A guide to buttermilk, how it works, various substitutes, and how to use it in recipes to create incredibly moist food. Use it with confidence!
What is buttermilk?
Contrary to its name, buttermilk contains no actual butter. This title originally came from the process used to make it. After the butter was churned, the liquid at the bottom of the bowl was gathered to use in various recipes. These days, buttermilk is made much like yogurt. Bacterial cultures are added to low-fat milk and left to ferment for around 12 hours. This process is much quicker and allows for greater yield. It is called “cultured buttermilk.”
Because of the lactic acid, it can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks past the date printed on the bottle. If it separates, shake it well to combine. Powdered buttermilk can also be bought and stored for years in a cool, dry environment. If you find you have extra in the fridge and don’t want to use it right away, it can also be frozen. This is best done in small sections so it’s easier to thaw and use in a single serving. Make sure to measure how much goes in each container so you know how many sections you’ll need to thaw for your recipe.
Why buttermilk is used in foods
Buttermilk is used to add acid to break down gluten in baked goods and benefits highly when combined with baking soda. The two cause a reaction that greatly increases tenderness, provides a beautiful crumb, and brings a tangy flavor to pancakes, muffins, cake, biscuits, bread, and many other items.
When buttermilk is used to marinate chicken, it breaks down the proteins and creates an incredibly moist and tender bird. Marinate in the fridge for 24 hours. If that’s not possible, try to get it in at least a couple of hours beforehand. Allow the bird to come to room temperature first, then it can then be roasted, fried, or grilled to delicious perfection.
If you find yourself without buttermilk in the fridge, it’s easy to make it using some common items you probably already have.
- 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup milk + 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup thinned out yogurt or sour cream
After combining these, let them sit for about 10 minutes in order to allow the milk to slightly curdle.
How to use it in recipes
Here are a few great recipes to try out your hand with this miracle tenderizer.
- Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken (this is one of my favorites!)
- How to make crispy cast-iron cornbread
- Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- Basic Buttermilk Pancakes and Variations
- Homemade Buttermilk Bread
Buttermilk can be added to elevate food to the next level. You can use it in liquid or powdered form depending on the type of dish you’re making. It’s a natural tenderizer for meat and baked goods and is easily stored in the fridge or freezer. It can be made with common items you already have in your pantry if you don’t have a store-bought bottle on hand. With these tips, you’ll be able to use buttermilk with confidence.