How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

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. 

Homemade buttermilk substitute in a milk bottle.

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.

Milk in a pyrex measuring cup, next to a lemon and measuring spoons.

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.

A hand holding a tablespoon of lemon juice over a cup of milk.

Step 2: Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, until slightly curdled and thickened.

A spoonful of curdled, homemade buttermilk substitute.

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.

Buttermilk Recipes

Looking for some ways to use this homemade buttermilk substitute? Check out my Buttermilk Biscuits, Sweet Potato BiscuitsBlueberry Buttermilk Cookies, and Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake!

How to Make Buttermilk From Scratch
Print Pin Recipe

How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

5 from 9 votes
Learn how to make buttermilk substitute at home with this quick tutorial! Homemade buttermilk can easily be used in place of the commercial versions in baked goods.
Course Condiments
Cuisine American, British, Southern
Keyword how to make buttermilk substitute
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 cup (can be scaled up or down for recipe)
Calories 152

Ingredients

  • 1 scant cup milk or cream (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

Calories: 152kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 105mg | Potassium: 322mg | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 7.9% | Vitamin C: 7% | Calcium: 27.6%

Recipe Troubleshooting

For help troubleshooting a recipe, please email recipehelp@savorysimple.net. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! This email address is only for recipe troubleshooting; Solicitations will be ignored.

Learn how to make buttermilk substitute at home with this quick tutorial! Homemade buttermilk can easily be used in place of the commercial versions in baked goods.

About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

Affiliate Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. I am a participant in the rewardStyle and Amazon affiliate programs, which help support Savory Simple by providing me with a small commission fee when you shop through my links, at no additional cost to you.

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