Have you ever found yourself craving a hot stack of buttermilk pancakes or a fresh, buttermilk biscuit, only to realize you don’t have the most important ingredient on hand? Or perhaps your recipe only calls for one cup of buttermilk, and it seems wasteful to purchase an entire carton. I have a solution! Learn how to make buttermilk substitute at home with this quick tutorial. Homemade buttermilk can easily be swapped with commercial versions to use in baked goods.
Ready for a fun ingredient hack? This trick saves me time and money when I forget to buy buttermilk. I’m a space cadet. It happens.
This homemade buttermilk is not the exact same thing that’s sold in grocery stores, and I’m covering the differences between the two below if you’re interested. Buttermilk actually has quite a bit of history behind it!
What is Buttermilk?
Our modern day cultured buttermilk is very different from the original product, which was the buttery byproduct remaining after hours of churning butter.
Because there was no refrigeration at the time, the cream being used would sometimes be slightly spoiled, creating a sour byproduct.
However, if the cream was fresh, the buttermilk could actually be sweet. You can read a brief but slightly more thorough overview on the history of buttermilk in this article from Slate.
If you’re curious, this type of traditional buttermilk can be prepared at home. Whisk a cup of non-homogenized cream until it eventually separates into butter and buttermilk.
Why Use Buttermilk in Baked Goods?
Buttermilk lightens up batters and adds tenderness to baked goods. When the cultures in buttermilk make contact with baking powder and/or baking soda, the chemical reaction causes the batter to fizz up (it also cancels out the sour flavor). That fizziness leads to those magical, tender results.
How to Make Buttermilk Substitute
I would only recommend using this homemade buttermilk in baked goods. Avoid using it in liquid applications like sauces or buttermilk ranch dressing.
The main difference between homemade buttermilk and commercial versions is that this version will curdle slightly. The curdles will vanish into baked goods, but you don’t want those showing up on your salad greens. Make sense?
You can use either fresh squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar (either distilled or white wine vinegar are fine). I prefer using lemon juice, but this is mainly out of habit. You’re not going to taste the difference once you bite into some pancakes.
Step 1. Measure out 1 scant cup of milk (just slightly under the line). Stir or whisk in 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar.
Step 2: Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, until slightly curdled and thickened.
Step 3: Use homemade buttermilk substitute, including the curdled bits, in your recipe when it calls for buttermilk.
More Buttermilk Substitutes
- Sour Cream: Combine 3/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup milk or water.
- Yogurt: Combine 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/4 cup milk or water.
- Kefir: Kefir is already pourable, so just add a bit of additional milk or water until the desired consistency is reached.
- Cream of Tartar: Whisk together 1 cup of milk and 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes until curdled and slightly thickened.
- 1 scant cup milk or cream (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar
In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the milk and lemon juice (or vinegar).
- Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes, until slightly curdled. It will not be as thick as regular buttermilk.
- Use buttermilk substitute, including the curdled bits, in your recipe.
Yields 1 cup; recipe can be doubled, tripled, halved (etc) as needed.
This recipe will work with any type of milk, though I recommend using something with at least 2% fat for best results.
Use soy milk in place of the dairy milk for a vegan buttermilk substitute.
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