Buttermilk Is The Key Ingredient For A Tangy, Creamy Mac And Cheese

Macaroni and cheese in a cast iron ramekin
Macaroni and cheese in a cast iron ramekin - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Whether you like it baked or made on the stovetop, the best macaroni and cheese is arguably at the top of the list of beloved comfort foods. There's just something about pasta drowning in ooey-gooey cheese sauce and maybe dusted with crispy breadcrumbs that's like a warm hug in a bowl. There are a lot of ways to make homemade mac and cheese even more exceptional, from using a blend of different cheeses to adding ham or lobster. If you give your cheese sauce an extra zippy, extra tangy flavor, consider this: Try swapping the milk in the recipe for a splash of buttermilk.

Buttermilk is just regular milk that's been fermented with lactic acid bacteria, but traditionally it was the liquid leftover after churning cream into butter. It's tangy from the fermentation, and it brings depth, complexity, and acidity to recipes from biscuits and pancakes to fried chicken, so why not macaroni and cheese? The tangy flavor will bring out the sharpness in your casserole's cheeses and also impart an acidic bite that breaks up any heaviness from all the fat and carbohydrates. You don't even need a recipe, just trust in your tastebuds. You don't even need store-bought buttermilk because you can easily make your own.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

How Much Buttermilk?

Pouring buttermilk into a glass container
Pouring buttermilk into a glass container - miliatolojan/Shutterstock

It's easy to use buttermilk in place of some or all of the regular milk or cream in your macaroni and cheese. You can add your buttermilk one of two ways: either to make a bechamel sauce like you would with milk and roux, or mix all of your macaroni and cheese ingredients and use the same amount of buttermilk as milk called for in the recipe (or instructions, if you're using a box mix).

If you want to make macaroni and cheese with a creamy bechamel sauce, keep in mind that buttermilk has less fat than whole milk or heavy cream. For this method, consider subbing out half of the milk or cream for buttermilk to get the same benefits of the full-fat dairy as well as the tangy flavor of buttermilk. Make your roux as you typically do, but whisk in a mixture of milk and buttermilk, then add in your shredded cheese before combining everything with the pasta.

If you don't use a roux-based sauce in your homemade macaroni and cheese, all you need to do is substitute equal amounts of buttermilk for regular milk and fold all of your pasta, cheese, and liquid together in a bowl before baking, or in a saucepan for stovetop mac and cheese.

Make Your Own Buttermilk

A bowl of macaroni and cheese from a box
A bowl of macaroni and cheese from a box - Pamela_d_mcadams/Getty Images

Buttermilk is widely available at most grocery stores. If you don't see it stocked near the regular, skim, and fat-free milk, look for it near the refrigerated coffee creamer. If you can't find buttermilk at your local store, don't stress because it's easy to make at home. To make homemade buttermilk, simply add one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of regular milk and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. The milk and acid mixture will slightly curdle and thicken, mimicking buttermilk's clabber; you'll know the mixture is ready when you slightly jiggle the bowl and the milk looks like it's breaking and the center seems thick.

The nice thing about homemade buttermilk is that you don't have to choose between using milk or buttermilk in your macaroni and cheese. Simply acidulate the volume of milk from your favorite recipe and you'll get the best of both worlds. You can even use homemade buttermilk for jazzing up a box of store-bought macaroni and cheese; just add a drop or two of lemon juice or white vinegar to the milk for the sauce and mix everything. Once you get a taste for the tangy bite of buttermilk in your favorite type of macaroni and cheese, you'll likely never go back to using plain ol' milk.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.