Buttermilk is a dairy byproduct of milk processing and traditionally referred to as the liquid left after butter was churned out of cream.


What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is a dairy byproduct of milk processing and traditionally referred to as the liquid left after butter was churned out of cream. The cream and its subsequent byproduct, left out to improve the butter’s flavor, would develop healthy bacteria, and the existence of these cultures meant that they would remain fresh longer.

  • This is still the type of buttermilk that is found in many countries.
  • In some developed countries, this dairy product is no longer a byproduct of butter-making but is a fermented raw milk product to which bacterial culture has been inoculated

Buttermilk has a mild tangy taste and can be consumed alone or used in recipes. There are different types of buttermilk, such as sweet cream, sour cream, cultured, and commercial. 

The top 15 most popular brands of this dairy product are:

  • Amul
  • Arla Foods
  • DairyAmerica
  • Sodiaal Group
  • Fonterra
  • Dairy Farmers of America
  • Glanbia
  • Valley Milk
  • Associated Milk Producers
  • Arion Dairy Products
  • Innova Food Ingredients
  • Sterling Agro Industries
  • Grain Millers
  • Agri-Mark
  • Land O’Lakes

Origin of buttermilk

This dairy product is believed to have originated in India. Historical sources can take its invention back to 1,200 BC. Furthermore, this drink was widely consumed as an accompaniment to meals. Also, it has long been used in the Ayurveda system as well. In Europe, buttermilk was a byproduct of butter-making and was mostly consumed by poor people; however, it took on a more specific meaning by the 1800s. Today, it is best known in the United States for its use in baked goods and breakfast foods, such as pancakes.


Nutritional profile for buttermilk (1 cup):

In addition, buttermilk also contains micronutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, choline, retinol, carotene, and good cholesterol. Regular consumption of this dairy product may help in lowering blood pressure and mitigating heat stress. Also, it may help in reducing obesity.

Commercial production

Buttermilk producing countries include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, and the USA. This dairy product is commercially manufactured by adding bacterial cultures to low-fat or skimmed cow’s milk, which is then kept for fermentation. After that, the liquid thickens and develops a sour taste. 

Buttermilk can last longer than most other dairy products. However, it can separate into solids and whey when stored for too long but it becomes normal again once shaken. It is best kept stored in the refrigerator and will last for up to two weeks. Also, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Buttermilk recipes

This product may be enjoyed as it is or used for cooking in a variety of dishes. Here are a few recipes:

FDA regulations

The FDA defines buttermilk as the food produced by culturing one or more of the optional dairy ingredients containing lactic acid-producing organisms. This product must contain at least 3.25 percent milkfat and at most 8.25 milk solids. Grading of dairy products is voluntary in the US and the grading standards for this dairy product are set by the USDA.


Preetam Sarkar,  Lohith Kumar DH, Chanda Dhumal, Shubham Subrot Panigrahi, Ruplal Choudhary, Traditional and ayurvedic foods of Indian origin, Journal of Ethnic Foods, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2015, Pages 97-109, ISSN 2352-6181, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2015.08.003., https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352618115000438 

Anderson, L. V. “All Churned Around.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 9 May 2012, slate.com/human-interest/2012/05/history-of-buttermilk-whats-the-difference-between-cultured-buttermilk-and-traditional-buttermilk.html

Subrota Hati, Sujit Das, Surajit Mandal, 4 – Technological Advancement of Functional Fermented Dairy Beverages, Editor(s): Alexandru Mihai Grumezescu, Alina Maria Holban, Engineering Tools in the Beverage Industry, Woodhead Publishing, 2019, Pages 101-136, ISBN 9780128152584, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-815258-4.00004-4., https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/buttermilk