How to Make Buttermilk: Buttermilk Subsitutes

Out of buttermilk? No worries! Learn all about common buttermilk substitutes as well as how to make buttermilk.

I love the flavor that buttermilk adds to recipes like pancakes, scones, and of course buttermilk biscuits, but sometimes I realize that I forgot to pick up buttermilk at the grocery store, or what I had is actually way past the expiration date and I’m quickly in need of a buttermilk substitute.

We’ve all been there. Mid-recipe you realize that the ingredients call for buttermilk and there’s none in the refrigerator.  You’re stuck googling things like how to make buttermilk or buttermilk substitute, hoping that you can still salvaged your already started recipe.

No one wants to make a special trip to the grocery store for just one item, so occasionally you have to make do with a buttermilk substitute.

how to make homemade buttermilk substitute

For those type of situations it is nice to have this kitchen tip for How to Make Homemade Buttermilk up your sleeve. With common ingredients you can easily make homemade buttermilk to use in your recipes.

How to Make Buttermilk

Buttermilk Substitute

Some of these substitute recipes are easier than others in a pinch. My most commonly used method is to make homemade buttermilk with milk and lemon or vinegar, but the others are helpful as well.

All of the methods for homemade buttermilk start with regular milk, so you’ll need to at least have that on hand.

Cream of Tartar

Measure 1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk. Whisk to combine and let stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, until curdled and then stir. The mixture then becomes your buttermilk substitute – use the same measurement you need for your given recipe.

Lemon Juice

For this homemade buttermilk, you are going to add one tablespoon of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add regular milk until the amount reaches one cup. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. The milk should look curdled. Stir and you have buttermilk to use in your recipe!

Plain Yogurt

Another way to make buttermilk at home is the following: 2 tablespoons of regular milk plus enough plain yogurt to equal one cup. Whisk well to combine and you have a buttermilk substitute. Then, use as your recipe instructs.

Sour Cream

I follow the same method as above for how to make buttermilk, only I use 3 – 4 tablespoons of milk since the sour cream I buy is often a bit thicker than plain yogurt. Stir to combine and then use your as your buttermilk subsistute in your recipe.

White Vinegar

This method for making homemade buttermilk is identical to the lemon juice buttermilk substitute except for you are going to use white vinegar instead. To make buttermilk this way, add one tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add milk until the amount reaches one cup. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. It should look curdled. Stir and you have homemade buttermilk for your buttermilk substitute!


Depending on the recipe, I have used canned coconut milk as a substitute for the buttermilk.

BUT you have to use your personal discretion on this one because the flavor is certainly different, plus some recipes need the acidity of Buttermilk (or one of the substitutes) to react with the leavening agent.

Two recipes that I’ve recently used this substitution with are Lemon Coconut Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes, but like I said: use your personal discretion.

Buttermilk Recipes for your Inspiration:

Now that you have mastered how to make buttermilk and learned all about some common buttermilk substitute options, try your hand at a few of these delicious recipes featuring buttermilk – these will all work just fine with any of the main homemade buttermilk methods I’ve outlined above.

Strawberry Scones with Meyer Lemon are delicious for a springtime brunch.

Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls are our favorite dinner roll to make for the winter holidays.

Nutella Cupcakes with Triple Cream Cheese Frosting are nice a moist thanks to the addition of buttermilk in the batter.

Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust is winter comfort food at its finest!

Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins are a hearty and healthy breakfast treat, plus they’ll make your house smell amazing while they’re baking.

Did you know how to make buttermilk or is this your first time learning about homemade buttermilk?