How to Make Buttermilk

True tangy buttermilk is difficult to find in supermarkets nowadays, but it’s a byproduct of manufacturing cultured butter, which is simple to make at home.

I always startle folks when I guzzle a cool glass of buttermilk, but they’re the ones who are losing out. It’s a habit I picked up after visiting a friend in Berlin many years ago when he taught me that a glass of buttermilk, rolls, butter, jams, honey, deli meats, and cheeses was a regular breakfast option. I’ve been drinking it ever since and enjoy the cultured dairy flavor, recognizable to those who enjoy kefir, yogurt, and other similar products.

The problem is that most of what is offered as “buttermilk” in the United States is not genuine buttermilk. I still drink store buttermilk, but it’s not the same as authentic buttermilk, a byproduct of butter production, as the name implies. Most store-bought buttermilk is essentially low-fat milk infected with microorganisms that thicken it and give it a distinctive flavor.

How to Make Butter

Real buttermilk, on the other hand, begins with fresh cream fermented with the help of friendly bacteria into a thick cultured cream known today as crème fraîche in France. When the crème fraîche is beaten past the point of no return, it separates into a sloshy mixture of rich, yellow butterfat floating in the liquid that remains: naturally low-fat, deliciously sour buttermilk.

It’s simple to manufacture at home and one of the only methods to acquire true buttermilk with a fresher, brighter, and sweeter flavor than the imitation version. And if you make your crème fraîche from scratch, which is simple (though it does require some store-bought buttermilk to start the fermentation), it’s also a cheap way to get all three pricey products: crème fraîche, delicious cultured butter, and the best buttermilk ever.

Give it a shot. I believe there’s a high chance it’ll become something you drink with relish.


  • 2 lbs (943 g) crème fraîche
  • Optional kosher or sea salt


  • Beat crème fraîche in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, a food processor, or a large mixing bowl with a whisk until it reaches and then passes the whipped stage, huge globules of butterfat coalesce, and liquid begins to flow all around it. The timing varies depending on the instrument used, but with crème fraîche, it normally happens quickly, in around 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Separate the buttermilk from the butterfat by straining it thoroughly. The buttermilk is now ready to consume or can be chilled in a glass or jar until needed. Wash the cultured butterfat in cold water until the water runs clear, then knead into a mass, blot dry with clean towels, and season with salt if desired. Once compressed into an even mass, it can be carefully wrapped in plastic or waxed paper and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Special Equipment

Food processor, stand mixer, or whisk.

Make Ahead and Storage

The buttermilk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Refrigerate the cultured butter well-wrapped for up to one week; discard if it becomes moldy or unpleasant.

Read more: How to Develop and Write a Recipe