Freezing buttermilk is an easy way to store leftover buttermilk after making pancakes. Read on to learn how to do it and when it makes sense.
While buttermilk does last longer than other dairy products (similar to kefir ), it doesn’t last as long. And a quart (typical container size) of buttermilk is usually a lot more than you need. Freezing this dairy product comes to mind.
But before we get into the details, let’s first talk about when freezing buttermilk is a good idea because, like other dairy products, freezing only works in certain cases.
Can you freeze buttermilk?
As you probably know, when freezing many dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese or ricotta ) separation occurs. The same goes for buttermilk.
After freezing and thawing, buttermilk solids separate from liquid (whey), and the whole thing looks like this:
Doesn’t look that tempting, does it?
The change in texture is obvious and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to drink it. Not even after stirring, shaking or mixing. That helps, but only so much.
But does that mean you can’t freeze buttermilk? Far from it.
In many homes, buttermilk is primarily used to cook pancakes or bake cookies. And for that, the changes caused by freezing and thawing are not so much of an issue. I mean, the buttermilk is just one of the ingredients, and the batter doesn’t depend on it for its consistency.
The batsman usually looks something like this:
And I’m sure you can’t tell if I used fresh or frozen and thawed buttermilk for this.
Long story short, you can freeze buttermilk, but it only makes sense if you’re going to use it for cooking or baking.
Read Also: Can you freeze fresh yeast?
How to freeze buttermilk
Below, I’ll go through three methods for freezing this dairy product. They are quite similar and all only require basic household items. I’m sure you already have everything you need to go with at least one of them. Here we go.
Freezing buttermilk in an ice cube tray
This route is best if you don’t already know how you’re going to use the buttermilk and how much you’ll need. Because it’s in ice cube form, you can easily adjust how much you want to defrost.
If you don’t want to decide right away whether to make pancakes, cookies, mashed potatoes or soup, this is the best option. All you need is an ice cube tray and a freezer bag or container. And this is how it works:
- Pour the buttermilk into the ice cube tray.
- Place the tray in the freezer. Leave it there until the whole thing freezes solid. This usually takes around 3 to 6 hours depending on the temperature in your freezer and the size of the cubes.
- Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag or container. Most of us don’t have an unlimited number of ice cube trays, so freeing up the tray for other uses makes perfect sense.
- Throw the bag or container back into the freezer. Add a label with names and date if you like.
That’s it, the cubes are ready for long-term storage in the freezer.
If you find the ice cubes a bit too small, consider using a muffin tin instead.
Freezing buttermilk in a container
This method is perfect if you know how to use the thawed buttermilk. This way you can freeze exactly the amount you need for a recipe and you don’t have to worry about any leftovers.
Grab your measuring cup, an airtight container, and get started.
- Measure for a recipe. As previously mentioned, it’s best to freeze exactly what you need for a recipe in a single container. But of course you can freeze as much as you want, just remember that you’ll have to deal with the leftovers.
- Pour the buttermilk into the container. Be sure to leave some headspace as the liquid will expand as it freezes.
- Put the container in the freezer.
And that’s it – three simple steps that you can complete in about 3 minutes. And this is what it looks like after 6 to 8 hours of freezing:
Freezing buttermilk in freezer bags
This option is for you if your freezer is crowded and you want to be as space efficient as possible. I don’t use this method, but some people swear by it, so give it a try.
Apart from the fact that the bags take up as little space as possible in the freezer, the defrosting of the milk product is also quite quick. If you tend to forget to thaw things ahead of time, this could be life-saving for you.
Grab your freezer bags, a bowl, a baking sheet, and let’s get started.
- Portion the buttermilk into freezer bags. As with freezing in a container, it’s best to freeze exactly what you need for one dish in a single bag. Place the freezer bag in a bowl before pouring. That way, if the bag leaks, you don’t have to clean up half your kitchen. After pouring, squeeze out the air and seal the bag tightly. Check again if it is tight. Add a label with the name and volume if you like.
- Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet. This way the dairy product freezes flat and you can stack the bags or place them in tight spaces in the freezer.
- Freeze the buttermilk. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 3 to 5 hours until the liquid freezes solid.
- Take the baking sheet out of the freezer. Once the buttermilk freezes, the baking sheet is no longer needed. You are free to rearrange the frozen buttermilk “sheets” as needed.
And you’re done. The buttermilk is frozen waiting for you to use it.
How long can buttermilk stay in the freezer?
There is no right answer to this question. Some people suggest that you shouldn’t keep it frozen longer than 2 or 3 months, but I don’t think that’s true.
Of course, the quality of food gradually decreases as it freezes, but the process is extremely slow, and another week or month in the freezer usually doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Long story short, try to use the frozen buttermilk as soon as possible, but remember that storing it in the freezer for more than a few months shouldn’t be a problem either.
Now that we’ve covered the methods of freezing, let’s talk about thawing buttermilk and preparing it for the dish you are about to prepare.
How to thaw frozen buttermilk
When it comes to thawing buttermilk, there are several options. Choose the one that best suits your situation.
- In the refrigerator. Safest and slowest method. Use when you have at least 2 (for flat-frozen bags) to 8 (for containers) hours before the dairy product needs to be thawed. This usually means putting the buttermilk in the fridge in the evening so it’s ready for breakfast.
- In lukewarm water. To speed things up, using lukewarm water is an option. It works best for flat frozen bags that should thaw within an hour. If you plan on defrosting the whole thing, defrost it in a bowl of lukewarm water on the countertop. If you suspect there are leftovers you might want to refreeze, place this bowl in the fridge instead.
- Add frozen. If you’re making a soup that you’re then going to run through a blender, you can throw in the frozen buttermilk and let it thaw as it cooks. Add a few minutes of cooking time to allow for thawing.
Let’s say you thawed the buttermilk and have some leftovers after you’ve made your pancakes. Can you refreeze the buttermilk?
The short answer is yes, but only if you’ve thawed it in the fridge. Maintaining coolness is key here. If you thawed it at room temperature, either use the whole thing right away or discard the leftovers.
How to use frozen and thawed buttermilk
There are many options, and pretty much any cooked or baked dish will do.
Unless, of course, buttermilk is their main ingredient. In such a case, the quality of the dish may suffer if you use frozen buttermilk (avoid those!).
Foods from these categories should work well whether you use frozen and thawed buttermilk or fresh buttermilk:
- Cookies, muffins and other baked goods
- Mashed potatoes
That’s it. I hope this article has helped you avoid throwing away leftover buttermilk and freezing it instead.