Does Buttermilk Go Bad? 

All what you should know about buttemilk shelf life

Written by Elisa Chan. Updated on Does Buttermilk Go Bad 

Buttermilk is one of the multiple dairy products that is becoming more and more popular all over the world. People learn more about its useful and healthy benefits and qualities and want to know what they can do to extend the lifespan of this product.

And does buttermilk goes bad? Yes, buttermilk goes bad in 2 weeks if kept in a fridge at 40°F and in 3 days if it is stored on a counter at 68°F. If the buttermilk is kept at a temperature higher than 40°F in a fridge, it will go bad after 2 weeks. 

Below, you will find the answer to this question together with many interesting facts about this drink.

Related: Can You Freeze Butter?

What Makes Buttermilk Differ From Other Dairy Food?

Since buttermilk is relatively new on the tables of Europeans, not everyone can tell the exact difference between this drink and other milk products we have in a fridge, in particular yogurts, sour cream, or regular cream.

Which dairy product do you prefer?
Sour cream

However, certain significant distinctions exist.

  • Buttermilk is visually thicker than the regular milk but it is not as thick as sour cream, for instance
  • Buttermilk is a fermented kind of food (just like sour cream or yogurt) whereas milk and regular butter are not
  • In fact, buttermilk doesn’t contain butter being a leftover product after the whole milk turning into butter

Buttermilk sold on the Western market has lactic acid bacteria added which extends its lifespan whereas the traditional homemade product is far less durable and has a slightly different structure.

Related: Can You Freeze Milk | The Ultimate Guideline

What Makes Buttermilk Differ From Other Dairy Food
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Benefits of Consuming Buttermilk Daily

Originally, buttermilk comes from India but today it is also widely met in South Asia and the Middle East. The original product was a result of the butter churning process out of the cultured cream, some sort of left-behind. 

Nowadays, however, this fermented dairy drink is cultured.

Buttermilk Shelf Life
Photo by Daniela Díaz on Unsplash

Where do you think buttermilk can be used except for drinking? Well, you may surprise but this drink is widely used in baking, especially bread-making because its elements work as the raising agents for the dough.

Besides, it can be used even in making marinades and marination of meat.

How often do you eat buttermilk?
Almost every day
I don't eat buttermilk at all

Buttermilk is a low-fat and low-calorie drink that can find its wide popularity in different dietary menus and recipes. Also, it is very easily digested, much easier than milk, that is why buttermilk is often prescribed to those who have any digestion problems.

Buttermilk, especially the one that was made at home from the organic ingredients, is a rich source of probiotics. It assists in producing healthy bacteria in the stomach to make it work better.

But this is not the complete list os this product’s benefits! 

Buttermilk is well-known for its ability to contribute to bone growth because it contains a lot of calcium that is also very useful for our teeth and nails.

This dairy drink is also one of the best natural detoxing means thanks to its ability to increase the level of B2 vitamin. 

Related: Can You Freeze Yogurt?

What Products Can Substitute Buttermilk 

Let’s agree, buttermilk is quite a rare product to be used in the food-making. However, now and then, a recipe calls for it, and this is when we open the fridge and we often find out that we have less than a quarter of carton left, or we have no buttermilk at all!

What shall we do in this situation?

Why not substitute buttermilk with something else?

We are going to provide you with the list of top lactic (and not only!) products that can be exploited alternatively as pahta replacements when preparing food.

Lactic products that can be used as pahta substitutes

Since pahta is a dairy product, it will be wise to assume that another foodstuff that contains lactic acid can be exploited alternatively. Besides, since the major ingredients of pahta are acid and liquid, its substitutes must have the same components.

Milk and vinegar

Photo by Robert Hrovat on Unsplash

If we add some vinegar to milk, it will give the dairy foodstuff the necessary acidic nature similar to the one that buttermilk has.

For this purpose, any acetum will do but white one would be better since it has slightly less intensive odor.

As for milk, feel free to make use of any variation of it. If the recipe calls for low-fat pahta, it would be better to use the same sort of milk.

To prepare such a replacement, pour 15 ml of vinegar to the measuring cup and then add milk until the total amount will reach 237 ml. Stir properly. Now it’s ok to add the mixture to your recipe or, if you wish, you could let it sit for 10-15 min to become more buttery.

Milk and lemon juice

lemon juice
Photo by Janine Robinson on Unsplash

Another top replacement is the citrus juice. Since lemons are acidic, and they smell way better than acetum, try to use them.

Prepare the substitute the same way as it was described above and let the blend sit for ½ hour. Like this, the citrus acid will have enough time to turn the consistency of the liquid to the more buttery one. 

Such a mixture can be used both for baking and even for the recipe of bread. 

Milk with cream of tartar

This product’s content also includes acid, so it will fit the task. Since the cream of tartar is powdered, it will be simple for it to get in contact with liquid milk. You’ll have to take 5 grams of this powdered product per 237 ml of milk to reach the ideal consistency.

Cream of tartar inclines to make clumps if mixed straight into milk! Make sure you mix it with other powdered and/or dry ingredients first, and only then add milk to the content.

Lactose-free alternatives

lactose-free milk
Photo by Mehrshad Rajabi on Unsplash

If you can’t stand lactic products, we recommend you blend together any lactose-free milk and acid (e.g. acetum) the same as it was explained in the previous tips.

Sour cream&Water or milk

Since sour cream uses lactic acid bacteria when being produced to ferment cream, it has almost the same taste as pahta.

Nevertheless, to make it less thick, we advise diluting the content with some milk slightly. 

Yogurt and milk

Another way of replacing buttermilk is to make use of plain yogurt and milk.

The lactic acid gives yogurt that tangy flavor that buttermilk has, besides, both these kinds of food have a similar texture. 

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Kefir or powdered buttermilk 

Since kefir tastes very much alike to pahta, it can be the perfect alternative for it. Powdered replacement is also very easy to prepare by mixing in water.

Dairy-free substitutes

As an option, you could try to use products that don’t have lactose, especially if you intolerant to lactic food.

The taste of such replacements might be slightly different from the original product but why not try?!

  • Sugar-free soy milk and acid
  • Vegan sour cream and water
  • Tofu, water, and acid
  • Unsweetened coconut milk & acid
  • Unsweetened nut milk (almond or cashew) and acid

All these foodstuffs can be used instead of buttermilk in cooking.

Remember though that any of these replacements must be kept in the fridge in a tightly-closed container to avoid contamination and spoilage according to the storage requirements.

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Buttermilk Shelf Life

Now you can understand why, after buttermilk has become widely known and consumed, people started wondering how to keep this drink correctly at home. As any dairy product, buttermilk is rather demanding when it comes to storage conditions.

To clarify this issue, we need to start with several essential points.

How long is buttermilk good for after the expiration date?

You may be surprised but buttermilk can be consumed even after the expiry date indicated on the pack has passed!

Normally, this drink can be safely taken within two weeks at most beyond the expiry date.

So, how long is buttermilk good for after the expiration date? Buttermilk is good after the expiration date for 1-2 weeks at 40°F, after the expiration date stated on the carton package, but still can be used for baking and cooking. Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product, which can be consumed during the period of up to 2 weeks after the expiry date.

How long does buttermilk keep in the refrigerator?

Fridge storage helps for extending the lifespan of the product but it won’t make it last significantly longer. When keeping buttermilk in a fridge, count on nearly fourteen days since after that the acid will start turning the drink spoiled.

And how long can buttermilk be kept in the refrigerator? For 2 weeks the buttermilk can be kept at 40°F temperatures in a refrigerator after opening and beyond if unopened. The buttermilk can be frozen for 3 months, both opened and unopened. Buttermilk kept in a fridge is good for 2 weeks, then it gets spoiled.

How long is buttermilk good for once opened?

Once we open the carton, it must be kept in a fridge no matter what. Like this, we will extend the product’s life to three weeks at most.

Weel, how long is buttermilk good for once opened? Once opened the buttermilk is good for about 14 days if kept in a fridge at 40°F. Frozen buttermilk will last for up to 3 months. When the buttermilk container is opened the process of degradation starts, thus it is better to finish the opened bottle in a week or two, when the buttermilk is still good.

Can expired buttermilk make you sick?

The expired buttermilk can make you sick because of the lactic acid, which makes buttermilk sour. If you consume expired buttermilk, which was not kept at recommended 40°F temperatures, you are running a risk of food poisoning and expired buttermilk can make you sick.

This product gets off because its lactic acid keeps on producing making it sourer and sourer. When consuming bad buttermilk, you’re at the risk of getting a foodborne disease or food poisoning, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.

So we would not recommend consuming the expired buttermilk or even add it to dishes whose recipe requires that when cooking. 

What can I do with old buttermilk?

This question bothers many housewives but unless the drink has no mold and it doesn’t smell off and sour, feel free to add it to any recipe that calls for this ingredient, especially if it’s bread or bakery.

Benefits of Consuming Buttermilk Daily
Photo by Brian Suman on Unsplash

Can you use expired buttermilk?

Everything depends on how much time has passed since the buttermilk expired. If the time period does not exceed one or two weeks, then everything is fine and the drink can be consumed safely.

And can you use expired buttermilk? Yes, you can use expired buttermilk till it gets a strong and unpleasant smell, maximum of 2 weeks after the expiry date. Expired buttermilk is often used for baking biscuits, pancakes. Buttermilk, which has a strong smell and becomes too thick to pour, and has mold, can not be used. 

Is it possible to use expired buttermilk in baking?

Yes, it is possible to use expired buttermilk in baking, for pancakes, biscuits and pies. Expired buttermilk stored in a fridge for up to 3 weeks at 40°F is OK for cooking bread, cakes. Expired buttermilk, unless it is already moldy, can be safely used for baking.

Yes, expired buttermilk, unless it is already moldy, can be safely used in baking if the ingredients list indicates this product as one of the required.
For example, you can make pancakes, pies or biscuits using this drink.

How long is buttermilk good for after sell-by date?

After the sell-by date, buttermilk is good for 2 weeks beyond the date declared on the package. Keep in a fridge at 40°F and use for baking and cooking. Buttermilk is still good for after the sell-by date for cooking savory meals.

Normally, buttermilk can remain consumable within fourteen days after its expiry date has passed. Respectively, it can be used in baking during this period, too.

How to Make ButtermilkHow to Make Buttermilk

How long does buttermilk last after being opened?

Buttermilk lasts for about 3 days after being opened if stored on a counter, 2-3 weeks in a fridge at 40°F temperatures, and for up to 3 months in a freezer. Frozen buttermilk may change the texture for a bit grainy, but still is ok for baking and cooking.

If the buttermilk pack was kept refrigerated all the time after it was opened, then the drink will remain consumable for approximately three weeks.

Can buttermilk spoil?

Like any dairy product, buttermilk can get spoiled even though it is pretty long-lasting compared to other drinks and products of this kind.

So if it has been kept under wrong conditions like high temperature, direct light or storage on the kitchen table or counter, it will definitely turn bad pretty fast.

As you could have noticed, buttermilk is a pretty tenacious drink unlike most of the dairy products that last significantly less time.

So, can buttermilk spoil? Yes, in about 2-3 weeks buttermilk gets spoiled. Buttermilk goes bad because bacteria start growing actively and causes acid levels and leads to rising ferments of buttermilk. Slight discoloration, sour smell and lumpy texture are the signs that buttermilk spoiled.

Can you use expired buttermilk
Photo by donald modeste on Unsplash

Can We Freeze Buttermilk?

Since this sort of food is very healthy, people often wonder whether preserving it is possible. Of course, keeping it in a fridge will extend its lifespan somehow but what about the prolonged storage?

Even though buttermilk contains lactic acid that protects it from the fast spoiling, it can’t stay fresh too long! 

That is why many of us simply freeze the drink!

However, it is important to consider that, like any dairy food, buttermilk must be used right after defrosting and it can’t be exposed to frost repeatedly. 

Well, can you freeze buttermilk? Shake the buttermilk, pour into the freezer bag, tray or ice cube trays, and put it into a freezer. Write the portion size and the date when you put buttermilk into a freezer on a container, freezer bag or zip-top bag. Frozen buttermilk can be stored for up to 3 months. 

How to Freeze ButtermilkHow to Freeze Buttermilk

How to Freeze Buttermilk?

In fact, the freezing recipe is extremely simple.

  • If you have a carton of extra drink and it’s full, remove some of the product to leave enough empty space for buttermilk expands when frozen (another option is to remove it to another container)
  • If you’re planning to use it for making food, find a container that allows making portions, e.g. silicone forms or ice cube tray, and pour the drink there
  • Put it to the freezing camera and let it harden

Like that, your buttermilk will last longer than in the fridge, and its lactic acid bacteria will be preserved making the drink more durable.

As you can see, the recipe is very simple and effective at the same time.

How to Freeze Buttermilk
Photo by Vera Cho on Unsplash

How to Tell If Buttermilk Is Bad?

It is obvious that when being affected by any harmful external influence, buttermilk can get spoiled quite soon.

And buttermilk expiration date may not be a proper significative in this case.

If the buttermilk pack was left on the table or the kitchen counter, if it was being exposed to the influence of heat, warmth or direct light (especially sunlight) then the product will become useless sooner or later.

How to tell if buttermilk has gone bad? 

Pour some into a glass or a transparent cup/bowl and examine it.

If you notice any traces of mold on the surface or inside of the drink, if the buttermilk appears to be too thick to pour it or if you smell an unpleasant and strongly sour odor, then you must discard it anyway as the drink is impossible to use even in baking anymore.

How long is buttermilk good for after sell-by date
Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

A variant of Using Buttermilk at Home

Of course, drinking buttermilk is the main way to consume it. But it is not the only one! 

As you probably already know, this useful drink can be applied in many ways in the kitchen to delight you and your family!

So, in case you have some extra fresh buttermilk that you know you won’t be able to drink all or you have some leftovers that are already expired but can still be used, feel free to use them in cooking.

Fresh buttermilk can be used as a salad dressing and expired drink will perfectly fit any bread-making or biscuit-making receipt.

Variant of Using Buttermilk at Home

When being added to the pancakes dough, buttermilk gives them a magical creamy flavor and taste, and cakes and pies come out of the over being light and flavorous!

Also, this drink, when being still fresh, can be used in making ice cream or cool coups. Nevertheless, it will even fit the hot savory dishes like grilled chicken or a simple dish like mashed potatoes enriching it with the milky flavor and soft taste, and making its texture more smooth and even.

So, now you are aware of several useful tips regarding the buttermilk storage nuances and preserving this healthy and delicious drink will not be a cause of problems for you anymore.

Use these tips and you will enjoy the buttermilk to its longest!

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ How do you know when buttermilk goes bad?

Since it’s the lactic acid that makes the drink go bad, you can tell for sure that buttermilk is off if it has a strong and unpleasant sour smell.

⭐ Does buttermilk powder need to be refrigerated?

Just like the liquid counterpart, a container with the powdered buttermilk must be kept chilled to extend its lifespan.

⭐ Why does buttermilk taste so bad?

People often state that buttermilk tastes not good even when fresh. That’s true, its taste is far from being called delicious because of the influence of the lactic acid which makes the drink tart.

⭐ Does butter ever go bad?

Yes, butter expires like any other food. When stored correctly in a freezing camera, it will remain edible for more than half a year easily. But if we keep its container in a warm room, it will get rancid soon.

⭐ Can I use soft cheese as a substitute to buttermilk?

No, any cheese, even the softest one, can’t be used instead of buttermilk since it is impossible to make cheese the same liquid.

⭐ If I freeze buttermilk, will it decrease its quality when the product is thawed?

Like any dairy foodstuff, buttermilk is very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The contact with frost can preserve it for quite a long time but once it’s defrosted, it can’t be frozen repeatedly by no means!

⭐ Can I keep defrosted buttermilk in the fridge for a week?

Once you defrost buttermilk, it can’t be kept in the fridge or be frozen again. The product must be either used or discarded. That is why it is recommended not to freeze a whole carton of it but instead find a smaller container, e.g. ice tray.

⭐ For how much longer does freezing preserve buttermilk?

When exposed to freezing, this product will manage to last for up to three months.

⭐ Is it ok to keep the carton of buttermilk open?

No, once you open the carton, ensure that it remains in the fridge tightly sealed to prevent spoilage and contamination. Like this, it will be possible to extend the product’s lifespan for a week or two in the fridge.

⭐ What signs tell that buttermilk is spoiled 100%? When must I throw it?

If you can’t pour buttermilk from its container due to its thickness, if it smells very sour and off, or if it stayed refrigerated for more than two weeks, these signs tell that the foodstuff is bad. Better throw it away.

Read next: Can You Freeze Sour Cream?

Written by
Elisa is a passionate cook who will advise you on healthy and delicious food topics! With her help, you will discover how to properly store and freeze food, as well as learn important nuances about preserving vitamins in your meals to make them stay nutritious.
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How to Make Buttermilk at HomeHow to Make Buttermilk at Home