacteria work together to change lactose, the natural sugar in milk, into lactic acid.

After fermentation, regular yogurt is typically not strained, which is why it retains more liquid whey. This results in a creamier but thinner consistency. Greek yogurt however is strained to remove excess whey, resulting in a thicker, more concentrated yogurt with a creamy texture.

Since the straining and fermentation process reduces the amount of lactose in Greek yogurt, it may be easier to digest for anyone with lactose intolerance.

Plain Greek yogurt has a tangy and slightly sour taste, along with a rich and creamy texture. It offers a clean and fresh flavor profile with hints of natural sweetness, balanced by its refreshing tartness. It is a versatile ingredient in various dishes including smoothies, dips, and soups.

Cup of plain Greek yogurt with berries

Sour Cream

Now, let’s talk about sour cream – the classic companion to baked potatoes and tacos. 

Sour cream begins with heavy cream, typically derived from whole milk. For safety, the cream undergoes pasteurization, a heat treatment that eliminates harmful bacteria. 

Next, lactic acid bacteria, specifically Streptococcus lactis and Streptococcus cremoris, are introduced. These bacteria play a crucial role in fermenting the lactose in the cream, transforming it into lactic acid. 

During fermentation, the cream undergoes changes that produce the characteristic tangy flavor of sour cream, accompanied by the desired thickening and coagulation. Following this, the sour cream is cooled to halt bacterial activity and maintain its texture. 

Sour cream tastes rich and indulgent with a pronounced tang. It adds a luxurious touch to dishes, offering a creaminess that’s more decadent compared to Greek yogurt. If you’re looking for that traditional, comforting flavor, sour cream might be your go-to.

So now you know how they are made and how they taste, but what about nutrition?

Cup of yogurt with plate of quesadillas

Nutritional Face-Off: Plain Greek Yogurt vs Sour Cream

Though they often look and taste similar, plain yogurt and sour cream have different nutritional characteristics.

Plain Greek Yogurt

When it comes to nutritional content, plain Greek yogurt takes the spotlight. It’s a protein powerhouse, packing in more protein per serving compared to sour cream. 

Additionally, Greek yogurt can be rich in probiotics (check the label to be sure), promoting gut health and aiding digestion.

Want to learn more about probiotics? See our article: Kombucha vs Probiotics: What You Need to Know.

In one serving of plain Greek yogurt (which is a little over ½ cup or 155 g) you get (1):

  • 95 calories
  • 16 g protein
  • 0.5 g fat
  • 5.7 g carbs
  • 173 mg calcium

Plain Greek yogurt is also a good source of many B vitamins, including B12, riboflavin (B2), and pantothenic acid (B5).

Woman's hand sprinkling granola on yogurt

Sour Cream

One major difference between Greek yogurt and sour cream is fat. Sour cream has a much higher fat content which gives it that velvety texture and rich flavor. Moderation is key if you’re watching your fat intake. 

In a similar serving of sour cream (about ½ cup) you get (2):

  • 200 calories
  • 2.5 g protein
  • 19 g fat
  • 4.6 g carbs
  • 100 mg calcium

Like Greek yogurt, sour cream also provides many B vitamins (though in small amounts) and is a good source of Vitamin A (124 µg or about 15% of your daily needs).

Bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream

Health Considerations

Plain Greek Yogurt

For those prioritizing health benefits, plain Greek yogurt delivers. Its high protein content makes it an excellent choice for promoting satiety and supporting:

Muscle. Getting plenty of protein in your diet helps maintain and build muscle mass (bonus points if you add resistance training). Muscle boosts your metabolism and balances glucose levels, potentially helping you avoid diabetes (3). 

Bone. In addition to protein, calcium is crucial for maintaining strong bones, and Greek yogurt has both.

Gut. The probiotics present in Greek yogurt contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, enhancing overall digestive wellness. 

Mind. Consistently eating probiotic yogurt has been linked with decreased depression, anxiety, and stress (4). Sign me up!

Two jars of yogurt with toppings

But what about sour cream?

Sour Cream

While sour cream may not match Greek yogurt in terms of protein, it does provide essential fats and a satisfying taste and texture. The fat may help your body better absorb fat-soluble vitamins like D, E, and K.

Though both are milk products, sour cream generally doesn’t provide the same quantity of vitamins and minerals as plain Greek yogurt, although you do get some B vitamins and Vitamin A. And sour cream usually doesn’t contain probiotics. 

So while it’s fine to enjoy sour cream in moderation, it doesn’t provide the same nutritional impact as plain Greek yogurt. However, its indulgent nature can be a delightful treat when used wisely in various recipes.

Did you know that in addition to dairy products, many other white foods are great for your health? Check them out here: The Essential White Food List: What You Should Know.

Bowl of sour cream

Now let’s look at how these two dairy delights work for meal prep!

Versatility in the Kitchen

Plain Greek Yogurt

The versatility of plain Greek yogurt knows no bounds. It seamlessly transitions from breakfast to dinner, playing a starring role in both sweet and savory dishes. 

You can use it as a creamy base for smoothies, a topping for granola, or as a great substitute for mayonnaise in savory recipes. Its thick consistency also makes it a fantastic addition to dips and salad dressings. And it can pinch hit for milk in your baked goods.

Need a recipe for a great smoothie with plain Greek yogurt? We’ve got you! Belly Fat Weight Loss Smoothie: Easy Recipe

Plain Greek yogurt can even be used to make a healthier alternative to many cream sauces. Even if you use the full-fat version, your sauce will have fewer calories and more protein than one made with heavy cream or sour cream. Pasta Alfredo anyone?

Pasta alfredo made with plain Greek yogurt vs sour cream

Sour Cream

Sour cream excels in lending a luscious touch to a variety of dishes. It’s the classic topping for baked potatoes, tacos, and nachos, adding a decadent creaminess. Sour cream can also be incorporated into both sweet and savory recipes, offering a rich and tangy flavor profile.

Sour cream is also excellent for baking. Adding more moisture than plain milk, plus a bit of zing, it’s popular in cake recipes.

Pound cake made with sour cream

Plain Greek Yogurt vs Sour Cream: Who Wins?

In the great debate of sour cream vs yogurt, I give the gold to plain Greek yogurt (sorry sour cream 🙁). It’s generally a better choice in place of sour cream for a healthy diet. If you’re seeking a protein-packed, probiotic-rich option with a milder taste, you can’t go wrong. 

But, if you crave richness, creaminess, and a pronounced tang, sour cream is the classic choice. And though higher in fat and calories, it’s not without its merits.

Whether you’re whipping up a healthy breakfast parfait or indulging in a decadent taco night, both plain Greek yogurt and sour cream can have a place in your culinary arsenal. 

The Vitality Dietitians logo, written in script

Health Hacks

Nutrition Newbie
Not sure you can give up your regular sour cream? Try a mix. Instead of a cup of sour cream, use ½ cup plus ½ cup plain Greek yogurt. 

Health Enthusiast 
Ready to replace that sour cream but afraid you’ll miss the creaminess and sour taste? Use whole-milk Greek yogurt (this will have more creaminess than nonfat yogurt) and mix in a squeeze of lemon juice for added tang.

Wellness Guru
Out of sour cream and Greek yogurt? In a pinch, you can blend cottage cheese with a few tablespoons of milk and a squeeze of lemon.

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