Coming from the same root ingredient, crème fraiche and yogurt are very similar. Both are common to find and simple enough to make. However, despite their similarities, they are two different products that cannot always step into each other’s roles, like in sauces. So, what are the differences between crème fraiche and yogurt, and which one is better?
Crème fraiche is born of heavy cream made of dairy milk, while yogurt comes directly from milk. So crème fraiche is cultured heavy cream, and yogurt is cultured milk. In addition, yogurt is more liquid and sour. They share some of their uses, but there are times when they cannot substitute for each other.
I like intense tangy flavors, so I prefer yogurt, but that’s just me. However, preference isn’t the only criterion for using or how to combine these products. In the following paragraphs, I will explain the differences between crème fraiche and yogurt, their uses, and the impacts of their nutritional values.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Differences
Process of making
Yogurt is made by adding lacto bacteria to milk. The milk is heated and combined with two live cultures, which trigger the fermentation process. While yogurt is a direct milk derivative, crème fraiche is a secondary product.
The selected bacteria for the fermentation process are heat-loving bacteria, or thermophiles, that grow at rising temperature. The growth of the bacteria changes the taste and structure of the milk, turning it into yogurt.
Crème fraiche comes from heavy cream. Heavy cream is essentially the fatty part of the milk that floats on the surface due to its smaller density when heated. Then, the heavy cream also goes through fermentation, caused by Lacto bacteria.
The lacto bacteria added in the heavy cream alter its structure and taste, producing crème fraiche as a final result.
Both crème fraiche and yogurt are thick and stable. They are smooth and creamy and easy to work with. However, yogurt is less dense than creme fraiche and is more likely to drop, while crème fraiche would not.
Texture and Taste
While the consistency of crème fraiche is more stable, yogurt is a bit runnier. This difference in texture is because of the different production processes. Yogurt is cultured milk, and crème fraiche is cultured heavy cream, meaning that the milk is twice processed before obtaining the final product.
Another difference between crème fraiche and yogurt is their taste. While crème fraiche is tangy, mildly sour, creamy, and discretely salty, these flavors are amplified in yogurt. It also tastes tangy, sour, and salty but more intense than crème fraiche.
What crème fraiche has and yogurt lacks is the elegant creaminess. On the other hand, crème fraiche lacks the zest and character yogurt has.
Because of their similar but different tastes, crème fraiche and yogurt have similar uses but with different results. You can use both in smoothies, with baked goods, fruit salads, salad toppings, soup additions, omelets, or sauce thickeners. However, whether you use one or the other will significantly impact the dish’s taste in question.
Generally, crème fraiche adds a more elegant touch to the meal and refines it. Conversely, yogurt adds more flavor and intensifies the flavors already there. So for stronger tasting dishes, crème fraiche would be the perfect addition, but yogurt is the way to go when the dish tastes a bit bland.
As for nutritional value, generally speaking, yogurt is healthier than crème fraiche. Again, because of the difference in the production process. As crème fraiche is a secondary product, it loses a significant amount of nutritional value during the processing, while yogurt retains more nutrients from the milk.
Crème fraiche contains many fats, about 30%, and has a high caloric value. Only two tablespoons of crème fraiche can account for 35% of the fats you need daily. On the positive side, it does contain a significant amount of calcium which benefits bone health, and thanks to the Lacto bacteria, it is good for gut health.
However, crème fraiche doesn’t offer any other nutrients or vitamins, so overall it doesn’t have some significant health benefits.  Still, it is a good choice for a low-carb diet because it is low in carbohydrates. You should be careful and consider the quantity and frequency of consumption, as the everyday use of crème fraiche could harm your health.
On the other hand, low-fat and low-calorie yogurt, as a direct milk derivative, is much more nutritious than crème fraiche. It is a rich source of protein too. Yogurt also contains vitamin B12 and minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorus, and Riboflavin.
Furthermore, yogurt contains probiotics, which are excellent for digestive and gut health, and thanks to Calcium, it is highly beneficial for the bones. In addition to the minerals, it contains Casein, which helps in better mineral absorption.
Although higher in carbohydrates than crème fraiche, yogurt is a suitable choice for a low-carb diet because the carbs it contains are mainly simple sugars.
In terms of health benefits and nutritional value, yogurt by far surpasses crème fraiche. While you have to pace yourself with crème fraiche, that rule doesn’t apply with yogurt. Moreover, making yogurt a part of your daily diet would be an excellent decision.
|Production||Milk fermented with thermophilic bacteria.||Fermented heavy cream.|
|Texture||Less thick than crème fraiche, but still stabile. It can be a bit runny and is likely to drop.||Thick and creamy.|
|Use||Smoothies, with baked goods, fruit salads, as salad toppings, soup additions, omelets, or sauce thickeners.||Smoothies, with baked goods, fruit salads, as salad toppings, soup additions, omelets, or sauce thickeners|
|Note***||The dish would have a more expressive and intense flavor. It is recommended for dishes with a milder taste.||The dish would be more creamy and elegant. It is recommended for dishes with a stronger taste.|
|Nutrition value||Low-fat, low-calorie, a rich source of vitamin B12.A high amount of protein. Carbohydrates are in the form of simple sugars. Rich with probiotics. It also contains Calcium, Phosphorus, and Riboflavin. It also contains Casein.||High in fats and calories, It contains significant amounts of calcium, but it doesn’t contain vitamins or minerals and has low amounts of protein and carbohydrates.|
|Health impact||Good bone and gut health and overall health benefits from vitamin B12 and minerals.Very healthy to consume especially if consumed daily.||Good for gut health, but no other health benefits.You should consume it in moderation.|
|Taste||More intense tang and zest. Noticeably sour and salty.||Tangy, slightly sour, and mildly salty.|
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Naan Bread?
Considering that yogurt is one of the key ingredients in naan bread, the answer is obvious. The bacteria that yogurt contains serve as a leavening agent; therefore, if you use crème fraiche instead of yogurt, the bread wouldn’t leaven. Naan bread is a pan-made bread, so it is vital to raise it in order to be properly made.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Curry?
Though yogurt is traditionally used in curry, crème fraiche is the better choice here. It will make the curry creamier and more elegant. Since curry is already strong-flavored, using crème fraiche will balance the flavors and keep the curry’s character.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Dip?
Whether you use crème fraiche or yogurt dip won’t impact the dipping food, but rather the intensity of the taste. This decision depends on the case. While crème fraiche dip is excellent for fresh vegetables, smoked meat, or bruschetta, yogurt dip is better for roasted or fried vegetables, roasted meat, or neutral-tasting breadsticks.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Cheesecake?
Crème fraiche already has established use in desserts, so it would be the better choice for cheesecake. Using yogurt for cheesecake may result in a runny consistency of the cheesecake and assimilation of its sweetness.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Pasta?
When used in pasta sauces, yogurt tends to become runny and decrease the sauce consistency. Deriving from heavy cream, the best pasta sauce base, crème fraiche is the better choice for this purpose. It has retained the butteriness and creaminess of the heavy cream and has a distinctive and refined tang.
Crème Fraiche vs. Yogurt: Which Is Better for Salad Dressing?
If you are looking for a healthier option, then yogurt is the way to go, and if you are looking for the tastier one, crème fraiche will fit perfectly. Crème fraiche is used as salad dressing, bringing out the best of all ingredients without overwhelming the overall flavor. The freshness and expressive tang of the yogurt could overburden the already existing fresh salad flavor.
Can You Use Crème Fraiche Instead of Yogurt?
Since crème fraiche is milder-tasting than yogurt and has a more stable consistency, it can substitute for yogurt without significantly changing the taste and structure of the dish.
Can You Substitute Crème Fraiche with Yogurt?
Yogurt can substitute for crème fraiche less than vice versa. Because it is stronger and more noticeable, it might not be the best decision to use it everywhere you use crème fresh. Usually, yogurt substitutes well for crème fraiche in soups and salad dressings.