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Buttermilk: No Churning Required

Updated on June 30, 2010

You're walking through the dairy aisle of the supermarket. You pick up your milk, your yogurt, maybe a container of cottage cheese. You're ready to move on to produce - but wait, don't go yet. There, on the shelf, between the skim milk and the heavy cream, is something you need - it's buttermilk. It may not be on your weekly shopping list now, but once you start using it, it will be.

True buttermilk is what's left when you turn cream into butter. Its slightly sour taste is a by-product when the cream ripens into butter. What you see in the market isn't true buttermilk but cultured buttermilk. It's made from plain, ordinary skim milk, and the cream-ripening organisms are added to it to yield its distinctive flavor. Then it's heat-treated to kill the organisms, and sent to your grocery store.

Buttermilk has two things going for it: flavor and texture. It tastes like a very mild yogurt, and has a thick, rich consistency despite its very low fat content (nonfat and low-fat buttermilk are available). It has an almost magical ability to thicken and enrich soups, sauces, and dressings.

Before you do anything with buttermilk, shake it very well.

  • Use buttermilk as a base for salad dressing, and add blue cheese, honey, and mustard, or fresh herbs.
  • Buttermilk adds a creamy richness to soup - particularly vegetable and shellfish. It's best in cold soups, but you can use it in hot soups if you add it at the very end, off the heat (otherwise it may separate).
  • Add buttermilk, roasted garlic, and a little butter or olive oil to mashed potatoes.
  • Use buttermilk in your pancake or waffle batter (you can even use it with Bisquick, and no one will suspect).
  • Make a lower-fat pesto by replacing some of the olive oil with buttermilk.
  • Dip chicken or fish in buttermilk, dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan- or deep-fry.
  • Dust off your grandmother's recipe for buttermilk biscuits - they're as good as you remember them.
  • It's hard to believe, but buttermilk makes a zesty, refreshing sorbet.

Cherry Tomato & Romaine Salad With Buttermilk Dressing

Buttermilk Dressing:

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise (can be light)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 bunch of chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


3 romaine hearts, washed and chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

Prepare the buttermilk dressing in a medium bowl by whisking buttermilk, lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and chives until well blended. Can be kept in the fridge up to two days prior to serving. Makes approximately 1 cup of dressing.

To serve, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing to coat.


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Great info - and I use it all the time for salad dressings (to thin down or to make from scratch) - and I even drink it. I got into the habit of drinking it when I had an ulcer when I was a young lass of 16. It is a wonderful thing for so many things, including dipping your chicken in before baking! Super hub.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Never tried but I might now

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Hal - Buttermilk has an almost magical quality? Never thought of the product that way. I'll have to give it another chance. Thanks for the enlightening information.


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