Crema Dulce – a little box with big uses.

Crema Cover

So, when I first moved to Costa Rica, I was surprised that I couldn’t find cream in the refrigerated section of the grocery stores. I searched and searched – several different grocery stores – all to no avail. And I’m talking about any kind of cream: half and half, light cream, whipping cream or heavy cream.

Eventually, I DID find these little boxes (about 8 ounces each) called crema dulce on the shelf in the middle of an aisle (read: not refrigerated), which I immediately rejected:


I couldn’t understand how it could be called cream (crema dulce literally translates to “sweet cream”), and be on the shelf at room temperature. No way was I buying that. I mean – even if I could read the ingredients, what would I find? I assumed totally fake and fabricated chemicals. 

After talking to some friends who had lived here longer than me, they encouraged me to try this boxed-cream-stuff out.  So I did.

IMG_2337Now? Wow, you guys. There are SO many uses for this little box! Come to find out it IS actually real cream, which is ultra pasteurized with stabilizers so it can be vacuum packaged and kept on the shelf. The small box equals approximately 8 oz (1 cup), and you can also buy it in a larger box. It is 35% fat, which is equivalent to heavy cream. There are two ways to store the crema dulce – in your pantry shelf at room temperature, or in the fridge.

Some towns/stores in Costa Rica have fresh crema dulce in bags in the refrigerated section, but I have only seen this once in my 2 ½ years of living in Grecia.   

So – what can you do with this magical box of crema dulce? Well, LOTS of things! Here are a few:

#1 – coffee creamer.  Here’s a quick run down of the fat content in creams for you:

Half and Half is between 10.5 and 14% fat
Light Cream is 18- 30%
Whipping cream is 30 to 36%
Heavy Cream is 36-40%
Clotted Cream is 55-60%

So, because crema dulce is 35% fat, you can make the following with milk:

2 cups milk
1 cup crema dulce (1 small box)

1 cup milk
1 cup crema dulce (1 small box)

Of course if you want it flavored, just add your favorite flavor.  Keeps in the fridge for more than a week. Here’s my light cream (1 box crema dulce, 1 cup milk), I store it in a mason jar with this cool reCap pour lid I had muled in:


#2 – whipped cream.   For this, you’ll want the crema dulce stored in the refrigerator so it is very cold.  Also put your mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand.  Take your box of cold crema dulce, shake it (if you can – it will be thick), flip up the top and bottom corners (makes the box bigger) and squish it around.  Cut off the very top part and squeeze the contents into your mixer bowl.  I usually squish the box from the bottom while squeezing it out (like when you’re trying to get that last bit of toothpaste out of the tube).  You can also use a rubber spatula to scrape every last morsel out of the box.  The contents may be part liquid, and part solid – don’t worry!  Just start your mixer, and then put it on a higher speed until it forms into a thick whipped cream.  Remember not to whip TOO long or you will have butter! Add a little vanilla and powdered sugar to taste. Pictured here are my mini chocolate cheesecakes with whipped cream on top:


#3 – butter.  See #2 above, but just keep whipping and whipping until it turns into butter.  Add salt to taste.

#4 – cream base for soups.  Here is my tomato basil soup I use the crema dulce in (recipe in my Costa Rica Chica Cookbook).

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#5 – base in homemade ice cream.  These are my homemade ice cream sandwiches and  chocolate ice cream.  Who needs Ben & Jerry when you have Crema Dulce & Jen?



#6 – alfredo sauce.  Actually, my hubby Greg makes this, and I must say this turns out great every time.  He always make this with angel hair pasta, and several other things can be added:  shrimp, chicken, broccoli, etc.  Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley! 

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#7 – easy scones.  I love these scones, because they are so easy, and you don’t use cold butter, but a box of crema dulce instead.  They really turn out pretty darn good for a “no butter scone”.  Here is a picture of my scones (also found in Costa Rica Chica Cookbook) with craisons and chocolate chunks added:

scone II

#8 – potatoes au gratin.  What could be better than potatoes, cream and cheese?  I love this recipe from the Pioneer Woman for her Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin:

potatoes au

#9 – chocolate ganache. I’ve always made this recipe from Martha Stewart (simple, beautiful and so glossy!).  

IMG_0583 2

#10 – panna cotta.  Confession – I’ve never made panna cotta before.  But check out this recipe, it sounds really good!  

#11 – caramel.  Unfortunately I cannot get caramel to work for me here – not sure if it is the elevation  (4,700 ft) or the difference in sugar or butter here, but I’ve tried and failed 3 times.  Also my pal Mike (who lives at a similar elevation in Costa Rica, and can cook anything) has tried with no luck as well.  Oh, and one time my mom-n-law was visiting and tried to make her English Toffee Bars which have caramel in them, and they didn’t turn out either.  IN ANY CASE – if you are in Costa Rica at no weirdly high elevation – maybe you could try to make caramel with crema dulce and let me know how it works?  I’d appreciate!  Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Sally’s Baking Addiction.  

#12 – pots de crème.  I haven’t tried these in Costa Rica, but wow, look at these wonderful things –  click here for recipe:

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#13 – crème brûlé.  I loved making crème brûlé when I lived in Dallas, but haven’t made it in Costa Rica as I don’t have any ramekins or torch to my name anymore.  I love this dessert because it’s not too sweet.  It has a melt-in-your-mouth custardy goodness with a thin coating of burnt sugar on top that you crack with a slight tap of your spoon.  Um, I kinda want some right now. 

creme brulee`

#14 – quiche.  I love quiche.  This is my easy broccoli quiche (with an easy homemade pie crust, can you tell I’m all about easy recipes these days?):


So, do y’all want to see my recipes for quiche, creme brûlée, chocolate cheesecakes, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate ice cream & alfredo sauce?  Comment below, maybe I’ll do another post with my recipes!

That’s all for now, folks! — Jen
This post was written with help from my guru-chef friend, Mike.  Thanks Mike! 

diego kitchen

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49 Responses to Crema Dulce – a little box with big uses.

  1. It all looks DELISH, Jen! And looks like you’ve found the real secret to using the boxes of crema dulce which is the whole “open the corners and squish it all around” trick to reintegrate the solids (the butterfat) which will have separated from the milk. Totally key!

  2. I think I need to buy a box and take it home to bake with where the temperatures are much more conducive to turning on the oven! Your recipes and ideas look and sound great. 🙂

  3. A great article. I had that same problem when I was there but Lair put me straight. The thing I had trouble with was finding sour cream. I never did find any sour cream. Lair said that I never would either.

    • Yep – no sour cream here, but there IS natilla, which is pretty close. Not as thick or sour as in the states – really just a thick cream like the french crème fraîche.

    • I found sour cream in a squeeze packet, “La Granja” with a photo of a taco with sour cream on it.

  4. Pingback: Crema Dulce Recipes - Costa Rica ChicaCosta Rica Chica

  5. This is such a great read! You make so many wonderful things, could you share your quiche recipe? I learn so much from your blog!!

  6. Jen, these photos have me drooling and its only 8 am! I want to make them all. Keep up the great work, I love everything you write. 48 hours from now I finally get to experience the Pura Vida life for myself. Woohoo!

  7. So grateful to have found this!I have been trying to find out how to make whipped cream but didn’t chill the crema dulce first and ended up with tons of butter. You rock!

  8. Hi! My husband and I have a facebook group, “Retire and live in Costa Rica”, I was wondering if I can post your website. I was looking for a “arroz con palmito” recipe and I am trying to figure what is crema dulce in USA. I think it’s heavy cream? Anyways, I came across your website…. WOW your explanation on crema dulce is GREAT! and your RECIPES look AMAZing!!

    Anyways, let me know if I can share. Oh, btw, my husband is a Costa Rican lawyer living in California, so we advertise his services out here in the USA for any Costa Ricans living out here and for anyone who has business or simply want to retire in Costa Rica. I am a native Californian.

  9. After living here for 2 years and constantly being disappointed not finding heavy cream (or an equivalent) in the refrigerated section you’ve solved SO MANY of my cooking issues with this one post!!!!! I’m so ‘frickin’ excited I want to walk back to the MasXMenos right now and buy the Crema Dulce. I’ve passed it up so many times in the aisles thinking it was pre-sweetened cream for desserts only. I’m not retired and try to save money as best I can…..homemade butter here I come!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    • Wow, you just made my day reading this! I’m SOOO glad I could help! It is frustrating until you know some of the secrets/substitutes. Happy whipping! — Jen

  10. Hello stumbled upon this article while trying to find out what me and my brother’s used for coffee creamer during our stay in Costa Rica! I found it! I use heavy whipping cream in my coffee in U.S. and was at grocery store in small resort town when I stumbled onto this stuff and wow I loved it! Can this be bought in the U.S?

  11. I’m surprised you were able to make whipped cream.
    Since I’ve been in Nicaragua has been impossible for me to turn it into whipped cream.

    I thought I had purchased a bad one first. Then I bought an other one and then another one. But it never turned into whipped cream.

    I even did it like you said here. I wonder if I have to get into the air conditioner and prepare it there. But geez! I’m so frustrated.

  12. I live in Costa Rica and have found this little box but it goes bad within a week. Is that normal? I stopped buying because of that. I add it to my coffee and I was only one using it. Now that I found your site, I am going to try some of these recipes.

  13. I am native from Costa Rica and I was having a hard time trying to understand all the kind of creams US people use on their recipies, but thanks to your post I managed yo clear my questions. Thanks a lot, very helpful!!

  14. thank you so much as a bilingual student during covid ive been wanting to make ice cream and my own butter, but i didnt know what to look for and translating to spanish just confused me even more. thank you so so much

  15. Green Center natural foods market in Escazu sometimes carries a fresh and delicious crema Dulce from a small dairy farm. It’s actually in a glass bottle, and whips up beautifully. Auto Mercado in Escazu Multiplaza sells pints of half n half in the refrigerated section. It’s also quite delicious. I have only found it in the Multiplaza Auto Mercado, not the Atlantis or Santa Ana stores.
    Thank you for the recipe suggestions.
    I will definitely try the ganache.

  16. I actually found the crema Dulce in a paper box (I think 32 oz) in the refrigerated section of a local grocery store (Near Hermosa beach). I was looking for something to put in my coffee and boy did I ever hit the jackpot! It was as thick as butter but the flavor was amazing! I searched the U.S. for such an import and was told by immigrants from Costa Rica it was not available in U.S. So sad because it was a delight my whole week of vacation!

  17. Thank you for the tips on making whipped cream! It was my first time to make it and I used it for my tres leches cake 🙂 (Also, my first time making that) Great article!

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