Both are popular drinks of India. They are made from yogurt and usually have some salt, spices and herbs added. They have many variations and numerous heath benefits. Westerners are more familiar with a lassi than buttermilk.
How are they different?
You dilute yogurt with water, but not near as much as you would buttermilk. Lassis can be either sweet or savory — simple or elaborate. A simple sweet lassi could be yogurt, water, salt and unrefined sugar. A simple savory lassi could be yogurt, water, salt and mint. Lassis make an easy light meal, or a between meal snack.
Mango (or any fruit) lassis are banned in Ayurveda. Mango lassis are very popular today, but according to Ayurveda, fresh fruit and dairy are an incompatible food combination. Spices, on the other hand, are good and regularly used in therapeutic form in Ayurveda.
Also know as chhas (chaas/chhaachh) or India buttermilk. The Sanskrit word is tarka. It’s a savory drink which is much more diluted with water than a lassi.
Ancient Sanskrit texts talk about proper diet and the most powerful foods. Buttermilk is advised very strongly in the texts and given an almost human nectar status.
Buttermilk is a digestive or cleaning drink. If you drink a little bit (1/4 – 1/2 cup) with your meal, it’s a digestive. Some people drink buttermilk just with their main meal. Others drink buttermilk after every meal. Some of my friends from India, especially if they are older, say buttermilk really does make a difference with gas and bloating, and they drink it frequently.
If you drink a glass on a hot summer afternoon between meals, it acts as a light cleansing drink, similar to coconut water.
To save time, make a batch of buttermilk in the morning and drink it throughout the day.
It is not necessary to put the buttermilk in the refrigerator. It is usually fine on the counter top for a few hours. Depending on your current body type, it may be much more beneficial to have buttermilk at room temperature instead of cold from the refrigerator.
True buttermilk is obtained in the process of making butter from milk. It is the liquid that separates out when the butter is formed. This can be a lot of work, so most people today mix a small amount of homemade yogurt with a large amount of water. This approximates the true buttermilk very well, and has many of the medicinal properties of true buttermilk. Mixing store yogurt with water will work, but it will not be near as beneficial as homemade yogurt. Click here.
Don’t get confused with the American buttermilk you see on the grocery shelves. This is a healthy fermented dairy product, but does not come close to approximating true buttermilk.
At a glance
|Amount of yogurt||50%-90%||1%-5%|
|Properties||nourishing food; provides nutrition and probiotics||cleanser; digestive lubricant; stimulates/activates bacteria|
|Texture||creamy, curdy||watery (almost like yogurt infused water)|
|Compared to a coconut||coconut milk||coconut water|
|Time to digest||long||very quick (similar to a cleansing water)|
|Season to consume||especially summer||digestive – year round;|
cooling drink – especially summer
|Time of day to consume||never after dark||anytime|
How long have lassis and buttermilk been around?
Buttermilk and dairy products (yogurt, whey, butter and ghee) have been around at least 10,000 years and likely much longer. Buttermilk has been part of most Sanskrit literature. Lassis became more popular via Moghuls invading India.
Are lassis and buttermilk appropriate for lactose intolerant individuals?
Lassis (and anything yogurt) have much less lactose than milk. Many lactose intolerant individuals are fine with lassis. Buttermilk has even less lactose. Just about everyone is fine with buttermilk.
Buttermilk is a digestive. How is it different from other digestives such as Swedish bitters, apple cider vinegar, and digestive enzymes?
The bottom line
Many confuse and interchange the lassis and buttermilk. However, they are made differently and as a result have different properties.
I personally love them both and try to listen to what feels good for by body at the time. If it’s summer, I might have a lassi for breakfast. If it’s a hot day, a glass of buttermilk feels good mid-afternoon. If I’m about to eat a big meal, a little digestive buttermilk to sip with it seems helpful.
Try them both and observe the differences by listening to your body.