10 Ways to Use Buttermilk

I feel like whenever I mention using buttermilk, someone says either “You know you can just add vinegar/lemon juice to regular milk, right?” or “what do you do with the leftover buttermilk?”

In response to the first question: I am not a fan of adding vinegar/lemon juice to regular milk and calling it buttermilk. It is not the same. You will absolutely notice a difference. You’d be better off using plain yogurt, possibly thinned with a bit of milk, because you’ll get a better consistency and a more near flavor to real buttermilk.

But really, you should just use real buttermilk. One, it’s cheap. Two, in my experience, it lasts forever. In the three or four years since I started keeping it around as a staple, I have never once had a bottle of it go bad. Even after two or more months. Three, it is just not an ingredient that really substitutes well. You’ll get the best flavor, texture, and height when you actually use buttermilk instead of a substitute. I obviously feel way too strongly about this.

So now you’ve bought yourself a quart of buttermilk. And here’s answer to question number 2 – How do I use up buttermilk?

10 ways to use up buttermilk

10 Recipes to Use Up Buttermilk

  1. Homemade Ranch Dressing – So amazing, I want to weep when I don’t have any around.
  2. Waffles – I’ve mentioned these waffles before but they are my favorite favorite waffles of all-time. I go 100% white wheat flour and use coconut oil and they are delicious. But I used vegetable oil for years and they were great that way too.
  3. Maple Oat Scones – The first scones I ever made. Delicious and got me over my fears of scone-making.
  4. Coconut Buttermilk Syrup – I love this recipe, and Bart and I both scarf it down whenever I make it. We don’t even buy regular syrup anymore.
  5. Perfect Pancakes – These are my very favorite pancakes. Seriously the best I’ve ever had.
  6. Buttermilk Biscuits – I love these slightly-sweet, flaky biscuits. Easy and delicious every time.
  7. Pumpkin Scones – For when you want to use up your buttermilk in a festively seasonal way.
  8. Perfect Potato Salad – I love the idea of potato salad, but find that most recipes fall a little flat. This one, though? I’m scraping the bowl.
  9. Double Chocolate Muffins – These are some really great muffins. Definitely a weekend favorite in this house.
  10. Buttermilk Banana Bread – Bart doesn’t really like this recipe (although he’ll still eat several slices), but I LOVE this stuff and the first time I made it for Ella, she ate half a mini-loaf on her own.

Something I’d like to try with buttermilk? Ice Cream. I’ll return with full details when I get around to it (so, you know, in a year or so).

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  • Reply Diane May 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    We have a pancake recipe that we got from Alton Brown's Good Eats that uses pancakes. They are so good. My husband makes them anytime my grandchildren are here. They call buttermilk "pancake milk" because that's when they see it being used.

  • Reply Rachel May 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Oh dear . . . I've actually never in my life used real buttermilk. I'll blame my mother–she was a big believer in the milk + vinegar substitution, so it wasn't until I was married and cooking for myself and my husband that I even noticed there was such a thing as real buttermilk in stores and the recipes weren't just using it as a codeword for milk and vinegar. I'm excited to see the difference using the real stuff makes!

  • Reply Amanda Cobb May 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I recently became aware of the existence of Buttermilk Chess Pie, and am a huge fan. I've yet to try making it myself, but it is DELICIOUS.

    The buttermilk banana bread sounds amazing.

  • Reply Meridith May 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    You've sold me on it. I'm now craving coconut buttermilk syrup.

  • Reply emandtrev May 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I am already a big fan of the homemade ranch dressing recipe. So delicious. Bless you for sharing that. 🙂 All of these recipes sound wonderful. I may have gasped with glee when I clicked on the Maple Oat Scones recipe. Not only does it sound fantastic, but I loooooove Ina Garten. Love.

  • Reply lifeofadoctorswife May 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Well, I am now completely won over to the magic of buttermilk! I've used it before (for what? Hmm. I cannot for the life of me remember!) but I was able to buy one of those little tiny half pint bottles, so there wasn't any left over. Good to know that it keeps for a while, though!

  • Reply heidikins May 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I buy buttermilk by the pint and end up using it all every time. My last pint? 18 cents. I feel like I'm beating the system. 🙂


  • Reply Natalie May 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Way to stand up for buttermilk! I totally agree… that vinegar + milk substitution is lame and the consistency is all wrong. I quit buying regular milk, but I can't give up buttermilk. 🙂

  • Reply Emily Kate May 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I know I have asked you (or twitter in general, but mostly just so you would answer) this very question so thank you for this post! I also always wondered how safe it was to keep it around so that is so good to know. I love recipes with buttermilk in them so I'll be more confident buying it now I know I can use it up.

  • Reply Packrat May 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    You are correct. Adding lemon or vinegar is regular milk is not the same as buttermilk. That is a substitute for sour milk which is entirely different.

    Amanda is also correct; buttermilk chess pie is delicious. It is also incredibly easy to make.

    I always keep a container of powdered buttermilk (SACO brand is what is available here)on the pantry shelf. If kept dry, it will literally keep for years. I use this for almost everything that calls for buttermilk. For chess pie, though, I buy the real thing.

  • Reply Kayris May 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I'm one of those that uses vinegar/lemon. Bottled buttermilk always seems short dated, maybe it's an East Coast thing? Because I have thrown out more than I can count because it was funky. I used to buy the powdered stuff but ended up using a few tablespoons and chucking it. I only buy it when I need a larger amount, like for the cake I made my son for my bday last year. Not a fan of buttermilk, even the smell makes me gag.

  • Reply Merrick May 16, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I remember that Y hike…I was hiking it the same night with a friend and you kindly shared the muffins at the top. Delicious. In fact, I might need to make some this week…

  • Reply Lady Susan May 17, 2012 at 1:20 am

    So now all you need to do is culture your own buttermilk. I know it appeals to your frugal nature. 😉 It is super easy too because the bacteria culture at room temperature vs. those for yogurt which require a temperature of 115. You can buy buttermilk culture (powder) and then keep it constantly going, or you can use buttermilk from the store (as long as it contains live cultures) and use that as your buttermilk starter. Add a little bit of starter to your milk, leave it on the counter to do its thing. It is done in 24 hours or so. You can also use buttermilk to culture cream to make your own creme fraiche or sour cream.

    Also, I wanted to say that I have had success using buttermilk in replace of milk for most baked goods. (I guess you do need to keep an eye out for the type of levener used. You would need to swap in some baking soda if it only called for baking powder for example.) It can add a really nice flavor and texture.

    And the whole point of cultured dairy is that it keeps longer than straight milk/cream/etc.

  • Reply G May 18, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Amen. Must have real buttermilk. I try to keep it around too. It lasts long enough and is used in enough GOOD recipes that I don't ever feel like I have to TRY to use it up. More likely I run out prematurely and then weep because I don't have time to run to the store and I have to use some lame substitution!

  • Reply Kristi May 19, 2012 at 3:07 am

    I think you forgot to say Texas sheet cake. Whoa baby.

  • Reply Amanda May 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    My favorite banana bread recipe calls for buttermilk and when I tell people that they think I'm weird. But, they don't complain when I give them some to eat! It's amazing! I recently had 2 open cartons because I was leery of the impending/passed dates…but then I remembered your post. I thought, "If Janssen can use it and not die, then I'm sure we'll be fine." And we were! Another batch of banana bread and some delicious buttermilk pancakes later and I used it all up!

  • Reply Michael Binder November 3, 2014 at 6:32 am

    Two thoughts:
    1. Store bought buttermilk is still not "real" buttermilk. It's cultured (sour) milk. It's made by adding cultures to regular milk. "Real" buttermilk is the liquid that's left over when you make butter from cream. That's something entirely different than the product you buy at the store labeled as buttermilk. The only reason they call that buttermilk is because it sounds better than sour milk.
    2. It's funny how you list ten usages for buttermilk, but still not come up with the most obvious, and most easy one: Just drink it. It's healthy, it's delicious, it's a great drink, it's the original purpose and use of buttermilk long before it was used as baking or cooking ingredient. I'm from Europe, where buttermilk is very popular as drink, and nothing but a drink, and it never stops astounding me how Americans always think of buttermilk exclusively as baking ingredient. Jeez, if you absolutely can't stand the taste of pure buttermilk (and I really pity you in that case), add some fruit and make a smoothie out of it. That's another very obvious use not listed above.

    • Reply Connie Deatherage November 8, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      You are absolutely right about drinking it! I'm a southern girl (Georgia) and almost everyone in my family drinks it. When my dad and my sister had chemo and it caused them to have sores and ulcers in their mouth, buttermilk was the ONLY thing that soothed the soreness and helped them.

    • Reply Sue July 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

      You are soooo right! I love making home made butter in the food processor and saving the real buttermilk!

  • Reply Unknown November 8, 2015 at 1:41 am

    Irish soda bread.

  • Reply Connie Deatherage November 8, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Believe it or not, buttermilk makes AMAZING mashed potatoes! Use it instead of either milk or cream and enjoy the the slight tangy creamy flavor it gives your mashed potatoes!

  • Reply Allison November 13, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Also, Creme Fraiche. It's something between sour cream and yogurt. Add three tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream in a mason jar, put on a lid, and shake it up. Then leave it on your counter for 24-48 hours. Add some sugar and vanilla extract to the Creme Fraiche and it's great on strawberries/blueberries.

  • Reply Tony and Candy December 22, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Buttermilk Pie simple and one of the best pies ever! There are recipes on Pinterest for it.

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