Buttermilk vs Half and Half: Make Buttermilk with Half and Half

Published Categorized as Ingredients, Guide

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Quite often we find our recipes calling for some type of milk or cream, and very in baking we can commonly see a request for buttermilk. Now, whilst milk is an ingredient that most households will regularly have in the fridge, the same cannot be said for buttermilk. Today I am going to look at whether we can easily substitute buttermilk with something else, and particularly focus on whether we can replace buttermilk with half and half.

Table of Contents

What is buttermilk?

Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid that remains after churning the butter out of cream, creating a fermented dairy drink. Buttermilk is a lot more common in warmer climates, as unrefrigerated milk will become sour more quickly. Because buttermilk is the liquid leftover after the butter is scooped out, it has quite a rich flavor but is still very low in fat, as all of the fat ends up in the butter. It is full of healthy cultures (harmless lactic acid bacteria) that develop naturally when cream is left at room temperature. The cultures allowed for buttermilk to keep longer than regular milk, which is why it is used for cooking and baking.

However, as time has gone on, it is not as common for butter to be made in small quantities in churns, and so the rich tasting liquid that is buttermilk, is no longer developed. Instead, buttermilk is developed by most dairies these days by using regular, pasteurized milk and combining it with cultures. This can then be bought in bottles and cartons in grocery stores. Store-bought buttermilk is often thicker and tangier than traditionally made buttermilk, so if a recipe calls for it then you should try to stick to store-bought to ensure it has the correct flavour and acidity. The acid in buttermilk helps with the leavening of the recipe, so many recipes will also require baking soda to help balance this out.

Buttermilk vs Half and Half_Alices Kitchen

What can you use in place of buttermilk?

If you cannot get a hold of buttermilk, you can ferment your own milk at home and use this for your recipe. Adding lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar to regular milk and leaving it to set will help create a similar substance to buttermilk. Alternatively, you can use sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk powder, as these have a similar acidic flavour and texture.

What is half and half?

Half and half milk is half whole milk and half light cream. This means it has a thicker consistency than milk, but is not quite as heavy as cream. The simplicity of what half and half is, makes it really easy to create your own half and half at home. It adds a delicious richness without the heaviness of cream. It is also higher in fat levels, but this comes with a more indulgent experience. People often love to use half and half in their coffees, but it can also be ideal to use in sauces or baking, as it has that slightly thicker consistency.

Can you use half and half instead of buttermilk?

Replacing buttermilk with half and half, or vice versa, would really all depend on what exactly you are using the buttermilk for. As mentioned, buttermilk is noticeably lower in fat, and so replacing your buttermilk with half and half will increase the fat levels, resulting in an increase in calories as well.

Further to this, replacing buttermilk with half and half will reduce the acidity levels, as half and half has not been left to ferment and therefore has not developed the same acidity as buttermilk. In some cases, this may not be an issue. If you are simply making a creamy sauce then you won’t notice much difference, it will just be slightly richer but slightly less sour in flavor.

However, if you are baking with buttermilk, recipes often specifically require buttermilk and have other ingredients, such as baking soda, that work alongside and counteract the acidity in the buttermilk. As a result, you should either leave out the baking soda as well, or you should increase the acidity levels of your half and half by turning it into buttermilk.

You can do this by adding a tablespoon of lemon or vinegar per every cup of milk. Here you can read how 2/3 of a cup translates into tablespoons. Alternatively, as mentioned above, you can use sour cream or yogurt in place of your buttermilk.

Final Thoughts

SO, in terms of comparing buttermilk with half and half, the two products are very different. Buttermilk is lower in fat and higher in acidity, making it less creamy and slightly sour in flavor. However, it does have a longer life than regular milk and cream, making it ideal for cooking and baking. Half and half, on the other hand, is richer and creamier, but also comes with those extra calories. The acidity in buttermilk can be crucial in recipes, and so using a replacement would need to have similar levels of acidity. This can be found in other products, or you can use some lemon juice or vinegar to turn your half and half milk into a buttermilk substitute. Overall, buttermilk should be used in recipes that call for it, but if you only have half and half then it is easy enough to make your own!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can you use half and half instead of buttermilk?

You can. However, in recipes that also require baking soda to counteract the buttermilk, you should remove the baking soda, or you can turn your half and half into a similar product to buttermilk by adding lemon juice or vinegar. This will increase the acidity, making it a suitable replacement.

What can you use in place of buttermilk?

You can use other milks and creams in place of buttermilk if you add vinegar or lemon juice to help increase the acidity. Alternatively you can use sour cream or yogurt in place of buttermilk.

Can you use half and half instead of buttermilk for cornbread?

You can, however the fat content is a lot higher and so you need to take this into consideration. You should also make sure to add lemon juice or vinegar to give your half and half milk the correct acidity for your recipe. It is also important to bear in mind that half and half is thicker than buttermilk. 

Can I use buttermilk in place of heavy cream?

Buttermilk is not thick enough to be used in place of heavy cream. It also has a sour flavour to it and so unless you have no other option, you should avoid using buttermilk in place of heavy cream.

Buttermilk vs Half and Half_Alices Kitchen