Suero de leche appears to mean both "buttermilk" and "whey" which are two completely different milk products.

Is there a way to distinguish between them in Spanish?

  • Buttermilk/ Jocoque is the correct traducción. Jocoque. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 4:22
  • Jocoque is different from buttermilk, closer to sour creme but cheesier. One drinks buttermilk, but jocoque is eaten, not drunk. Thanks for the input, though. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 5:21

2 Answers 2


There is, but I'm not sure how well known the distinction in terminology is.

Whey is indeed suero de leche in Spanish, and is the milk product left over from cheese production. It has a yellow-ish semi-transparent color.

Buttermilk is suero de mantequilla or mazada, and is the milk product left over from butter production, or these days more often just milk with added bacteria that generate the lactic acid (or when you're really in a pinch, milk with added lemon juice). It is whiter in color and a good bit thicker than whey or milk.

That said, as in French (where petit-leit is often used when babeurre is meant), suero de leche is frequently used mistakenly to refer to buttermilk. Perhaps, even, the mistake was brought in via the French, given their impact on the cooking world, but if you see suero de leche in a recipe, more likely than not it probably refers to buttermilk, as whey isn't commonly used in recipes these days.

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    Thank you. Recently while shopping I tried to assist a young Hispanic couple with limited understanding of English with a nutrition list which included "buttermilk." I only knew the Spanish words leche and mantequilla and explained (in Spanish) how buttermilk is the milk left over after making butter (as I had seen my grandmother make it back in the 1940s), but they did not know how butter is made in a churn, so that was no help. They wrinkled their noses when I tried "leche agria." Later I looked it up in a dictionary in the unlikely event I ever needed the word in the future. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 22:46
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    @JohnWaylandBales - They were at the store with a list in English, you showed them the buttermilk, and that wasn't sufficient? I feel like there's something I've missed about this situation. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 5:49
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    @aparente001 They approached me and asked me in broken English where to find it and I helped them find it. But they still did not know what it was. I tried to explain in my somewhat limited (B1) Spanish. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 5:55
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    I see, thanks. Sounds frustrating. Es lo que queda después de hacer mantequilla, maybe. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 5:59
  • @aparente001 Eso es lo que les dije, pero no sabían cómo se hace la mantequilla. Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 2:54

In Colombia South America," it could be Kumis without sugar or leche cuajada batida. And depends of the milk if is from the farm it will have more butter. Kumis you can find it at the supermarkets but it have some sugar added. At the north at the Atlantic coast we have something called suero but it is more like sour cream and it is salty. If you need buttermilk over there ask for Kumis with or without sugar. And over here if somebody ask you for cuajada or Kumis buttermilk is close to it.

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