Buttermilk: Benefits, Nutrition, Uses & How to Make It

iStock: nailiaschwarz

Despite some people’s misconception that buttermilk is a blend of milk and butter, the truth is that it is a product of the butter-mixing process. Buttermilk is made by taking a few spoonfuls of fermented, probiotic-rich cream, mixing it with water, and whisking them together thoroughly. You can even add spices such as pepper, cumin powder, green chilies, or ginger, which will give the buttermilk an enhanced flavor as well as additional therapeutic properties.

Drinking buttermilk is not a new phenomenon at all. In fact, people have been drinking buttermilk for thousands of years, and it is mentioned in several ancient texts. It is especially popular on the Indian subcontinent, where it is often consumed as a cooling agent in cases of extreme heat or as a digestive aid.

In Ayurveda, buttermilk is commonly used for both prevention and treatment. Buttermilk is easy to digest, rich in calcium and protein, and is a natural treatment for complaints like irritation, swelling, constipation, heartburn and acid reflux, and lack of appetite.

When you are shopping for buttermilk, please follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines and buy reduced-fat or fat-free buttermilk. Not only will you get the nutritional value of full-fat buttermilk like vital minerals and vitamins, but you can also avoid ingesting the extra calories and fat. Any way you look at it, you can’t lose by drinking low-fat buttermilk regularly.

How to Make Your Own Buttermilk at Home

1 pint heavy whipping cream, raw and grass-fed


  • Pour cream into the blender or food processor. Churn the cream on low for five to 10 minutes. The fresher and colder your cream is, the longer it will take to whip into butter.
  • Turn off the blender once the butter separates entirely from the buttermilk, and pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Use a fine mesh cheesecloth to strain.
  • To make cultured buttermilk, let the strained buttermilk ferment in a sealed jar for one to two days.
  • This will yield roughly one cup of butter and one cup of buttermilk.

Nutritional Value of Buttermilk

Serving size: 1 cup (245 g)

Calories 137 (574 kJ) (7% DV)
Protein 10.0 g (20% DV)
Total Carbohydrate 13.0 g (4% DV)
Vitamin A 142 IU (3% DV)
Vitamin C 3.7 mg (6% DV)
Vitamin E 0.3 mg (1% DV)
Vitamin K 0.2 mcg (0% DV)
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg (4% DV)
Vitamin B12 0.9 mcg (15% DV)
Riboflavin 0.5 mg (30% DV)
Total Fat 4.9 g (8% DV)
Saturated Fat 3.0 g (15% DV)
Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Calcium 350 mg (35% DV)
Cholesterol 19.6 mg (7% DV)
Water 215 g

Buttermilk is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fatty acids, and has 137 calories as well. What makes buttermilk an ideal drink is the large number of vitamins in it. It is especially rich in vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B12.

Potential Health Benefits of Buttermilk

1. Improves Digestion

People with digestive problems can benefit from drinking buttermilk as it is easy to digest and a rich source of probiotics. It contains active lactic acid bacteria cultures that help boost the population of healthy bacteria in your gut, which can aid digestion and fight digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease. It soothes the inflamed esophagus in people suffering from indigestion or reflux. Make sure that your buttermilk is not pasteurized and contains live cultures.

2. Good for Your Bones

Your body needs 1,000 mg of calcium every day, and each cup of low-fat buttermilk provides you with 284 mg of it. Drinking calcium-rich buttermilk slows bone loss as you grow older, supports new bone growth, and fends off osteoporosis as well. Calcium also provides support for nerve signalling and blood clotting.

3. Constipation Relief

Buttermilk is often used as a natural therapy to relieve bloating and prevent constipation. Drinking buttermilk regularly will provide your body with beneficial probiotics and enzymes that can ease your condition if you are suffering from diarrhea or constipation. It is especially useful when you are suffering from constipation as drinking it will facilitate your bowel movements.

4. Cleanses Your Body

Buttermilk contains riboflavin (vitamin B2), which activates enzymes in your cells that help drive energy production. Riboflavin helps the liver function properly, which includes ridding your body of toxins, and supports production of uric acid, which is a crucial blood antioxidant. A single cup of buttermilk contains 377 mcg of riboflavin, which accounts for more than 30% of your body’s daily requirement.

5. Rich in Proteins

Each cell in your body contains protein, which is required for their repair and maintenance. This protein is necessary for building strong bones, muscles, and skin. A single cup of buttermilk contains 10 g of protein, which makes up 20% of your protein needs. So you should drink buttermilk regularly as it boosts your protein intake.

6. Keeps You Hydrated

Indian-style buttermilk drinks such as chaas are made from cultured cream, water, salt, and spices that can effectively prevent dehydration. The salt and spices in particular contain electrolytes, which are a surefire way of fighting heat and rapid water loss. During intense summer months, drinking buttermilk can reduce problems like prickly heat and general uneasiness.

7. Beneficial to the Gastrointestinal Tract

Buttermilk is rich in “good” bacteria, which are beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract. They have a symbiotic relationship with our body, where in exchange for a place to live and food to eat, they convert lactose into lactic acid. They also help our system break down food so that nutrients are easily absorbed.

Drinking buttermilk lowers chances of suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome by influencing the growth of good bacteria and preventing overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in your stomach. The body requires probiotics because they synthesize vitamins, enhance immunity, aid in digestion, fight cardiovascular diseases, and defend against carcinogens.

Buttermilk Substitutes

1 Yogurt – Add water or regular milk to thin plain yogurt and mix thoroughly until you get the consistency of buttermilk. Ideally, the ratio of yogurt to water or milk should be 3:1.

2. Cream of Tartar – Add 1 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar to a cup of milk and let it rest for five to 10 minutes. The milk will get thick and curdle, and you can use the buttermilk.

3. Acidified Milk – Add one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a single cup of milk. Stir to combine and let it rest for around five minutes. You can use the same process to make buttermilk from other types of non-dairy milk.

4. Sour Cream – Combine 3/4 cup of sour cream with 1/4 cup of water or milk and mix well until you achieve buttermilk consistency.

5. Kefir – Use kefir instead of buttermilk in the same amounts required in your recipe, and we’re sure nobody will know the difference. Kefir contains lactic acid, so it will do the job of the actual buttermilk.

Uses for Leftover Buttermilk

If you have some leftover buttermilk after cooking your dishes, don’t lose any sleep over it. You can always use it to make stuff like smoothies, mashed potatoes, marinades, and much more. Here are some buttermilk recipes so you can make wonderful dishes that will leave you and your family licking their fingers.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

You can use buttermilk to make healthy spinach, tomato, and red onion salad. Saute two tablespoons of chopped shallot. Then remove from heat and mix in one tablespoon of mustard, one cup of buttermilk, and two tablespoons of vinegar. Stir in two ounces of blue cheese and one tablespoon of chopped parsley. You can season it with pepper and salt.


Take two cups of buttermilk, three eggs, a sprinkle of cinnamon and honey, and a pinch of salt and mix well. Pour the mix into a ceramic baking dish and bake for about an hour until set. Enjoy a well and easily made custard with family and friends.

Chicken Marinade

Buttermilk tenderizes chicken so you can use it for healthier baked chicken as well. Rub the drumsticks and other parts of the chicken with a mix of black pepper, cayenne, onion powder, salt, dry mustard, and garlic powder. Then make small holes in the chicken by poking it all over with a fork and cover with buttermilk. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour so that the buttermilk can seep into the chicken.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Spinach

Boil potatoes and add a cup of frozen chopped spinach while they are still cooking. Drain, mash the mix, and stir in buttermilk. You can jazz it up by topping it with bacon.

Berry Buttermilk Smoothies

Using a blender, mix buttermilk with a banana, frozen berries, and some vanilla extract well. Drop in some ice cubes and blend until the puree is thick and smooth. The contrast of the sweet berries and sour buttermilk will stimulate your taste buds. You can try other combos like buttermilk with any nut butter and dates.

Limitations of Drinking Buttermilk

Even low-fat buttermilk contains 4.9 g of fat per cup, with harmful saturated fat constituting 60% of it. It also has 211 mg of sodium per cup, which is 20% of your daily limit, so drinking excess buttermilk can be detrimental to your health.

Saturated fat increases your cholesterol while sodium increases blood pressure, putting extra strain on your blood vessels and heart. So it’s best to drink buttermilk in moderation as part of your balanced and healthy diet.

Commercial Buttermilk vs. Traditional Buttermilk

Many people don’t consider the buttermilk sold in the stores to be “true” buttermilk and label them as “commercial” products. They prefer what can be called traditional buttermilk, which is made by churning milk after it has gone bad. The bacteria present ferment the milk sugars and give off the sour taste.

Companies that sell buttermilk needed alternatives to market “spoiled milk” to the masses, and when pasteurization became widespread, most of the naturally occurring bacteria was killed off in the process. Modern-day commercial buttermilk, however, is sold in the form of skim or low-fat milk that has been cultured with lactic acid bacteria.

Though today’s population might not be drinking the traditional buttermilk consumed by those living hundreds of years ago, the so-called commercial buttermilk can still be used for making different kinds of delicious dishes.

Where to Buy Buttermilk

There are several brands of buttermilk available in the marketplace today. You can buy them in your nearest grocery store where they would be stocked in the dairy section. You will find a wide range of brands of buttermilk at supermarkets as well. For those looking to buy from the comfort of their homes, they can be bought from major online stores as well.

The Final Word on Butter Milk

Buttermilk is a result of the butter-churning process, and not a blend of milk and butter despite what the name suggests. When buttermilk is mixed with healthy spices like ginger, pepper, and cumin, it gains further medicinal properties.

Buttermilk has been used as a digestive agent since ancient times and can be very good for health due to its benefits for digestion, bone health,  constipation, and the GI tract overall. Plus, it helps cleanse your body, is rich in proteins, and aids in preventing dehydration.

Buttermilk can be used to make a variety of dishes, such as smoothies, custard, mashed potatoes, and even blue cheese dressing. It can also be used for marinating chicken. Buttermilk is widely available at grocery stores, supermarkets, and even online stores. But it’s also easy (and possibly healthier) to make it from scratch, right in your kitchen.

Go for low-fat buttermilk but only drink in moderation. Let the wisdom of centuries work for you. Drink buttermilk regularly to live a healthy, vibrant, and robust life.

Also Read:

Tremblay, S., “Why Is Buttermilk Good for You?” Livestrong, October 3, 2017; https://www.livestrong.com/article/447392-why-is-buttermilk-good-for-you/, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Radhakrishnan, M., “25 Amazing Benefits And Uses Of Butter Milk (Chaas),” STYLECRAZE, August 23, 2018;
https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/benefits-and-uses-of-butter-milk/#gref, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Pope, S., “How to Make REAL Buttermilk,” the healthy home economist, October 22, 2018;
https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/buttermilk-benefits-uses-recipes/, last accessed November 29, 2018.
“Milk, buttermilk, fluid, cultured, reduced fat Nutrition Facts & Calories,” SELFNutritionData, https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/7544/2, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Filippone, P.T., “Potential Health Benefits of Buttermilk,” the spruce Eats, November 6, 2018;
https://www.thespruceeats.com/buttermilk-health-benefits-1807503, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Huffstetler, E., “How to Make a Buttermilk Substitute,” the spruce Eats, October 30, 2018;
https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-make-a-buttermilk-substitute-4145341, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Stockwell, A., “The Best Buttermilk Substitutes,” epicurious, October 26, 2017;
https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/substitute-buttermilk-baking-article last accessed November 29, 2018.
The Editors of Prevention, “6 Ways To Use Leftover Buttermilk,” Prevention, June 5, 2013;
https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/g20487784/6-recipes-for-leftover-buttermilk/, last accessed November 29, 2018.
Ghidanac, D., “The Surprising Health Benefits of Drinking Buttermilk,” SPOON UNIVERSITY, October 12, 2016;
https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-drinking-buttermilk, last accessed November 29, 2018.