Did you know that the buttermilk we use today has nothing at all to do with making butter? Most of us know that when you make butter, what’s left over is buttermilk.
However, the buttermilk you get in the store is not the byproduct of making butter, but rather milk that has been cultured by lacto-fermentation.
This is what gives it that thick texture and slightly tart taste.
The cultured buttermilk of today came about from a health craze that started way back in the ‘20s. (Can we still say that now that it’s 2020?) How crazy is that? When you make butter, you’re left with butter-milk, but it’s basically like skim-milk, all of the fat ends up in the butter.
It’s still good to drink and has a slightly buttery taste, but it’s not what you need for recipes calling for buttermilk.
Check out this fascinating article about the history of buttermilk, “All Churned Around – How Buttermilk Lost Its Butter” by L.V. Anderson for more information. It’s a great read.
So, the buttermilk you think you knew, turns out to be nothing more than watery milk. “Great, thanks Tracey, I thought you were here to help!” I am.
The thing is the cultured buttermilk we are accustomed to today deserves a permanent spot in your fridge, not just when you make pancakes.
Cultured buttermilk is a living food.
This means it has live bacteria cultures in it, much like yogurt or kefir. It’s yet another food that is good for your gut.
Its acidic nature boosts leavening agents in baking. It improves texture in cakes, cookies, bread, and even pizza dough. Anything you use it in gets that extra ‘zing’ added to it from the buttermilk.
And making it yourself is easier than falling off a log. Why wouldn’t you want to keep it on hand?
That carton of buttermilk in your fridge that you bought because you needed 1/3 of a cup for a recipe, yeah, that one. It might be the last carton of buttermilk you ever buy.
To make cultured buttermilk simply mix fresh milk with the storebought buttermilk in a 4:1 ratio.
Put fresh milk and buttermilk in a clean jar, screw the lid on and shake the dickens out of it. Then set it on your counter for around 12-24 hours until it thickens.
I’ve been making buttermilk using four cups of fresh milk to one cup of buttermilk. Once I get down to a cup, I top it up with another four cups of fresh milk and then let it culture on my counter again.
And can we talk about the low-fat buttermilk that you always see in the store? I’ve been making mine with whole milk, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better it is. The flavor just doesn’t compare!
Along with drinking it, I’ve been putting it in everything these days.
I’ve put together a list of delicious ways to use cultured buttermilk.
1. Drink it!
Yes, drink your buttermilk. Straight up, it’s got a slightly tart taste, a bit like kefir. Throw some honey in it, if you want it sweetened.
And of course, homemade cultured buttermilk is way better for drinking than the storebought stuff.
2. Blueberry Banana Buttermilk Smoothie
Maybe you’re not ready to drink your buttermilk straight. It makes excellent smoothies, adding depth and tang along with an extra creaminess.
Don’t save it just for breakfast; this smoothie also makes a great dessert.
3. Buttermilk Potato Soup with Bacon and Roasted Jalapeno
Lisa created this delicious soup on the fly for her grandmother. If it passes muster with Grandma, you know it’s got to be good. Potato soup is one of my favorites in the winter. It always tastes better the day after you made it, so it’s perfect for leftover-lunches.
4. Buttermilk Pancakes
This one is a no-brainer, it’s usually what sends everyone to the store for buttermilk in the first place. When it comes to pancakes, though, you just can’t beat those fluffy buttermilk pancakes.
And why not top them off with –
5. Buttermilk Syrup
A creamy and luscious alternative to maple syrup.
6. Crispy Buttermilk-Fried Chicken
Sometimes you need to stick with the classics, and when it comes to classic, nothing compares to buttermilk-fried chicken. One of my favorite things to pack for a picnic lunch is cold fried chicken, and this chicken is excellent both hot and cold.
7. Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Look, I know most people have very strong feelings about ranch dressing. It seems to be one of those foods that you either love or hate. But before you get all judgy on me, give Jenn Segal’s homemade buttermilk ranch dressing a try. It may change your entire viewpoint on ranch dressing.
8. Lemon Raspberry Buttermilk Popsicles
The creaminess of the buttermilk mixed with the tart lemon and sweet raspberries – what’s not to love in this delicious hot weather treat? Give these popsicles a try when you want a more substantial popsicle, something a bit more in the ice cream neighborhood.
9. Authentic Irish Soda Bread
I love to mix it up in the kitchen. Cooking is often when I’m most creative. But for some things, I’m a purist. Like Irish soda bread. I want authentic, no seeds, no raisins, straight up Irish soda bread. And I want to eat the entire loaf, slathered in butter with a pot of tea. All by myself. But you know, I’ll share if I have company.
10. Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings
When it comes to comfort food, it’s hard to beat a bowl of chicken and dumplings. Especially when you make those fluffy dumplings with buttermilk. My mom used to make chicken and dumplings on cold, rainy days. It sure drove out that damp chill.
11. Buttermilk Coffee Cake
For the moistest coffee cake you’ve ever had, buttermilk does the trick. And who doesn’t love a sweet, crumbly streusel topping?
12. Danish Koldskål – Cold Buttermilk Soup
A Danish friend of mine said if I was putting together a list of great buttermilk recipes, then I had to include a recipe for koldskål. Literally translated as – cold bowl, this is basically a cold ‘soup’ that’s often eaten for dessert in the summer. Berries or vanilla wafers are usually served with it. Mmm, yes, please!
Please note –
This recipe calls for raw eggs, be sure only to use pasteurized eggs and be aware that consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.
13. Vanilla Buttermilk Cookies
I feel like these things should come with a warning. I made a batch the other night, and it made up around 30 cookies. Two days folks, they lasted a total of two days.
I love what buttermilk does to baked goods. Everything is soft and billowy and there is just the tiniest hint of that buttermilk tang. Give these cookies a try; you won’t regret it.
14. Buttermilk Scrambled Eggs
Yup, scrambled eggs. The addition of buttermilk to this humble breakfast staple elevates your eggs into the fluffy heavens. This is one of those recipes that is a game-changer. Your breakfast is about to be kicked up a notch.
15. Crunchy Buttermilk Coleslaw
Coleslaw is one of those quintessential picnic dishes. No summertime cookout is complete without a bowl of crunchy tangy-sweet coleslaw. The addition of buttermilk gives this particular dish that extra tang.
16. Southern Buttermilk Pie
Here in the states, the deep South is well known for its homey and decadent desserts. Any homecooked meal isn’t complete without a slice of pie, and nothing is more southern than a classic buttermilk pie. The creamy texture of this pie is similar to a custard pie, but much less fussy to make.
17. Buttermilk Onion Rings
I’m just going to come right out and say it; I go weak in the knees for good onion rings. The kind with the flaky batter, not a breaded batter. And these onion rings, boy oh boy, do they fit the bill!
Look, you can keep the burger, just give me the onion rings.
18. Creamy Buttermilk Ice Cream
Imagine a creamy vanilla ice cream with the tiniest tang to it, and you’ve got buttermilk ice cream. This is no boring vanilla. Get out your ice cream maker and give this one a try.
19. Buttermilk Cornbread
When it comes to cornbread, I feel that two rules apply – It’s always got to be buttermilk cornbread, and it’s always got to be made in a cast-iron skillet. If you follow these two rules, you can’t go wrong.
20. Dill Potato Salad with Mustard Buttermilk Dressing
Some things were meant to go together, like dill and buttermilk. This wonderful potato salad combines this classic taste-combo along with mustard for a potato salad that doesn’t disappoint.
21. Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
Don’t get me wrong, ranch dressing is great, but I’ll take blue cheese over ranch any day. Especially if it’s homemade blue cheese dressing with a buttermilk base. Drizzle this dressing over a fresh cobb salad, and you’ll be a happy camper!
22. Buttermilk Biscuits
You can’t have a list of recipes using buttermilk without having buttermilk biscuits on there. This is my go-to recipe for buttermilk biscuits.
It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve found and takes very little time at all until you’re eating hot and golden biscuits slathered with butter and jam. Or spoon hot sawmill gravy over them for an incredibly hearty meal.
23. Buttermilk Whipped Cream
This is such a simple addition to an already easy and classic recipe, but it completely changes the result.
Whipped cream gets a subtle tang with the addition of buttermilk. This pairs so well with traditional apple pie, the sweet and slightly-tart are a match made in heaven.
24. Buttermilk Corn Fritters
The next time you make a batch of chili, give these corn fritters a try instead of cornbread.
Once again, the star ingredient is buttermilk. I have several veggie fritter recipes in my round-up along with this one, and I always use buttermilk where milk is called for.
25. Old Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge
I love making old fashioned candies. I’m usually surprised by how much less sweet and more satisfying they are than the candy we eat today. Give this fudge a try, and you’ll see what I mean.
Well? What do you think?
Is it just me, or does it seem like buttermilk is the magic ingredient when it comes to taking everyday foods and making them extraordinary?
I hope you’ll make a batch of cultured buttermilk and soon find yourself making another, and another, and another…