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Powdered buttermilk (Recipe: southern buttermilk biscuits)


My grandmother used to tell me about life before everyone had a telephone and a television and a car.

No phone. Seriously, I thought she was so old.

My mother use to tell me about life before TV dinners and boil-in-bag vegetables and drive-in movies.

I thought she was so old.

Now I'm the one who's old. I remember life before computers and playstations, digital cameras and cell phones, polar fleece and pluots.

I remember when milk came from the milkman. So did chocolate milk, and buttermilk. It came in bottles, not in boxes.

Then, in the 1970s, along came powdered buttermilk, in a box, and believe it or not, that was progress. I never realized it until I moved to a more rural community, with the nearest buttermilk-stocked supermarket ten miles away.

Not only do I have to drive to get buttermilk, but also, more often than not, a recipe calls for half a cup, or maybe a full cup, out of each quart (and why, folks in the milk industry, does buttermilk not come in smaller sizes?). The rest sits in the fridge, spoiling after a week or so. The powder sits on the pantry shelf, not spoiling, almost indefinitely. Progress, indeed.

While liquid buttermilk is made from cultured skim milk, powdered buttermilk is made from real buttermilk, which, as the nice folks at SACO explain, is much better for baking:

When cream is agitated in a butter churn, the membranes around the fat globule membrane separate from the fat globule. This allows the butterfat to precipitate out in the form of butter. The phospholipids, meanwhile, remain in the fluid phase. The fluid that remains, after all the butterfat has been removed as butter, is similar to skim milk except it contains the phospholipids and proteins from the fat globule membranes. These phospholipids are natural emulsifiers. When real buttermilk is used in a recipe, the presence of these emulsifiers results in finer dispersing of the shortening throughout the batter. The smaller air cells which form in the presence of the emulsifier make the grain of baked goods finer, the volume and texture superior.

Buttermilk powder does not contain the live culture that makes liquid buttermilk a good starter for cheese or yogurt, but it also does not contain the lactic acid added to most modern liquid buttermilk. Many brands are kosher, and all are useful for people with mild lactose intolerance and those who eat gluten-free.

To substitute buttermilk powder in recipes like waffles, pancakes, cupcakes and scones, mix the buttermilk powder with the other dry ingredients, then add the appropriate amount of water when the recipe calls for liquid buttermilk.

Keep some buttermilk powder in your pantry, and banish open-but-barely-used quarts of buttermilk from your fridge.

Southern buttermilk biscuits

My friend Lucia introduced me to these wonderful biscuits from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook, written by her sister, Martha Murphy. I've adapted the recipe to make with buttermilk powder, where the original calls for one cup of buttermilk. Makes 12 biscuits.


2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 packet buttermilk powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp shortening
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup water


Preheat oven to 450°F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, buttermilk powder and salt. Cut in the shortening until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix baking soda and water. Add slowly to the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. (At this point the dough may be stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator for several days.) When ready to use, roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet or Silpat, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Kate's Ginger Shortcakes
Arrowroot cookies


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I am lucky because my store sells it in a one cup size...it is so nice.

Now this I must have. Here buttermilk is almost impossible to find, so I use milk with yogurt, or else soured milk. But it´s pure genius!!! thanks, I´m going online to look for it inmediately

I love reading your insights, because I have so many similar experiences! You wouldn't believe how many half-used cartons of buttermilk I have had to toss out recently! It's been a long time since I've used powdered buttermilk, and I can't even recall the results. Do you get the same tangy flavor as with the liquid variety?

I have to get this buttermilk powder! And try those incredible biscuits :)

I've never tried powdered buttermilk, so I've just been wondering why. My hunch is that I need to keep buttermilk biscuits out of "make some whenever I feel like it" range. Once they come out of the oven, I'm powerless to resist!! Having buttermilk in my fridge constitutes 'living dangerously' for me. There may be a recovery program for this, but I'm not interested!!
P.S. I can identify with your grandmother, having lived for a couple of years without electricity, phone, etc. Yes, dinosaurs are still in our midst!

I'm all for products that avoid waste, Lydia - great idea!

I use buttermilk powder, and I suppose it's ok but I still miss the real thing. We made so much cornbread at my house that a bottle seldom went to waste.

By the way, I noticed that the Saco buttermilk powder I bought last week says that it should be refrigerated after opening.

What a well-written commentary on generations and change; and then to relate it all to buttermilk powder! Very cute.

Peabody, you're the first person to ever tell me about smaller size buttermilk containers. I'm encouraged -- and I'm going to talk to my local market to see if they can search for this.

Lobstersquad, I'm happy to send some to you! Email and let me know if you can't find it locally.

TW, you do get the same flavor and tang, but not quite the same level of acidity -- and of course, as there is no active culture in the powdered, that makes sense. But for baking, it is really a wonderful option. And it breaks my heart to throw out spoiled buttermilk.

Nupur, I can vouch for the biscuits -- they are amazing. I didn't grow up in a "biscuit house", so these are always a treat for me.

Lucia, I too am powerless to resist, so don't ask me how long the leftover biscuits lasted when you made them here last week. Not long.

Patricia, sometimes convenience foods are really worthwhile. This is one of those times!

Nancy, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. When I'm baking for a crowd, I do buy the liquid buttermilk too. Yes, the powder needs to be refrigerated if you have an opened, partially used packet. I generally don't keep those around. And the sealed packets do not need refrigeration.

Alexandra, welcome to the Pantry! Thanks for your kind comment. Sometimes I think about the changes that have occurred in my lifetime, in and out of the kitchen, and I feel incredibly old!

I wish I could find the envelopes, all I've seen around here are the cannisters and the milk powder turns hard as a brick with a couple of months.

Powdered buttermilk is new to me but then buttermilk is available in just about every shop in Ireland (probably something to do with our affection for soda bread!). I use any leftovers to make chocolate muffins, probably not the healthiest way but I'm not complaining!

I've never heard of powdered buttermilk. Here, it's only been in recent years that we could get fresh milk - the standard was long-life. And 'sour' milk is still hard to find. I have gotten in the habit of substituting half plain yogurt and half milk. The yogurt comes in smaller packages :-)

Before pluots? My goodness, you ARE old. (Just kidding. I am sure I am older.)

So the powdered is better to bake with. I've frozen extra buttermilk that I thought might go to waste otherwise in 1 cup measured zip-locs. But I do keep the powdered in the cupboard for an emergency. Mostly I'm happy to drink it and wouldn't want the powder to drink.

Great stuff, we got ours after too many trips to the store for buttermilk to make cornbread. We buy the canister and keep it in the fridge, right next to the chocolate chips & instant yeast, haven't had a problem with it solidifying. As for the cornbread we just made it and used the Hodgson Mill cornmeal for the first time, it was great, lots more flavor than the typical Quaker corn meal.

I just always water down my plain yogurt for buttermilk. Do you think the dried is better? I have seen that box in my local store and will make a bee line for it. You are like the culinary Oprah- we readers buy what you suggest!

I think the baking soda should be 1/2 tsp., not 1/2 cup baking soda.

Kevin, I'll be happy to send you some of the packets, if you email to me. I checked; Amazon.com does sell them, but the one review suggests the product was not as fresh as it should be, so I hesitate to recommend that source.

Laura, my problem is that I'm not much of a baker, so I use the one cup of buttermilk and then run out of energy to bake anything else!

Link, how about sharing your scone recipe? It sounds delicious.

Katie, the yogurt sounds like a great substitute. Whenever I hear the term "sour milk," I think of spoiled milk. Not the same thing, I know....

Christine, I'm giggling (and I'm sure I am older....).

MyKitchen, before I did a bit of research, I didn't realize that the powdered buttermilk actually has more buttermilk than what's sold here as liquid -- which is really just skim milk. Once every ten years or so, I crave a glass of buttermilk to drink -- and then I want the liquid stuff, whatever's in it.

Rich, I think the secret to success with the canister is to buy the powder as fresh as you can find it, and use it as quickly as you can. I do like the convenience of the packets, and luckily my local grocery store carries both. The cornbread sounds wonderful; I'm partial to Hodgson Mill products, especially their mixes for bran muffins.

Callipygia, I honestly don't know if dried buttermilk is better than the yogurt. Will you do a comparison, and let us know? I will try it, too. And I love the idea that I would be like Oprah in any way -- thanks for that!

Stacey, thank you for catching that! I've corrected it.

Lydia: another great entry. I love this stuff. Try a little in dips, too.

I'm ready to make the switch after throwing away a couple of cartons of spoilt buttermilk!

great info - especially on the powdered buttermilk! i will add that to my own personal pantry list and make the biscuits soon. happy holidays!!

Hi Lydia, you made me laugh! :-)

I have not heard or seen this before, I don't think we can get it here. It's interesting to know that it exists though.

Great tip! I've been using SACO for years. I store it in the fridge in a quart sized glass mason jar. When I make whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, I use skim milk instead of water as the moisture for the buttermilk powder to increase the nutrition.

Jacqueline, thank you. Dips -- great idea! Do you use it dried, or diluted with water?

Veron, I feel like such a dope every time I let the buttermilk go bad in the fridge.

Sabina, thank you, and I wish you happy holidays too!

Nora, I'm always willing to send a little package if you would like to try some.

Katy, I love your idea of using skim milk with the buttermilk powder. Just seems like the best of both worlds, the liquid buttermilk (which is entirely skim milk), and the powdered. Thanks for the tip!

I bet Heston Blumenthal would love that SACO explanation, right down his alley. We pretty much have fresh buttermilk on hand all the time. Our daughter loves it when we blitz it with strawberries (or other berries) and a little sugar to make a smoothie.

Neil, this is why I don't bake much -- too much science! And too much measuring. I'd always prefer liquid buttermilk to dry, if I could manage to use the rest of the container efficiently. But I just end up throwing it out. Maybe smoothies are the way to go -- thanks!

I LOVE this stuff! I have it in a tub with a lid.. I keep it in the freezer. Best stuff ever.

I found powdered buttermilk several months ago and love it. Yes -- it's crazy that they don't sell buttermilk in small containers! I've always been annoyed at that. You have to think that most people who buy buttermilk are using it to bake, so there would be a big demand for small containers of the stuff. Oh well -- not my concern any more since I got the powdered stuff!

Nika, the freezer is a great solution to the one problem with the big canisters. I would take it out of the original canister and put it into a heavier tub -- I'm guessing that's what you do, too.

Zoe, I think we all have to start making noise about this quarts-only buttermilk issue! Now, who can we write to about this???

Its not a large tub.. and I know I should do a better job of protecting it but I do not put it in a special container.. I just pitch it in the freezer... doesnt seem to get "freezer burn"

this is a link to the small tub I get http://www.sacofoods.com/resources/jpeg/BM_can.jpg

I've used the Saco powdered buttermilk many times with good results. In the last few years I've taken to just adding vinegar to skim milk about 15 to 20 minutes before I need it, and voila! Buttermilk. I use 1 tablespoon white vinegar + enough skim milk added to equal 1/2 cup.

Nika, thanks so much -- good to know that it will keep well in the freezer this way -- so much easier than my decanting method.

Andrea, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. This is a great tip, especially as I always have skim milk in the house, and vinegar in the pantry.

I was hoping you might bail me out of a recipe fix. My wife used to make something called Oatmeal Puffins.
I was helping transfer her handwritten recipes to printed form and I left something out of the original recipe.
Then before making sure I had it right I tossed out the original.
Now it doesn't work and I was hoping you might have heard of this item.
What we have left is, it uses milk, sugar, salt, quick oats, dry yeast, and flour.
She says something is missing and doesn't recall what but they just don't come out right.
Please help.
Thank you.

Del, I'm throwing this one open to Pantry readers for help. Maybe someone has this recipe.


I often buy things in bulk, and don't always get directions with them. I'm thrilled to make the biscuits with the powdered buttermilk I bought yesterday, but I don't know how much comes in a "packet". Help!!!

I have used this product for years and years - at least 30. Kept it in the pantry for pancakes and waffles. YUM! I don't care to drink buttermilk - but it is great for waffles and pancakes! I just ordered 3 cans from Amazon. It's so nice to get things dropped off at the door!

@beth A packet is equal to 4 Tbsp from the canister.

1 packet makes 1 cup of liquid buttermilk.
So, looking at the canister.. 4Tbsp per cup of water.

I also have the canister, so I based it on the amount of liquid used. The recipe calls for one packet and one cup of water. The box also says that it contains four packets that the entire box will make 1 quart.

I messed up the recipe, not putting the shortening in until the very end (how could I have done that! I don't recommend it). But the quantities of ingredients made for 12 nice-sized biscuits. They weren't the most flavorful biscuits, but they were nice and light, and some jelly and butter made them tastier. Because they lacked flavor, I sprinkled some confectioner's sugar on for the rest of the family. I used 1/2 a cup of 2% milk and half a cup of water and Crisco. I always keep the buttermilk powder in the fridge. It has never gone bad. Next time I will add a little sugar to the dry ingredients as well as some kind of seasoning like white pepper and half shortening, half butter.

I so appreciate all those cooks who post recipes! I don't use cookbooks anymore because of our generosity in sharing recipes. Thanks.

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