We all know the joys of buttermilk pancakes. And, we've all enjoyed a salad lightly dressed with a buttermilk-based dressing. But how many of us know what buttermilk actually is? Some assume that it's a combination of butter and milk, and therefore a pretty decadent treat that we should steer clear from. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Buttermilk would actually be better named "butter-less milk."
Traditionally, buttermilk was the byproduct of making butter. When milk was churned, the solids would separate from the liquid. The solids became butter and the resulting liquid came to be known as buttermilk. The reason for its name: it's the milk left over after making butter. And contrary to what its name indicates, it's actually lower in fat than regular milk (since the fat has been removed in the form of butter). Naturally fermented, it was rich, acidic and sour in flavor, and often had flakes of butter floating in it.
But these days it's rare to find this traditional buttermilk, and it certainly isn't what you buy at the grocery store. What we normally use for buttermilk is known as cultured buttermilk. This version is made by adding bacteria culture to low-fat milk. According to some who have had the oppurtunity to taste both, traditional buttermilk has a much more tangy and rich flavor than cultured buttermilk.
While some people enjoy buttermilk as a beverage in other parts of the world, in the U.S. we most often use it for baked goods. Buttermilk has a high acid pH level, which gets your baking powder and soda to rise higher -- getting a fluffier, lighter end result. But most people don't bake often enough to want to buy an entire jug of buttermilk. If you're one of those people, you'll be happy to know you can easily make your own.
All you'll need is:
Milk (just under one cup)
1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
Mix the two together and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. Don't be startled if the milk begins to curdle, that's normal. Once the time has passed, it's ready to use.
See below for 24 delicious recipes that use buttermilk.
Have you ever had traditional buttermilk? Leave a comment.
In this fried-chicken recipe, the chicken soaks in buttermilk for nearly four hours. That pretty much guarantees this recipe to result in one tasty fried-chicken dish -- and the beer batter will give you a flavorful golden crust, everytime.
Get the Beer-Battered Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe
A tangy and spongy buttermilk cake recipe is the perfect backdrop to serve poached fruit with -- or even a fresh compote. Feel free to use this cake recipe all year long, changing only the fruit that pairs with it as the season changes.
Get the Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears recipe
These waffles are packed full of nutritional goodness. Whole wheat flour, oats, olive oil and honey are the main ingredients in this recipe. And with the help of buttermilk, these waffles wont last long on the breakfast table.
Get the Honey-Buttermilk Waffles recipe
When making this salad, be sure to make a big batch of the dressing. It's definitely one you'll want waiting for you in the fridge. Buttermilk and mayonnaise make it nice and rich, and the olive oil thins it out so that it just lightly coats the lettuce.
Get the Bibb-and-Radish Salad with Buttermilk Dressing recipe
It doesn't get more traditional than serving buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. And you know what they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This recipe is light and fluffy, just waiting for a bit of butter and maple syrup.
Get the Basic Buttermilk Pancakes recipe
If you like muffins, but find them too sweet, this might be the recipe you've been looking for. Honey takes the place of sugar in these breakfast treats, which makes them feel a little bit heartier, and healthier, too.
Get the White House Honey-Oat Muffins recipe
This salad will easily become your go-to recipe as the weather gets warmer. With just a handful of ingredients, and a few quick steps to throw it together, you get a bright and flavorful dish. The dressing -- consisting of buttermilk, lime and olive oil -- makes this salad shine.
Get the Butter Bean Salad with Lime and Mint recipe
Strawberries, buttermilk cake and crumb topping. You'd be hard-pressed to find a dessert to top this one. If strawberries are not in season in your part of the country, you can easily swap them out for something more accesible.
Get the Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake recipe
Scones have been an important part of the British food scene for quite some time now, and lucky for us they're finally starting to make a substantial appearance here. When they're made right, they're nothing short of heavenly -- and when strawberry and almond flavored, you know you're in for a treat.
Get the Strawberry-Almond Scones recipe
Shortcakes get a makeover with the inclusion of almond flour, giving these crumbly biscuits a nice, nutty flavor. And when served with tangy creme fraiche in place of whipped cream, you know you've encountered strawberry shortcake's grown-up cousin.
Get the Blueberry-Almond Shortcakes with Crème Fraîche recipe
These corn muffins are tender and moist -- and nicely studded with whole corn kernels. They're great served aside a bowl of chili, and even make a satisfying breakfast.
Get the Deluxe Corn Muffins recipe
Breakfast sandwiches are good, but when they're made out of homemade biscuits, country ham, a fried egg, and a slather of raspberry jam they become the best part of the day. The jam offers a hint of sweetness, which balances the dominant salty flavors.
Get the Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches recipe
You'll never guess what savory ingredient is in these light and fluffy cupcakes: mashed potatoes! They give these little coconut-blueberry cakes a great texture -- similar to pound cake.
Get the Blueberry Cupcakes recipe
We can all appreciate things that get better with age, especially when that thing is a decadent chocolate cake. Because then you know that as good as it tastes when out of the oven will just intensify as you enjoy it over the next couple of days.
Get the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe
With warm weather ahead, it's time to start enjoying chilled soups. This cool cucumber recipe has a nice kick and a bit of tang from the use of pepperoncini, and a rich creamy consistency thanks to the yogurt and buttermilk.
Get the Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Pepperoncini recipe
You know your in luck when the words cheesy and bread appear in the same sentence together. This quick bread is everything its name suggests. And we recommend eating it right out of the oven, when still slightly warm.
Get the Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread recipe
Just buttermilk is used to marinate these pork chops and it keeps them tender and moist. Once the chops have marinated for four hours, all that's left to do is to sear them and then finish them off in the oven.
Get the Juicy Buttermilk Pork Chops recipe
This creamy red pepper soup gets a bit of tang from the use of buttermilk and a little heat from Thai red chilis. The pistachio puree that tops the soup gives it a heavier feel -- making a satisfying dinner.
Get the Paprika and Red Pepper Soup with Pistachio Puree recipe
Flatbread has its place in the U.S. market, but often times our flatbread choices at the supermarket are dry, tough, and just plain sad. But when you make this bread at home, you'll see why it's so popular. And when served with a tomato split pea spread, it becomes a perfect snack.
Get the Rosemary Flatbread with Yellow Split Pea Spread recipe
You can make your own ranch dressing at home, and you can make it healthy. And when you use it to dress thinly-sliced snow peas, you'll feel like your eating something sinfully rich even though this dish is quite healthy.
Get the Snow Peas with Creamy Ranch Dressing recipe
Molasses cookies are becoming less and less common at bakeries, and it's a real shame. These sweet cookies taste of simpler times, and they're also delicious! Frosted with a simple vanilla frosting, it'll be hard to have just one.
Get the Frosted Molasses Cookies recipe
The buttermilk in this recipe ensures that you'll get a moist quick bread, and the blueberries give it a bright color and burst of summer flavors.
Get the Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread recipe
Shepherd's pie is the ultimate in comfort food. This savory mixture of lentils, carrots and corn, topped with mashed potatoes, will hit the spot after a long day -- and you wont even miss the meat.
Get the Vegetarian Shepherd's Pies recipe
This soup recipe truly captures the flavors of spring. Young scallions or green garlic impart their subtle flavor, and are paired nicely with the tang of buttermilk and goat cheese.
Get the Creamy Spring Onion Soup recipe