Read on for our Test Kitchen’s pick for the best buttermilk.
Buttermilk is one of the hardest working ingredients in Southern Living’s Test Kitchen. The thick and creamy liquid is an essential part of great fried chicken, biscuits, pancakes, cornbread, salad dressings, cakes, and so many other Southern-style recipes. (And non-recipes, too—we also like to crumble cornbread in it.)
Buttermilk adds tangy richness to dishes like chocolate cake, buttery waffles, buttermilk pie, and creamy salad dressings. But unlike most dairy products, there are other things it can do. buttermilk’s high acidity also tenderizes meat and helps baked goods (like biscuits) rise higher. The active cultures in buttermilk can also soothe an upset stomach, similar to a serving of yogurt.
There are many buttermilk brands in the dairy aisle, but our Test Kitchen is loyal to one in particular: Barber’s. Available in whole and low-fat, Barber’s cultured buttermilk is tangy without being too sour, has a nice, thick consistency, and doesn’t separate quickly like some brands do. Robby Melvin, our Test Kitchen director, says, “It has the best consistency and flavor on the market. I’ve tried other buttermilks in cornbread, biscuits, and the like and have seen big differences in the quality.” Test Kitchen Professional Callie Nash adds, “I definitely prefer using Barber’s whole milk, but the low-fat is great for lighter cooking and baking.”
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Although we think Barber’s buttermilk is the best, unfortunately, it’s not available throughout the entire South. Made in the oldest dairy in Alabama, you can find Barber’s buttermilk at supermarkets in its home state, as well as Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. If you’re able to get your hands on Barber’s, try it out in our ultimate biscuit recipe.