How to Make Buttermilk

A few readers kindly reminded me last week that I had said in my “Homemade Butter Tutorial” that I would do a post about culturing buttermilk.

The first thing to mention is that the buttermilk that you get from the process of making butter is not the same as buttermilk that you buy at the store. The buttermilk from butter is simply the liquid from the cream, which has separated from the solids (the butter). The buttermilk from the store is cultured milk, meaning that good bacteria has been grown in it to make it probiotic, like yogurt. While you can culture buttermilk (from butter-making) and turn it into cultured buttermilk, it’s not necessary. Any milk can be made into “cultured buttermilk”.

The second thing to mention is that I *love* culturing dairy! Culturing makes dairy more digestible, increases the vitamin content, increases good bacteria… pop on over to this post to read more about why you should culture dairy!

Now, let’s get down to business. This is crazy easy, friends!

What You’ll Need

  • Store-bought cultured buttermilk (the ingredients should only say “cultured milk” or “milk with cultures”- it must have active cultures for it to work.)
  • Buttermilk Starter Culture (from Cultures for Health- one of my favorite affiliates!)
  • Milk: We use raw milk, but you can use anything. If using store-bought, the best option would be organic, low-temp pasteurized from grass-fed cows. Any type of milk will benefit from culturing, though, so use whatever you’re able to get. πŸ™‚ )

What To Do

This is so easy- ready??

If using store-bought buttermilk as your “starter”…

  1. Fill a clean glass container (I use 2-quart mason jars) 1/3 of the way with the cultured buttermilk from the store. Smell the buttermilk, so that you know what it should smell like.
  2. Fill the other 2/3 of the jar with your milk. (You don’t have to make 2 quarts at a time, just remember that it’s at least 1 part buttermilk to 2 parts milk).
  3. Stir well with a non-metalic spoon and cover the jar with a coffee filter or tea towel.
  4. Leave the jar in a warm place (74 to 78 degrees is ideal) overnight.
  5. After 12 hours, I like to stir and check the consistency. If it isn’t thickened after 12 hours, leave it out and just check and stir every 6 to 8 hours.
  6. Once the buttermilk has thickened, put a lid on it and put it in the fridge. It should smell the same as when you started (kind of tangy, but good). If it smells bad, then something went wrong. Most likely, the cultured buttermilk wasn’t active.
  7. It will keep for a few weeks (I’ve kept mine for three weeks with no problem).

If you are using the Buttermilk Starter from Cultures for Health, there are directions on the package. Basically, it’s the same process, except that the milk should be warmed, first. For raw milk, it can just be warmed to 77 degrees, then the culture is added and you proceed with step 3. If using pasteurized milk, you are supposed to heat the milk to 185, then cool it to 77 degrees, add the culture and continue as shown above.

How to Use Buttermilk

Buttermilk is so versatile! Here are a few ideas:

I’d love to see your favorite recipes that call for buttermilk! Add them (or links to them) in the comments! πŸ™‚

Be sure to check out some of my other popular recipe tutorials:

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18 thoughts on “How to Make Buttermilk

  1. Can I take some milk and put a tablespoon of vinegar in it than put it in my jar with regular milk? I don’t want to just buy buttermilk and than make a jar of it , and leave the cartoon sitting in fridge.

    • Megan is right, the milk with vinegar is simply a substitute for cultured buttermilk, but it doesn’t have any cultures in it. Most stores carry little one-pint (that’s 2 cups) cartons of buttermilk, so you would be able to make a total of 8 cups of buttermilk from 2 cups store-bought plus 6 cups milk. That 8 cups would keep in the fridge for several weeks, so just using 2 or 3 cups a week would use it up. Our pancake recipe uses 3 cups buttermilk, so it shouldn’t be hard. Plus, extra buttermilk can be used for smoothies. πŸ™‚

      • Donna says:

        Wouldn’t it only,make 6 cups 1 to,2 ratio would be 1 cup,buttermilk plus 2 cups milk so,2 cups buttermilk plus 4 cups milk would be 6 cups of I understood your earlier explanation.
        Thanks in advance for clarifying.

        • Well, the total finished amount of buttermilk is just the amount of milk plus buttermilk. The only measurement involved is that it should always be 1 part buttermilk to 2 parts milk. That could be 1 cup buttermilk to 2 cups milk (equalling 3 cups in the end), or 2.5 cups buttermilk to 5 cups milk (equaling 7.5 cups, which is about what I did in that 2-quart jar). Hope that helps!

    • cathy denson says:

      I love your ideas. You are so helpful with healthy living. I am so happy to have found you r site. I’d love to receive your helpful ideas and recipes. Thank you. Cathy

      • Thanks so much for your sweet note, Cathy! I’m thrilled to hear that you’re finding helpful info and I hope you have a ton of fun trying out some new things. πŸ™‚ Blessings, Justyn

  2. Jazzy, doing it that way is fine for some things, but it’s not really buttermilk – it doesn’t have any cultures in it. What you are describing is clabber milk. You can imitate this process better by mixing yogurt with milk. 3/4 cup whole yogurt + 1/4 cup milk = 1 cup buttermilk.

    I can tell a huge difference in many baked goods by using actual buttermilk. I used to use clabber milk and didn’t know it was different. I’m glad I switched. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be making it from now on.

    • Thanks so much for answering Jazzy’s question, Megan. I’ve been out all day, so I’m just seeing it. We’ve noticed a huge difference in our baked goods, too. And it’s so easy! πŸ™‚

  3. Tracy says:

    Can I use some of the buttermilk that I made and reuse that? Or do I need to keep buying buttermilk to make it?

    • Absolutely! I’ve done that quite a few times. The only issue would be if you are using raw milk, you’ll need to either buy new buttermilk every third or fourth time, or pasteurize a bit of your raw milk to keep the buttermilk culture going. Raw milk has lots of wonderful beneficial bacteria that will eventually weaken and overpower the buttermilk bacteria. πŸ™‚

  4. My first attempt at making butter turned out great. But now I’m wondering if there is a way to make the heavy cream needed. I looked it up at Pinterest, so now that I’ve found out how to do it, can you use the homemade heavy cream to make the butter.I just don’t want to waste ingredients.

    • I’m not sure if I understand your question. Are you asking if homemade heavy cream would work as well as store-bought heavy cream? What are the instructions for “homemade heavy cream”? Is there anything in it besides cream? If you’re talking about allowing fresh cream to separate further into “light” cream and “heavy” cream, then that would certainly work. If it’s some kind of heavy cream substitute with extra ingredients, it might not.

  5. Kristin says:

    I’m confused, or maybe I just somehow read your directions wrong or skipped a step. What did you do with the liquid you had left over from making butter? I thought you used that to somehow make your buttermilk?

    • Hi Kristen, You *can* use the leftover buttermilk from making butter, but you don’t have to. What we’re making here is a completely different product with the same name, “buttermilk.” This recipe is for cultured buttermilk. You can culture buttermilk (leftover liquid from making butter), raw milk or store-bought milk. If you want to use the “buttermilk” left over from making butter, just pretend it’s regular old milk and add the culture or cultured buttermilk to it. πŸ™‚

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