Buttermilk: A Thirst-quenching Refreshing Drink?

How many of you drink buttermilk (a ‘fermented dairy product’)? It has high nutritional and therapeutic properties and it is more easily digestible. If you visit any house in Tamil Nadu during summer time, you are sure to be welcomed with a chilled glass of spiced buttermilk.

You may be reluctant to believe that there is no butter, per se, in buttermilk. It is a “fermented dairy product” obtained from the milk. What we call buttermilk was originally the term given to the slightly sour liquid left after butter was churned from cream. This traditional homemade buttermilk is the slightly sour in taste.

Cultured Buttermilk

Today, cultured buttermilk (commercial buttermilk) is intentionally made from pasteurized sweet whole milk or, more commonly skim milk or non-fat milk to which specific bacterial cultures (lactic acid bacteria culture) have been added during the manufacturing process. The milk is left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours at a low temperature (optimum 69 degrees F.). Most of them are salted and if you are in salt restricted diet, please check for salt free product.


During fermentation process the starter bacteria turns milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid and the formation of buttermilk results. The lactic acid lowers the pH of the milk and it gets tart. The milk proteins in general, casein in specific, are no longer soluble under acid conditions and they precipitate out, causing what we recognize as clabbering. The presence of lactic acid provides buttermilk, its two characteristic features – one is tartness or buttermilk flavor and the other one is its thickened nature. Acidity of buttermilk, a natural preservative, also provides long refrigerator shelf life.

Benefits of Buttermilk

Buttermilk is more easily digestible than whole milk and it also contains more lactic acid than skim milk. It is quite popular as a coolant in India and a variant called lassi (Punjabi food) is sold commercially. The nutritional benefits of buttermilk (one cup) include 5.7goftotal Carbohydrate, 5.7g of Sugars, 4.0g of Protein, 2.2g of total fat, 0.7g of saturated Fat, 181mg of potassium, 126mg of sodium, traces of vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus. Since butter is removed from milk / cream, there is only residual fat is present and it is lower in calories than regular milk. Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly digested.

Refreshing Drink and Food

This age old thirst-quenching, refreshing drink with high nutritional and therapeutic properties is appetizing, cooling, rejunuvating, soothing and serves as an excellent antidote to sunstrokes during Indian peak summer times. In Tamil Nadu, the charity houses or Dharma Salas kept big cool earthen pots of churned buttermilk in public places for free public consumption. If you visit any house in Tamil Nadu during summer time and you are sure to be welcomed with a chilled glass of spiced buttermilk. Spiced buttermilk is a good combination of fresh home made curds, water, fried curry leaves, mustard, asafoetida, crushed ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, salt and a dash of lemon juice. This spicy and herb infused drink is known for its myriad flavors – sweet, spicy, sour and salty.

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  1. Great Article. Yes we Tamilians know this very well. The taste you can’t explain the same. Just you can feel it. That too the spicy buttermilk during summer time you can just enjoy the taste. That’s all.

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