Buttermilk vs Heavy Cream: What Is What?

Buttermilk vs heavy cream

Buttermilk vs. heavy cream – what’s the difference between buttermilk and heavy cream? Heavy cream, also known as heavy whipping cream, is made by separating the fat solids from liquid unhomogenized milk, while buttermilk is made by fermenting a byproduct from churning butter.

This means buttermilk has significantly less fat content than heavy cream, but there are other differences between these products, so keep reading to learn more!

Buttermilk Vs Heavy Cream

While buttermilk and heavy cream can often be used interchangeably, there are still many differences that make them not-so-perfect substitutes.


Traditional buttermilk is made when a byproduct of churning butter gets fermented. Another way to make buttermilk is to add lactic acid bacteria to low-fat milk. This buttermilk is called cultured buttermilk.

On the other hand, heavy cream is made by skimming fat from the top layer of unhomogenized milk. The skimmed fat is heavy cream, and skim milk that remains can be used as a low-calory alternative to whole milk.


Buttermilk and heavy cream offer different taste profiles. Buttermilk is tangy and acidic, while heavy cream is rich and creamy.

The fat content in each also affects flavor. Buttermilk contains less fat than heavy cream, which gives it a lighter flavor. Heavy cream, on the other hand, has a richer, more full-bodied flavor.

Fat Content

Speaking of fat content, this is another difference between buttermilk and heavy cream. The way these two products are made affects their fat contents.

Since the heavy cream is made from milk fat, it has a much higher fat content than buttermilk, approximately 40%.

On the other hand, buttermilk is made with low-fat milk or after most of the fat content went to making butter. That’s why it has only 0.5%-1% of fat content.


Just like with flavor, fat content creates a big difference between buttermilk and heavy cream, even when it comes to their textures and consistencies.

Heavy cream has a creamy texture, while buttermilk has a much lighter texture that’s somewhere between sour milk and sour cream.

Culinary Use

While buttermilk and heavy cream can be used instead of one another in some recipes, they are still different enough that they are most often used for completely different dishes.

Buttermilk is used as a flavoring agent, leavening agent, and as marinade. Use buttermilk in recipes that call for a tangy taste. This involves soups, pasta sauces, salad dressings, fried chicken, ice cream, and some baked goods, such as buttermilk biscuits.

When combined with baking soda or baking powder, the lactic acid from the buttermilk will help you make the softest and fluffiest bread.

On the other side, heavy cream can also be used in various recipes. For example, it will give a perfectly thick, smooth, and creamy texture to Alfredo pasta. It will also give fluffy crusts to various baked goods.

By whipping heavy cream, whipped cream is created, which is one of the most important ingredients for various cakes and desserts. Finally, heavy cream is often used to make ice cream.

Is Buttermilk The Same As Heavy Cream?

No, buttermilk is not the same as heavy cream. Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product that is made from milk that has been soured with bacteria.

Heavy cream is a dairy product that is made from the high-fat content of milk. Heavy cream has a higher fat content than buttermilk, which gives it a richer flavor and texture.

What Happens If I Use Heavy Cream Instead Of Buttermilk?

If you use heavy cream instead of buttermilk, your cake will be very dense and rich. The texture will be similar to that of a pound cake. This is because heavy cream is much higher in fat than buttermilk.

As a result, it will take for the cake to bake through, and the end result will be a heavier cake. While this may not be ideal for everyone, some people prefer a denser cake.

If you do decide to use heavy cream instead of buttermilk, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe by about half. Otherwise, your cake could end up being too sweet.

Also, buttermilk has a slightly tangy flavor, which is impossible to replace by simply using heavy cream instead. However, you can add some lemon juice or acid vinegar to achieve a similar texture and flavor.

Can You Substitute Buttermilk For Heavy Cream?

On the other side, if you decide to you buttermilk instead of heavy cream, you need to think twice if it is the right choice. Recipes that benefit from the heavy cream’s thickness and high-fat content won’t be nearly as good if you make them with buttermilk.

If you want to make whipped cream, buttermilk won’t be such a good option to use instead of heavy cream. Since it contains almost no fat at all, it can’t be whipped into whipped cream.

Also, since buttermilk has a sour taste, you might need to add more sugar to compensate for the heavy cream’s much sweeter taste.

Still, there are many recipes that work perfectly fine with both heavy cream and buttermilk. Some of them include mashed potatoes, salad dressings, soups, and baked goods such as bread, various pies, and cakes.


Buttermilk vs. heavy cream, what’s the verdict? Due to different processes that result in buttermilk or heavy cream, buttermilk contains almost no milk fat, while heavy cream has approximately 40% of milk fat.

This difference in fat content causes further differences in flavor and texture. This is why these two milk products are mostly used for different dishes.

Although they can be used interchangeably in some recipes with tweaking of other ingredients, heavy cream and buttermilk are too different from being considered good substitutes for each other.

And which one do you use more often in your recipes and why? Share in the comments!

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