Difference between Buttermilk and Milk

Do you know why buttermilk is used in certain recipes and not milk? There are actually a number of reasons, and these reasons include nutrition facts and of course, taste.


Buttermilk vs Milk
Milk – thinner (left) and Buttermilk – thicker (right)


Buttermilk comes in two different forms. One refers to a number of dairy drinks, called traditional buttermilk, and the other is cultured buttermilk. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid left when butter is churned out of cream. Cultured buttermilk on the other hand, is obtained by artificially fermenting the milk, causing it to thicken. This form of buttermilk is more commonly found in warm climates such as the Middle East, southern United States, Nepal, India, Pakistan, etc.

Today, buttermilk is usually created from cow’s milk. It is fermented with lactic acid bacteria that will cause the milk to thicken and acquire a sour and acidic taste. There are two bacteria that are used to ferment the milk, and these are Streptococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. These are the reasons why buttermilk tastes acidic, and why buttermilk is used in various recipes for pancakes, cakes, biscuits, and cornbread. It is also said that buttermilk offers various health benefits such as probiotics (said to decrease potentially pathogenic gastrointestinal microorganisms, reduce gastrointestinal discomfort, and strengthening immune system), and to help prevent UTI (Urinary Tract Infections); it is also low in lactose (recommended for those who are lactose intolerant).

Nutrition Facts: 100 g of buttermilk contains 40 calories, 116 mg calcium, 4 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 0.5 g saturated fat, and 1 mg of Vitamin C.


Milk is a pale liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is a source of nutrition used by both humans and some animals. Milk taken from various species differs and is based on the amount of protein, calcium, Vitamin C, and saturated fat it contains. For humans, cow’s milk is usually used as a drink and as a food (manufactured into chocolates, ice-creams, butter etc.).

Milk is commonly used as a beverage and also as an ingredient in a variety of recipes such as cakes, bread, cookies, sauce, pasta, etc. Same as with buttermilk, it is high in probiotics that help in strengthening our immune system and decreasing our chance of catching diseases. According to some studies, taking milk in moderate amounts can help reduce weight, but it can also actually help (or cause) people to gain weight. Nutrition facts: 100 grams of milk contains 42 calories, 125 mg calcium, 6 mg cholesterol, 44 mg sodium, 0.6 mg saturated fat, and 0 mg of Vitamin C.

Note: Milk can also refer to white-colored, non-animal beverages that resemble  milk such as coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk.

Buttermilk vs Milk

What’s the difference between buttermilk and milk? Both may be dairy products that serve the same purpose as a dairy drink or as an ingredient, but in some situations, one is more suitable to use than the other.

When taken as a beverage, buttermilk will taste a bit more sour and acidic than regular milk. When used as a recipe though, it will solely depend on what you are baking or cooking. If you want your biscuits to be rich and flaky, you use buttermilk. If you want your pancakes to rise on the griddle, use buttermilk. If you want your cakes to be moist and at the same time light in texture, use buttermilk. In other words, if you’re looking for that tang and tenderness in a recipe, use buttermilk, otherwise use milk.

Comparison Chart

Buttermilk Milk
Liquid substance that is left over after butter is churned out of the milk, and/or a fermented milk A whitish liquid substance produced by the mammary glands
High in probiotics High in probiotics
Tangy and bitter taste Does not have a bitter taste
Used as beverage and in recipes for biscuits, pancakes, cornbread, and cakes Used as beverage and in recipes for cakes, cookies, bread, soups, sauce, etc.
Contains less fat Contains more fat


Here is a video on how to make your own buttermilk.