How to Make Homemade Cultured Buttermilk


Cultured buttermilk has an irresistible charm that makes it a beloved ingredient in various culinary creations. This tangy, creamy liquid adds a unique flavor profile and texture to dishes, making it a must-have in any kitchen. If you’re wondering what exactly cultured buttermilk is and how to make it at home, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll take you through the delightful journey of creating your very own homemade cultured buttermilk.

The Charm of Cultured Buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk is not your typical buttermilk. Unlike traditional buttermilk, which is the liquid leftover after churning butter, cultured buttermilk is made by introducing specific bacteria to regular milk. These bacteria ferment the milk’s sugars, resulting in a tangy and slightly thickened liquid with a pleasant aroma.

What is Cultured Buttermilk?

Cultured buttermilk is a cultured dairy product that contains active bacterial cultures, mainly Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. These friendly bacteria work their magic on the milk, breaking down lactose and producing lactic acid, which gives the buttermilk its characteristic tanginess.

Getting Started with Cultured Buttermilk

Before you embark on your cultured buttermilk journey, gather the essential ingredients and tools to ensure a smooth process.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

To make homemade cultured buttermilk, you’ll need:

Fresh whole milk: Opt for high-quality, preferably organic, whole milk for the best results.

Buttermilk culture: You can either use a store-bought buttermilk with live cultures or a freeze-dried buttermilk culture starter.

The Tools You’ll Need

Assemble the following tools before you begin:

A clean glass jar or container with a tight-fitting lid to culture the buttermilk.

A thermometer to monitor the milk’s temperature accurately.

A whisk or a spoon for stirring.

Selecting the Right Milk

The key to producing delicious cultured buttermilk lies in the quality of the milk you use. Always choose fresh, whole milk without additives or preservatives. Organic milk from grass-fed cows can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your buttermilk.

Choosing a Buttermilk Culture

The success of your cultured buttermilk largely depends on the buttermilk culture you select. You have two options: using store-bought buttermilk with live cultures or a freeze-dried buttermilk culture starter. Both options work well, but the freeze-dried starter gives you more control over the fermentation process and consistency.

Understanding Buttermilk Cultures

Cultured buttermilk relies on specific strains of bacteria to ferment the milk. Lactococcus lactis is responsible for the initial fermentation, converting lactose into lactic acid. Leuconostoc mesenteroides then takes over, producing more lactic acid and enhancing the tanginess of the buttermilk.

Exploring Different Culture Options

As you delve into the world of cultured buttermilk, you’ll discover various culture options, each imparting a unique flavor profile to the final product. Experiment with different cultures to find the one that suits your taste buds the best.

Preparing the Culturing Environment

Before you start the culturing process, ensure that your environment is conducive to the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Maintaining a clean and sanitized workspace is crucial. Wash your hands thoroughly and sterilize all equipment before use. A clean environment prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria that could spoil your buttermilk.

Temperature and Time Considerations

The right temperature and time are essential for successful culturing. The ideal temperature for buttermilk fermentation is around 68-72°F (20-22°C). Ferment the buttermilk for 12-24 hours, depending on the desired tanginess and thickness.

Culturing the Buttermilk

Now that you have all the preparations in place, it’s time to culture the buttermilk. Follow these steps to ensure a perfect batch.

Step-by-Step Culturing Process

Heat the Milk: Pour the fresh whole milk into a saucepan and gently heat it until it reaches around 180°F (82°C). Heating the milk helps improve the texture of the final product.

Cool the Milk: Allow the heated milk to cool to the target fermentation temperature of 68-72°F (20-22°C).

Add the Culture: Stir the buttermilk culture into the cooled milk, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed.

Cover and Ferment: Transfer the milk and culture mixture into a clean glass jar, and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Let it ferment at the desired temperature for 12-24 hours.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Don’t worry if your first batch doesn’t turn out perfect. Culturing buttermilk can be a bit finicky, and it’s common to encounter a few issues. Here are some troubleshooting tips:

Too Thin: If your buttermilk turns out too thin, try fermenting it for a few more hours to allow the bacteria to work longer.

Too Sour: For a milder flavor, reduce the fermentation time or use less buttermilk culture.

Not Thick Enough: If you desire a thicker consistency, try using a slightly higher fat content in your milk or adding some cream to the mix.

Straining the Buttermilk

Once your buttermilk has cultured to your satisfaction, it’s time to strain it and get ready to indulge.

Draining the Curd

Place a clean cheesecloth or muslin cloth over a bowl or container and carefully pour the cultured buttermilk through it. The curds will remain in the cloth, and the whey will pass through into the bowl.

Saving Buttermilk for Future Use

Don’t discard the whey! It is a nutritious liquid that you can use in various recipes, such as baking, cooking, or even making refreshing beverages.

Storing and Preserving Buttermilk

To enjoy your homemade cultured buttermilk for an extended period, follow these storage guidelines.

Proper Storage Techniques

Transfer the strained buttermilk into a clean, airtight container, and refrigerate it. It will keep well for up to 2 weeks.

Extending Buttermilk’s Shelf Life

To extend the shelf life of your cultured buttermilk, you can freeze it in small portions. Simply pour the buttermilk into ice cube trays, freeze until solid, and then transfer the cubes to a sealed freezer bag.

Using Your Homemade Cultured Buttermilk

Now that you have a jar of delicious homemade cultured buttermilk, let’s explore its versatile applications in the kitchen.

Culinary Applications of Buttermilk

Buttermilk’s tangy flavor and creamy texture make it a fantastic addition to both sweet and savory dishes.

Enhancing Recipes with Buttermilk

Pancakes and Waffles: Substitute buttermilk for regular milk in pancake and waffle recipes for a tangy twist.

Biscuits and Scones: Use buttermilk instead of regular milk to add moisture and fluffiness to your baked goods.

Salad Dressings: Mix buttermilk with herbs and spices for a light and refreshing salad dressing.

Marinades: Tenderize meats by marinating them in buttermilk before cooking.

Health Benefits of Cultured Buttermilk

Apart from its culinary versatility, cultured buttermilk also offers numerous health benefits.

Nutritional Value

Cultured buttermilk is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin B12, and protein. It promotes healthy bones, supports nerve function, and aids in cell repair and growth.

Probiotic Potential

The active cultures present in buttermilk promote gut health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. These probiotics aid in digestion, boost the immune system, and may even alleviate certain digestive issues.


Congratulations! You have successfully crafted your own batch of homemade cultured buttermilk. Now, it’s time to relish the creamy tanginess and experiment with various recipes that include this versatile dairy delight. Whether you use it to bake fluffy biscuits, marinate succulent meats, or simply enjoy a refreshing glass, cultured buttermilk is sure to elevate your culinary experience. So, savor the fruits of your labor and share the buttermilk love with family and friends, introducing them to the joy of homemade cultured buttermilk. Happy culturing!

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