Traditional Buttermilk vs. Cultured Buttermilk

Did you know there are two types of buttermilk?

The liquid leftover from making butter is known as traditional buttermilk.  Traditional buttermilk is very low in fat (since most of the fat went to making the butter).  It can be consumed as a beverage (try it with fresh ground pepper) or added to recipes in place of water for a nutritional boost.

Cultured buttermilk is generally what is called for in recipes.  It is also the type of buttermilk you find in the store or you can make your own using a Cultured Buttermilk Starter.  Cultured buttermilk is very similar to yogurt in the sense that it is cultured using live beneficial bacteria.  Cultured buttermilk can be consumed as a thick and creamy beverage or used in cooking (pancakes anyone?).


Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. Leigh says

    I have heard that buttermilk can also be made by mixing a yogurt culture in with your cream and allowing it to thicken before making butter out of it. Would this be considered a third type of buttermilk?

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Technically mixing a yogurt culture with cream is still yogurt both from a bacteria-profile and taste perspective. Cream just makes thicker yogurt than would regular milk. However, yogurt (or yogurt cream) makes a good substitute for buttermilk in most recipes as does milk kefir. The only thing I’d watch out for is if you are using a cream-based product, it’s going to be quite a bit thicker than buttermilk (commercial varieties, which most recipes are assuming you’ll be using, are often made with low fat milk which is quite thin). If the buttermilk makes up a significant portion of the recipe, you may need to adjust your liquid amounts just a bit adding maybe a liitle water or milk to get the dough to the right consistency.

  2. Vilma says

    Hello, a friend gave me her leftover buttermilk from the butter she made. I was wondering if I can turn it into cultured buttermilk by adding yogurt to it? If so, would you know how much yogurt to add to it? Thank You. I have really enjoyed your products.

  3. says

    Thanks for the very informative tutorial! I just switched to raw milk for my family. I’ve been trying to find an easy convenient way to make the butter buttermilk from the raw cream. I started by using the jar method, but I’ve since purchased a food processor tried it in that last night. I find that sometimes when I make the butter, using ANY method, it comes out whitish, wet very soft and mushy. How do you get yours to have a nice, dry, thick consistency? Do you also culture the liquid?

  4. says

    I make my own butter at home on a regular basis. I always use unpasteurized, raw cream as it contains many more nutrients and tastes a lot better. If I make butter from raw sour cream, then the buttermilk becomes fairly thick, almost like yogurt and with a fresh, strong taste that not all people appreciate. You can keep it in the fridge for a few days and it’s excellent to use in baking or smoothies.

  5. Shaina says

    Pasi: I’ve found that it requires a LOT of blending to get a really thick butter. Straining through cheesecloth also helps get the liquid out of it. Unfortunately homemade butter just doesn’t seem to come out quite as thick and solid as storebought butter, but with enough blending and straining, it can come pretty close.

    • Kathryn says

      I use my kitchen aid to make butter. It’s the easiest method I know of and the butter always comes out perfect! I shape it into “sticks” and refrigerate it till hard then wrap it in wax paper.

  6. Donna Mulholland says

    I have recently switched to raw milk and have been making butter. I have way more buttermilk than I know what to do with. I do have a starter and keep a culture going. I have about a half gallon a week of traditional buttermilk left form butter making. what else I can do with traditional buttermilk…can I make yogurt out of it? Do you have any other suggestions for what I can do to use it and not pitch it.

    • says

      Donna, one of the things I make with the buttermilk left over from my cultured butter is ricotta cheese. I found the recipe on the Epicurious website.

  7. Viki says

    Does anyone know what exactly is in the buttermilk after making the butter? And why it tasted funny so quickly? Nutrients etc?
    I assume it’s nutritious so I drink it anyway. If it tastes weird I still do…all I can think of is Its the probiotics doing their thing?
    Sometimes it will be fattier than other times too.
    Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Viki – Was the butter made from sweet cream or cultured cream? Either way, buttermilk will have a bit of tang to it as it is akin to whey, without all of the lactic acid if it is a sweet cream. I believe buttermilk has a bit of protein along with vitamins and minerals. It is basically the cream minus the fat solids.

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