The Perfect Buttermilk Marinade Recipe – Marinating Made Easy

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Buttermilk marinade Recipe is one of the simplest ways to ensure tender and flavorful meat. It’s important to coat your choice cuts generously. Pay attention to the subtle tang that buttermilk offers, elevating the taste. Take time to gently immerse the meat, allowing the natural acidity to tenderize it. For a succulent result, you may want to marinate overnight—the best way to unlock the full potential of your dish.

Have you ever faced the disappointment of dry, bland meat after hours of preparation? Consider the number of times you’ve looked forward to a well-cooked meal only to be met with less-than-stellar flavors. 

Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

Buttermilk marinade, a great option revered in culinary circles, might just be the number one game-changer you need. On a recent visit to a friend’s home, the aroma of their grilled chicken sparked an immediate sense of envy. 

It was one of the best I’d encountered, rivaling the succulent dishes I’d savored during my travels through Middle Eastern spice bazaars and European gourmet markets.

Be aware that the secret they shared wasn’t in the spices alone, but in the overnight bath of buttermilk, the meat reveled in. 

This simple step transformed their cooking and can revolutionize yours, too. Take time to introduce this creamy, flavor-packed marinade to your kitchen repertoire, and pay attention to the transformation it brings to your table.

What Is Buttermilk Marinade?

A Buttermilk Marinade Recipe is one of the best culinary techniques to ensure your meats remain moist and tender. This marinade combines buttermilk’s natural lactic acid and enzymes, which work to tenderize the meat gently. 

Depending on the recipe, you may want a mix of buttermilk with herbs, spices, and sometimes a touch of citrus or garlic. It’s essential to immerse the meat fully and let it soak, often overnight, which allows the flavors to penetrate deeply. 

This process not only tenderizes but also infuses the meat with rich, tangy flavors, making it one of the simplest yet transformative methods for elevating your dishes.

History Of Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

The use of buttermilk as a marinade has roots in various cultures, with no single inventor. Its history can be traced back to when it was essential to use every part of the dairy process. Be aware that buttermilk was originally the liquid left after churning butter, and nothing went to waste. 

Southern American cuisine popularized its use for tenderizing chicken before frying, one of the best-known applications. Similarly, in Middle Eastern countries, it’s been a tradition to marinate meats in yogurt-like buttermilk, taking time to enhance flavor and texture

Interesting Facts About Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

Buttermilk marinade is more than just a flavor enhancer; it’s a culinary powerhouse. Here are some intriguing facts about this versatile ingredient:

Tenderizing Magic

Buttermilk’s natural acidity tenderizes meat, making it incredibly juicy and tender.

Flavor Infusion

It imparts a subtle tangy flavor, elevating the taste of dishes.

Healthier Option

It’s lower in fat than traditional marinades, promoting a healthier meal.

Versatile Marinade

Buttermilk works wonders for poultry, like fried chicken, as well as pork and even vegetables.

Time-Tested Tradition

It’s been used for generations, with roots in Southern cuisine.

Lactic Acid Power

Lactic acid in buttermilk breaks down proteins, enhancing texture.

Dairy Goodness

It’s a calcium-rich dairy product, adding nutritional value.

Iconic Comfort

The classic buttermilk marinated fried chicken is a beloved comfort food.

What Are The Regional Adaptations Of This Sauce? 

Be aware that buttermilk marinade has adapted globally. In the Southern USA, it’s one of the best secrets for succulent fried chicken. Over in India, it transforms into a spiced yogurt marinade, one of the simplest ways to prepare traditional tandoori dishes. 

Pay attention to Greek variations that mingle with olive oil and Mediterranean herbs for grilling. It’s important to consider the South American version, often enhanced with citrus and chili for a vibrant twist. 

In Scandinavian countries, you may find a sweeter adaptation, using buttermilk to tenderize and flavor game meats. Each region takes time to infuse local flavors, making the marinade uniquely their own.

What Will Make You Love This Buttermilk Marinade Recipe? 

You’ll love this buttermilk marinade recipe for its ability to transform ordinary meat into a culinary delight. Pay attention to how the tangy buttermilk softens the meat fibers, making every bite tender. 

Remember that it’s not just about tenderness; the marinade acts as a vessel, carrying flavors of herbs and spices deep into the meat, ensuring that each mouthful is infused with taste. 

It’s important to note its versatility — whether you’re grilling, roasting, or frying, this marinade adapts, making it one of the best ways to prep any meat. Be aware of its simplicity; with just a few ingredients, you can create a marinade that rivals those in top restaurants. 


Ingredients List

Buttermilk2 cups
Olive oil¼ cup
Garlic (peeled but not crushed)2 cloves
Black pepper (freshly ground)½ Tablespoon
Sea salt (or fine sea salt)1 Tablespoon (or 1½ teaspoons)
Ground cumin1 teaspoon
Maple syrup1 Tablespoon

Ingredient Tips 

  • For the buttermilk, consider using full fat for a richer flavor or low fat for a lighter option.
  • Remember that extra virgin olive oil adds a fruity note; choose a high-quality brand for the best taste.
  • Fresh garlic cloves provide a more pungent flavor than pre-minced; use them whole for a subtle infusion.
  • Freshly ground black pepper offers a robust profile compared to pre-ground; grinding it just before use is important.
  • When it comes to sea salt, its coarseness can affect dissolving, so fine sea salt is one of the simplest to integrate.
  • Toasting ground cumin briefly in a dry pan can enhance its earthy warmth, making it a great option for depth of flavor.
  • Opt for pure maple syrup over pancake syrups containing artificial flavors; the natural sweetness complements the tang of buttermilk.

What Are The Variations Of Buttermilk Marinade Recipe? 

  • Spicy Chipotle Buttermilk Marinade: Be aware that adding chipotle peppers gives a smoky kick, great for barbecues.
  • Herb-Infused Buttermilk Marinade: Mix fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme for an aromatic twist.
  • Asian-Inspired Buttermilk Marinade: Incorporate soy sauce, ginger, and green onions for an Eastern flavor profile.
  • Lemon Zest Buttermilk Marinade: Remember that lemon zest can brighten the marinade, making it a refreshing option for fish.
  • Sweet and Spicy Buttermilk Marinade: Combining honey and hot sauce can balance flavors.
  • Garlic and Herb Buttermilk Marinade: Adding roasted garlic and Italian seasoning is best for a classic taste.
  • Indian Buttermilk Marinade: Mix in turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder for a South Asian take.
  • Mediterranean Buttermilk Marinade: Combine olives, feta, and oregano for a taste of the Mediterranean.
  • Cajun Buttermilk Marinade: Add Cajun seasoning for a Southern American flair.

Recipe Directions

Cooking Method

  • Add olive oil, garlic cloves, black pepper, sea salt, and ground cumin in a sealable bag to hold your chicken portions.
  • Carefully seal the bag, ensuring no air remains inside. Gently crush the garlic through the bag using your hands, being mindful not to puncture the bag.
  • Open the bag and pour in the buttermilk and the chicken pieces. Seal the bag again, pressing out as much air as possible.
  • Massage the bag from the outside to ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated with the marinade.
  • Place the sealed bag in a deep dish or pan to prevent leaks. For optimal flavor infusion, let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Embrace the magic of buttermilk marinade, a soothing bath that imparts tenderness and taste, elevating simple cuts to gastronomic delights

Scaling The Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

To scale up the buttermilk marinade recipe, remember that maintaining the ratio of ingredients is vital. For a larger batch, simply double or triple the quantities, ensuring you have a sufficiently sized container for marinating. 

Conversely, to scale down, halve the ingredients for a smaller serving. It’s essential to always use enough marinade to cover the meat entirely. Pay attention to the intensity of flavors; more garlic or spices can be added according to taste preference. 

However, take time to ensure the balance of flavors remains. Be aware that the marinating time doesn’t change with the quantity; it remains at 12 hours overnight.

Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

Can This Sauce Be Used As A Marinade, Dipping Sauce, Or Dressing For Salads?

This buttermilk marinade is best for tenderizing and flavoring meats, given its acidic nature and consistency.

As a marinade, it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to infuse flavor into chicken, pork, or beef. However, you may want to modify a dipping sauce or salad dressing. 

Be aware that the thickness of buttermilk can be too heavy for a dressing. To transform it, consider whisking in additional ingredients like vinegar or citrus juice to thin it out and enhance its flavor, making it an excellent option for salads or as a tangy dipping sauce.

What Are The Best Dishes To Accompany Buttermilk Marinade Recipe? 

Grilled Vegetables

The smokiness from grilling complements the tangy flavor of buttermilk-marinated meats.


A classic Southern pairing, cornbread soaks up the rich flavors of the marinade.


Its creamy texture and crispness make it one of the simplest, yet refreshing, sides.

Potato Salad

A hearty choice that balances the buttermilk’s zest with its creamy and earthy notes.


Ideal for sopping up the flavorful juices, making every bite a delight.

Roasted Potatoes

Their crispy exterior and fluffy interior pair well with tender, marinated meats.

Rice Pilaf

It’s essential to have a neutral base like rice to showcase the marinade’s flavor.

Fresh Salad

The freshness contrasts nicely with the richly flavored meat.

Macaroni and Cheese

The creamy, cheesy goodness harmonizes with the marinated dish’s depth.

Green Beans Almondine

A light, nutty side that complements without overpowering.

Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

What Are Some Classic Dishes That Feature Buttermilk Marinade Recipe? 

Some classic dishes featuring buttermilk marinade include Southern fried chicken, known for its juicy interior and crispy exterior. Buttermilk-brined roast chicken is another, where the marinade ensures a moist and flavorful bird. 

Then there’s buttermilk-marinated turkey, a Thanksgiving favorite that guarantees a tender and succulent centerpiece.

For barbecue enthusiasts, buttermilk-marinated pork chops are a staple, absorbing the marinade’s subtle tang before hitting the grill. 

And let’s not forget about buttermilk-marinated lamb. This dish often graces tables with its enhanced tenderness and depth of flavor, especially in Middle Eastern cuisines. Each of these dishes celebrates the transformative effect of a buttermilk marinade.

What Are The Key Flavor Profiles And Taste Sensations That Buttermilk Marinade Recipe Offers? 

The buttermilk marinade recipe offers a rich symphony of flavors. The buttermilk introduces a tangy and slightly tart base note, which is refreshing and palate-cleansing. Olive oil adds a fruity and peppery undertone, enhancing mouthfeel. 

Garlic infuses a pungent and earthy zest, a taste that deepens upon cooking. Freshly ground black pepper brings a warm, spicy kick that tingles on the tongue. Sea salt is a flavor amplifier, ensuring all tastes are bold and pronounced. 

Ground cumin contributes an aromatic warmth with a hint of citrus, while maple syrup rounds out the profile with a subtle, mellow sweetness. Together, these elements create a complex and harmonious taste experience.

Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

Can This Sauce Be Stored And Preserved For Future Use? What Is Its Shelf Life?

Yes, this buttermilk marinade can be stored for future use. It’s best to keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container to maintain freshness and prevent contamination. When stored properly, the marinade can last up to one week in the refrigerator. 

However, if you’ve already used it for marinating meat, do not reuse or store it due to the risk of bacterial growth from raw meat exposure.

For longer preservation, consider freezing the marinade; it can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before marinating your next meal.

What Are The Substitutes For Buttermilk Marinade Recipe?

If you’re out of buttermilk for the marinade, here are some substitutes to consider:

  • Yogurt: Plain, unsweetened yogurt is one of the best substitutes, offering a similar tanginess and enzyme content for tenderizing.
  • Sour Cream: Thinned with water or milk, sour cream can mimic buttermilk’s creamy texture and acidic properties.
  • Milk and Vinegar/Lemon Juice: Mixing milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per cup can create a quick buttermilk alternative.
  • Coconut Milk and Acid: For a non-dairy option, coconut milk with an acid component works, though it adds a distinct flavor.
  • Kefir: This fermented milk drink has tartness and enzymes similar to buttermilk.
  • Vegan Buttermilk: Soy or almond milk with an added acid can provide a plant-based version suitable for marinating.
Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

How To Adjust The Consistency Of The Sauce?

Adjusting the consistency of buttermilk marinade is simple. If it’s too thick and you’re aiming for a more pourable sauce, gradually whisk in a small amount of milk or water until you reach the desired thinness. Adding liquids will dilute the flavor, so it’s important to taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. 

On the other hand, if the marinade is too thin and you want a richer texture, you may want to blend in more buttermilk or add a thickening agent like sour cream. Slowly incorporate additions to achieve the best consistency without overpowering the primary flavors.

Should We Serve The Sauce Cold Or Warm?

This buttermilk marinade is intended to be used cold from the refrigerator, as it is primarily designed to tenderize and flavor meat before cooking. It’s essential to apply it cold to ensure the safety and integrity of the raw meat. 

You should never serve this marinade warm, especially if it has come into contact with raw meat, to avoid the risk of bacterial growth.

Remember to always discard any leftover marinade used for raw meat. If you adapt the recipe to create a dressing or sauce for consumption, it can be served chilled, per the dish’s requirements.

Nutritional Values

A buttermilk marinade is low in fat and calories but rich in taste, with the added benefits of calcium and probiotics from the buttermilk and a range of nutrients from the added spices and herbs. It’s a flavorful, health-conscious addition to any meal.

What Are The Total Calories In Buttermilk Marinade Recipe? 

The total calories in the buttermilk marinade recipe requires adding up the caloric content of each ingredient. However, the actual calories absorbed by the meat would be less, as not all of the marinade is consumed. 

For the full recipe using 2 cups of buttermilk, ¼ cup olive oil, and other ingredients listed previously, you’re looking at approximately 700-800 total calories for the entire batch of marinade.

Embrace the magic of buttermilk marinade, a soothing bath that imparts tenderness and taste, elevating simple cuts to gastronomic delights

Dietary Restrictions Of The Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

  • Dairy: Contains buttermilk; not suitable for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian: Contains animal products; not vegan or vegetarian-friendly.
  • Gluten-Free: Naturally gluten-free, but check ingredients for cross-contamination if sensitive.
  • Nut-Free: Safe for individuals with nut allergies.
  • Egg-Free: Does not contain eggs, suitable for those with egg allergies.
  • Soy-Free: No soy products are included unless substituted for buttermilk.
  • Low-Carb: Relatively low in carbohydrates, appropriate for some low-carb diets.
  • Paleo: Not paleo-friendly due to dairy and processed ingredients like maple syrup.
  • Whole30: Not compliant due to dairy and sweeteners.

Nutrition Table

Nutrition Table

What Are The Common Mistakes While Making This Sauce?

When making a buttermilk marinade, common mistakes include:

  • Not using enough buttermilk: Ensure meat is fully submerged for optimal tenderizing.
  • Over-marinating: Too long in the acid can make the meat mushy, especially delicate proteins like fish.
  • Under-seasoning: The marinade should be well-seasoned to impart flavor to the meat.
  • Using metal containers: Acidic buttermilk can react with metal, so use glass or plastic instead.
  • Ignoring marinating time: Follow recommended times for the best results.
  • Reusing marinade: A marinade used on raw meat should not be reused for food safety.
  • Not allowing for rest time: After cooking, rest the meat to retain juices.
  • Discarding excess marinade: Instead of throwing it away, use it to baste the meat while cooking.
  • Not sealing the bag properly: A leak can lead to a messy refrigerator and cross-contamination.
  • Not massaging the bag: Ensuring the marinade covers all parts of the meat is essential for even flavor.

What Are Some Creative Uses Of Leftover Sauce?

  • Basting: Use it to baste meats while grilling or roasting for added moisture and flavor.
  • Salad Dressing: Whisk with additional vinegar and oil to create a tangy salad dressing.
  • Bread Dip: Mix with herbs and use as a bread dip.
  • Vegetable Toss: Toss roasted vegetables in the marinade before serving for extra zing.
  • Pasta Sauce Base: Use as a base for pasta sauce, adding creaminess and depth.
  • Marinade for Vegetables: Marinate vegetables before grilling or roasting.
  • Soup Starter: Incorporate into soups for a tangy undertone.
  • Sauce Enrichment: Stir into sauces or gravies to add a slight tang and complexity.
  • Rice Flavoring: Mix into rice dishes for added flavor.
  • Savory Pancake/Waffle Batter: Include in batter for savory pancakes or waffles.
Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

Special Tools & Equipment Needed

  • Non-reactive bowl or container: Glass or plastic for mixing the marinade.
  • Whisk: To thoroughly combine the buttermilk with other ingredients.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: For accurate measurement of ingredients.
  • Sealable plastic bags: Preferably use a zip-top for marinating the meat.
  • Refrigerator: Essential for safe marination and storage.
  • Tongs: To handle and move marinated meat safely.
  • Brush: For applying leftover marinade to meats while cooking.
  • Disposable gloves: For hygiene when massaging the marinade into the meat.
  • Sharp knife: If garlic or herbs need to be chopped.
  • Grater/Zester: If adding zest from citrus fruits for extra flavor.
  • Timer or Clock: To keep track of marinating time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Low-Fat Buttermilk For This Marinade?

Yes, you can use low-fat buttermilk. It will still provide tenderizing benefits and flavor. However, the marinade may be slightly less rich than if made with full-fat buttermilk.

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk Marinade?

Marinating chicken in buttermilk for at least 12 hours but no more than 24 hours is best. Longer than that, the meat can break down too much, becoming mushy.

Is It Possible To Freeze Buttermilk Marinade?

Yes, you can freeze the buttermilk marinade before it’s been used on meat. Store it in a freezer-safe container and keep it for up to 3 months.

What Meat Can I Use With This Marinade Besides Chicken?

This marinade works well with meats, including pork, beef, and lamb. Delicate proteins like fish should only be marinated briefly to prevent them from becoming too soft.

Can I Use This Marinade As A Sauce After Cooking?

No, you should not use the marinade that has been in contact with raw meat as a sauce unless it is boiled first to eliminate harmful bacteria. If you want to use it as a sauce, set some aside before adding the raw meat.

The Perfect Buttermilk Marinade Recipe – Marinating Made Easy

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Recipe by Lana Rivera Course: Hot Sauces


Prep time




Ferment/Rest Time



The buttermilk marinade is a creamy concoction that uses the natural acidity of buttermilk to tenderize and infuse meats with moisture and flavor. Enhanced with spices like garlic, cumin, and pepper, it’s a versatile mixture perfect for elevating poultry, pork, or beef to new heights of deliciousness.


  • 2 cups 2 Buttermilk

  • ¼ cup ¼ Olive oil

  • 2 2 Garlic Cloves (peeled but not crushed)

  • ½ tablespoon ½ Black pepper (freshly ground)

  • 1 tablespoon 1 Sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon 1 Ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon 1 Maple syrup

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Gather Ingredients: Assemble your buttermilk, olive oil, garlic cloves, black pepper, sea salt, ground cumin, and maple syrup.
  • Mix Dry Ingredients: In a non-reactive bowl, combine the ground black pepper, sea salt, and ground cumin.
  • Crush Garlic: Place the garlic cloves on a flat surface, lay the flat side of a knife on top, and press down firmly to crush them.
  • Combine with Olive Oil: Add the crushed garlic and olive oil to the dry ingredients. Stir to mix.
  • Add Buttermilk: Pour the buttermilk into the mixture and whisk until all ingredients are well combined.
  • Sweeten With Syrup: Add the maple syrup to the marinade and whisk again to ensure it’s fully integrated.
  • Prepare Chicken: If you haven’t already, prepare your chicken (or other meats) for marinating.
  • Marinate: Place your chicken in a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure all pieces are covered.
  • Remove Air: Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible before fully sealing.
  • Massage: Gently massage the marinade into the chicken through the bag to ensure an even coating.
  • Refrigerate: Place the sealed bag in a bowl or pan to catch any leaks and refrigerate. Marinate for at least 12 hours or overnight for best results.
  • Cook: After marinating, remove the chicken from the marinade and cook according to your desired method.

Recipe Video


  • Marinating Time: For smaller cuts of meat like chicken breasts or thighs, 12 hours is sufficient, but for larger cuts, up to 24 hours may be more effective.
  • Container For Marinating: Always use a non-reactive container or a sealable plastic bag to avoid any chemical reaction that could alter the marinades or the meat’s taste.
  • Room Temperature: Before cooking, let the marinated meat come to room temperature for more even cooking.
  • Cross-Contamination: To prevent cross-contamination, never reuse marinade that has been in contact with raw meat unless boiled first.
  • Safe Handling: Always wash hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly after they have been in contact with raw meat and the marinade.
  • Allergies And Dietary Restrictions: Modify the ingredients to suit any allergies or dietary restrictions (e.g., use a dairy-free substitute if lactose intolerant).
  • Taste And Adjust: Before adding the meat, taste the marinade and adjust the seasoning if necessary. It should be a bit stronger in flavor than you’d like the meat to be.
  • Cooking Method: The marinated meat can be grilled, roasted, or fried. Adjust cooking times based on the method you choose.
  • Reserve Some Marinade: If you want to use the marinade as a sauce or for basting, reserve a portion before adding the raw meat. This portion should be kept separate and never come into contact with raw meat.
  • Storage: If an unused marinade hasn’t touched raw meat, store it in the fridge for up to two days or freeze it for later use.

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