Is Buttermilk the Same as Heavy Cream?

Buttermilk and heavy cream are great ingredients and can often be essential for recipes. Buttermilk is a thicker liquid and has an off-white color. Heavy cream is also thick and has a similar color. Are the two heavy off-white liquids the same?

Buttermilk and heavy cream are milk products with similar consistencies, but they are very different. The differences lie in how buttermilk and heavy cream are created. This causes the changes between buttermilk and heavy cream that make them different. 

Buttermilk and heavy cream are cooking staples and can be used in countless recipes. Everyday use of buttermilk or heavy cream in recipes can include baked goods, soups, sauces, and casseroles. Buttermilk and heavy cream may sometimes even be used in some recipes because they do different jobs during the cooking process.

Is Buttermilk and Heavy Cream the Same Thing?

Buttermilk and heavy cream are not the same substance. They may be easy to mix up with one another, but the outcome of a mix-up will show the difference in taste, texture, and presentation. Buttermilk and heavy cream are created in two distinctly different ways. 

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is an essential ingredient used often for baking or sauces. Buttermilk is made by fermenting with lactic acid to create a chunky, creamy, and tangy mixture like ranch or mayonnaise. This liquid can be made easily by adding lemon juice or other lactic acids to whole milk. 

What is Heavy Cream? 

Milk collected from cows is usually spun or stirred rapidly in a vat. The creamy milk fat that rises up floats to the top, and the skim milk sinks to the bottom of the mixture. Heavy cream is generally a collection of all this milkfat that is later spun for a time and filtered to remove any unwanted contaminants. 

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What Are the Differences Between Buttermilk and Heavy Cream? 

Buttermilk and heavy cream are two of the best ingredients used in baking recipes. Both of these ingredients are milk products and come from the same kind of animal. However, there are some significant differences between buttermilk and heavy cream because they are made. The differences between buttermilk and heavy cream lie in the fat content, texture, taste, and their uses in cooking. 

Fat Content

Buttermilk has very little fat due to the lactic acid fermenting most of it. There are approximately two grams of fat per cup of buttermilk. Heavy cream contains up to 88 grams of fat per cup. This is a significant difference in fat content between the two ingredients and is essential to consider when using one or the other in a recipe. 


Buttermilk and heavy cream differ in their textures. Buttermilk is light and will create fluffy products during cooking. Heavy cream is true to its name and is heavier and thick. The use of heavy cream is reserved for thicker recipes that will end up denser when cooked. 


Buttermilk is tangy from the use of lactic acid to ferment the milk. The mixture is almost chunky and needs to be shaken or stirred before use. Heavy cream is creamy and has a naturally sweet taste that pairs well with desserts and coffees. 

Uses in Cooking

Buttermilk is designed to balance other recipe ingredients, such as baking soda. Using buttermilk in recipes will ensure a light and fluffy outcome for things like pancakes or muffins. Heavy cream can be used and poured directly into coffee as a natural and creamy sweetener or added to pies or casseroles to give them density. Heavy cream does well in soups and in making sauces or dressings.

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Can Buttermilk and Heavy Cream Substitute for the Other? 

Buttermilk and heavy cream are ingredients that can be used in recipes for baking or other types of cooking, but it is unclear whether or not they can substitute for each other.

Buttermilk and heavy cream have been the center of a debate between bakers and cooks alike where some think they can substitute one another, while others think this is a cooking sin. Buttermilk will offer a light and fluffy outcome, while heavy cream will offer a sweet richness to recipes.

Buttermilk is light, fluffy, tangy, and savory, while heavy cream is dense, full-bodied, and rich. 

The dish’s outcome depends on using one or both of these ingredients and should be the primary focus before use. 


Buttermilk and heavy cream are everyday staples in cooking and baking and are similar in that they are milk products. Everything else about these two ingredients differs.  Buttermilk is a tangy and savory milk product that creates a light and fluffy dish, while heavy cream is a sweet and rich milk product that creates a dense and full-bodied dish. They can be used side by side or one for the other but there may be differences in taste, texture, and initial outcomes of the food.