Can I Use Buttermilk Instead of Milk?

There are many uses for milk when cooking. Some of us just enjoy a nice glass of milk to drink. When given a glass of milk and a glass of buttermilk, most are unable to tell the difference. Since it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, many believe you can easily substitute buttermilk in any recipes that require milk. There are some differences between the two that can affect the recipes. So, can you substitute buttermilk for milk?

You can use buttermilk instead of milk in many different recipes. If you choose to substitute buttermilk for milk, it can change the amount of other ingredients you are using. For example, substituting buttermilk can result in you needing to use less baking powder and baking soda in certain recipes.

Continue reading to learn more about buttermilk and milk. Also, continue reading to learn the proper way to substitute buttermilk for milk in various recipes.

Buttermilk and Milk Overview

When given a glass of milk and a glass of buttermilk, most are unable to tell the difference between the two. They have a similar texture and a similar taste. Both can be used to cook certain recipes.

However, buttermilk and regular milk do have different origins. Although they can both be found in grocery stores, each has a different process that they must go through to reach their spot on the shelves of grocery stores.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk was originally created when people found that some milk was leftover when butter was created. It was found that buttermilks would be used more in regions that had warmer climates. This is due to the fact that unrefrigerated milks tend to sour more quickly at warmer temperatures.

Today, buttermilk is often created by dairies that will take pasteurized milk and incorporate cultures into the milk in order to make the buttermilk. You can find buttermilk sold in grocery stores, but this buttermilk is known to be much thicker and tangier when compared to traditional buttermilk.

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What is Milk?

It is common knowledge that milk comes from animals, typically cows. There are many other animals that humans milk, but cows are the most common. Once the milk is taken from the animal, it is sent to be processed and pasteurized.

This processing and pasteurization make it to where the milk will taste better, have a longer shelf life, and have a better consistency and appearance. You can find milk in the grocery stores, but you must be wary of the expiration dates on the milk you buy, as milk will expire and no longer be usable after a certain period of time.

What’s the Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk?

Buttermilk and regular milk have many differences despite all of the similarities between the two. Despite all of the similarities between the two, there are some differences that can help you to better understand the difference between buttermilk and milk.


Taste of Buttermilk

Buttermilk is known to have a taste that is sour but also sweet. It has been found that the cultures that are in the buttermilk from when it was created can give the buttermilk a more acidic taste that can be similar to that of slightly off milk.

Appearance of Buttermilk

Buttermilk can have quite a similar appearance to regular milk. While buttermilk can have a white coloring, it can also have somewhat of a yellow tone to it. Buttermilk is also known to leave a thicker residue on the glass it is in.

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Nutritional Value of Buttermilk

It is important to look at the nutritional value of buttermilk in order to better understand if it can truly be a better substitute for milk. Some nutritional values of buttermilk are:

  • Protein: 8g
  • Fat: 2.2g
  • Calories: 99
  • Carbohydrates: 12g

Buttermilk does not contain a lot of fat. This is because most of the fat that you would find has been incorporated into the butter that was made. The leftover buttermilk is left without this fat.

Regular Milk

Taste of Regular Milk

The flavor of milk can vary. This variation is often the result of the fat levels of the milk. Milk is known to have a normal flavor that is very creamy. It is a very popular beverage and is typically drunk by people throughout the world.

Appearance of Regular Milk

Milk is known to have a thin and smooth texture. Milk is also identifiable by its white color and the little residue that it will leave on whatever glass or container that it is in.

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Nutritional Value of Regular Milk

Milk is considered to be very nutritious, which explains why we are often encouraged as children to drink the milk that is served to us. Milk is known to contain many vitamins and minerals which help us to grow and maintain our bodies, such as calcium and riboflavin.

Some other nutritional values of milk include:

  • Protein: 8g
  • Fat: 9g
  • Calories: 156
  • Carbohydrates: 11g

By comparison, milk is known to consist of more calories and fats than buttermilk.

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Can I Substitute Buttermilk for Regular Milk?

You can substitute buttermilk for regular milk. This often causes no issue when it comes to creating whatever dish you are preparing.

When choosing to substitute buttermilk for regular milk, you want to keep in mind the taste and consistency of the buttermilk. Buttermilk is known to have a slightly sour taste as well as less fat compared to regular milk.

If you are thinking of substituting buttermilk for regular milk when you are baking, you may want to reconsider that decision. Buttermilk has a higher rate of acidity compared to regular milk. This can cause some trouble when it comes to the rising of your cakes as the acidity will cause the gluten, which contributes to the rise of the cake, to break down.

What Happens If I Substitute Buttermilk for Milk?

If you substitute buttermilk for milk, some dishes will not show much change. In some instances, substituting buttermilk for regular milk will make some dishes better; it can make dishes not as good in some other instances.

When substituting buttermilk for regular milk, you will also need to substitute baking soda for baking powder in many of the recipes in order for the dish to look and taste similar to how it would if you were to use regular milk.

Other Buttermilk Alternatives That You Can Use Aside From Milk

There are many known alternatives to traditional milks. These alternatives include things like:

Buttermilk is often considered to be a great alternative to regular milk. However, there are other alternatives that you can use if you do not have any buttermilk in your refrigerator and you cannot go out to the store to get some.

Below are two great alternatives that you can use if you want to use buttermilk as a substitute for your regular milk in a recipe, but you do not have any buttermilk on hand.

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Yogurt is an obvious choice as an alternative. Yogurt is similar to buttermilk in that it is a dairy product with a tangy and acidic flavoring.

If you choose to use yogurt as your alternative, it is very easy to determine the measurements for how much yogurt should be in the recipe. For every cup of buttermilk you would use, you can use one cup of yogurt.

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Sour Cream

Sour cream is another dairy product that you can use as an alternative for buttermilk when you want to substitute buttermilk for regular milk.

The tangy flavor of the sour cream, which is a result of the lactic acid bacteria that is used during the fermentation of the cream, is very similar to the flavor of buttermilk. Sour cream does tend to be thicker than buttermilk, so you may need to thin it using water.

For one cup of buttermilk, you can use ¾ cup of sour cream combined with ¼ cup of water in most recipes.

Final Thoughts

There are many recipes that require milk, but you can substitute buttermilk for the regular milk in many, if not all, of these recipes. Buttermilk was originally created from the leftover milk that was not used up when making either cream or butter.

If you give someone a glass of milk and a glass of buttermilk and ask that they tell you the difference, it is highly likely that they will be unable to tell the difference between the two. Both milk and buttermilk have a similar white, creamy color, although buttermilk will sometimes have a slightly yellow tint to it.

A primary difference between the two is the taste. Buttermilk tends to have more of a sour and acidic taste compared to regular milk, but it is still sweet. Buttermilk is also considered to be healthier than regular milk, since buttermilk contains less fats as the fats were primarily concentrated into the butter that was made, so there is much less fat left in the milk.

You will need to take into consideration how substituting buttermilk will affect the rest of the ingredients that you are using, but buttermilk is a great substitute for regular milk.