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How to Make Buttermilk (6 Buttermilk Substitutes)

Learn all about common buttermilk substitutes as well as how to make buttermilk. It’s easier than you’d think to make your own buttermilk!

picture of buttermilk substitute

When to Make Your Own Buttermilk

I love the flavor that buttermilk adds to recipes like pancakes, scones, and of course buttermilk biscuits. 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 homemade 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.

And you’re 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 replacement.

Buttermilk Substitute Video

For kitchen mishap situations it is nice to have this kitchen tip for how to make buttermilk up your sleeve. With common ingredients, you can easily make homemade buttermilk to use in your recipes.

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How to Make Buttermilk 6 Ways

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

Out of buttermilk? No worries! Some of these buttermilk substitutes 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.

Most of the methods for homemade buttermilk that I’ve outlined below start with regular milk (whole milk works best), so you’ll need to at least have that on hand.

cream of tartar and spoon

Cream of Tartar Buttermilk Substitute

Wondering how to make buttermilk from milk? It couldn’t be simpler!

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 replacement — use the same measurement you need for your given recipe.

lemon and pitcher of milk

Lemon Juice Buttermilk Substitute

To make your own buttermilk using lemon juice,  you are going to add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add regular milk (whole milk works best) until the amount reaches one cup.

Let the milk and lemon juice mixture stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. The milk should look curdled after about 10 minutes. Stir and you have a homemade buttermilk subsitute to use in your recipe!

Alternatively, if you don’t have fresh milk, you can combine 1/3 cup powdered milk + 1 cup water. Then, add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.

plain yogurt in a bowl

Plain Yogurt Buttermilk Substitute

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.

If you are using plain GREEK yogurt, you’ll want to use 3 – 4 tablespoons of milk because Greek yogurt tends to be a bit thicker than plain traditional yogurt. Either type of yogurt works well as a buttermilk substitute.

jar of sour cream

Sour Cream Buttermilk Substitute

You might have wondered can you use sour cream in place of buttermilk. Well, the answer is YES – you can substitute sour cream for buttermilk.

Sour cream can also be used as a buttermilk substitute. It is pretty similar to the method for using plain yogurt. However, I add slightly more milk since sour cream tends to be thicker than plain yogurt (unless you’re using Greek yogurt).

To make a sour cream buttermilk substitute, combine 3-4 tablespoons of regular milk plus enough sour cream to equal 1 cup. Whisk well to combine and you have a buttermilk substitute. Stir to combine and then use your as your buttermilk subsistute in your recipe.

white vinegar and a measuring spoon

White Vinegar Buttermilk Substitute

This method for making a buttermilk replacement is identical to the lemon juice buttermilk substitute, except you’re going to use white vinegar instead.

To make a buttermilk substitute using white vinegar, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add milk until the amount reaches 1 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!

Alternatively, if you don’t have fresh milk, you can combine 1/3 cup powdered milk + 1 cup water. Then, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.

buttermilk powder and measuring cup of water

Buttermilk Powder Buttermilk Substitute

Buttermilk powder is buttermilk that has been pasteurized, then concentrated with an evaporator, and then dried to produce a powder. You can purchase buttermilk powder at most any grocery store.

To make buttermilk using buttermilk powder, follow the instructions on the buttermilk powder container. The instructions on the buttermilk powder that I have state to combine 1 cup of water with 1/4 cup powder to equal 1 cup of fresh buttermilk.

Bonus 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 mentioned above) to react with the leavening agent.

Can You Freeze Buttermilk?

YES! You can freeze buttermilk! If you do buy a large quart of buttermilk and don’t use it all, I recommend freezing the leftovers. Freeze in portions that makes sense for the recipes you typically prepare.

For small portions, ice cub trays make sense – just measure in tablespoons as you fill them. Once frozen, remove the frozen buttermilk cubes and place in a freezer bag. Make sure to label the bag with the amount of the frozen portions.

Tips for Making Buttermilk Replacements

If you’re trying to make buttermilk from milk (i.e. adding lemon juice or vinegar to it), whole milk is best. Skim milk doesn’t contain nearly enough fat or flavor to work as a buttermilk substitutes. In a pinch, 2% milk should work, but whole is best.

If you don’t have white vinegar on hand, do not try to substitute another vinegar that has a strong flavor. For example, you can NOT make homemade buttermilk with something like balsamic vinegar. In a pinch, you might be able to try Apple Cider Vinegar, but I like white vinegar best.

Lastly, you need to give all of these buttermilk substitutes time to curdle. Wait a good 10 minutes or so before adding the homemade buttermilk into your dish. If you don’t wait the full 10 minutes, your buttermilk substitute may not work.

More Buttermilk Recipes:

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

These Toasted Almond and Coconut Scones are just sweet enough that they could pass as either breakfast or a mid-day snack. Pair with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!

Another delicious brunch treats are these Coconut Lemon Poppyseed Muffins. The coconut adds a unique taste and texture to these muffins that’s hard to resist!

Take your biscuits up a notch with these Parmesan Chive Buttermilk Biscuits. Perfect for brunch or breakfast for dinner!

I love making Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls during the cooler months. They’re a comforting side dish that are actually quite easy to whip up.

If you prefer heartier muffins, make a batch of these Apple Cranberry Oat Muffins. These just scream fall and are incredibly easy to make.

Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust is comfort food and it’s finest! Creamy chicken filling is topped with tender buttermilk biscuits.

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

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lemon and pitcher of milk

Homemade Buttermilk

Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

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

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or White Vinegar
  • 1 scant cup Whole Milk

Instructions

  1. Measure 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar into a 2 cup glass measuring cup.
  2. Then, add the whole milk, pouring until the total amount of liquid (the milk plus the lemon juice or vinegar) equals one cup. The amount of milk added will be slightly less than 1 cup of whole milk, or a "scant" one cup (specifically, it will be 1 tablespoon less than 1 cup).
  3. Next, let the lemon juice or white vinegar and whole milk mixture sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. The mixture should look curdled.
  4. Stir the mixture and now you have homemade buttermilk for your buttermilk substitute! Use it 1:1 with whatever recipe you have that calls for buttermilk.
  5. Alternatively, if you don't have fresh milk, you can combine 1/3 cup powdered milk + 1 cup water.
  6. Then, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar.
  7. Let sit for 10 minutes before using.

Notes

The post details a few other alternatives for buttermilk substitutes, such as sour cream, buttermilk powder, making buttermilk using cream of tartar, or using plain yogurt. Please see the original post for all of the details regarding those substitutions.

TIPS FOR MAKING BUTTERMILK REPLACEMENTS

If you’re trying to make buttermilk from milk (i.e. adding lemon juice or vinegar to it), whole milk is best. Skim milk doesn’t contain nearly enough fat or flavor to work as a buttermilk substitutes. In a pinch, 2% milk should work, but whole is best.

Lastly, you will need to give homemade buttermilk time to curdle. Wait a good 10 minutes or so before adding the homemade buttermilk into your dish. If you don’t wait the full 10 minutes, your buttermilk substitute may not work.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 39Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 6mgSodium 27mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 3gProtein 2g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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Dr Kirsten Grant

Saturday 18th of July 2020

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this blog post.

I just realized that I'm running short on buttermilk and this post that you wrote is exactly what me and my family needed thank you so much!

Mary

Sunday 5th of January 2020

An excellent article that covers so many cooking tips. I have used vinegar with milk to make buttermilk. I appreciated the mention of the other ingredients that can be used to make buttermilk. I have used unpasteurized milk in biscuits that has soured. In old cookbooks there is mention of using sour milk. If you can purchase unpasteurized milk, it will keep in your refrigerator for a long time. The milk will separate creating a whey and solid. I pour it through a sieve and let it set up again. I also freeze the sour milk for future cooking.

Katie

Monday 6th of January 2020

great tips, thanks for sharing!

Patty Davidson

Sunday 26th of November 2017

I was way out in Nebraska farm country. My husband and I were visiting with family. We planned a fish fry. When I went to buy some frozen hash puppies the stores there had never heard of such a thing. They didn't even have a box mix. So I googled how to make some. Of course I needed buttermilk. We had gotten back home with out any. So made the milk and vinegar. Than unprocessed to make the best hushpuppies anyone e of us had e we eaten. Hubby & uncle's ate them for breakfast with syrup the next morning. Still revving about how great they were. Lol

Katie

Monday 27th of November 2017

So glad that worked out for you! Thanks for sharing :)

kr

Tuesday 21st of November 2017

does a buttermilk made with evap + vinegar needs to be curdle before adding to butter?or its always ok if not curdle?thank u for the answer!Godbless!

Katie

Wednesday 22nd of November 2017

I have not tried making a buttermilk substitute using evaporated milk. I always use regular fresh cow's milk, not canned.

Chioma

Thursday 14th of September 2017

Can I use canned coconut milk an apple cider vinegar to make my a butter milk? Thanks Katie.

Katie

Friday 15th of September 2017

I have not tested making buttermilk using the combo of coconut milk and apple cider. If you try it, I'd love to hear how it works out!