How To Make Buttermilk
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Homemade Cultured Buttermilk

A warm welcome.  Homemade buttermilk is cultured from 2 ingredients.  That's right!  Only 2 ingredients... milk and bacterial culture.  That and the simple procedure make it possible to learn how to make buttermilk in only a few minutes. 

Drink it fresh.  It's a healthy, probiotic beverage.  Or use it to make amazing biscuits, pancakes or pie.  Homemade costs much less than store-bought and is quite likely healthier.  The convenience of having it on hand is well worth the effort of making it.

What Is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk can be sweet or sour, cultured, acidified or the byproduct of churning butter. Add a bacterial culture and the buttermilk is cultured.  Buttermilk from the churn can be sweet or sour (fermented) depending how long it sits before drinking.

If you're looking for a buttermilk substitute click here.  When milk is soured and curdled by lemon or vinegar it's called acidified buttermilk.  Even though it isn't cultured or probiotic, it's quick and easy when you're making a recipe that calls for buttermilk.  Other cultured dairy can be used as a buttermilk substitute.  

1.  Cultured Buttermilk

Cultured Buttermilk

This is the kind sold in the store in the milk section.  A bacterial culture is added to milk and allowed to incubate. 

Soon after I started culturing yogurt and kefir I began making buttermilk using a bacterial culture... this is the kind we'll be making.

Powdered Buttermilk

Powdered buttermilk is sold in the baking section or powdered milk section of the store. While powdered buttermilk is made from a bacterial culture, most powders don't contain live bacteria and so can't be used to ferment milk.  It's fine for baking but don't use it as a starter culture.

2.  Traditional Buttermilk

At one time this was the ONLY buttermilk.  It comes from churning butter, hence the name.   As the cream is churned and butter forms, a liquid is left.... buttermilk.  It often has flecks of butter in it and is sweet tasting.  If the churning took a long time or the buttermilk wasn't drank right away, bacteria (from the air) would give the buttermilk a slightly sour taste

Growing up on a farm, we sometimes churned our own butter.  We couldn't wait to drink the buttermilk.  I don't know which we liked better.... the butter or the buttermilk.  :)

Since then I've made both sweet and cultured butter.  And just like when I was a kid, I can't wait to drink the buttermilk!

Ready to start?  Great!


  • 1 quart or litre glass jar, or glass container
  • measuring cup
  • tablespoon

Recipe for Buttermilk

makes 1 quart (litre) cultured buttermilk


  • 4 cups milk (1 quart or 1 litre), skim, partly skim or full-fat, organic if possible
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) liquid buttermilk, from the store or a previous batch

The buttermilk starter contains the lactic acid (probiotic) bacteria to ferment the milk.  The  bacteria must be live in order for fermentation to take place.  Check the label and best before date.


  1. Measure milk and put into glass jar or container.
  2. Add buttermilk culture and stir into milk.
  3. Cover.
  4. Allow to incubate for approximately 24-36 hours at room temperature or below 80° F (27° C).
  5. Milk will thicken and curdle slightly.  Save ¼-½ cup for next batch.
  6. Refrigerate.
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Probiotics in Buttermilk

A single strain of bacteria is used in the fermentation:

  • Streptococcus lactis

Bulgarian buttermilk has the bacterium Lactobacillus bulgaricus added.  It produces a tarter taste than if the milk is fermented with S. lactis.  In yogurt, L. bulgaricus yields a milder taste.

If you want to experiment, try adding a tablespoon of yoghurt containing L. bulgaricus along with S. lactis (from buttermilk) to the milk.

In a pinch I've used kefir (the liquid not kefir grains) to make buttermilk.  I don't know if the ferment could strictly be called "buttermilk" since there are more kinds of lactic acid bacteria in kefir than only S. lactis.  The fermented milk tasted like buttermilk.... not surprising, since kefir is similar in taste.

As with all fermented dairy products, cultured buttermilk is easier to digest than uncultured milk products.

Now that you've learned how to make buttermilk you'll want to use it to create delicious dishes.  Check back soon for new buttermilk recipes.

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