If you’re a cook or baker, chances are you’ve asked yourself the same question many times: Does buttermilk go bad? After all, it’s an ingredient used in recipes from pancakes and waffles to salad dressings and zesty dips.
Well, it depends on many factors, such as storage temperature, type of container used for storing the milk, and expiration date printed on the packaging; thankfully, some simple tips can help keep your buttermilk fresh and safe for cooking.
This article will explore key points about how long buttermilk lasts and what signs indicate potential spoilage so you can always prepare with confidence.
What Is Buttermilk?
Buttermilk is a cultured dairy milk product made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cow’s milk. The bacteria feed on the lactose in the milk, causing it to thicken and become sour – a result of lactic acid production.
In its traditional form, buttermilk was a byproduct of butter-making, obtained by skimming the cream off of whole milk. The modern-day version is made with either low-fat or non-fat milk.
Cultured Buttermilk vs. Cultured Style Buttermilk
Two distinct types of buttermilk are sold in stores: cultured and cultured-style (or “clabbered”). Cultured buttermilk has added citric acid or lactic acid bacteria, while cultured-style buttermilk is an imitation product made with skim milk, cream, and enzymes.
The main difference is that cultured buttermilk has live active cultures, making it tart and thicker than the regular version. It also has a longer shelf life, so many cooks and bakers prefer it.
What Does Buttermilk Taste Like?
Buttermilk has a distinct tangy flavor, similar to sour cream or yogurt. It’s slightly salty and creamy in texture with a mild sweetness. The acidity of buttermilk makes it perfect for baking – it helps activate baking soda, resulting in lighter cakes and fluffier pancakes.
Is Buttermilk Good for You?
Yes, buttermilk is quite nutritious and a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also low in fat, with only 5 grams per cup, compared to whole milk, which contains 8 grams.
In addition, buttermilk contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that can help promote healthy digestion and boost your immune system.
How Do You Make Buttermilk?
Making homemade buttermilk is a simple process that requires just two ingredients: lemon juice and milk.
All you need to do is add one tablespoon of lemon juice (or white vinegar) to 1 cup of either regular milk or non-fat milk, then stir until the mixture thickens slightly – about 5 minutes.
The acidity of the lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle, giving it a similar texture and buttery taste as store-bought buttermilk. This fermented milk beverage has an excellent buttery flavor and can be used in many ways.
Does Buttermilk Go Bad?
Yes! Buttermilk is a dairy product that can spoil if not properly stored. The high-fat content of buttermilk makes it susceptible to bad bacteria growth.
How Long Does Buttermilk Last?
When it comes to shelf life, unopened buttermilk generally has a longer shelf life than opened buttermilk. Unopened buttermilk usually lasts for a week beyond the expiry date on the package and can last up to three weeks if stored in cold conditions. However, it is recommended that you check the butter milk’s smell and consistency before using it.
If you’ve already opened buttermilk, it’ll be good in the fridge for a week! For food safety, note how long does buttermilk last and check this shelf life info with other dairy products too!
Signs of Spoiled Buttermilk
Here are the signs to tell if buttermilk has gone bad and is past its shelf life.
Buttermilk doesn’t stay fresh forever – like other dairy products, and it has an expiration date. To tell if buttermilk has gone bad, look for a change in the color of the liquid. If it has started turning yellow or grayish, your buttermilk is no longer good and should be discarded.
Checking if buttermilk has gone bad is as easy as taking a sip. Buttermilk should have a slightly tangy taste without any off-putting flavors if it is still drinkable. However, if buttermilk is bad the tangy taste will become far too sour to be enjoyable. In this case, discarding the expired buttermilk and purchasing a fresh carton for your favorite recipes is best.
Smelling is one of the easiest ways to tell if buttermilk has gone bad. If buttermilk is bad, it will typically have a strong sour odor. A strong aroma of sourness or an obvious sour smell strongly suggests that the buttermilk has gone bad. You should not risk consuming buttermilk past its use-by date and when the odor does not match the usual buttermilk smell.
To tell if buttermilk is bad, feel the texture. The difference between good and bad buttermilk can be noticeable. Good buttermilk should have a smooth, creamy consistency, while bad buttermilk will have a lumpy or granular texture due to curdled milk proteins.
Best Way to Store Buttermilk
Storing buttermilk is vital for anyone who likes to cook and bake using this culinary classic. To store buttermilk safely, keep it in an airtight container or jar in your refrigerator.
Keeping it at the proper temperature will prevent harmful bacteria from growing and help maintain the shelf life of buttermilk – up to two weeks if you store it this way.
Best Containers for Storing Buttermilk
Regarding storing buttermilk, certain containers are better suited than others. Here are some of the best containers for storing buttermilk:
- Glass Mason Jars: Mason jars are perfect for storing buttermilk due to their airtight seal. It will help keep the buttermilk fresh for longer.
- Plastic Storage Containers with Airtight Lids: Plastic storage containers with airtight lids can also be used to store buttermilk, as they provide an effective seal that helps keep the contents fresh.
- Refrigerator-safe Containers: If you need to store your buttermilk in a refrigerator, look for specialized containers explicitly designed for this purpose. These containers often come with airtight seals, making them ideal for keeping your buttermilk fresh longer.
How Long to Refrigerate Buttermilk?
If opened, buttermilk should be refrigerated immediately after purchase, kept in its original container, or transferred to a buttermilk container. A great rule of thumb is always to keep buttermilk refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, depending on your preference. You can use the refrigerated buttermilk until the ‘use-by’ date indicated on the product label.
Can You Freeze Buttermilk?
Yes! You can freeze buttermilk. Freezing buttermilk is an excellent way to preserve the flavor and shelf-life, extending it longer than the expiration date. When taking out frozen buttermilk, allow time to thaw before use completely.
Rules for Freezing Buttermilk
It’s important to remember that freezing can affect the physical consistency and flavor of buttermilk – if you follow the instructions, however, you’ll still be able to make amazing recipes with your defrosted buttermilk.
Before adding it to your freezer, pour it into smaller containers for easier thawing later. Then please make sure that your freezer is set at 0°F. Once frozen, use it as soon as possible – aim for within three months.
Finally, when using the frozen buttermilk after it has been defrosted, stir well before adding it to whatever dish you are making, and make sure the dish is used right away.
Homemade Buttermilk Vs. Shop Bought Buttermilk
When it comes to buttermilk, there are two options you can choose from – homemade or shop-bought.
Homemade buttermilk consists of just two simple ingredients – milk and lemon juice- making it an excellent option for an easy, natural alternative.
On the other hand, shop-bought buttermilk has a range of added preservatives and may not always be as natural. It also tends to contain more fat than homemade buttermilk if you count calories.
Best Substitute for Buttermilk
If you’re looking for alternatives to buttermilk, you’ve come to the right place! Here are some of the most popular substitutes for buttermilk:
Unsweetened Soy Milk
Unsweetened soy milk is the perfect solution if you’re looking for a non-dairy alternative to buttermilk. It has a similar consistency as buttermilk with no added sugar. Many dairy substitutes are fortified to match the vitamin content of their cow’s milk counterparts.
Soy milk is rich in antioxidants, low in calories and fat, and contains all nine essential amino acids. Furthermore, it is versatile and can be used in baking or cooking like regular buttermilk.
Sour cream is a substitute for buttermilk in baking recipes, making it a great addition to savory dishes like soups or sauces. You can make a quick substitution by thinning sour cream with water or milk.
Buttermilk powder is an easy and convenient way to get all the same benefits of using real buttermilk without purchasing fresh dairy products. All you need is water and the powder mix – easy!
In addition to having the convenience of powdered form, this powdered buttermilk also has a very long shelf life—sometimes lasting up to 18 months!
Like sour cream, plain yogurt can also be used as a one-to-one buttermilk substitute in baking recipes with excellent results. If your recipe calls for thicker yogurt, you may need to thin it with a bit of water before using it as a replacement ingredient.
Plain kefir is another cultured dairy product that can be used as a buttermilk substitute in many applications, such as salad dressings or smoothies. It has more tanginess and richness than regular yogurt due to its high fermentation rate, making it perfect for adding extra flavor and creamy texture to dishes!
Can You Substitute Buttermilk for Heavy Cream?
Buttermilk is a beautiful substitute for heavy cream in many recipes, and it provides the same creamy texture but with fewer calories and fat content than heavy cream. You can also use it in savory and sweet dishes, like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, bread, waffles, muffins, and puddings.
To use it instead of heavy cream in your favorite recipes, simply replace equal amounts of the liquid ingredient called for with buttermilk instead.
More Buttermilk Questions
What Is Powdered Buttermilk?
Powdered buttermilk is a lactose-free powdered ingredient made from real buttermilk. It is used as a substitute for conventional liquid buttermilk or as an ingredient in baked goods, dressings, and even ice cream recipes.
While powdered buttermilk has the same great benefits as liquid buttermilk (such as its ability to boost flavor and added nutrition), it also has the added benefit of not needing refrigerated.
Is Buttermilk Lumpy?
Buttermilk is a cultured milk product known for its thickness and tangy flavor, but have you ever wondered if it’s supposed to be lumpy? Generally, it should not be lumpy—typically, it should have an essentially smooth texture that complements many of the recipes for which buttermilk is used.
Depending on many factors, like how long the buttermilk has been sitting before opening or how it was treated during production, there could be some lumps in the buttermilk.
Can You Drink Buttermilk?
Buttermilk may seem like an unlikely choice for a beverage, but drinking it can be a great way to incorporate some healthy nutrients into your diet. Contrary to what its name suggests, buttermilk is not made of butter. It is the liquid that remains after churning butter or a low-fat cultured dairy product.
Unlike regular milk, it contains fewer calories and more probiotics – the “good” bacteria that aid digestion and provide numerous other health benefits. You can drink it plain or add flavoring agents like honey or fruits.
Can You Use Milk Instead of Buttermilk?
Substituting milk for traditional buttermilk used in baking is a common practice. However, it can pose a challenge to achieving the desired results. Milk is much thinner than traditional buttermilk and lacks the same acidity. As a result, your baked goods may not rise as expected, and their texture might be affected.
To help solve this problem, add a teaspoon of acidic lemon juice or white vinegar to each cup of milk you use as a substitute for making butter. It will help mimic the effects of buttermilk when used in baking.
Can You Use Expired Buttermilk?
Buttermilk can be a favorite go-to ingredient for baking, but what happens if you have buttermilk sitting around after the expiration date? Sadly, buttermilk does not last forever; even if it looks and smells normal, it should be discarded when past its expiration date.
Consuming expired buttermilk can lead to severe food poisoning symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, so avoiding the risk and using fresh buttermilk is best.
What Can You Make With Buttermilk?
Some of the most popular foods to make with buttermilk include pancakes, waffles, cakes, muffins, and biscuits. It can also be used to make a variety of sauces, dressings, and marinades.
How to Make Buttermilk Fried Chicken?
Buttermilk fried chicken is a classic dish made by marinating chicken in a mixture of buttermilk and spices, then coating it with flour and deep-frying until golden and crispy. The result is tender, juicy chicken with an incredibly flavorful crust.
Making buttermilk fried chicken starts with marinating the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk, garlic, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt.
Once the chicken has marinated for at least an hour, it’s ready to be coated with flour and fried.
The key to making moist and flavorful buttermilk fried chicken is to fry it until golden brown – about 3 minutes per side.
Once the chicken is cooked, you can serve it with your favorite sides, like mashed potatoes or a salad.
Best Ways to Use Leftover Buttermilk
Buttermilk is an excellent addition to many dishes and recipes. While it does not last as long as other dairy products, such as milk or cream, it has many uses for cooking and baking.
You can use leftover buttermilk to make delicious pancakes and waffles or freeze the buttermilk. Frozen buttermilk can be used to make dressings, marinades, or sauces at a later date.
Can You Use Buttermilk in Mashed Potatoes?
Yes, buttermilk can be added to mashed potatoes for a creamier texture, tangy flavor, and richness and moisture. It’s also great for adding richness and moisture to the dish.
To use traditional buttermilk in mashed potatoes, replace some of the milk with buttermilk when you’re mashing the potatoes. It can be done in any ratio, depending on how tangy you want the potatoes to be. You’ll love the buttery taste of buttermilk mashed potatoes.
For best results, serve the mashed potatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!
So How Long Does Buttermilk Last?
Buttermilk lasts anywhere from a few days to two weeks in the refrigerator. However, it can last up to three months in the freezer when stored correctly.
Finally, discard expired buttermilk, which can lead to food poisoning if consumed. With these tips in mind, you can make the most of your buttermilk and enjoy all its delicious baked goods and dishes!