Hand holding small container of panna acida at the grocery store in Italy.
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Italian Sour Cream – Does it Exist?

Last updated on May 13th, 2024

Sour cream. Are you making a recipe that calls for it and wondering if you can find Italian sour cream at your grocery store in Italy?

Fact: Sour cream is cream fermented with lactic acid bacteria. 

Does Sour Cream Exist in Italy?

Yes!  Sour cream does exist in Italy. 

It used to be difficult to find, but now you can find it in most large Italian grocery stores like the Coop, Esselunga, Carrefour, and Conad. 

It’s usually in the refrigerated section but can also sometimes be found in the unrefrigerated ethnic food section. 

Common brands are Daisy Brand (refrigerated) and Old El Paso (unrefrigerated).

It’s also sometimes labeled as smetana, sauerrahm, or smântână.

How To Say Sour Cream in Italian

Italian sour cream in front of the unrefrigerated ethnic food section of an Italian grocery store.
Panna acida on the shelf at a supermarket in Italy

Sour cream is panna acida in Italian. 

It’s pronounced PAHN-nah AH-chee-dah.

Listen to it here:

Less commonly, it’s called panna agra.

Do Italians Use Sour Cream?

Slice of cheesecake on a plate with a fork.

Sour cream (panna acida) isn’t commonly used in the Italian kitchen. 

It’s typically used in American, French, and Russian dishes. For example, it’s used as:

  • An ingredient in cheesecake
  • A topping for baked potatoes
  • A filling for blinis
  • An ingredient in beef stroganoff

Sour Cream Substitutions in Italy

If you don’t want to make your own sour cream, you can also use these ingredients that you can usually find in Italian grocery stores:

  • Greek yogurt – this is my favorite Italian substitute for sour cream.  It works perfectly in cheesecake recipes, and I also use it in other cake recipes.  I use the Fage brand’s full-fat version.
  • Crème fraiche – this French ingredient can also be used in many recipes that call for sour cream.

Italian Sour Cream FAQ

What is crème fraiche in Italy?

The closest thing to crème fraiche in Italy is panna acida, or sour cream.  Panna acida is a little less thick than crème fraiche and it has less fat.

Do Italians use sour cream when baking?

Italians don’t use sour cream, or panna acida, in Italian baking recipes. Italians do use sour cream in recipes from other countries, like cheesecake.

Does Italy have cream cheese?

Yes, you can find Philadelphia brand cream cheese at most Italian grocery stores.