Traditional and Non-traditional Buttermilk Recipe Ideas



Last Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Buttermilk is a versatile dairy product that traditionally came from butter, but now modern buttermilk is sold as a cultured milk drink. It’s often used in recipes to create light and fluffy texture in baked products and batters. 

What is buttermilk?

Buttermilk is a cultured dairy product commonly used as an ingredient in baking and cooking to add flavor and richness. Traditionally, buttermilk was the liquid product leftover from the butter churning process. These days, we don’t have time to churn our butter, so now buttermilk is a manufactured, fermented dairy product you can buy ready-made in the dairy section. 

Buttermilk is made by adding lactobacillus cultures to fat-reduced milk that turn the lactose into lactic acid—with a pH of around 4.5. It’s this acid that reacts with baking soda to give a light texture to baked products. 

It makes pancakes and waffles light and fluffy, it creates silky smooth desserts and dressings, and makes southern-fried chicken dishes tender and succulent.

Because it doesn’t come directly from butter, buttermilk is full-bodied and creamy in texture but has none of the fat that cream or butter has. It has a subtle tanginess, with a taste similar to natural yogurt—creamy and slightly sour.

Traditional buttermilk recipe ideas

Traditionally buttermilk was used in recipes for simple baked goods like soda bread or scones so you could use up the byproduct from churned butter. Try some of these traditional buttermilk recipes.

1. Honey whole-wheat English muffins

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits Cooling on a rack in the Kitchen with Melting Butter.

The buttermilk used in this traditional recipe for honey whole-wheat English muffins makes the muffins light and air-filled, perfect for that butter to melt into.

2. Whole-wheat Irish soda bread rolls

Soda bread is a traditional recipe that doesn’t use yeast and instead gets its leavening from baking soda and buttermilk. These Irish soda bread rolls are a quick and easy way to get fresh bread that’s soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.

3. Berry buttermilk shortcake

Shortcake is another traditional cake that comes out light and fluffy when made with buttermilk, and these berry buttermilk shortcake biscuits are no exception. For a truly classic dessert, serve this shortcake with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

4. Buttermilk hush puppies

A tasty Southern tradition, the buttermilk in these hush puppies adds sweetness and helps smooths the batter, creating a rich, thick, and creamy cornmeal batter. Serve with fish sticks or alone with a spicy ketchup dipping sauce.

5. Buttermilk cornbread with Vidalia onions

Put a twist on the traditional cornbread by sauteeing sweet Vidalia onions and then pouring this buttermilk cornbread batter over the onions for a savory cornbread-come-frittata.

6. Buttermilk pie

Buttermilk pie was traditionally made using simple, staple ingredients. This easy yet classic buttermilk pie recipe is versatile and freezes well, so you can have it on hand for those unexpected guests. Change it up by adding nutmeg, cinnamon, or extra lemon.

Delicious non-traditional buttermilk recipes

Nowadays, buttermilk is manufactured and can be bought from the dairy section. Go beyond the classic buttermilk scone with these non-traditional buttermilk recipes

7. Baked buttermilk pumpkin doughnuts

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Donuts Ready to Eat

These delicious pumpkin doughnuts are baked not fried, the maple glaze is silky sweet, and the buttermilk keeps them light and airy. This recipe for buttermilk pumpkin doughnuts has them baked and glazed in under an hour. Don’t forget the toasted pecans.

8. Bibb salad with basil-buttermilk dressing

For a tangy basil-buttermilk dressing to go with an easy bibb salad, simply combine your buttermilk with mayonnaise, basil, scallion, and salt and pepper. The toasted walnuts give a buttery crunch to your salad, and all these salad ingredients are easy to find in the fresh produce section of your local grocery store. 

9. Chive and buttermilk mashed potatoes

Make your mashed potatoes healthy by stirring through buttermilk instead of cream or butter, with this recipe for chive and buttermilk mashed potatoes. Using Yukon Gold potatoes will make the mashed potatoes extra rich and creamy.

10. Mango-pecan quick bread

This quick mango-pecan bread uses buttermilk to help make it deliciously light and airy combined with a fruity tang from the mango and a fragrant pecan finish.

11. Morning glory scones

Scones are a classic that everyone loves, and these morning glory scones with carrots, raisins, and pecans are a twist on the sweet buttermilk scones you might be familiar with.

12. Air-fryer “fried” chicken thighs 

These “fried” chicken thighs are marinated in buttermilk and then air-fried for a healthier crispy, fried chicken.

13. Irresistible Irish soda bread

Homemade Irish Soda Bread .

Soda bread is a quick bread that uses baking soda instead of yeast to rise, and because there’s no kneading required, you can have this simple but delicious Irish soda bread ready in no time. 

14. Dilly buttermilk dressing

Try this zesty and herby dill buttermilk dressing over your favorite salad. It’s ready in 5 minutes. Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor to create this creamy yet slightly tangy dressing. 

15. Salmon, radish, and bibb salad with herby buttermilk dressing

Bake your salmon, flake and sprinkle it over a bibb salad, and finish by drizzling on this herby buttermilk dressing for extra flavor and zing.

Buttermilk breakfast ideas

Buttermilk is not only for baking up a storm, it can be used in many different breakfast creations too. Try these family-friendly breakfast ideas with buttermilk.

16. Whole-wheat pancakes

Try these simple, yet classic whole-wheat pancakes. A blank canvas for breakfast creations, you can add Greek yogurt and muesli to them, fresh berries, maple syrup, or just fresh butter.

17. Pumpkin waffles with cinnamon maple syrup

Treat yourself with these decadent pumpkin waffles with cinnamon maple syrup drizzled on top. Add some whipped cream on top for extra creaminess.

18. Everything-bagel oat scones

It tastes like a bagel, but it’s a scone, so this qualifies as a tasty breakfast food. You can create your own bagel seasoning mix and combine it with these light everything-bagel oat scones. Serve with butter or cream cheese.

19. Blueberry-ricotta pancakes

Stack of freshly prepared blueberry ricotta pancakes with fresh berries, yogurt and honey for breakfast

Buttermilk pancakes are very popular and a versatile breakfast idea. Try these blueberry-ricotta pancakes, which are perfectly light and fluffy, sweet-tasting, and complemented by the tang of the blueberries. Drizzle over maple syrup to finish.  

20. Banana-chocolate chip pancakes

These banana-chocolate chip pancakes are an excellent weekend breakfast idea for all the family. This buttermilk pancake recipe base is wholegrain and adds chocolate chips and mashed banana for extra deliciousness. Serve them with whipped cream or yogurt. 

Buttermilk—a prized ingredient 

Buttermilk is such a versatile ingredient to use in both baked goods and when cooking. Shop for buttermilk and all of your baking and cooking supplies with Instacart, and save yourself time searching for all of those recipe ingredients. Enjoy contactless, same-day delivery when you shop your groceries through Instacart.



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,100 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

Most Recent in Recipes

How Long To Grill Burgers: Guide To Grilling Like a Pro


How Long To Grill Burgers: Guide To Grilling Like a Pro

Quick Answer How long do you grill burgers? Rare: 4 minutes in total, or 125 F Medium-rare: 6-6.5 minutes, or 130-135 F Medium: 7-8 minutes, or 140-145 F Medium-well: 9 minutes, or 150-155 F Well-done:…...

Mar 22, 2023
51 Engagement Party Food Ideas To Say “Yes” To


51 Engagement Party Food Ideas To Say “Yes” To

An engagement marks the beginning of a beautiful journey between two people, and many choose to celebrate with friends and family.  Whether you're planning an intimate dinner or a backyard brunch celebration, we've compiled these…...

Mar 22, 2023
61 Sunday Dinner Ideas for Families


61 Sunday Dinner Ideas for Families

It’s Sunday night. You’re still relaxing from the previous week while trying to prepare for the next. Coming up with Sunday dinner ideas is probably the last thing you want to do. Whether you’re cooking…...

Mar 18, 2023

Free delivery or pickup on your first order of $35 or more. Sign up now! Terms apply.