Crema, sometimes referred to as crema espesa (English: "thick cream"), and referred to as crema fresca (English: "fresh cream") in Mexico, is a Mexican dairy product prepared with heavy cream and buttermilk. Salt and lime juice may also be used in its preparation. Its fat content can range from 18 percent to 36 percent. In Mexico, it is sold directly to consumers by ranches outside large cities, and is available in Mexican and Latino grocery stores in the United States. Crema is used as a food topping, a condiment and as an ingredient in sauces. It is similar in texture and flavor to crème fraîche and sour cream.
Away from the larger cities in Mexico, crema is sold directly to consumers by ranches that prepare the product. In the United States, commercial preparations of crema are typically pasteurized, packaged in glass jars, and sold in the refrigerated section of Mexican and Latino grocery stores.[a]
Crema is used as a topping for foods and as an ingredient in sauces. It can be dolloped or drizzled atop various foods and dishes. For example, crema is added as a condiment atop soups, tacos, roasted corn, beans and various Mexican street foods, referred to as antojitos. Its use can impart added richness to the flavor of foods and dishes. It may have a mildly salty flavor. In Mexican cuisine, rajas are roasted chili peppers that are traditionally served with crema. The creaminess of crema can serve to counterbalance the spiciness of dishes prepared with roasted chili peppers, such as chipotle.
Crema is similar to crème fraîche in flavor and consistency. Compared with sour cream, crema has a softer and tangier flavor, and has a thinner texture. Some recipes that call for the use of crema state that sour cream or crème fraîche can be used as a viable substitute.