Sarah Ramsey

How to Use Leftover Buttermilk Without Wasting a Drop

Do you ever avoid buying a carton of buttermilk at the grocery store because you're sure you won't use it all up? Maybe you resort to the old lemon juice or vinegar in milk trick, so you won't have to buy any. My friend, you are missing out. Don't fear the carton, because we're here to give you some ideas on what to do with leftover buttermilk.

Buttermilk is basically just cultured milk. It's made from the liquid that's leftover in the churn after making butter. Today, most commercial buttermilk is produced specifically as buttermilk instead of being a by-product of the butter-making process.

Buttermilk is traditional in recipes like skillet cornbread and buttermilk biscuits, and it's also used as a marinade ingredient in Southern fried chicken. And yes, these recipes never seem to use a whole carton, so maybe you make a batch of buttermilk biscuits or buttermilk pancakes, too. But there are so many things you can do with buttermilk.

How Long Does Buttermilk Last?

BRUNSWICK, ME - JUNE 27: Strawberries, vanilla bean, sugar and buttermilk are all you need to make delicious strawberry vanilla sherbet.

(Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Unlike milk which you can detect spoilage through the "smell test" buttermilk is already sour-smelling which makes it harder to detect if it has gone bad. According to the USDA, buttermilk can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks and can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. You can tell when it's gone bad when the buttermilk is chunky or has visible mold.

To extend the life of buttermilk you can freeze it, however, it does tend to clump together and seperate, making it only suitable for foods that you will cook to prepare. Using frozen buttermilk in ranch dressing will leave you very disgusted. Instead, opt for buttermilk cornbread or buttermilk scones.

What to Do With Leftover Buttermilk

Let's start with an easy one: baked goods. Any quick bread, muffin, scone, or pound cake recipe that uses milk or cream, you can swap in buttermilk instead. It's creamy and a little rich and adds so much flavor. And yes, buttermilk is great in pancakes and waffles, too (try it in blueberry pancakes for a sweet tangy flavor combo). It's a one-for-one swap, but because buttermilk is more acidic, you'll need to use baking soda as part of the leavening.

You can swap buttermilk for other dairy in any recipe that would benefit from a tangy note, and then there are great recipes that are designed to highlight the distinct flavor of buttermilk, too.

Cold Treats

Buttermilk adds a fantastic tangy bite to any recipe that uses dairy; in recipes where dairy is the star, buttermilk really shines. You can make buttermilk ice cream (try this recipe) or simply add it to milkshakes or smoothies for a fun twist on an old favorite.

Ranch Dressing

Homemade ranch dressing in a dish

Getty Images

I am not a fan of bottled dressings, not when it's so easy to make them at home. And ranch dressing is just better with tangy buttermilk. Make your own buttermilk ranch dressing or dip with a packet of ranch dressing mix and that leftover buttermilk. If you're not a fan of ranch, you can make a buttermilk dressing with any flavor profile that needs a creamy note, like a green goddess dressing.

Mashed Potatoes

Potato recipes love rich and tangy flavors, so swap plain milk or cream with buttermilk for tangy and tasty mashed potatoes. (Then top those potatoes with chives, crispy bacon and shredded cheddar cheese, right?)

Mac and Cheese

You can use buttermilk in place of plain milk for any mac and cheese recipe. If you're cooking boxed mac and cheese (which, let's face it, is sometimes just necessary), try using leftover buttermilk instead to make it special.


Try buttercream frosting made with buttermilk and you may never go back to plain frosting. Try it on top of cupcakes or a buttermilk cake (here's a vanilla or chocolate frosting recipe and here's a recipe for a homemade buttermilk cream cheese frosting).


Slaw is meant to be tangy anyway, so using buttermilk makes it creamy and tangy and just plain good. Try this recipe for a twist on the summer cookout favorite.


Liquid brown caramel in glass or jar with woman hand holding a spoon on white background, copy space

Getty Images

Buttermilk caramel sauce (or buttermilk syrup) is delightful. It's sweet and tangy and you'll want to pour it over literally everything. This recipe is a great way to use up leftover buttermilk.

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is cream that's been soured (as opposed to sour cream, which is thicker). It adds an acidic tang when drizzled over anything from fruit to tacos, and it's so easy to make at home. Just add two tablespoons of buttermilk to a pint of heavy cream and let the mixture sit on the counter at room temperature for 12 hours (yes, it's food safe to leave it out that long, but refrigerate it after that).

Buttermilk pie

Sometimes buttermilk should be the star of the show, not just something you swap in. Buttermilk pie is a Southern favorite, and since it uses a whole cup of buttermilk, it's a great way to use up leftover buttermilk. This custard-style pie got its start during the lean years of the Great Depression and World War II (and I can't count the number of church cookbooks I've seen recipes like this one printed in); it's definitely one you should know.

READ MORE: 14 Pillsbury Biscuit Dinner Recipes That Get Dinner On The Table Quick

This article was originally published on August 30, 2019.