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Buttermilk and Sour Milk: What’s the Difference?

Summary of key points

The primary difference is in their production process. Buttermilk originally was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream, but most commercial buttermilk today is cultured, made by adding bacteria to low-fat milk. Sour milk is created by adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar to milk, causing it to curdle and mimic the tangy flavor of buttermilk. While both can be used interchangeably in recipes, cultured buttermilk may offer probiotic benefits.

Have you ever stood in the dairy aisle, scratching your head and wondering what the heck the difference is between buttermilk and sour milk? We’ve all been there. Seriously, they both sound kind of… sour? Yet, they’re not the same beast.

I remember the time I tried to substitute one for the other. Spoiler alert: my pancakes were a disaster. A floppy, unappetizing mess.

Buttermilk is the smooth operator of the baking world. It brings a subtle tang and creaminess to recipes, making your baked goods fluffy and moist. On the flip side, sour milk is basically regular milk that’s decided to live a little, turning slightly acidic.

We’re here to clear up the confusion. Armed with knowledge and a dash of humor, you’ll conquer the dairy dilemma.

And hey, maybe even impress someone with your savvy culinary talk. Next time, those pancakes won’t stand a chance.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is no ordinary dairy product.

It’s a tangy, creamy liquid with a unique flavor.

Unlike regular milk, it’s made by fermenting butter or cream.

Plus, you can make it at home by adding acid to milk.

Vinegar or lemon juice work well for this.

Buttermilk is great for cooking and baking.

It helps tenderize meat and adds moisture to baked goods.

It’s also known for making fluffy pancakes and delicious fried chicken.

Plus, you can sip it on its own. Buttermilk is nutritious too.

It’s low in fat and calories but high in calcium, protein, and probiotics.

These beneficial bacteria promote gut health and digestion.

So, not only does buttermilk taste good – it also has some health benefits.

What is Sour Milk?

Sour milk, also known as spoiled milk, is a type of dairy that has gone bad due to bacteria.

It happens when bacteria turn the lactose in milk into lactic acid.

This creates a tangy, slightly acidic taste.

Sour milk is not the same as buttermilk; they have different characteristics and uses.

Cooking and baking often use sour milk for a tangier flavor.

It can be used instead of buttermilk or yogurt in recipes such as pancakes or muffins.

Some people even like drinking it or adding it to smoothies.

Surprisingly, sour milk has health benefits.

Even though it smells and tastes bad, it contains probiotics which help digestion.

These probiotics balance the bacteria in our digestive system.

Plus, sour milk has calcium and other nutrients like regular milk.

Differences Between Buttermilk and Sour Milk

Buttermilk and sour milk might look alike, yet they possess distinct differences.

Both are fermented dairy products, yet their production processes and flavors make them stand apart.


Buttermilk and sour milk are two dairy products with unique flavors.

Both have been enjoyed by humans for centuries.

They originated from cultures that practiced dairy farming and sought ways to use excess milk.

Buttermilk can be traced back to ancient times when butter was churned.

This process created the liquid known as buttermilk, which had a tangy taste and creamy texture.

Sour milk’s origin is somewhat similar.

In ancient societies with no refrigeration, milk would spoil before it could be consumed.

Rather than wasting it, resourceful people used it in cooking and baking.

This added acidity and a unique flavor profile.

Buttermilk and sour milk have different production methods.

Buttermilk is made using fermented cream or whole milk, usually after churning butter.

The fermentation process turns lactose into lactic acid, giving buttermilk its tanginess.

Sour milk is milk that has soured or curdled due to bacteria.

Both buttermilk and sour milk are used in various cuisines.

They can enhance flavor and provide moisture for baked goods like biscuits, pancakes, and cakes.

They can also be used as a marinade for meats or as a base for dressings and dips.

Production Process

Buttermilk and sour milk both start with milk.

However, their production processes are distinct.

The bacteria used to ferment each type of milk changes the tanginess and consistency.

Buttermilk is made with lactic acid bacteria, creating a thicker texture with a mild tangy taste.

This makes it great for baking.

Sour milk, however, has a stronger tang.

It can be consumed as a beverage or used in cooking.

Understanding these differences can help you take advantage of these dairy products in many culinary ways.

Taste and Texture

Buttermilk and sour milk may seem similar in taste and texture.

But there are key differences.

Buttermilk has a tangy flavor and creamy consistency.

It adds a zing to recipes.

Sour milk is more sour and runnier.

Buttermilk’s distinct flavor comes from lactic acid produced during fermentation.

It also makes tender baked goods and acts as a marinade for meats.

Sour milk’s primary characteristic is its acidity, which can be overpowering.

Both bring unique qualities to culinary creations.

Culinary Uses

Buttermilk and sour milk – two dairy products that may look similar.

But, each has its own culinary uses.

Buttermilk adds tanginess and flavor to food.

Plus, its acidity tenderizes meat and helps with the rising process in baking.

Sour milk is not suitable for drinking.

Yet, it can be used as a substitute for buttermilk or yogurt in baking recipes.

It can even add a tangy note to pancakes and waffles.

Similarities Between Buttermilk and Sour Milk

Buttermilk and sour milk may look alike, yet they have special qualities that set them apart.

Both are cultured dairy products with a sour taste, but their distinctions come from their composition.

Buttermilk is created by adding bacterias to low-fat milk.

Sour milk, on the other hand, forms naturally when milk spoils.

This contrast in production alters the taste and texture of these two dairy products.

Nutritional Value Comparison

Comparing buttermilk and sour milk? Consider their distinct nutrient profiles.

Buttermilk is a byproduct of butter production, and is low in fat and calories, but high in vitamins and minerals.

Sour milk, on the other hand, may have a slightly higher fat content, but is still a good source of essential nutrients.

Each may vary from brand to brand.

Buttermilk usually has lower fat, carbs, and protein than whole milk.

In one cup, it provides 99 cal, 1g fat, 12g carbs, and 8g protein.

Sour milk, in one cup, has 110 cal, 4g fat, 13g carbs, and 7g protein.

Both are great sources of calcium and vitamin D, plus riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

Everyone’s nutrient needs differ – consult a healthcare professional to decide the best choice for you.

Recipes Using Buttermilk and Sour Milk

Buttermilk and sour milk recipes are both delicious and versatile.

They add a tangy flavor and moist texture to sweet and savory dishes.

Buttermilk pancakes are light and fluffy, while sour milk chocolate cake has an extra richness.

Buttermilk biscuits are a classic comfort food with a slight tang.

Marinades for meat or poultry become juicy and flavorful when these dairy products are added.

For desserts, try buttermilk panna cotta with fresh berries or sour milk ice cream.

Both buttermilk and sour milk also work great in baking cookies, muffins, breads, and scones.

Buttermilk ranch dressing is great for salads or as a dip.

To make homemade yogurt, just add live cultures to sour milk.

Buttermilk fried chicken is a scrumptious savory dish.

Recipes using buttermilk and sour milk are a hit with chefs and home cooks alike.

How to Make Buttermilk and Sour Milk at Home

Creating homemade buttermilk and sour milk is a breeze.

Simply pour 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup, then fill the remaining cup with regular milk.

Give the mixture a gentle stir and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

After the specified time, the milk will thicken, curdle, and be ready to use in your recipes.

Keep any leftovers refrigerated for later.

Not to mention, this cost-effective alternative to store-bought options allows you to control the freshness and quality of the ingredients you use.

Try different types of milk to find your ideal taste and consistency.

Enjoy the versatility of these homemade dairy products for your favorite recipes.


Buttermilk and sour milk share a few similarities, but there are also notable differences between the two products.

For starters, sour milk is nothing more than regular cow’s milk that has been spoiled and soured by bacterial action.

On the other hand, buttermilk is a cultured dairy product that is made by combining skimmed or partially-skimmed milk with bacterial cultures; this ultimately gives it its characteristic tangy flavor.

Nutritionally speaking, both buttermilk and sour milk are relatively low in fat content and tend to be an excellent source of calcium.

While some people claim that the two items can be used interchangeably in cooking recipes, it’s important to remember that they do have their unique flavor profiles; as such, swapping out one for the other could drastically alter the finished outcome.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference when deciding which ingredient should be used for a given dish.

Whether you’re looking to cook up something delicious or just wanting to get your daily dose of Vitamin D via cow’s milk-based dairy products, both buttermilk and sour milk offer delightful options.

Buttermilk and Sour Milk: What’s the Difference?

Curious about the disparity between buttermilk and sour milk? Your quest for clarity ends here! Delve into the distinctions between these dairy products as we unravel the mystery behind buttermilk and sour milk, providing you with a clear understanding of their unique characteristics and how they can be used in 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
  • Sour Milk


  • Choose between buttermilk and sour milk based on your recipe and ingredient availability.
  • For buttermilk, mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it thickens.
  • For sour milk, use milk that has naturally soured, but ensure it’s still safe to consume.
  • Incorporate your chosen milk substitute into your recipe, adjusting the quantity as needed.
  • Enjoy your dish, knowing that buttermilk and sour milk each bring their unique flavor and acidity to your culinary creation.
  • Experiment with different recipes to discover the versatility of these dairy substitutes.
Keyword Buttermilk and Sour Milk
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