How to Make Buttermilk

Buttermilk. Alexander Feigh/StockFood Creative/Getty Images
  • Prep Time
    10 min
  • Cook Time
    0 min
  • Total Time
    10 min
  • Yield

Learn how to make real buttermilk from heavy cream. No other ingredients are required, and you don't even need a churn. It's a super-easy process that'll result in the freshest buttermilk you've ever tasted. Try it once, and you'll be hooked.


  • Heavy cream (avoid ultra-pasteurized)


For a Small Batch of Buttermilk

1. Fill a jar halfway with heavy cream. Then, screw the lid on firmly (a canning jar works well for this purpose).

2. Start shaking the jar up and down. After several minutes, the cream will thicken and turn into whipped cream. Keep shaking until the whipped cream is replaced with a yellow glob (that's butter) and a separate liquid (that's the buttermilk).

3. Pour the buttermilk out of the jar, and use it in any recipe that calls for buttermilk, or drink it straight up, like they did in the olden days.

For a Large Batch of Buttermilk

1. Pour heavy cream into a mixer, and beat it at high speed.

2. It'll turn into whipping cream first. Just keep whipping it, and it'll separate out into butter and buttermilk.

To Use the Butter: Knead it under cold water for a couple minutes to remove any remaining buttermilk (it will spoil very quickly, if you don't). Then, salt your butter (if desired), and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Homemade butter has a relatively short shelf life, so enjoy it within a few days.

Did You Know?

Store-bought buttermilk isn't buttermilk at all. Instead of being made from heavy cream, it's made from low-fat milk that has been soured by the addition of lactic acid bacteria (similar to the way yogurt is made). It's what's referred to as cultured buttermilk.

This makes for some pretty big differences between the two. Cultured buttermilk tastes sour, and has a thick consistency.

Real buttermilk is sweet, and has a much thinner consistency. But perhaps the biggest difference of all is that cultured buttermilk (the store-bought kind) is acidic. So, if you're working on a baked good recipe that calls for buttermilk, you need to stick to store-bought. The buttermilk is, more than likely, being used to activate the baking soda in the recipe, and that's not something real buttermilk can do.

Just Looking for a Good Buttermilk Substitute?

You can make your own buttermilk substitute out of milk and lemon juice. It's really easy. Here's how:

Never Seem to Have Buttermilk When You Need It?

Keep powdered buttermilk on hand, so you can mix up a batch whenever you need it.

Buy Powdered Buttermilk on Amazon

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