Buttermilk Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Did you just make a fried chicken recipe that calls for buttermilk? You probably didn’t finish the bottle and kept the remaining in the back of the fridge. After a few days, you start wondering if the buttermilk is still good to drink or maybe to bake with.

Does buttermilk go bad? How long should it be kept in the fridge? Can I freeze buttermilk?

Are you familiar with the situation above? No worries. You have just landed on the right page! This article addresses the most common questions about buttermilk shelf life: how long it lasts, storage, and how to tell if it’s bad. Let’s read along!

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is traditionally made from a liquid by-product of butter making (hence its name). If you happen to make homemade butter, you’ll likely to get buttermilk as a bonus.

Nowadays, rather than produced from the by-product of butter production, buttermilk is commercially produced by fermenting skimmed-milk with lactic acid bacteria. With this production method,  in the United States, store-bought buttermilk is also known as “cultured” buttermilk.

Buttermilk is enjoyed in different manners worldwide. But to summarize, buttermilk can be enjoyed as a refreshing drink, as well as used for baking and cooking.

How to Store Buttermilk

When it comes to buttermilk storage, it is relatively simple and straightforward. One point that can’t be missed, keep buttermilk refrigerated. Once you’re back from the store, put buttermilk into the fridge right away. Room temperature will ruin it very quickly.

Always keep the remaining product in the fridge until the next use. Don’t forget to close it tightly. If you plan to finish the bottle in more than a week, try to store buttermilk in the back of the fridge to avoid temperature change when the fridge is frequently opened.

Although it is tempting to drink fresh buttermilk right from the bottle, please don’t do that. This habit can transfer bacteria from your mouth and will spoil the buttermilk in no time.

Can you freeze buttermilk?

Yes. If you’re not sure when you will use it anytime soon, freezing is your best option. Just like with any other food, freezing can prolong shelf life. However, the texture and color may change slightly. Consider using frozen buttermilk for baking or cooking instead of drinking.

Freeze buttermilk in ice cube trays or freezer-safe containers. If you use ice cube trays, once buttermilk is frozen, transfer the cubes into a freezer bag. If you use a container, leave a bit of space to let the buttermilk expand when frozen.

Before using it in a recipe, slowly thaw the buttermilk in the fridge or microwave with a low setting.

How Long Does Buttermilk Last?

To begin with, dairy products will go bad at some point. Buttermilk shelf life is influenced by the processing method, packaging, and storage practice.

Use the “sell-by” or “best by” date printed on the label for your guidance. This date is, however, a rough estimate from the producer to guarantee that the product will stay in prime condition, subject to proper storage.

Buttermilk is a perishable product and tends to spoil quickly. Mishandling and improper storage during transportation or after purchase can shorten the shelf life, even before the date stamped on the label.

With proper storage, buttermilk may last up to 1 – 2 weeks after the date. After opening, it can be kept in the fridge and stay good for 1 – 2 weeks. Therefore, try to finish the product within this period before it goes stale.

On the other hand, if you don’t plan to finish the bottle anytime soon, freezing buttermilk can extend the shelf life of up to 3 months. (*)

How long does homemade buttermilk last?

In some countries, it is quite common to make buttermilk at home. If you also plan to try that, you might wonder how long it lasts in the fridge.

Well, as mentioned above, processing methods also influence the durability of a product. Commercial products are produced in hygienic methods and aseptic environment which are difficult to mimic at home.

Store-bought buttermilk is also added with preservatives. Thus, homemade buttermilk tends to last shorter, usually around 2 – 3 days in the fridge. Make sure to always keep it in an airtight container.

How to Tell if Buttermilk is Bad

Buttermilk will go bad quickly if not stored properly. Your senses are quite reliable to tell if buttermilk is spoiled.

As a product of the fermentation process, buttermilk is naturally sour, however, if the smell or taste is extremely sour, it is a telltale that buttermilk is bad and should not be consumed.

Likewise, if you see buttermilk getting thickened or curdled, changed color, signs of molds, these are also signs of spoilage. If you see clear signs of spoilage, it’s best to throw the product away.


Can expired buttermilk make you sick?

Expired food is always associated with food poisoning. Contrary to popular belief, food that has passed by the date might still be safe to consume.

What makes you sick is spoiled food. If buttermilk has passed the date, inspect for signs of spoilage. If none is observed, it is relatively safe to drink or use for a recipe. However, try not to keep buttermilk too long after its date for safety reasons.

But, if it has spoiled and you still consume it, yes you’re risking yourself of getting food poisoning.

How long can you leave buttermilk unrefrigerated?

Following the rule of thumb for food storage, buttermilk should not be left outside the fridge for more than 2 hours. Beyond this time, the risk of food spoilage is higher and may render buttermilk unsafe for consumption.

How do you fix separated buttermilk?

After a while, normally the liquid part (whey) starts to separate from the solid part. This also happens with yogurt. As long as there are no other signs of spoilage that make you think the buttermilk is bad, feel free to consume it. Give it a good stir to get the consistency back.


Buttermilk is a dairy product made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria. It goes well both as a refreshing drink and a cooking ingredient.

Buttermilk can go bad very easily when not properly stored. The best advice is to observe the “use by” or “best by” date provided by the manufacturer as guidance for your consumption.

When kept in the fridge, buttermilk can stay fresh for up to 1 – 2 weeks. Frozen buttermilk lasts up to 3 months. Check any signs of spoilage before pouring it into your glass. If you are unsure, it is better to discard it than risking your health!

Up Next: Best Buttermilk Substitutes

buttermilk shelf life

*Photo by porosolka_balt/depositphotos

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