Skip to Content

Buttermilk vs Kefir: What’s the Difference?

Summary of key points

The main difference between buttermilk and kefir is in the way they are made. Buttermilk is a byproduct of churning butter, while kefir is fermented milk.

This difference also affects the taste and consistency of these dairy products. Buttermilk has a tangy flavor and thinner texture, making it popular for baking and marinades. On the other hand, kefir has a thicker consistency and a slightly tart taste, often compared to yogurt.

In terms of nutrition, both are rich in probiotics and offer health benefits for digestion. However, kefir is considered to have higher levels of beneficial bacteria.

Ever stood in front of the dairy aisle, baffled by the choice between buttermilk and kefir? We’ve all been there. These two tangy treats have their roots deep in culinary traditions, offering a world of benefits.

They’re not twins, though! Buttermilk is the byproduct of churning butter, known for its classic, creamy texture. Kefir, on the other hand, is a fermented milk drink, packed with probiotics.

We’ve had our share of kitchen experiments gone wrong, thinking one could easily replace the other. Spoiler alert: it led to some interesting breakfast stories.

In this showdown, we’ll break down the differences, nutrition, and best uses in the kitchen. Get ready for a dairy duel that will clear up all the confusion.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk: a tangy, creamy dairy drink.

It has a long history as a baking and cooking staple.

Different from regular milk, buttermilk ferments.

This gives it a slightly acidic taste and thicker texture.

It’s great in pancakes, biscuits, and cakes.

Adds moisture and enhances flavor.

It also works in dressings and marinades, thanks to its tart taste.

And, buttermilk contains probiotics that can help digestion and gut health.

So, don’t hesitate to try that buttermilk recipe.

Your taste buds will be glad you did.

What is Kefir?

Kefir – a fizzy, tangy drink made from cow’s or goat’s milk and kefir grains.

It sits for 24 hours to ferment, creating a creamy, sour taste.

Buttermilk is different; it’s fermented with lactic acid bacteria, not kefir grains.

Plus, buttermilk is milder and thicker than kefir.

Kefir has a stronger tang and carbonation, plus probiotics for gut health and immunity.

Both are delicious ways to add fermented dairy to your diet.

Differences Between Buttermilk and Kefir

Buttermilk and kefir may appear alike, but they have many distinctions.

Culturing Process

Culturing is a must for making buttermilk and kefir.

It’s a process of adding beneficial bacteria to milk, which then ferments and creates a tangy and creamy product.

The bacteria turn lactose into lactic acid, giving these cultured dairy drinks their signature flavor.

Buttermilk and kefir have different strains of bacteria during culturing.

Buttermilk usually has Lactococcus lactis subsp.

lactis or Streptococcus thermophilus.

These bacteria consume the lactose and produce lactic acid, making it slightly thick with a sour edge.

Kefir fermentation involves bacteria as well as yeast.

This includes Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter, and Saccharomyces.

The mix of microorganisms gives kefir its tart and bubbly flavor.

Buttermilk and kefir are similar in their culturing process, but the bacteria give them their special characteristics and taste.

Knowing this helps people decide which drink suits their needs and taste.

Ingredients Used

When it pertains to making buttermilk and kefir, the main difference is in the ingredients used.

Both are fermented dairy products, but use different cultures and additives to get their special characteristics.

Buttermilk is typically made with lactic acid bacteria in milk, producing a thick, tangy drink.

The bacteria used give it its unique taste.

Some store-bought versions may have extra additives, such as preservatives, for longer shelf life.

Kefir is made with milk plus kefir grains, which are combinations of yeast and bacteria cultures.

These cultures give kefir its carbonation and slight alcohol.

Kefir grains must be strained before drinking, unlike buttermilk.

The flavour is also distinct.

Buttermilk has a tart flavour like yogurt, while kefir can range from creamy and tangy to slightly sour with a touch of carbonation.

Flavor Profile and Texture

Buttermilk and kefir possess unique qualities that set them apart.

The former has a tangy taste and creamy texture, while the latter is slightly tart and effervescent, with a smooth and silky texture.

Buttermilk’s acidity gives it a sourness, making it perfect for baking, marinating, and adding richness to dishes.

Kefir’s tanginess makes it a great drink or ingredient in smoothies and salad dressings.

Buttermilk is thick and creamy, like yogurt or sour cream.

It is ideal for making moist cakes and tenderizing meat.

It also adds creaminess to salads, dressings, and soups.

Kefir’s consistency is thinner, thus it’s suitable for thin sauces and shakes.

Both buttermilk and kefir have health benefits.

The former contains probiotics which support digestion and promote gut health.

It is also rich in vitamins like riboflavin (vitamin B2).

Kefir also has probiotics which balance the microbiome.

Furthermore, it provides calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients.

In conclusion, buttermilk and kefir can be savored for their tangy flavors and textures.

They not only offer delicious taste experiences, but also contribute to overall well-being.

So go ahead and explore the possibilities.

Nutritional Content

Buttermilk and kefir are both nutritious drinks with plenty of health benefits.

They provide protein, calcium and probiotics that aid digestion.

But, there are differences between them.

Buttermilk is made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria and is low in fat and calories.

It also contains vitamins like B12 and riboflavin, which are essential for good health.

Kefir is created by combining cow’s milk or goat’s milk with kefir grains.

It has a creamy texture and a tangy taste, but is higher in calories and fat.

Kefir’s advantage is its high content of probiotics.

These beneficial bacteria help break down food particles and boost the immune system.

It also has more diverse probiotic strains than buttermilk, which may improve overall digestive health and nutrient absorption.

Kefir is easier to digest for those with lactose intolerance since the fermentation process breaks down lactose sugars.

Buttermilk and kefir both offer unique nutritional qualities.

Whether you’re watching calories or want maximum gut health, they can be a great addition to your diet.

Similarities Between Buttermilk and Kefir

Buttermilk and kefir may look similar, but there are big differences.

Both are cultured dairy products that have a tangy taste due to fermentation.

They even contain helpful bacteria for gut health.

However, some details make them unique.

The fermentation process uses different microbes.

Buttermilk mainly uses lactic acid bacteria like Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Kefir has bacteria and yeast, like Lactobacillus kefiri and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

This creates different tastes for each drink.

Their pasts and traditional uses are different too.

Buttermilk has been made from butter for a long time.

Kefir originated in Caucasus and was made with cow or goat milk in leather bags called “kefirs.

” This affects their cultural meaning and how they are prepared.

The texture of buttermilk and kefir differs too.

Buttermilk is thicker with a creamier taste.

Kefir is thinner.

This is because of the way they are processed.

Health Benefits of Buttermilk and Kefir

Buttermilk and Kefir – two fermented dairy products – carry health benefits.

Let’s look at the advantages each one offers.

  • Firstly, Buttermilk and Kefir contain probiotics that benefit digestion, immunity, and nutrient absorption.
  • Secondly, they supply calcium for strong bones and teeth, plus muscle function.
  • Lastly, they support weight management as the probiotics help regulate digestion and metabolism. Plus, they make us feel full and satisfied, decreasing food intake.

Cooking and Culinary Uses of Buttermilk and Kefir

Cooking and Culinary Uses of Buttermilk and Kefir.

Buttermilk and kefir have many uses in the kitchen.

They add tanginess, creaminess, and depth to dishes.

In baking, buttermilk is great for making cakes, muffins, and pancakes light and fluffy.

Kefir can be used as a substitute for buttermilk.

It makes baked treats soft and tasty.

Both buttermilk and kefir make great marinades and brine solutions for meat.

The acidity tenderizes the proteins and adds flavor.

Dressings and sauces get a boost from the inclusion of buttermilk or kefir.

Creamy salads, like ranch or blue cheese, become more delicious with a tangy base.

These cultured dairy products also add flavor to soups and stews.

A splash of buttermilk or kefir creates creaminess without heaviness.

In conclusion, buttermilk and kefir are indispensable in the kitchen.

They bring complexity and flavor to baking, marinades, dressings, and soups.


After delving deep into the differences between buttermilk and kefir, it is clear that each one offers its own unique set of benefits.

Buttermilk is great if you’re looking for an ingredient with a thicker consistency, while kefir may be more beneficial due to its probiotic properties.

Ultimately, the choice between these two dairy products is up to you.

Each person’s individual health needs will determine whether they should consume buttermilk or kefir.

No matter which one you decide to choose, both can provide great nutrition and flavor for your meal or beverage.

So why not give them both a try? You can experiment with different recipes and create some interesting flavor combinations that will make your meals truly special.

This blog post has certainly opened my eyes to the complexity of each dairy product and I hope it has done the same for you too.

Now go forth, explore new creative possibilities and show off your culinary skills.

Buttermilk vs Kefir: What’s the Difference?

Discover the key distinctions between buttermilk and kefir with our precise guide. Unravel the nuances and make an informed choice for your culinary endeavors.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course This vs That
Servings 1 Serving


  • Buttermilk
  • Kefir


  • Choose between buttermilk and kefir based on your recipe and availability.
  • Use your selected option in place of regular milk or yogurt, following your recipe’s instructions.
  • Enjoy the tangy flavor and added richness that buttermilk or kefir brings to your dishes.
  • Experiment with different recipes to discover their unique culinary applications.
Keyword Buttermilk vs Kefir
Did you make this recipe?Mention @AmericasRestaurant or tag #americasrestaurant!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating