homemade buttermilk vs store bought

I always have a jar of homemade buttermilk in my fridge to use for smoothies but I often use it for baking to. I've noticed though that it is much thicker than the buttermilk I can buy in the store. So for biscuits and other baked goods, do I need to thin it out before using to make it more like the store bought version?

  • Posted by: ktr
  • January 27, 2016


sydney January 27, 2016
I always replace called-for buttermilk (which I NEVER have handy) with full-fat, organic, plain yogurt (which I ALWAYS have handy). I've never had a problem (quick breads, pancakes, cornbread...). Maybe chemistry-aware bakers here will comment on my yogurt replacement. Cheers, all :-)
702551 January 27, 2016
Yogurt and buttermilk are typically good substitutions for each other in baked good recipes because a leavening agent (like baking soda) needs acidity to create gas (carbon dioxide) which causes the dough to rise and expand when baked. Both buttermilk and yogurt are acidic.
702551 January 27, 2016
It will likely depend on the recipe.

Your homemade buttermilk is thicker than the regular commercial stuff because it has a higher percentage of butter. That butter will melt at normal baking temperatures, thus your baked goods should be richer.

Depending on the specific item you are making, you may want to adjust the recipe based on how you perceive the richness of the final product.

Remember that buttermilk used to be more like the stuff you are making at home. If the recipe you are using is very old, it was intended to be executed with ingredients that were readily available at the time of that recipe's authoring, not today's iterations.

Diners' tastes have changed over time as well, and many of the rich, fattier dishes of old are far less appreciated and made today. Even if you look at an old warhorse cookbook like Fannie Farmer, the recipes have evolved over the years as both ingredients and people's tastes have evolved.

In summary, make the recipe as written then modify based on your personal tastes. After all, you're the one who is going to eat it, not us.

Good luck.
C S. January 27, 2016
It would be interesting to know how the homemade buttermilk is made. When I was a kid we made butter from the cream on top of raw milk from Guernsey cows. What we called buttermilk was the liquid was strained off the butterfat which had coagulated into butter. All of that to say our buttermilk had very little butterfat.
702551 January 27, 2016
There are multiple ways of making buttermilk. The process of churning butter out of cream and recouping the resulting liquid is called traditional buttermilk.

There is also cultured buttermilk which encourages bacteria to convert lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, a process that also curdles the milk and thickens the end product.

It would be interesting to hear how ktr makes her buttermilk, but in the end, it really is up to her to decide how to adjust her recipes' instructions based on the ingredients that she chooses to use and how she perceives the final result.

If I recall correctly, she has frequently noted her disagreement in taste with other members of her household as well as close relatives, so she will have to find her own resolution in terms of balancing her personal taste preferences to those whom she shares her table.
ktr January 27, 2016
I make my buttermilk by adding whole milk to cultured buttermilk and letting it sit out at room temperature for around 12 hours, or until it has thickened. It gets thick and what I would describe a gel-like. I've not had any issues with cooking with it so far but I felt like the biscuits I made the other day were a little dry when I was mixing them up. Then again, I've never made biscuits before so I'm not sure if that's how they are supposed to be.
And yes, I do disagree of food preferences with the rest of my family. But that has improved now that I'm not pregnant and the thought of sweet foods no longer completely turns me off!
702551 January 27, 2016
Well, now that you have explained how you make your homemade buttermilk, it's reasonable to assume that the thickness is mostly coming from the curdling, not from extra butter in suspension.

Since you say you haven't had any problems using your homemade buttermilk in other recipes until your first-time biscuit attempt, I'd say that the problem isn't your buttermilk.

Biscuits shouldn't be dry. You may want to adjust your ingredient levels or find a different recipe. I think the best biscuits are made from self-rising flour, lard, and buttermilk.

I don't know how many times in your life you've eaten biscuits, but longtime biscuit baker has something in their mind that they like to attain (maybe a certain family member's biscuits or something they were once served). You will have to think about that yourself and strive to reach the goal.

That's really up to you to decide and again, you will need to balance your own preferences with those of the people whom you are serving.

Good luck.
C S. January 27, 2016
I would say no, it should have the same amount of liquid. Having said that, are you comfortable making biscuits so that you would know what the correct feel is for the dough? It seems like biscuit recipes often have a range of wet ingredients to add until you get the desired cohesiveness of the dough. If you have the time and inclination you might want to play around with the different options.
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