What is Bitter Cream? Plus, How To Make Buttermilk (3 Recipes)

The other day, I came across something called “bitter cream biscuits.” This was a term I never heard before. What is bitter cream? There isn’t exactly a common term in cooking or food preparation for “bitter cream.” Some people use it interchangeably with sour cream or crème fraîche, both of which have a tangy flavor but are not typically described as “bitter.” Is it the same as sour cream? And can I cook with it? Usually, it refers to a cream that tastes bitter, meaning that it is spoiled.

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What is Bitter Cream? A Comprehensive Guide

Fresh cream should taste sweet and creamy. Therefore, if your cream tastes bitter, it is probably not safe to eat. If your recipe calls specifically for bitter cream, it is most likely referring to something else entirely like sour cream or buttermilk.

How About Bitter Whipped Cream?

Whipped cream gone bad can be a term used for “bitter cream” due to the fermentation of the milk and sugar, resulting in a bitter smell and/or taste.

Whipped cream is a dense cream that’s made lighter through whisking. It commonly includes milk, sugar, and sometimes vanilla.

However, due to its milk and sugar content, fermentation can occur rapidly, leading to the breakdown of lactic acid and other proteins. Bacteria present in the cream can then start consuming the milk components, leading to the cream turning bitter.

Bitter Cream Versus Sour Cream

Bitter cream and sour cream are not the same. Sour cream is a dairy product that is made by fermenting regular cream with certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. This fermentation process sours the cream, thickens it, and makes it more acidic, giving it a tangy flavor.

Identifying Bitter Cream

  1. It’s best checked by smell. If your whipped cream smells “off,” then it probably is.
  2. Also check the expiration date. Never use fresh products like milk past their expiration dates.
  3. Check the storage. Make sure there isn’t any holes, or you left the cap off accidentally.
  4. Tasting a small sample can also help you identify if the cream is bitter. However, be cautious not to consume a large amount if you suspect it has spoiled.
  5. Visual check can also be helpful. If there is any discoloration or mold present, the cream has gone bad.
  6. Texture can also indicate if the cream is bitter. If it’s lumpy or watery, it’s likely spoiled.
  7. If the cream has been open and unused for a long period of time, it’s best to discard it.
  8. Look for any signs of fermentation like bubbles or a sour smell.
  9. If the cream has been exposed to high temperatures or not properly refrigerated, it’s likely to be bitter.
  10. Lastly, if there is a change in the color of the cream such as it turning yellowish, it indicates that the cream has spoiled.

Cooking with Bitter Cream

The question then arises: Can you cook with bitter cream? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The cream is likely to have gone bad if it has a bitter taste. This means it’s not safe to eat or cook with.

Bitter Cream in Recipes

There might be instances where a recipe specifically calls for “bitter cream” (like in the recipe above). In this case, it’s a good idea to double-check the recipe or seek clarification from the source. As mentioned earlier, the term “bitter cream” isn’t commonly used and could be a typo or mistranslation. Most often, the recipe is actually calling for sour cream.

So How Do You Really Prevent Bitter Cream?

Why, by freezing your whipped cream. Simply stick the entire carton into the freezer – whether it is homemade or purchased in a tub.

You can also try freezing spoonfuls of prepared whipped cream, including piping it with a pastry bag. Pipe or spoon them onto freezer paper onto a baking sheet in single portions.

Freeze for several hours (or overnight) until solid. Then transfer to a freezer-safe container for whenever you need a little bit of heaven.

How Long Will Whipped Cream Last in the Freezer?

Your little dollops (or the entire tub) should be fine for about four to five months. However, whipped cream shouldn’t spoil and go bitter even after that.

white and pink flowers in white ceramic pitcher

Basic Buttermilk

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes

Quick and easy substitutions for buttermilk. Sometimes called bitter milk.


  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar & 1 cup milk or
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice & 1 cup milk or
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or
  • 1 ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar & 1 cup of milk


  1. Substitute any of the above for any recipe that calls for buttermilk. Stir well directly after adding vinegar, lemon juice, or tartar.


  • These substitutions are versatile and can be used in any recipe that calls for buttermilk, making them perfect for various dietary needs and preferences.
  • Ensure to mix your chosen substitution well to achieve the best results in your baking and cooking endeavors.

Nutrition Information
Yield 1 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 125Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 20mgSodium 115mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 0gSugar 12gProtein 8g

Nutrition automatically generated.

white and pink flowers in white ceramic pitcher
Substitute this buttermilk recipe for anything that calls for buttermilk, like buttermilk pancakes or buttermilk biscuits! Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

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