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Buttermilk vs. Milk: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 17, 2023
Buttermilk is a tangy byproduct of butter-making or fermented milk, while milk is a nutrient-rich liquid from mammals, usually cows.

Key Differences

Buttermilk and milk are both derived from mammals, predominantly cows in many cultures. While milk serves as a primary source of nutrition for newborn mammals and humans, buttermilk originally referred to the liquid left after churning butter from cream. The tanginess and distinct flavor of buttermilk set it apart from the creamy and neutral taste of milk.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
In modern times, buttermilk available in stores often refers to cultured buttermilk. This version is made by introducing lactic acid bacteria to milk, which ferments the lactose and gives buttermilk its signature tang. Milk, in its natural state, does not possess this tanginess, though it can sour if left exposed or past its expiration.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
Both buttermilk and milk are versatile kitchen ingredients. Buttermilk, due to its acidity, is frequently used in baking as it can react with baking soda to aid in rising. Milk is a staple in many recipes, from sauces to desserts, and is often consumed on its own due to its rich nutritional profile.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
Nutritionally, buttermilk tends to be lower in fat compared to regular milk since it's a byproduct of the butter-making process where most fat is removed. However, milk contains essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins, making it a crucial part of many diets worldwide.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023
Whether used for cooking, baking, or drinking, both buttermilk and milk have secured their spots in culinary traditions across the globe. The sharpness of buttermilk contrasts with the smoothness of milk, yet both bring unique attributes to the table, enhancing the dishes they're incorporated into.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Origin

Byproduct of butter-making or fermented milk
Liquid from mammals
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Taste

Tangy and acidic
Creamy and neutral
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Use in Baking

Reacts with baking soda for rising
Adds moisture and creaminess
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Fat Content

Generally lower in fat
Varies (skim, 2%, whole, etc.)
Aimie Carlson
Oct 17, 2023

Fermentation

Often cultured with lactic acid bacteria
Not fermented unless purposely done
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
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Buttermilk and Milk Definitions

Buttermilk

A fermented dairy drink with a distinct sour taste.
She enjoyed a cold glass of buttermilk on a hot day.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Milk

A white liquid produced by female mammals to feed their young.
Every morning, he drank a glass of milk for breakfast.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Buttermilk

Often used in baking due to its acidic properties.
The buttermilk reacted with the baking soda, making the cake rise perfectly.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Milk

Used in a variety of culinary dishes, from savory to sweet.
The creamy sauce was made with a base of milk and butter.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Buttermilk

A dairy product lower in fat due to butter extraction.
For a lighter option, she chose buttermilk over whole milk.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Milk

A primary source of calcium, vitamins, and protein.
Parents often give children milk to support their growing bones.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Buttermilk

Can be cultured by adding bacteria to milk.
The store-bought buttermilk was cultured for a consistent flavor.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 17, 2023

Milk

Can be processed into various dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and butter.
The cheese is made by curdling milk and then aging it.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Buttermilk

Liquid leftover after churning butter from cream.
The pie recipe calls for a cup of buttermilk for added tanginess.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Milk

Varies in fat content, leading to options like skim, whole, and 2%.
She preferred skim milk as it was lower in calories.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 17, 2023

Buttermilk

The liquid, usually either naturally soured or cultured with acid-producing bacteria, that remains after the butterfat has been removed from cream by churning.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Milk

A whitish liquid containing proteins, fats, lactose, and various vitamins and minerals that is produced by the mammary glands of all mature female mammals after they have given birth and serves as nourishment for their young.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Buttermilk

A sour milk made by culturing usually skim milk with acid-producing bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Milk

The milk of cows, goats, or other animals, used as food by humans.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Buttermilk

The liquid left over after producing butter from full cream milk by the churning process, also called traditional buttermilk.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk, a fermented dairy product produced from cow's milk, with a characteristically sour taste.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Buttermilk

The milk that remains after the butter is separated from the cream.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

Buttermilk

Residue from making butter from sour raw milk; or pasteurized milk curdled by adding a culture
Sumera Saeed
Feb 08, 2017

FAQs

Is buttermilk just sour milk?

No, while both are tangy, buttermilk is a specific byproduct of butter-making or is milk fermented with bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Can buttermilk be drunk like milk?

Yes, many people enjoy its tangy flavor, especially in certain cultures.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Can milk replace buttermilk in recipes?

Not directly, but you can add vinegar or lemon juice to milk to mimic buttermilk's acidity.
Huma Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Can you make buttermilk at home?

Yes, by adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk or fermenting milk with specific cultures.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Can I make cheese from buttermilk?

Yes, certain cheeses can be made using buttermilk as a starter culture.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

How is skim milk made?

By removing a portion or all of the fat content from whole milk.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 17, 2023

Can I use buttermilk in smoothies?

Yes, it can add a tangy flavor and creamy consistency to smoothies.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Which has more fat: whole milk or buttermilk?

Typically, whole milk, as buttermilk is lower in fat due to butter extraction.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Why does milk sometimes curdle in coffee?

Due to the coffee's acidity or temperature differences between the coffee and milk.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Is buttermilk healthier than milk?

Both have nutritional benefits, but buttermilk is generally lower in fat. Individual health needs should guide preference.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Why is buttermilk used in baking?

Its acidity reacts with baking soda, helping baked goods rise.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

How is milk pasteurized?

By heating it to a specific temperature to kill harmful bacteria, then cooling it rapidly.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Why is milk considered nutritious?

It provides essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins.
Harlon Moss
Oct 17, 2023

Is lactose-free milk real milk?

Yes, it's milk with the lactose sugar broken down or removed.
Sara Rehman
Oct 17, 2023

Are there non-dairy versions of buttermilk?

Not traditionally, but you can mimic its tanginess with alternatives like soy or almond milk mixed with an acid.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 17, 2023

How should milk and buttermilk be stored?

Both should be refrigerated to maintain freshness.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Is chocolate milk just milk and chocolate?

Mostly, but it often contains sweeteners and other flavorings.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

What gives buttermilk its tangy flavor?

The presence of lactic acid from fermentation or the butter-making process.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023

Can milk be frozen?

Yes, but texture and consistency might change upon thawing.
Janet White
Oct 17, 2023

Is buttermilk suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals?

Often yes, as the fermentation process can break down some lactose.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 17, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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