Does Buttermilk Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 2nd, 2022

Buttermilk is a delightful dairy product that is somewhat sour, low in fat, healthful, and great for baking, but it is also delicious to drink. So if you like to bake, you have some in your fridge.

However, how long has it been there? Is it still edible? Is buttermilk perishable? And, if so, how long does buttermilk keep? So, let’s look into it and figure out how to take care of buttermilk so it doesn’t kill us since we forgot when we opened that container.


What Exactly Is Buttermilk?

You might be amazed how many folks don’t know what buttermilk is. So many of us use it frequently in our cooking but have never thought about what it is or how it is manufactured.

There are two techniques to make traditional buttermilk. The traditional, homemade method of making buttermilk uses the liquid left over after churning homemade butter.

This drink is watery and devoid of fat. When left at room temperature, the cultures in this liquid grow after a few hours. These microorganisms enhance the overall flavor of the buttermilk.

When making large quantities of buttermilk, a different procedure is utilized. More frequently, buttermilk is made from cultured milk, consistent with thick yogurt.

The most significant distinction between handmade and store-bought buttermilk is that the buttermilk is no longer a by-product of milk. Instead, the cultures are mixed into the milk, resulting in the buttermilk you’re probably acquainted with. In addition, lactic acid bacteria cultures are employed, which are perfectly safe.

Unlike the original method of making buttermilk, which included very little fat, buttermilk now contains fat. You’ve probably observed that buttermilk comes in various fat levels, ranging from full fat to skim. This is fantastic since it will work with a broad range of flavors and recipes.

Most recipes for buttermilk will use store-bought buttermilk rather than homemade ones. Store-bought buttermilk is often more acidic and thicker than homemade buttermilk. As a result, it is the favored buttermilk in recipes. It’s also noted for having a somewhat sour flavor.

Buttermilk Varieties

First, let’s talk about the two kinds of buttermilk.

  • Cultured buttermilk
  • Traditional buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk is the variety you’re most likely familiar with because it’s what you’ll find in the grocery store.

Cultured buttermilk is created by fermenting bacterial cultures, salt, citric acid, and skim milk for 14-16 hours. This fermentation process allows beneficial living bacteria to take control and convert the milk’s carbohydrates to lactic acid.

Did you know that? Lactic acid is responsible for the sour taste of buttermilk.

To destroy bacteria, your cultured buttermilk will have also been pasteurized when heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit (72 degrees Celsius). Pasteurization is required for all buttermilk sold in the United States.

The other type of buttermilk is traditional buttermilk. Instead of being the major product, it is a byproduct of butter production. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid that remains after fat is removed from cultured butter.

Traditional buttermilk has less lactic acid. Thus, it is less acidic, but it has extremely complex tastes. That is why most high-end restaurants favor traditional buttermilk.

What Distinguishes Buttermilk From Other Dairy Products?

Because buttermilk is still relatively new on European tables, not everyone can tell the difference between it and other milk products we keep in the fridge, such as yogurt, sour cream, or ordinary cream.

There are, nevertheless, some important differences.

Buttermilk seems thicker than plain milk, although it is not as thick as sour cream.

Buttermilk, like sour cream or yogurt, is a fermented food, but milk and ordinary butter are not.

In truth, buttermilk does not include butter because it is a byproduct of the transformation of whole milk into butter.

Buttermilk supplied in the Western market contains lactic acid bacteria, which increases its shelf life, but traditionally produced buttermilk is significantly less durable and has a slightly different structure.

The Advantages of Consuming Buttermilk daily

Buttermilk originated in India, but it is now widely available across South Asia and the Middle East. The initial product was a byproduct of the cultured cream butter churning process, a leftover.

However, this fermented dairy drink is now cultivated.

Apart from drinking, where do you believe buttermilk may be used? You might be surprised, but this drink is extensively used in baking, particularly bread-making, because its ingredients act as rising agents for the dough.

Furthermore, it may be used to make marinades and marination of meat.

Does Buttermilk Go Bad?

Unfortunately, buttermilk can spoil if you store it unopened for more than a couple of weeks over its expiration date, leave it out of the fridge, or leave leftover buttermilk in the fridge for more than a couple of weeks.

When you think about it, if you use buttermilk in your baking or cooking regularly, you won’t be able to keep an open container in the fridge for more than a couple of weeks. You’ll put it to use far sooner. And leaving any milk product out of the refrigerator is like playing with fire.

The buttermilk you buy at the supermarket is called cultured buttermilk. It differs substantially in quality, components, and shelf life from naturally generated buttermilk, a byproduct of butter production.

How Long Does Buttermilk Last?

 Buttermilk (unopened)Buttermilk (opened)
Refrigeratorup to 7–14 days past the expiration dateup to 14 days after opening
Freezer3 months3 months

The shelf life of buttermilk is mostly determined by the temperature at which it is stored. Furthermore, keep an eye on the sell-by date, which is meaningless because it does not indicate ‘do not consume after this date,’ only ‘do not sell after this date.” Keep your buttermilk in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, open or closed, at temperatures below 40°F (4.4°C).

Even with these measures, you cannot know whether the vendor or shipper left your buttermilk out of the fridge at some time, therefore ensuring that it would expire far sooner than the usually recognized two weeks.

We’re concerned about buttermilk being left out in the cold because, like other dairy products, it’s an excellent breeding ground for various hazardous germs.

They can be added to the buttermilk at any point, including during manufacture, transport, handling in the store, and at home. Did you consume your buttermilk straight from the bottle?

Did you use your hands to open the bottle? Bacteria will seize any opportunity to enter and grow. And you will pay for it.

You may keep your buttermilk in the pantry unopened as long as the by’ date on the container is still valid. The only way to tell if it is safe is to open it, smell it, taste it, look at it, and assess it. Dates are OK, but you must be the judge.

How Long Will Buttermilk Keep Outside?

Because buttermilk is a milk product, it cannot be kept at room temperature for long. The average period to keep a cold dairy product like milk out of the fridge is two hours; buttermilk may stay a little longer owing to its acidity, but it should be checked for any symptoms of spoilage.

Because it has been evaporated, powdered buttermilk does not need to be refrigerated. Therefore, it can last three to five years if stored in a cold, dry environment in its original, unopened container.

It has a shelf life of six months to a year once the original container has been opened. Therefore, the easiest approach to keep the milk fresh is to store it in an airtight container with an oxygen absorber.

How Long Does Buttermilk Keep in the Refrigerator?

If stored in the refrigerator, store-bought Buttermilk can survive up to two weeks past its “best-by” date.

That is, however, the limit. It will most likely last one week.

Because it hasn’t gone through the same sterilizing processes, homemade buttermilk doesn’t survive as long. However, keeping your homemade milk in an airtight container will last two to three days.

When storing it in the refrigerator, place the container as far back as possible. Buttermilk performs best when kept at a consistent temperature. Open the container as little as possible to limit any exposure to warmth or light.

How Long Can Buttermilk Be Stored in the Freezer?

If you want your buttermilk to last, put it in the freezer. If stored in an airtight container, it can be frozen for up to three months. Remember to mark the container so you know how long it’s been there.

When frozen, buttermilk, like other dairy products, changes its texture. This is because the substances tend to separate. It is still safe to consume and especially to use in baking, and you may recombine the components by mixing them, but drinking it straight will not be the same.

Don’t forget to give some room for expansion when freezing your milk. Milk products expand when frozen and require some breathing area.

The shelf life of buttermilk, like that of other dairy products, is merely an estimate. Maybe it will endure longer, maybe not. The only way to find out is to look for signals of trouble.

How long will homemade buttermilk last?

Making buttermilk at home is extremely prevalent in several countries. But, if you want to give it a shot, you might wonder how long it will stay in the fridge.

As previously stated, processing processes impact a product’s longevity. In addition, commercial items are manufactured using sanitary processes and in an aseptic atmosphere that is difficult to replicate at home.

Preservatives are also added to store-bought buttermilk. As a result, homemade buttermilk has a shorter shelf life, generally 2 – 3 days in the fridge. Keep it in an airtight container at all times.

How to Tell If Your Buttermilk Is Bad

  • The fragrance is the first thing you’ll notice if your buttermilk has gone bad. Okay, buttermilk smells slightly sour, but ruined buttermilk smells EXTREMELY bad. Also, if you use buttermilk daily, you will notice a distinct change in the scent compared to fresh buttermilk.
  • If you pour buttermilk into a glass and it appears like white globs floating in a greenish transparent liquid, it’s terrible; discard it. Buttermilk curdled and separated due to the bacteria, resulting in large uneven lumps. The longer the rotten buttermilk sits in the container, the more it separates into a clear liquid and some floating lumps.
  • Do you see mold in the buttermilk? There should be no mold. It’s a disaster. Mold may grow on the surface of the buttermilk, so be cautious while pouring it into a glass and inspect for mold particles.
  • The color is odd; it isn’t white but rather somewhat greenish.
  • If the buttermilk appears different from how you recall it appearing when it was fresh, there is something wrong with it, and it is best to discard it.
  • It is terrible if the buttermilk tastes sour. Instead, it should have a zesty, buttery, silky flavor. Why you want to taste the buttermilk if it smells and looks unpleasant is a good question, but don’t take a huge sip, or you’ll end up with an unhappy stomach.
  • The most important advice, and the first thing to look for, is the expiration date on the buttermilk container. If it is over its expiry date, it may still be edible for a few days, but if it smells and looks awful, it is bad.
  • Though you have an open container of buttermilk in your fridge and have no clue how long it has been there, it is most likely spoilt, even if it appears and smells OK. So don’t take any chances.

Can I use old buttermilk?

Expired buttermilk is okay to use as long as it does not have a strong, disagreeable odor, is not too thick to pour, and does not contain mold.

Expired buttermilk can be used in dishes that require cooking, such as pancakes, biscuits, and pies.

If the buttermilk has beyond its expiry date but still appears in good condition, you can freeze it for later use, but it should not be refrozen after this.

Is it possible to get sick from old buttermilk?

Most buttermilk available for purchase has been adequately pasteurized to eliminate germs.

That implies you are unlikely to become fatally sick even if you consume sour buttermilk.

Even if the buttermilk is sour, it can still produce minor food poisoning. It will not kill you, but it will cause you to vomit and give you diarrhea, nausea, and a lot of stomach discomfort.

Don’t get upset about spoilt buttermilk. Your stomach can handle a few accidental sips, but we don’t advocate drinking it in excessive quantities.

Is it normal for buttermilk to be lumpy?

Buttermilk normally has lumps and clumps that may be whisked away, but if it gets excessively thick and impossible to pour, don’t use it.

How do you re-establish separated buttermilk?

Normally, the liquid portion (whey) begins to separate from the solid after a period. This is also true with yogurt. Feel fine to drink the buttermilk as long as no additional indicators of decomposition lead you to believe it is tainted. To restore the consistency, give it a thorough stir.

How do I create buttermilk from milk?

If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you may create your own using ordinary milk.

Add some distilled white vinegar or lemon juice to ordinary milk for 10 minutes. This thickens the milk, allowing it to be used instead of buttermilk.

How to store buttermilk

Buttermilk is a kind of dairy product. As a result, it must be refrigerated, just like any other dairy product.

Whether the carton of buttermilk has been opened or not, store it in the fridge.

If you want to extend the shelf life of buttermilk, the easiest method is to freeze it. First, store the buttermilk in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. This should allow you to keep unused buttermilk for roughly 2 months safely.

If you often use buttermilk in cooking and baking, freeze it in portion-size containers. This will allow you to defrost the buttermilk whenever you need it. However, remember that the consistency and flavor will change when you freeze and reheat buttermilk. As a result, only utilize this storage technique if you want to use the product for cooking.

Is it possible to freeze buttermilk?

The ability to freeze buttermilk is fantastic news for those who despise wasting food and watching their beloved buttermilk go down the drain just because it has passed its expiry date.

You are the greatest judge of how much buttermilk to use while baking or creating salad dressing. Typically, it is half a cup or a whole cup. Place that amount in Ziploc bags that can be tightly sealed and in the freezer. Because buttermilk is liquid, the Ziploc bag will be flat and will not take up much freezer space once frozen.

When you need half or a full cup of buttermilk, remove it from the freezer and place it on the counter for around 15 minutes or in a saucepan with boiling water for five minutes.

Frozen buttermilk may be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Note the freezing date on the Ziploc bag, so you know when it’s passed its expiration date.

How Do You Thaw Frozen Buttermilk?

Buttermilk can be thawed in a variety of methods, including:

  • Before heating the buttermilk, place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Set it to low power for ten seconds.
  • If you don’t have a microwave, place the container in a water bowl for a few minutes. Alternately, place the buttermilk in the refrigerator. Whatever way you choose, make sure to combine the components if they have separated thoroughly.

How Do You Replace Buttermilk?

So your buttermilk is stale or frozen, but you’d give everything for a batch of delectable pancakes.

Fortunately, there is a simple alternative for this dairy product. Because of its acidity, buttermilk is used in pancakes. However, any other acidic item should assist you because the acid is necessary to activate the baking soda.

The first acidic item that comes to mind is vinegar, but I don’t believe you want to try vinegar pancakes. The second choice, lemon juice, is our winner. Finally, here comes the “clabbered” milk.

“Clabbered” milk is dairy milk that has lemon juice added to it. The proportion is 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk [CI], which is used in place of the buttermilk. The proteins coagulate and form clumps when the acidic chemical is added to milk.

Because clabbered milk does not thicken as much as buttermilk, you may need to lessen the amount of clabbered milk used in your recipe.

When you’ve finished making the mixture, it’s ready to be added to your batter immediately.

If the clabbered milk isn’t quite up to your standards, there is another choice. And one that won’t make your pancakes taste like lemon.

Powdered Buttermilk

If you don’t use buttermilk often and only need half a cup for pancakes, consider dry buttermilk powder instead. The powder has a shelf life of about a year and may be stored at room temperature.

As with other powders, such as baking powder or baking soda, keep it away from moisture, and that’s all there is to it.

You can create pancakes all year long using buttermilk powder instead of buying quarts of buttermilk to toss the leftovers a few days after opening the bottle.


Buttermilk is becoming more popular in Western countries, even though it has been a staple in Asian cuisine for generations. It has a pleasant, tangy flavor and is ideal for baking biscuits and bread, marinating meat, and preparing salad dressing.

Is buttermilk perishable? Yes. Buttermilk may be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks, but if left out in temperatures over 40°F, it can rot in a matter of days. Frozen buttermilk may be kept in the freezer for up to three months.


Editorial Staff

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