How Long Do You Marinate Fish In Buttermilk?


If you’re looking for a delicious, easy-to-make seafood dish, look no further than this buttermilk marinated fish recipe.

This dish is perfect for a summertime cookout or an intimate dinner party.

Here is a quick guide to help you get answers to all your queries on marinating fish in buttermilk.

How Long Do You Marinate Fish In Buttermilk?

According to USDA, you can marinate fish in buttermilk for up to 4 hours in the fridge, but if your fish is lean and small, it is better to stick to a shorter marinating duration, like 1 hour. If you marinate for longer, the marinade taste will overpower the dish, and the fish will turn mushy.

Fish is a delicate food and can easily be overcooked. Marinating for a long time can break down the fish’s delicate structure, making it tough.

This is especially true if you are looking to marinate delicate fish (like red snapper) with lower fat content. You can marinate for slightly longer times when you are dealing with high-fat content fish like tuna and salmon.

Buttermilk (pH of 4.8) is a mild marinade, and thus marinating times are long as compared to situations when you use stronger marinades (high in acidity and lower pH values) like lime juice (pH of 2), lemon juice (pH of 2), white vinegar (pH of 2.3), etc.

Table: Strength of Popular Acids Used in Marinades

MarinadepH (Acidity)
Apple Cider Vinegar3.0 - 3.2
Beer3.7 - 4.1
Bourbon 3.7 - 4.0
Butter Milk4.4 - 4.8
Carbonated Drinks3.0 - 4.0
Coffee4.9 - 5.1
Cranberry Juice2.6 - 2.8
Grapefruit Juice3.0 - 3.8
Heavy Cream6.5 - 6.8
Lemon juice2.0 - 2.6
Lime juice2.0 - 2.4
Orange Juice3.3 - 4.2
Pickle Juice3.2 - 3.7
Red Wine3.0 - 4.0
White Vinegar2.3 - 2.5
Yogurt4.4 - 4.8
Sour Cream4.5

Why Is Buttermilk A Good Marinade For Fish?

fish in buttermilk

Buttermilk is a good marinade for fish because it is acidic, which helps to break down the proteins in the meat, making it more tender. Additionally, buttermilk contains enzymes that help to tenderize the meat.

Furthermore, the fat in buttermilk helps to keep the meat moist during cooking.

A good marinade has three components –

1) oil (fat) to retain moisture (Check best oils for marinades here)

2) Acid (to tenderize the meat)

3) Seasonings/herbs for flavor (Check 40+ seasonings/herbs for marinades here)

Read more about marinades here>

Buttermilk in itself not only has the ability to make the fish meat tender (due to its acidic nature), it also has fat, to help in preserving the moisture in the meat.

Buttermilk also imparts a tangy flavor to the fish. You can, of course, add more herbs and seasonings to buttermilk to bring more flavors to your dish.

Can You Marinate Fish In Buttermilk Overnight?

No, you should not marinate fish overnight. According to USDA, fish should not be marinated for more than 3-4 hours as it can disintegrate the fish meat and make it mushy.

Fish meat absorbs marinade much faster than other meats such as chicken, pork, etc., and thus, you should marinate it for much shorter times.

For delicate fish, up to 1 hour is optimal.

How To Marinate Fish In Buttermilk?

This is a step by step guide on how to marinate fish with buttermilk –

  1. Prepare the buttermilk marinade. You simply can add herbs, seasonings, or spices to buttermilk to prepare it
  2. In 1/2 cup of buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, etc.
  3. Add up to 1 pound of fish fillets to the bag and seal. Gently shake the bag to coat the fish in the marinade.
  4. Place in the refrigerator for up to 1 hr (max 3-4 hrs) to allow the flavors to blend.
  5. Take out and cook asap

Here is a quick video recipe –

Final Words

I hope this short and sweet guide helped you to understand how best to marinate fish in buttermilk.

If you have any feedback and tips, do drop a comment!

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About Jane Lewis

Jane loves spending time with her family, cooking delicious meals, traveling to explore new cultures and wines, and tending to her backyard garden. She's a passionate home cook who enjoys trying out recipes from all over the world.

1 thought on “How Long Do You Marinate Fish In Buttermilk?”

  1. I don’t marinate my fish in buttermilk I simply soak it for a few minutes and then coat it in Louisiana fish fry powder. I fry 3 to 4 minutes per side and it is terrific. I have to Add that I am frying cod and more than 3 to 4 minutes per side and it will be over cooked.

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