Adventures in Ethnocentric Dairy: Crema Edition

We all know that New York City is home to a sizable population of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. What we don’t know is why each one of these diasporas has their own variety of sour cream:


I didn’t buy the separate “Central American Crema” that was available. That would have just been excessive.

I have long been vexed by this dairy-aisle dilemma. All of the above bottles contain the same exact ingredients, and, with the exception of the Crema Mexicana, appear identical. Are they not just the same exact product repackaged as part of some nostalgia-inducing marketing scheme? Or are Central Americans just really, really nationalistic when it comes to sour cream?

Inquiring mouths need to know.

As soon as I opened the bottles, it became clear that the contents are indeed different.

latin american crema

From left to right: Honduran, Salvadoran, Mexican, and Guatemalan

The Honduran crema bore a texture remarkably similar to Elmer’s glue and tasted like cottage cheese. The Salvadoran crema, meanwhile, was thinner and more bubbly like kefir, with a taste of diluted cream cheese. The fluffy white Mexican crema stood apart from its southern brethren in that it actually tasted like sour cream — good sour cream. Lastly, the Guatemalan crema was the most watery of all and tasted disappointingly of mayonnaise.

That’s fine and well, you may be thinking, but how do they perform on nachos?


Honduran, Salvadoran, Mexican, and Guatemalan test specimens

Mexico was the clear victor in this experiment, adding the right amount of creamy tang without compromising the structure of the chip. The Honduran, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan samples, however, resulted in soggy explosions of mayo-like juice.

The moral of this story is that Mexican crema is actually quite tasty — like a fresher, less artificial version of U.S. sour cream. It’d be great on a baked potato!

The Central American varieties are better suited to people who like mayonnaise. Alternatively, they could be used as a mayonnaise substitute in certain recipes.

So now you know.

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