How to Make Buttermilk: Buttermilk Subsitutes

Learn all about common buttermilk substitutes as well as how to make easy homemade 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 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 substitute.

how to make homemade buttermilk substitute

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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 Homemade Buttermilk Substitutes

Out of buttermilk?

No worries!

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.

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 Buttermilk Substitute

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 Buttermilk Substitute

To make homemade buttermilk using lemon juice,  you are going to add one 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 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.

Sour Cream Buttermilk Substitute

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 buttermilk substitute using sour cream, combing 3-4 tablespoons of regular milk plus enough sour cream to equal one 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 Buttermilk Substitute

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 a buttermilk substitute using white vinegar, 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!

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 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

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.

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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 recipes will all work just fine with any of the main homemade buttermilk methods I’ve outlined above.

Check out some of these favorite recipes, or browse the recipe index archives for even more great recipe ideas:

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?

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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 lemon juice or white vinegar into a 2 cup glass measuring cup.
  2. Add the whole milk, pouring until the total amount of liquid (the milk plus the lemon juice or vinegar) equals one cup. This will be slightly less than 1 cup of milk, or a "scant" one cup.
  3. Let the lemon juice or white vinegar and 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. 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.

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