When my colleague Stella published her cheddar biscuit recipe recently, I tried it out right away—not once but twice. But even after making a double batch, I still had about half a quart of buttermilk left in my fridge, which sent me on a hunt for recipes that call for the stuff. Sure, we're all familiar with buttermilk's usefulness in pancakes and waffles on the sweet side, and in savory recipes like Southern fried chicken, ranch dressing, and plain old flaky buttermilk biscuits. But it turns out that buttermilk has a wider array of both sweet and savory applications than most people think.
Buttermilk Cappuccino Cake
This rich buttermilk espresso cake is a perfect way to use up that excess buttermilk and please the coffee fanatics in your life at the same time. The buttermilk lends a subtle tang to balance out the sweetness, and soaking the layers in a coffee syrup helps keep the cake moist. The whole thing gets coated with an espresso-flavored Swiss buttercream frosting.
Apple Buttermilk Muffins
Buttermilk is what gives these muffins their super-moist and pillowy crumb, while the diced apples sprinkled throughout get a flavor assist from a hefty dose of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Gluten-Free Buttermilk Pound Cake
The delicate flavor of this easy-to-make loaf makes it excellent as a light dessert that just happens to be gluten-free. It's especially good with berries mixed into the batter, if they're in season. A note of caution: Add the buttermilk in stages, to ensure that it emulsifies correctly.
Lemon Sunshine Cookies
The perfect treat for perking up a gloomy rainy day, these buttery cookies double up on lemon flavor with zest in the batter and lemon juice in the glaze. The buttermilk lends a hand by keeping the cookies tender.
Buttermilk is a standard addition to many cornbread recipes; depending on the other ingredients, its acidity can contribute flavor and tenderness to the finished product or help with the rise. We've got recipes for the basics, of course—a classic Southern-Style Unsweetened Cornbread, and a more cake-like Northern-style version for those who like theirs sweet and moist. But if you have some jalapeño and pepper Jack lying around, or the smoky-sharp-savory combination of cheddar, scallion, and bacon, it's easy to turn this basic skillet bread into something special. For my money, it's worth it to expend a little extra effort on the tender, nutty brown butter cornbread pictured above.
Daniel came up with this recipe to use up some broccoli that was withering in his fridge, but it's good enough that you'll find yourself buying a bunch specifically for this purpose. The buttermilk provides a dose of bright acidity, a necessary component in most soups, and the addition of pepitas roasted with olive oil and spices makes this an unusual yet welcome dish on chilly nights.
Buttermilk is key to both flavor and tenderness in these hefty meatballs: The slight acidity boosts the flavor of the ground meat mixture, even as it balances out the richness of the fat. These might just end up being the juiciest meatballs you've ever had.