Homemade Cultured Buttermilk

I use a lot of buttermilk.  And by ‘a lot’ I mean a ton.  Many of my baked goods contain buttermilk.  Much of my salad dressing uses buttermilk.  And The Evil Genius?  He drinks buttermilk. *  We go through a lot of the stuff.  And I may have mentioned that I live in the middle of nowhere in Amish country before (or a million times before, but who’s counting?) so frequent last minute trips to the store are not convenient.

*Now before any of you out there yawp with a resounding, “EW!” let me just mention that millions of Southerners and displaced Southerners are right now saying, “Mmmmmmmm! A nice tall glass of buttermilk with salt and pepper sounds mighty fine right now.”  A reminder: never yuck another person’s yum.  Unless we’re talking durian, then all bets are off… (You may want to read about my family vs. Durian.)

There are probably quite a few of you out there saying, “Oh pish,” (Someone other than me says that, right?), “All you have to do is add a little vinegar or lemon juice to milk and you get the same thing.  Why buy buttermilk?”  See?  I just knew someone out there was saying it.  Not so fast!  It’s not the same thing.  To prove my point, I have to make a scientific sidebar.

Scientific Sidebar Alert!

Buttermilk is used in recipes for several important reasons:

  • Buttermilk is acidic, so it helps invigorate leavening agents -such as baking powder, baking soda and yeast- when added to baked goods.  The acid also helps combat discoloration in baked goods and promotes deep, beautiful browning.
  • Buttermilk contains natural emulsifiers; this improves texture and aroma, and extends shelf life after baking.
  • Remember how buttermilk is acidic?  That makes it a wonderful addition to marinades for chicken and pork.  The acid helps tenderize the meat and gives it a tangy flavor.
  • You know the ‘cultured’ part of cultured buttermilk?  It’s good for you. It contains many active cultures similar to those found in yogurt. Most of the cultures generally found in buttermilk are form the Lactococcus Lactis family and many of their subspecies.  Those cultures are what make buttermilk so thick and creamy.  And what?  Good for you!

Now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about buttermilk let’s get onto the ‘Why make my own?’ thing.  Because you can.  Seriously.  You need more than that?  Okay.  Also make it because it’s dirt cheap, it’s super simple, it’s really fun and you’ll never run out of buttermilk again.

Hang on one second.  Someone out there just said, “I never use a whole thing of buttermilk.  What do I do with all that buttermilk?”  I’m so glad you asked.  How about a few of these ideas:

Bacon and Swiss Rye Muffins These are every bit as good as they sound and as easy as pie.  No wait!  They’re easier than pie.  Pie can be hard.

Buttermilk Cornbread Rounds Based on my Grandma’s Buttermilk Cornbread recipe, these perfectly portioned cornbread rounds fit neatly in the hand and go anywhere cornbread goes, but look cuter doing it!  This one’s going a little way back in the FWF archives.  When you read it, please forgive the “I’m learning” format!

Buttermilk Pancakes Nothing beats beautiful, light, airy buttermilk pancakes smothered in real maple syrup.  Nothing.  This one’s also reaching back.  Wow.  I played around with those fonts and indentations a bit, didn’t I?

Garam Masala Depression Cake from Val.  Nothin’ depressing about THAT cake, I’ll tell you. We’re talking about a decadent, Garam Masala flavored chocolate cake with orange buttercream and toasted coconut.  Oh my. I only take issue with the number of servings Val specified in it.  It looks like a one-person cake to me.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these others…

Are you good and hungry yet?  Excellent.  Let’s make some buttermilk.  I promise it doesn’t take but two shakes.

Homemade Cultured Buttermilk

Scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe!


  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk (from the store or home cultured)
  • 1 to 2 quarts skim,1%,  2%, or whole milk from the store or raw milk

Also needed:

  • 1 clean, dry quart or half gallon jar with a tight fitting two piece lid.

Okay.  Ready?  If you blink you’ll miss how to do it.

Pour buttermilk (1/4 cup for a quart jar or 1/2 cup for a half gallon jar) into your clean jar.  Top off the jar with your plain milk.  Tightly screw lid to the jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute.  Place in a warm (but not hot) area out of direct sunlight.  Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened.  Refrigerate when thick.  Use within two weeks.  If you re-culture this regularly, you can carry on re-culturing indefinitely.  I always feel like I’m stickin’ it to the man when I do homemade stuff like this.  Who doesn’t love beating the system?

Now here’s a glimpse of my finished product.  Note that mine is super thick.  I used raw, whole milk to culture my buttermilk.  If you use skim, it may end up a little thinner than what you see here.

4.5 from 11 reviews
Homemade Cultured Buttermilk
Recipe type: Ingredient, Condiment, Home Cheese Making
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
Once you've made this you'll never want to go back to storebought cultured buttermilk or vinegar soured milk. This is thick and creamy and tangy and perfect.
  • ¼ to ½ cup cultured buttermilk (from the store or home cultured)
  • 1 to 2 quarts skim,1%, 2%, or whole milk from the store or raw milk
  • Also needed:
  • 1 clean, dry quart or half gallon jar with a tight fitting two piece lid.
  1. Okay. Ready? If you blink you'll miss how to do it.
  2. Pour buttermilk (1/4 cup for a quart jar or ½ cup for a half gallon jar) into your clean jar. Top off the jar with your plain milk. Tightly screw lid to the jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Place in a warm (but not hot) area out of direct sunlight. Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened. Refrigerate when thick. Use within two weeks.
If you re-culture this regularly, you can carry on re-culturing indefinitely. I always feel like I'm stickin' it to the man when I do homemade stuff like this. Who doesn't love beating the system?



  1. Joanna Phillips says

    I have got two half gallon jars on my counter right now trying to make buttermilk. It has the culture in it and has been setting since yesterday. It doesnt seem to be getting thick. Do I need to take the lid off the jar? In the recipe it didnt say to take it off so I left it on. Thanks for your help.

    • Claudine says

      Hi Joanna,

      I have the same problem and I tried two times with different milk and different temperature. The milk smells sour and it has not thickened after 24 hours. Were you able to do it since then? Anyone have an idea? Next attempt is with my yogurt maker and after I will try to find another source for buttermilk (not easy!). Thanks for your help!

        • Claudine says

          Yes it’s possible but I saw on another blog that the same brand (Neilson) is being used so… My final goal is making quark cause here it is so much expensive, it doesn’t make sense: 6$ for 350g! I pay 2.88$ for one liter of buttermilk.

    • Sharon says

      Make sure it says cultured buttermilk on the carton otherwise it wont work. I make this all the time and once you get it started you can just take a cup of what you have made and make your next jar full before you run out. But you do have to start with the cultured buttermilk.

    • Nadine Klinkenberg says

      I had trouble culturing my first heirloom buttermilk. I set it out at the right temperature for abou 2 days but nothing happened. I put it out again for the third day with no lid and it was done in about 12 hours. That’s just my experience. Now, it’ll set just fine with the lid on or off. If you are having trouble, try getting one of those jars with the rubber ring around the lid that allows for the gases to be released.

  2. Carol Ann says

    Wow, thanks so much for this recipe! I live in the UK and in our area buttermilk is hard to find. I’ve just found a sorce online but the price is sky high. Now I can buy some once to use as a starter then not need to buy again, or at least not very often!

  3. Pamela says

    Hi, I am so happy to find this info! I totally love drinking & cooking with buttermilk! I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid. Nothing better then a nice tall glass of cold buttermilk with a slice of sourdough bread! Yum, yum! Now that I live in the back hills of a very rural area, I can only go to the market about every 2 weeks. Things are so expensive in our town & buttermilk runs about $4.50 per half gallon here, when I can even find it! Thank you so much for posting the recipe! Oh, BTW, when culturing it, I assume I am supposed to have the lid on? Also, do I need to culture it only in glass jars or can I use plastic, like the plastic jugs the buttermilk comes from at the store? thank you!

  4. says

    I’m not a big fan of plain milk and the Dr is telling me I need the calcium. So I took up drinking buttermilk. But although store bought is low in fat, it’s high in salt. So I bought my last qt a while ago.

    Cleaned a 2 litre soda bottle, added a cup of the buttermilk and topped it up with 1% skim milk. Leave it on the counter over night check it in the morning and leave it longer if need be. By now, I’m sure there is very little trace of the sodium from that first cup of store bought. I have a second bottle, clean and ready to go when the first one gets down to the 1 cup mark I put on the side of the bottle. I Transfer and top up the second bottle. Then I can clean and have the first one ready to go. Awesome recipe and soooo cost efficient. Thank you!

    as far as the salt goes, I still like it so I virtually pulverize some seasalt. Now that it’s almost a powder it covers more surface area when I sprinkle it. Since it’s tasting the salt that we look for, you end up using less in the long run. (if you mix it in,you probably won’t notice a difference if you are going by taste.)

  5. Deborah says

    I made this a couple of days ago and it worked beautifully with store-bought 1% milk. It took about 24 hours because I didn’t have anywhere quite warm enough for the shorter time, I guess. I had originally read about the same procedure in an old “Hints from Heloise” book from the 1960’s, but I was afraid to try it because of the outdated recipe. I’m so glad I found your blog and discovered your success–which I now share! Thanks!

  6. Anna says

    Hi! I was anxious to try this out because we use a lot of buttermilk and my husband likes to drink it. I used 2% milk. When I made it, it had the right flavor, and thickened within 8 hours. But it was too thick and a little slimy, even. It was more like yogurt texture and not drinkable, except maybe with a spoon. Any suggestions what I might have done wrong?

    • Bea says

      This recipe works great, but it is way too thick and looks more like a slimy paste. How do I thin it out (some) and keep the flavor?

      • Anna says

        I’ve solved the thickness/sliminess problem. I remembered that when I blend yogurt, it loses its thickness, so I blended the buttermilk (adding milk and shaking it up did not work). After that, it was just the right texture and consistency. My husband said it is as good as any buttermilk he’s had.

        • Robert says

          I tried this recipe and mine also turned out really thick and a bit on the slimy side. I blended it, then refrigerated it. It’s PERFECT! I’ll never buy store bought again…unless I run out and nee to make more! :-)

  7. Lisa says

    Silly question but how warm is a warm spot? I was thinking about putting it in my dehydrator over night but the lowest it goes is 95 degrees. I read others are putting their jars in cabinets.

    • says

      I just leave mine at room temperature (70-80 degrees), and it’s always been fine. I guess it might be a few degrees warmer as I usually put it near the stove.

  8. April says

    Hi Rebecca,
    I followed your recipe and ended up with super thick slimy goo, in about 8 hours. Should I have let it stand longer or maybe its because I used a coffee filter instead of a tight lid. I always over think things…lol



  10. wendylovesfood says

    yum. thanks for loving food enough to not use the typical lemon juice/vinegar “buttermilk” recipe. i just knew, based on making cultured yogurt, i could do buttermilk this way! love it. thanks again. cook on!

  11. Janice Bearbower says

    I,, too, have trouble with warm spot – tried the water bath as for yogurt right at 100 degrees – still working — getting thick on top – do you shake it periodically – (don’t shake yogurt) we keep our home about 67-68 is that too cool? Thanks, could you please respond to my email…thanks so very much.

    • says

      I wouldn’t shake it while it’s culturing, but I would definitely shake it afterward. 67-68 is too cool to culture in the timeframe I gave. You can let it sit at that temperature, but it will take longer to thicken. I put mine behind my woodstove where it’s about 75-80 degrees at most times.

  12. Janice Bearbower says

    What are your thoughts about the water bath at 100 deg.–we don’t have a wood stove…..all electric home.

  13. Verano en Vermont says

    Rather than starting a homemade buttermilk recipe w. a base of store-bought buttermilk, I’d like to add culture to the raw milk we regularly buy from a farmer down the road. I’m not clear on how to procure the organisms, or in what form they come. Is it something one buys from a health food store? Is it a liquid? A powder? Other?) How would I add it to the raw milk as a first step to following your buttermilk recipe? How much would I add to the recipe, and is it something I’d just throw in to the overall mixture? Also, I’m curious…the local organic cultured yogurt we buy seems to have more, or perhaps a wider range of cultures than the buttermilk we buy…can I substitute yogurt instead of buttermilk in your cultured buttermilk recipe? Kindly address as many of my questions as you are able!
    Verano en Vermont

    • Indiana b-milk says

      If you have raw milk, you do not need to buy a culture. I get raw milk from our farmer..to make buttermilk, skim the cream, then let it sit on the counter in a jar with a lid (not screwed tight-wide mouth is best) until it is so thick that when you tilt the jar the cream does not move. This can take 1-2 days. I usually do this before our next milk run when I have had the cream for a week. The culturing may take longer if done right away. There will be bubbles along the inside of the glass. Make sure when you put the cream in the bowl you do NOT have any much milk in there..(use a slotted spoon) a milk line will have formed while it was culturing..if You leave it in it will not work. TRUST ME. Then proceed to make butter..I use my kitchenaid mixer. I found a good youtube video on this a while back..you basically whip it up into whipped cream, then keep whipping till it goes all the way back down and starts to separate. This can take an hour sometimes….that’s when I’m glad I don’t have to use my arm!! You have to squeeze the butter globules together on the inside of the bowl with a flat paddle (like a salad paddle kinda)..wood is best..it becomes nonstick like nothing else will over time. Pour off the buttermilk you are squeezing out of the butter..this is real buttermilk..the method mentioned here is simulated buttermilk..just uses the culture from store bought to culture the milk…BTW..you must “wash” the butter with cold water..just google that..it’s not very hard. (There are organisms in raw milk that will culture naturally. You don’t have to add anything. The cultured butter you end up with also has those beneficial organisms in it…it will be tangy like yogurt. Hope this works for you!

    • sharon says

      We culture our buttermilk the ‘old-fashioned’ way – letting it clabber. Raw milk doesn’t spoil, it sours and can be turned into all sorts of lovely stuff. One buttermilk sat around far too long and really thickened, then separated, we made it into a tangy cheese.

  14. Terri says

    I tried this but mine didn’t get overly thick and it separated. One part was white and thicker and one part was yellow and watery. It smells like buttermilk but I’m a little nervous to use it. Did anyone else have this issue? I kept it out for 29 hours at room temperature.

    • Felicia says

      When the milk separates like that it just means it cultured a bit longer than necessary. My kefir does the same thing when the house is warmer than usual. Just put the lid back on and shake it back together. Or you could put it in the blender.

  15. John says

    Wow too easy and so much less additives than store bought. I use organic 2% and follow the recipie for 18 hours at room temp. Thanks!

  16. jim boles says

    I love buttermilk (BM) and drink about 3 quarts a week. The two qualities I like most is that it has to taste sour and it has to be rich. BM that is only 1% isn’t rich enough for me. Problem is, the typical BM found in stores really isn’t very good by those criteria.

    We moved to Cedar Rapids Iowa several years ago and I found BM made by Kalona dairy in Amish country (isn’t Amish though). Their products are very lightly pasteurized and not homogenized. Consequently, the milk cultures aren’t killed in the pasteurization process. They simply make the best butter milk I ever had. Too bad it is $3.95 a quart!

    I’ve tried making my own with some success, but it was typically too thick and not sour enough.

    So, one day I bought a quart of Kalona’s plain yogurt which normally taste on the sour side. The store didn’t have any Kalona BM so I bought the normal stuff that I dislike. I went home and put two tablespoons of the yogurt into a glass of the BM and used an electric drink mixer in the glass to mix it well…. and Whaa La! great tasting BM and at a cheap price. Hmmm, I did have to buy the yogurt too so I’m not sure how much money I saved exactly, but the yogurt will last a long time, because I’m not using that much per quart of BM.

    Just thought I share this idea. As much as I drink, making my own BM, or buying it a $3.95 a quart wasn’t the way to go.

    If you’re ever in southeast Iowa stop by the Kalona dairy and try their BM. It’s great!

  17. Vanessa says

    I just tried this and am a little afraid to use it because it doesn’t smell or taste like the buttermilk I bought from the store at all. It’s almost a little sweet. Is that normal? I followed the recipe exactly for a quart. I used store bought buttermilk and 1% milk. I let it sit out for about 14 hours and it’s very thick (my house is warm since it’s summer – about 76 degrees). Could it be that it’s too warm? Should still use it or throw it out and try again?
    Thanks for your help!

    • says

      I think you’ll be okay! You’re putting happy bacteria in and that should hinder the growth of the bad stuff. It’d be really hard for milk to go so bad it would be dangerous in 24 hours particularly when it’s cultured. That being said, if you’re nervous, bake with it or feed it to the dogs or cats!

  18. says

    I’ve cultured yogurt, kefir, and various other milk products from raw goat’s milk repeatedly over the years, so I would add that if you leave this too long, especially if it separates, that your end product will be more acidic and sour to taste. Also, I noticed some people having problems, but I wonder if that could be due to over pasteurization instead of temperature. If the milk is overly pasteurized, it ruins it for cheesemaking, so it very well could destroy the globules enough that they will not culture properly either. :) Just my two cents! Good recipe.

    • says

      Hi there… I’m pretty sure buttermilk cannot be canned. Most dairy is not approved for canning because even in a sealed jar, it can go rancid. Additionally, buttermilk has a live bacterial culture in it that would most certainly be killed during the processing… I don’t advise it even if you find a recipe that says its okay!

  19. Cathy says

    How do you make the buttermilk that you add to the regular milk? I have a cup of fresh buttermilk leftover from making butter from raw milk. What do I use to culture that? Does it create its own culture? Thanks.

    • says

      I buy cultured buttermilk at the store to start it. I honestly don’t know if your raw buttermilk (in the old fashioned sense of the word) would form it’s own culture… I don’t mean to deter you, I just honestly don’t know!

  20. Ellen says

    I made it with store bought cultured buttermilk and 2 percent milk. I live in a cold climate at a high altitude. I really don’t have a very consistently warm spot in the house, so I let it culture in a cold oven with the light on to create warmth. It definitely thickened and cultured, look more like yogurt and had tiny lumps throughout. It smelled ok and I consumed a big glass sprinkled with salt as it tasted good too. I hope I don’t get sick.

  21. says

    I have tried this method 3 times and each time very unsuccessful. The milk breaks down into small chunks through out the whey. I use a heating pad on low with auto shut-off after 3 hours, in a pot covered with towels. I think I am going back to heating the milk to 160′, cooling to 120′ or lower then adding the buttermilk and wrapping in a towel place in a tall pot to keep warm for 12-24 hours. Not sure if using raw milk for your buttermilk really works. Thanks.

  22. Patricia says

    I have made b/m before using the same instructions but this time it came out differnt:
    I used a cultured store bought buttermilk and raw milk to make my buttermilk. It became so thick over night you can scoop it with a spoon and has no taste.
    What did I do wrong?

  23. says

    Hi! I’m excited to read this post. You are also a great writer. ;) I have never made homemade “anything”, but recently quit my full-time sales job to stay home and raise my children (and grow a photography business). We live on a beef cattle farm, but last week my husband bought a Jersey milk cow. So now we have fresh, wonderful, delicious milk daily. I have an electric churn that was his mothers (50 years old!), but it still works. I don’t know how to use it, though. We are letting the milk sit in it and it’s getting warm, but not “clabbering”. (Sp?) He added some store bought buttermilk, but I’m wondering if we need to add more “culture” I see mentioned above…what is that and where do I buy it? Sorry to be so ignorant, but I really want to figure this out and start using this milk to make butter and buttermilk! And maybe one day…cheese? Eek!

  24. Chuck says

    Going to try making BM. Family use to when I was young using this recipe, made in one gal. crock pot covered with a towel and whole goats milk. I have kept & used store BM that was over a year and half old. NO problems tasted good. Just have to shake it good as it settles. I know older BM is best for pancakes. lighter, fluffier.

  25. Elaine says

    It works best if you heat the milk to 85F before adding the cultured buttermilk. I use 1/2 cup culture to 1 quart milk and leave it on th kitchen counter for 24 hrs covered with a cloth. It’s perfect every time!

  26. Donna says

    I hope someone can help me out here. I’ve made this twice; thick and delicious! How-everrr… it is syrupy. What is that about. I used 1/2 C Knudsen’s cultured buttermilk in a quart mason jar, filled it up (about 3-1/2 C) with Alta Dena whole milk. 24 hrs later, very thick, buttermilk. But when I pour it, it is syrupy. The second batch tasted almost like very thick cream. But, can’t figure out why it’s syrupy. Can anybody (please) answer that one?

  27. Donna says

    Well, if I’d taken time to read all the comments, I would have found the answer to my questions. Duh. How dumb does that feel!
    Thanks, y’all.

  28. Suzanne says

    Thank you for the recipe. How long will buttermilk last in the fridge after you’ve made it? When is it a good idea to toss out?

  29. luna says

    I recently was away from home to attend a wedding. Knowing my homemade buttermilk (thanks) would not last until I returned I froze it into cubes using icedcube tray. Now I just add 4 ounces of cubes to pastuerized (not homogenized ) milk and it works like a charm.

  30. tarina laxton says

    I am so glad that I found this, I love to cook with buttermilk. I made my first jar of Buttermilk. Thank you for posting and sharing.

  31. Jen says

    i was introduced to cultured buttermilk by a lady staying in the same campground as us. Noticed she always had a jar of milk on her table, got chatting to her and she told us that she makes it wherever she goes, even camping, generously shared some with me, been happily culturing ever since. It really is as simple as pour ,shake, wait 24 hours….

  32. Marc Brewster says

    I have been trying to make this home made butter milk for a while now. I have tried all different recipes and all of them turn out the same way, runny like water. Smells like butter milk but has no thickness to it at all. I use Knudsen Cultured butter milk from the store and whole milk from the store, measure exactly like the recipes call for and I let it sit out for 24hrs only to find out it is runny like water, does not thicken up at all so what am I doing wrong?

    • says

      Hi Marc- Is your milk ultra pasteurized? What is your room temperature? If it’s not thickening I assume that it’s either been ultra pasteurized (which breaks the fat globules down) or your room temperature is fairly cold. You can still use it if it has a good smell… If you’re looking for the thickened end product you probably want to switch out your milk.


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