buttermilk france

What is Buttermilk in French and Where to Find it

If you’re looking for Buttermilk in France then you’ll have no doubt found it hard to find on the shelves – especially when using the translated word. But fear not, it’s actually extremely common in supermarkets in France and a variant has been a traditional drink in Brittany for over 4000 years. Our guide will explain what the equivalent of buttermilk is in France and where you can find it.

What is Buttermilk called in French

The direct translation for buttermilk in French is babeurre but you won’t find this referenced anywhere in a French shop. There are two variants of buttermilk in English and these are defined with two separate names in French:

  1. Lait fermenté: this is a cultured type of buttermilk. Milk is flash (UHT) pasteurised, emulsified and then cultured with lactic acid bacteria to emulate ‘traditional’ buttermilk. This bacteria then starts the fermentation process – hence the ‘fermented milk’ translation. This is the variant of buttermilk that you will find in supermarkets in the US and UK.

  2. Lait ribot: this is the traditional buttermilk that is the by-product from churning butter. When butter is churned, the fat (cream) and the milk separates – the bacteria within the milk produces lactic acid and then starts fermenting the milk. This is a product that you’ll commonly see in French supermarkets and has a Brittany-style branding. Why? Lait Ribot is a traditional drink from Bretagne dating back thousands of years. You’ll often see it as a drink option in crêperies.

Substitute for Buttermilk in France

As we’ve now discovered, the ubiquitous and generically named ‘buttermilk’ products that you buy in a grocery stores in the US or UK are called two different things in France. Either of these two options are a good substitute for buttermilk. They both have the same consistency and slight sour taste.

In France you’ll find the two variants labelled with either lait fermenté or lait ribot. That said, you may find the main product name won’t include either of these. Due to different cultures that consume the products, there’s different names & brands for both variants. In supermarkets you’ll usually see:

  • Kefir (lait fermenté)
  • Laban (lait fermenté)
  • Yorik (lait fermenté)
  • Paysan Bretagne (lait ribot)

Which one should you choose?

If you’re cooking, it won’t make any difference. They both have the same thickness, sour taste and will be suitable for any dish that you’re cooking.

lait fermenté France buttermilk

If you’re baking and need your dough or batter to rise, both options will activate baking soda in order to generate carbon dioxide. Making fried chicken in France? Again, both options have the tangy, acidic quality which will help marinade your chicken before your fry it. In conclusion, both lait fermanté and lait ribot will be a great substitute for buttermilk.

Check our recipe section for great recipes using buttermilk!

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