Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk

The main difference between buttermilk and milk is that the buttermilk is a fermented milk with a slightly sour taste whereas milk is the whitish liquid produced by mammary glands.

The sourness of buttermilk comes through the lactic acid fermentation of milk. Both buttermilk and milk are rich in probiotics. Also, both are used in a variety of food products. Buttermilk is slightly thicker than milk. However, buttermilk contains fewer fats than regular milk.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Buttermilk
     – Definition, Properties, Importance
2. What is Milk
    – Definition, Properties, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Buttermilk and Milk
    – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Buttermilk, Milk, Lactic Acid Fermentation, Probiotics, Taste

Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk - Comparison Summary

What is Buttermilk

Buttermilk refers to the slightly sour liquid left after churning out butter from milk; typically, cow’s milk. It is thicker than milk and leaves a more visible residue on the glass. Also, it has two different types based on the method of production:

  1. Traditional buttermilk – A liquid left at the churning of butter
  2. Cultured milk – Artificially fermented milk

The manufacturing procedure is often lactic acid fermentation of cow’s milk. It causes the thickening of the milk as well as the sour or acidic taste. The thickening is due to the denaturation of milk proteins while the sour taste is due to the produced lactic acid. Two species of bacteria used in the fermentation of milk are Streptococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

Main Difference - Buttermilk vs Milk

Figure 1: Buttermilk

The acidity of buttermilk has its own benefits in the baking industry. Used in combination with the alkaline baking soda, it gives lightness and tenderness to baked products. Further, it has various health benefits as well. The presence of probiotics in it prevents the growth of pathogenic, gastrointestinal microorganisms. It also reduces the discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract and strengthens the immune system. Moreover, it contains a fewer amount of lactose and is better for individuals with lactose intolerance. Its use is common in countries with warm climates such as the Middle East, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Southern United States, etc.

What is Milk

Milk refers to an opaque, white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by mammary glands for the nourishment of their young. It may also refer to the white-colored beverages that are non-animal such as coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc. Generally, milk is a great source of nutrition for humans as well as animals. Though the proportions are variable among sources, the main components of it are protein, calcium, saturated fat, and Vitamin C. Human milk contains 60% of whey and 40% of casein. Cow’s milk contains 20% of whey and 80% of casein. Whey is a mixture of beta-lactoglobulin (65%), alpha-lactalbumin (25%), bovine serum albumin (8%), and immunoglobulins.

Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk

Figure 2: Milk (left) and Buttermilk (right)

Milk is an important ingredient in manufacturing chocolate, ice cream, and butter. Taking moderate amounts of milk helps in reducing weight.

Similarities Between Buttermilk and Milk

  • Buttermilk and milk are liquids.
  • Both are rich in proteins.
  • They are also rich in probiotics. Hence, both prevent the growth of pathogenic, gastrointestinal microorganisms, reduces the discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract and strengthen the immune system.
  • Both are used as a beverage in a variety of food products.

Difference Between Buttermilk and Milk


Buttermilk: Slightly sour liquid left after butter has been churned

Milk: Opaque, white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by mammary glands for the nourishment of their young


Buttermilk: Produced from Cow’s milk

Milk: Can have animal or plant origin


Buttermilk: Curdled by the addition of lactic acid bacteria to the low-fat milk

Milk: Product of the mammary glands


Buttermilk: Pale yellow or whitish

Milk: Whitish


Buttermilk: Slightly sour

Milk: Sweet and creamy


Buttermilk: Thick

Milk: Less thicker than buttermilk

Nutrition Facts

Buttermilk: 100 g of buttermilk contains 40 calories, calcium (116 mg), cholesterol (4 mg), sodium (105 mg), saturated fat (0.5 g), and Vitamin C (1 mg)

Milk: 100 grams of milk contains 42 calories, calcium (125 mg), cholesterol (6 mg), sodium (44 mg), saturated fat (0.6 mg), and no Vitamin C

Food Products

Buttermilk: Cakes, biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, etc.

Milk: Cakes, cookies, bread, sauce, soups, chocolate, ice cream, butter, yogurt, etc.


Buttermilk is the fermented form of cow’s milk, which is a bit sour in taste. Generally, milk is the product of mammary glands, which is creamy and sweet. Both contain probiotics. Buttermilk contains a fewer amount of fat than milk. The main difference between buttermilk and milk is mainly in their taste.


1. “What Is Buttermilk, Anyway?” The Spruce Eats, TheSpruceEats, .
2. Ware, Megan. “Milk: Health Benefits and Nutritional Information.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 14 Dec. 2017, .

Image Courtesy:

1. “and 1 cup of buttermilk” by jeffreyw via
2. “Buttermilk-(right)-and-Milk-(left)” By Ukko-wc – Own work via

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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