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What is Lactic Butter?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Lactic butter is made from whole milk that has been fermented with lactic acid. It has a characteristic low moisture content and tangy flavor that some people find preferable to sweet cream butter. Depending on where in the world a person is, this product may or may not be easy to find; it's readily available in Europe. It can also be made at home, by people who can maintain sterile conditions for butter making.

Butter from cow's milk breaks down into one of two types: lactic and sweet cream butter. Traditionally, lactic butter was made by allowing milk to sit for several days, which would encourage the formation of beneficial lactic acid, fermenting the milk into a product almost like yogurt, which could then be churned into butter. Sweet cream butter is made from fresh milk that is skimmed to separate the cream and the milk. Only the cream is churned for sweet cream, while the milk is used elsewhere.

Once either type of butter has been churned, it is typically washed before being packaged, and it may be salted as well to keep it stable in storage. Traditionally, salted butter was heavily salted and fresh butter was a rare treat; most modern butter is only lightly salted to evoke the flavor of old-fashioned butter. Just like sweet cream butter, the lactic type is available in salted or unsalted varieties, and it is extremely suitable for baking; some people find that it actually yields better baked goods because of the lower moisture. It also has a higher smoking point than sweet cream butter, which makes it a preferred cooking butter in some regions of the world.

Some producers call their products cultured butter, in a reference to the cultures that the whole milk is inoculated with to mimic the conditions of sitting for several days to ferment. Others may refer to it as “ripened butter,” also in a reference to the ripening of these cultures.

Sweet cream and lactic butters also taste different. The lactic variety has a full, rich creamy flavor with a hint of a tang, while sweet cream butter is more sweet and flat in taste. Cultured butter is also perfectly safe to eat; the fermentation process is halted through pasteurization, and it is carefully packaged to keep it shelf stable, just as with sweet cream butter. In regions where this butter is not readily available, people might want to try checking with small local dairies, which sometimes produce small batches, or with Internet retailers who can ship it.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By candyquilt — On Sep 18, 2012

Can I use regular butter in recipes that call for lactic butter?

My recipe calls for unsalted lactic butter, if I use unsalted sweet butter, is it going to change the flavor of the dish?

By serenesurface — On Sep 18, 2012

@SarahGen-- Lactic butter is actually good. I like having it on my morning toast. It's also very good for baking like the article said. Try making some cookies with it sometime, you will see the difference.

I also didn't know about lactic butter until I went to the UK where lactic butter is quite popular. They have the sweet cream kind that we eat here too and some people do prefer that. But lactic butter is still much more popular than it is here. If you ever go to the UK and go into the grocery store, you will see the lactic butter in silver colored packaging.

By SarahGen — On Sep 17, 2012

So is lactic butter basically butter made from buttermilk?

I think buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid to milk. So that would mean that lactic butter is just churned buttermilk.

I've never had lactic butter before, not that I know of anyway. But I have tasted buttermilk by accident thinking that it's something else. It doesn't taste very good, it's definitely cultured and slightly sour. Sort of reminds me of yogurt kefir. I'm not sure if I would like lactic butter.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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