How To Freeze Buttermilk (with Pictures and Video)

Freezing buttermilk is a simple way of preserving leftover buttermilk after making pancakes. Read on to learn how to do it and when it makes sense.

Even though buttermilk lasts longer than other dairy products (similarly to kefir), it doesn’t last that long. And a quart (typical container size) of buttermilk is usually much more than you need. That’s when freezing this dairy product comes to mind.

But before we get into details on how it’s done, let’s first talk about when freezing buttermilk is a good idea Because, like with other dairy products, freezing works only in certain cases.

Can You Freeze Buttermilk?

As you probably know, freezing many dairy products (e.g., cottage cheese or ricotta) causes them to separate. The same thing goes for buttermilk.

After freezing and thawing, buttermilk solids separate from liquids (whey), and the whole thing looks like this:

Thawed buttermilk
Just thawed buttermilk.

Doesn’t look that appealing, right?

The change in texture is obvious, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking it to anyone. Even after stirring, shaking, or blending the thing together. Those help, but only so much.

But does that mean that you cannot freeze buttermilk? Far from it.

In many households, the main way of using buttermilk is to cook pancakes or bake biscuits. And for that, the changes that freezing and thawing cause aren’t that much of an issue. I mean, the buttermilk is only one of the ingredients, and the batter doesn’t depend on it for its consistency.

The batter usually looks something like that:

Pancake batter with buttermilk
Pancake batter, ready for cooking.

And I’m sure you can’t tell if I used fresh or frozen and defrosted buttermilk for that.

Long story short, you can freeze buttermilk, but it makes sense only if you then use it for cooking or baking.

Buttermilk jug and carton of buttermilk
Jug with buttermilk and a buttermilk carton in the background

How To Freeze Buttermilk

Below, I go through three methods of freezing this dairy product. They are quite similar, and all of them require only basic household items. I’m sure you already have everything you need to go with at least one of them. Let’s go.

Freezing Buttermilk in an Ice Cube Tray

This way is best if you don’t already know how you’re going to use the buttermilk and how much you’re going to need. Having it in ice cube form, you can easily adjust how much you thaw.

If you don’t want to decide right now if you’re going to make pancakes, biscuits, mashed potatoes, or add it to a soup, this is your best option. All you need is an ice cube tray, and a freezer bag or container. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pour the buttermilk into the ice cube tray.
    Pouring buttermilk into an ice cube tray
  2. Put the tray into the freezer. Leave it there until the whole thing freezes solid. That usually takes around 3 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature in your freezer and the size of the cubes.
    Frozen buttermilk cubes
  3. Transfer the frozen cubes into a freezer bag or container. Most of us don’t have an unlimited number of ice cube trays, so freeing the tray for other uses makes perfect sense.
  4. Chuck the bag or container back into the freezer. Add a label with name and date if you like.

That’s it; the cubes are ready to sit in the freezer for the long term.

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 you’re going to use the thawed buttermilk. This way, you can freeze precisely how much you need for a recipe, and you don’t have to worry about any leftovers.

Grab your measuring cup, an airtight container, and let’s do it.

  1. Measure for a recipe. As noted, it’s best to freeze in a single container exactly as much as you need for a recipe. But of course, you can freeze however much you like, just remember you will have to deal with the leftovers.
    Buttermilk in a container
  2. Pour the buttermilk into the container. Make sure to leave some head-space because the liquid expands when frozen.
  3. Stick the container into the freezer.

And that’s a wrap – three easy steps you can do in about 3 minutes. And that’s how it looks like after 6 to 8 hours of freezing:

Frozen buttermilk in a container

Freezing Buttermilk in Freezer Bags

This option if for you if your freezer is crowded and you want to be as space-efficient as possible. I don’t use this method, but quite a few people swear by it, so you might try it out.

Besides the bags taking as little space in the freezer as they can, defrosting the dairy product is also quite fast. If you tend to forget to defrost things ahead of time, this might be a lifesaver for you.

Grab your freezer bags, a bowl, a baking sheet, and let’s get it done.

  1. Portion the buttermilk into freezer bags. Like with freezing in a container, it’s best to freeze in a single bag exactly as much as you need for a dish. Before pouring, put the freezer bag in a bowl. This way, in case the bag is leaky, you won’t have to clean up half of your kitchen. After pouring, squeeze out the air and seal the bag tightly. Once again, check if it’s leak-proof. Add a label with the name and volume if you like.
  2. Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet. This way, the milk product freezes flat, and you will be able to stack the bags or fit them into tight spaces in the freezer.
  3. Freeze the buttermilk. Stick the baking sheet into the freezer for 3 to 5 hours, until the liquid freezes solid.
  4. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer. Once the buttermilk freezes, the baking sheet is no longer needed. Feel free to reorganize the “sheets” of frozen buttermilk if needed.

And you are done. The buttermilk is frozen and waiting until you’re ready to use it.

How Long Buttermilk Can Stay in the Freezer?

There’s no right answer to this question. Some people suggest you shouldn’t keep it frozen for longer than like 2 or 3 months, but I don’t think that’s accurate.

Of course, the quality of food gradually drops when frozen, 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 keeping it in the freezer for more than a couple of months shouldn’t be a problem either.

Now that we’ve covered methods of freezing, let’s talk about defrosting buttermilk and getting it ready for the dish you’re prepping.

How To Defrost Frozen Buttermilk

When it comes to defrosting buttermilk, there are a couple of options. Choose one that fits your circumstances best.

Thawed and separated buttermilk
Defrosted buttermilk
  • In the fridge. Safest and slowest method. Use it if you have at least 2 (for bags frozen flat) to 8 (for containers) hours until you need the milk product thawed. That usually means transferring the buttermilk into the fridge in the evening to have it ready for breakfast.
  • In lukewarm water. To speed things up, using lukewarm water is an option. It works best for bags frozen flat, which should thaw within an hour. If you plan on using the whole thing, thaw it in a bowl of lukewarm water on the countertop. If you suspect there might be some leftovers you’d like to refreeze, put that bowl into the refrigerator instead.
  • Add it 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 while cooking. Add a couple of minutes of cooking time to account for defrosting.

Let’s say you’ve thawed the buttermilk and have some leftovers after making your pancakes. Can you refreeze buttermilk?

The short answer is yes, but only if you’ve thawed it in the fridge. Maintaining refrigeration is key here. If you’ve 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 lots of options, and pretty much any cooked or baked dish will do.

Unless, of course, buttermilk is its most important ingredient. In such a case, the quality of the dish might suffer if you use frozen buttermilk (avoid those!).

Pancake topped with maple syrup
Pancake made with frozen and thawed buttermilk

Foods from these categories should turn out just fine no matter if you use frozen and defrosted buttermilk or fresh one:

  • pancakes
  • biscuits, muffins, and other baked goods
  • soups
  • stews
  • mashed potatoes

That’s it. I hope this article helped you avoid throwing out leftover buttermilk and freezing it instead.