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Buttermilk vs. Whey: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss || Updated on May 20, 2024
Buttermilk is a tangy liquid left after churning butter, often used in baking, while whey is the watery part of milk separated during cheese making, rich in protein.

Key Differences

Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product left after butter has been churned from cream, characterized by a tangy flavor and thicker consistency. Whey, on the other hand, is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained during the cheese-making process, containing proteins, lactose, vitamins, and minerals.
Buttermilk is typically used in baking and cooking to add moisture and a subtle tartness to recipes like pancakes and biscuits. Whey is commonly utilized in protein supplements, baking, and animal feed due to its high protein content and nutritional benefits.
Buttermilk contains beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and can act as a leavening agent in baking. Whey, while also nutritious, is valued for its high concentration of proteins, especially whey protein, which is a popular dietary supplement among athletes.
In terms of production, buttermilk results from the butter-churning process of cultured cream, whereas whey is a byproduct of cheese production, left over after the milk solids have been separated to form cheese.
Buttermilk has a thicker consistency and is often used to create creamy textures in soups and sauces. Whey is more liquid and can be used to enhance the protein content of smoothies, baked goods, and even as a liquid base for soups.

Comparison Chart


Byproduct of butter churning
Byproduct of cheese making


Thicker, creamy
Watery, liquid

Primary Uses

Baking, cooking, marinades
Protein supplements, baking, animal feed

Nutritional Content

Contains beneficial bacteria, low fat
High in protein, contains lactose

Production Process

Churning cultured cream
Straining curdled milk during cheese making


Tangy, slightly sour
Mild, slightly sweet

Buttermilk and Whey Definitions


A tangy liquid left after churning butter from cream.
Traditional buttermilk is used to make fluffy pancakes.


High in protein and used in supplements.
Many athletes drink whey protein shakes after workouts.


A fermented dairy product used in baking.
Add buttermilk to your cake batter for extra moisture.


The liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained.
Whey is a byproduct of making cheese.


Thick consistency, similar to thin yogurt.
Buttermilk is often poured over cornbread as a traditional Southern treat.


Often used in animal feed.
Farmers use whey to feed livestock.


Contains lactic acid and beneficial bacteria.
The lactic acid in buttermilk helps tenderize the dough.


Contains lactose, vitamins, and minerals.
Whey is nutritious and can be added to smoothies.


Often used as a marinade for meats.
Soak chicken in buttermilk before frying for a tender texture.


The liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained in the process of making cheese.


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


The watery part of milk that separates from the curds, as in the process of making cheese.


A sour milk made by culturing usually skim milk with acid-producing bacteria.


The serum, or watery part, of milk, separated from the more thick or coagulable part, esp. in the process of making cheese.


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


The serum or watery part of milk that is separated from the curd in making cheese


Cultured buttermilk, a fermented dairy product produced from cow's milk, with a characteristically sour taste.


Watery part of milk produced when raw milk sours and coagulates;
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating some curds and whey


The milk that remains after the butter is separated from the cream.


Watery consistency, easy to mix with other ingredients.
Use whey as a liquid base for soups and stews.


Residue from making butter from sour raw milk; or pasteurized milk curdled by adding a culture


What is whey?

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained during cheese making.

Is buttermilk high in fat?

Traditional buttermilk is relatively low in fat, as it is a byproduct of churning butter.

How is buttermilk used in cooking?

Buttermilk is used in baking, marinades, and to add a creamy texture to dishes.

What are the nutritional benefits of whey?

Whey is high in protein and contains lactose, vitamins, and minerals.

Can you drink buttermilk straight?

Yes, buttermilk can be consumed as a beverage and is often enjoyed for its tangy flavor.

What does buttermilk taste like?

Buttermilk has a tangy, slightly sour taste.

Is buttermilk lactose-free?

No, buttermilk contains lactose, though it may be lower than in regular milk.

Is whey only used in supplements?

No, whey is also used in animal feed, baking, and as an ingredient in various foods.

What is buttermilk?

Buttermilk is a tangy, fermented dairy product left after butter is churned from cream.

How is whey used in supplements?

Whey protein is commonly used in dietary supplements and protein shakes.

What are common uses for whey in baking?

Whey can be used as a liquid ingredient in baking to add moisture and protein.

Does buttermilk contain probiotics?

Yes, buttermilk contains beneficial bacteria that can aid in digestion.

Can you substitute buttermilk in recipes?

Yes, you can substitute buttermilk with a mixture of milk and lemon juice or vinegar.

How long does buttermilk last?

Buttermilk typically lasts for about two weeks when stored in the refrigerator.

How is whey produced?

Whey is produced during the cheese-making process when milk is curdled and strained.

What is the consistency of buttermilk?

Buttermilk has a thicker, creamy consistency similar to thin yogurt.

How is buttermilk different from regular milk?

Buttermilk is tangier and thicker than regular milk, due to its fermentation process.

Can whey be used in cooking?

Yes, whey can be used as a base for soups, stews, and in baking recipes.

Can whey be used as a beverage?

Yes, whey can be consumed as a beverage, often mixed with fruit or other flavors.

Is whey beneficial for muscle building?

Yes, whey protein is beneficial for muscle building and is popular among athletes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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