The Best Ways To Use Leftover Buttermilk

So, you've made a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but now you have nearly a whole container of the stuff left over. What should you do with it? Don't let it be forgotten to the back of your fridge just because it's not something you normally use. We've compiled some of the best ways to use leftover buttermilk to help you make the most of every last drop.

Did you know that in addition to using it in recipes that directly call for buttermilk, it's also a substitute for some ingredients? It's true! The obvious one, of course, is that you can substitute buttermilk in loads of recipes that call for plain milk, especially in baked goods. But buttermilk can also serve as a substitute for sour cream or baking powder. The sour cream substitute works best in baking, where buttermilk can be used in the same proportion. To use it in place of baking powder, add ½ cup of buttermilk for every ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Remember to reduce the amount of liquid elsewhere in the recipe to compensate.

But since you won't likely use up an entire pint or quart of buttermilk just substituting it for other ingredients, here are some recipes where buttermilk headlines as a primary ingredient.

Biscuits

One of the best, most comforting ways to use leftover buttermilk is by making fresh, flaky buttermilk biscuits. According to Southern Kitchen, when you use buttermilk in biscuits, you're using it as an acid, liquid, and fat. As an acid, it reacts with the baking soda and baking powder and works with the leavening agents to make the dough rise. It also serves as the liquid to help form the dough and lends a slightly tangy flavor to the biscuits. Pro tip: The key to making a fluffy, flaky biscuit is rolling and folding the dough so you get alternating layers of flour and butter and lots of air pockets.

Serve traditional buttermilk biscuits with butter, jam, or jelly. Use them to make breakfast sandwiches, or pour sausage gravy over them for a filling Southern breakfast. But if the thought of an ordinary biscuit sounds boring to you, try these buttermilk sweet potato biscuits. Flavored with sweet potatoes, buttermilk, honey, and thyme, they're ideal for Thanksgiving but easy enough to enjoy any time of the year. Serve with homemade honey butter on the side.

Garlic cheddar biscuits are another delicious biscuit recipe to try when you have buttermilk to spare. Made with five ingredients — self-rising flour, garlic powder, buttermilk, butter, and shredded cheddar cheese — they're ready in under 20 minutes. Serve them alongside soups, stews, and chilis for an extra oomph of flavor.

Pancakes

Sure, IHOP has plenty of menu items to choose from, but the food that made them famous is pancakes. It's in the name! And we've figured out the IHOP buttermilk pancake recipe so you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas. Serve them with butter, pure maple syrup, whipped cream, and fresh berries. The kids will also love these cereal pancakes, which are really just regular pancakes in miniature form.

But why does buttermilk make better pancakes? According to the Australian Academy of Science, the lactic acid from the buttermilk reacts with the alkaline baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas. The gas bubbles get trapped in the batter, lifting the pancakes to make them light and fluffy. Furthermore, it's important to use your batter right away. Batter that has been sitting a while loses its gas bubbles, resulting in flat pancakes. They're still tasty even if they are flat, though.

If plain old buttermilk pancakes don't exactly make you want to jump out of bed in the mornings, try making red velvet pancakes. Cream cheese glaze? Come on! That's like having dessert for breakfast, and we mean that in the best possible way.

Creme fraiche

A dollop of homemade creme fraiche will elevate the taste of any dish. It's a simple and delicious way to improve scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soup, or salad dressings. With a few herbs and seasonings, it can also be used as a tasty dip for veggies. Mix the creme fraiche with vanilla and sugar, and serve it over fresh berries. You'll find all sorts of ways to use these tasty dollops once you master this simple recipe.

To make creme fraiche, you need two simple ingredients: buttermilk and full-fat whipping cream. Buy the highest quality products you can find. When you're working with only two ingredients, quality really matters.

First, combine the whipping cream and buttermilk. Cover the jar with cheesecloth, put it in a cool, dark place in your kitchen, and leave it there for at least 24 hours. The ingredients need time to ferment, which occurs when the lactic acid in the buttermilk interacts with the whipping cream. You can use this thick, rich, creamy condiment to thicken soups, mix into baked goods, or serve with your morning scone.

Fried chicken

Brining your chicken before frying it up is one of the best ways to make it extra tender and flavorful. Buttermilk is ideal for brining, so it's an excellent way to utilize leftovers. This recipe for buttermilk fried chicken tells you all you need to know about making the perfect brine. It involves combining buttermilk, salt, and aromatic herbs, along with a few other ingredients to make the soaking solution.

After the buttermilk brine is ready, soak the chicken in it for at least four hours or overnight. The next step is important — let the chicken rest at room temperature for two hours before frying. It helps the salt redistribute throughout the chicken and prevents it from lowering the temperature of the oil too much.

On Quora, chefs and food enthusiasts say frying chicken with buttermilk has a few advantages. Firstly, it tenderizes the chicken while keeping it moist. Specifically, buttermilk breaks down the protein strands that bind the meat together. Second, buttermilk is thicker, so it picks up more of the flour dredge and helps it adhere better to the chicken. Third, when the flour dredge interacts with the buttermilk, it makes for a lighter, crispier coating. Last but not least, buttermilk adds fat, and therefore flavor, to the chicken.

Mac and cheese

Boxed mac and cheese is still a guilty pleasure for some of us. It is comfort food without all the work. Having grown up, you probably don't enjoy it as much as you did when you were a kid. The flavor tends to be bland. It's cheesy and buttery — that's about it.

But you can change that and upgrade your standard boxed mac and cheese by substituting buttermilk for the amount of regular milk the recipe calls for. Buttermilk's acidity brightens up the flavors and cuts through the richness of the butter and cheese powder. Not only that, but because buttermilk is thicker than plain milk, your sauce will also be thicker and creamier.

The next time you're shopping for the boxed stuff, grab a quart of buttermilk to make rich, creamy macaroni and cheese. If you forget the buttermilk, Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of milk is a fine substitute.

Homemade ranch dressing

Is there anything ranch dressing can't improve? We dunk our veggies in it, drizzle it over salads, and even use it as a dip for pizza, fries, and chicken wings. It's zippy and creamy with just the right amount of tang. And according to Statista, it is the most popular dressing in America by a wide margin.

When preparing Hidden Valley Ranch that you mix yourself, buttermilk is a key ingredient. It is also commonly found in bottled dressings. While the bottled stuff or packets work fine in a pinch, you'll fall head over heels for homemade ranch dressing once you find the right recipe. It's more flavorful, and you can control the ingredients. In contrast to regular ranch, which typically contains sour cream and mayonnaise, buttermilk ranch is thinner and contains buttermilk and mayonnaise. In many cases as a dip or a dressing, they're used interchangeably.

Looking for a tried and true recipe to start with? Tasting Table's buttermilk ranch dressing is made with whole fat Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and mayo, giving it a rich flavor and super creamy texture. Make it at least a day in advance of when you'll need it to let all the flavors come together.

Buttermilk soup

If you're the adventurous sort and love the flavor of buttermilk, try cold buttermilk soup. It's a standard Danish breakfast called Koldskal — meaning "cold bowl"— that combines tangy buttermilk with eggs, lemon, vanilla bean, and sugar (per To What Place). The main concept is that it's a sweet buttermilk soup that's served cold for breakfast and is reserved for hot summer days.

Tasting Table has a chilled buttermilk soup made with buttermilk, eggs, sugar, kefir, cream, and lemon. Once combined, the soup is placed in the refrigerator to chill for one hour before adding halved strawberries. Other toppings include crumbled biscuits, vanilla wafers, granola, and cornflakes. Vanilla bean paste, though optional in this recipe, is common in others, so it's a good idea to add it the first time you try it.

Need to eat on the go? Pour this cold bowl of buttermilk soup into a glass and drink it like a smoothie instead. Sweet, sour, cold, and creamy, it's a great way to start your day.

Onion blossom

Use some of that leftover buttermilk to enjoy a blooming onion without going out to a pricey restaurant. Our Copycat Chili's Awesome Blossom tastes just as good and can be made for a fraction of the price. The onion blossom gets its name because the petals open up like a blooming flower when it's fried in oil. Enjoy it with a zesty dip made with sour cream, ketchup, and horseradish sauce.

Use a yellow onion for the blossom. The yellow onion is less pungent than white onions (via MasterClass), so the flavor shines through the batter without becoming overpowering. To reduce the onion flavor further, cut it into segments and soak it in an ice bath for 45 minutes to eliminate some of the sulfur compounds.

Once it's finished soaking, it's ready to dredge in the flour mixture, dip in the buttermilk, and then dredge once more. The thick buttermilk helps the flour cling to the onion better. The onion blossom is then ready for frying in a cooking oil with a high smoke point.

Irish soda bread

You don't need to wait for St. Patrick's Day to make sweet and savory Irish soda bread. We have a recipe that's incredibly easy to make — no kneading or rising time required. This is a dense quick bread rather than a fluffy yeast bread, so it only takes 15 minutes to prep and less than an hour to bake.

Buttermilk reacts with baking soda in Irish soda bread to leaven the bread and impart just a hint of its tangy flavor. In addition to buttermilk and baking soda, you'll need flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, sour cream, and raisins. It is possible to make soda bread without raisins, but raisins add natural sweetness, making it more like a breakfast or dessert bread. Don't let that stop you from making a sandwich with it, though!

Serve slices of the bread with jam, apple butter, honey butter, or alongside fruit. It's also delicious served toasted with a hot and hearty bowl of soup or stew.

Jalapeño dip

Use extra buttermilk to make a snappy appetizer to munch on while you binge on your favorite Netflix show. Our recipe for copycat Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip is delicious with chips, crackers, tacos, fries, and more. Buttermilk along with sour cream, mayo, ranch seasoning, cilantro, lime, garlic powder, and pickled jalapenos combine for a tasty dip with only a mild kick of heat. The best part is you only need five minutes to make it!

Buttermilk is the key ingredient to determine whether this is a dip or a dressing. For a dip, blend all the ingredients except the buttermilk together in a food processor or blender. If you like your dip extra thick, you can stop there. But if you want something a bit more spreadable or more like a dressing, begin slowly incorporating buttermilk a few tablespoons at a time. Blend between each addition to see if the consistency is right.

Lemon loaf

Get the bright, lemony flavor of Starbucks' lemon loaf without venturing outside your house! If you've ever had the lemon loaf at the coffee shop, you know that it's the perfect combination of buttery, sweet, and light lemon flavors. But at more than $2 per slice (via Fast Food Menu Prices), an entire loaf can be rather expensive. Making your own is not only more affordable, but you'll save a couple of hundred calories per slice, too.

Our copycat Starbucks lemon loaf recipe is made with many of the same ingredients as the Starbucks version. These include buttermilk, flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and salt for the loaf cake. The glaze gets its flavor from lemon juice and powdered sugar.

While many lemon loaf recipes are made with sour cream or yogurt, we stayed true to the original and used buttermilk to make this cake. The buttermilk in this quick bread keeps the cake moist as it bakes and creates a finer crumb in the final product. According to The Washington Post, buttermilk also aids in browning, which gives the lemon loaf that beautiful golden brown color on the exterior.

Make a loaf for yourself and one to share with a friend or neighbor!

Belgian waffles

Any morning is better with a stack of waffles drowning in syrup. So, if you haven't yet invested in a waffle iron, now's the time! Tasting Table has an easy recipe for Belgian waffles made with buttermilk to give them a subtle tangy flavor. Other ingredients include flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salted butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. The sharpness of the buttermilk in the batter helps balance out the sweetness of the sugar and the maple syrup drizzled on top. But it does more than that.

Buttermilk is the secret ingredient that takes Belgian waffles from good to great. In addition to enhancing the flavor, buttermilk improves the texture of waffles. The lactic acid reacts with the baking soda as a leavening agent that helps them rise. The resulting gas bubbles make for a fluffy waffle batter. As we mentioned earlier, buttermilk also helps with browning. That means buttermilk gives waffles that characteristic crispy golden exterior and is also responsible for the soft interior.

Serve these waffles with butter, blueberries, and maple syrup. For more decadent waffles, mix in some chocolate chips and drizzle with chocolate syrup. 

Lemon buttermilk cookies

Soft, irresistible lemon buttermilk cookies are sweet, tart, and a cheerful addition to a springtime or summer gathering. They're like little bites of sunshine. The soft buttermilk cookie dough is topped with a sweet and tart lemon curd, creating puffy bites of perfection.

You'll begin by making a curd using fresh lemon juice, sugar, butter, and egg yolks. Once the curd is cooked, put it in the fridge to set while you get started on the buttermilk cookies. For these, you'll need all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, egg, butter, sour cream, vanilla extract, and of course, buttermilk. The buttermilk reacts with the baking powder to help the cookies rise, giving them their light and puffy appearance. It also adds an ever-so-slight tang to the cookie dough, balancing out the lemon curd.

Before the cookies are completely done, use the back of a spoon to create an indentation in each cookie. This will hold the delicious lemon curd once the cookies have cooled. Dust the curd-filled cookies with powdered sugar to finish them off.

Cornbread

A big hunk of cornbread completes a bowl of stew or chili, and making cornbread is a great way to use leftover buttermilk. Don't tell the Southerners, but Tasting Table's buttermilk cornbread recipe includes sugar. Perhaps they'll forgive us, though, since buttermilk is a main ingredient. In addition to adding richer flavor than regular milk, buttermilk helps keep the cornbread moist and tender.

Executive chef Mark Steuer makes this cornbread with eggs, sugar, buttermilk, sour cream, honey, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Now, with both sugar and honey sweetening the bread, it'll be more cake-like than traditional cornbread, but those flavors are balanced by the buttermilk, sour cream, and cayenne pepper.

For a unique take on cornbread, try Tasting Table's zucchini cornbread served with whipped ricotta. This little three-ingredient spread is a terrific snack alongside the bread drizzled with olive oil.

Red velvet cake

Red velvet cake is the epitome of decadence. The soft, tender cake is lightly flavored with cocoa and a hint of tartness from the buttermilk and vinegar. The cream cheese frosting is the biggest star of the show and the dominant flavor, but it's the cake and frosting working in harmony that really wows. If you've never tasted it, now's the time!

Our recipe for red velvet cake calls for a cup of buttermilk. This ingredient is a must if you want to achieve the right texture and flavor. However, according to pastry chef Ronald Holkanson via Quora, traditional buttermilk is much thicker than the cultured buttermilk we use today. To stay true to the red velvet cake recipes of old, you need to substitute ⅓ cup of sour cream with ⅔ cups of buttermilk to get the consistency just right.

The instructions for the cake may look intimidating, but the preciseness is part of what makes it so simple. Baking is a science, really, and as long as you follow the instructions to a tee, you should have a gorgeous red layer cake that's incredibly delicious even if it is a little uneven.

Hot wings

Here's another instance where using buttermilk as a brining agent makes for more flavorful chicken. This time, you're making a brine for hot wings using buttermilk, salt, sugar, and Tabasco sauce.

First, you'll cut the wings into three segments, throwing away the tips. Then, you'll plop them all into the brine you just made, letting them soak for one to two hours to let the flavors, salt, and acidity work their way through the meat. You may recall that the buttermilk helps the breading stick and makes meat more tender by breaking apart the proteins that hold it tightly together. It also holds in moisture, so kiss dry chicken goodbye. 

The flour mixture has another ingredient to bring the heat — cayenne pepper. But to bring the heat down a notch, you can substitute chili powder instead and leave the Tabasco sauce out of the brine. Once the chicken is coated in the flour mixture, it's time to fry the wings in oil.

And as pro pitchman Ron Popeil often said, "But wait! There's more!" Now you're going to coat the wings in a sweet and spicy sauce made with Tabasco, brown sugar, and spices. If that doesn't make you reach for a cool drink, we don't know what will. You can always scroll back to that homemade ranch dressing to pair with these wings. It'll help ease the spiciness of the wings.