If you've been looking for a buttermilk substitute, you can try one of these tried and true methods for making your own buttermilk. Learn how to make buttermilk with the ingredients you have at home!
What is buttermilk
I might be the only one fascinated by this fact, but buttermilk gets its name because it was simply the byproduct of churning butter. If you've never made butter before, you can do so by whipping heavy cream. First, you still get whipped cream, but if you keep whipping, you end up with butter, plus a liquid that separates from the cream. That is the original buttermilk, and how it got its name.
Today, buttermilk is thicker, cultured liquid that is tangy, and even slightly acidic.
Why you need it
If you are wondering why a recipe calls for buttermilk instead of regular milk, it comes down to one of two main reasons:
- Flavor. The tanginess does amazing in baked goods, especially fluffy pancakes or buttery biscuits.
- Leavening. The acidic nature plays well with baking soda to give your baked good just a little bit more rise. That rise and acidity also gives recipes a little more tenderness.
Where to buy
Most well-stocked grocery stores have buttermilk in the dairy aisle. It is usually sold in pints and quarts. Unlike regular milk, buttermilk usually only lasts about two weeks, which means you better have a lot of things you want to use it in before you invest.
In my experience, most recipes only require ½ - 1 cup at a time, and even though I bake often, I rarely ever use up a whole pint before it goes bad. It is easier to just make my own homemade buttermilk when I need it.
How to make buttermilk
Believe it or not, but there are actually three ways to make your own buttermilk, and three additional substitutions you can use. So no matter your personal situation, there is probably a suitable substitution that works for you! Let's dive in.
This is one of the most common methods for making buttermilk at home. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. In a pinch, I've even used white wine vinegar. When you mix the two together, let it rest for five minutes. Here is the ratio you need:
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar = 1 cup buttermilk
Here's the real deal though - you don't need to be 100% accurate with the amount of vinegar you use, just don't go over 1 tablespoon. A lot of times I will use just one capful and that'll be enough.
Milk and lemon juice method
Whenever I have lemons on-hand, this is my favorite method to make buttermilk at home. Lemon juice gives it a very subtle brightness you only get with lemons that I adore. If you don't have lemons, you can also use limes.
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice = 1 cup buttermilk
Store-bought lemon juice works just as well when using this method, so you can use either at your convenience. Again, you don't have to be 100% accurate, just don't go over 1 tablespoon, and give the mixture 5 minutes before you use it.
Using cream of tartar
Believe it or not, but you can use cream of tartar to make buttermilk! I usually only use cream of tartar when I am whipping meringues, so this is a great way to make sure I use up the bottle instead of letting it languish in the back of the cabinet.
1 cup of milk + 2 teaspoons cream of tartar = 1 cup buttermilk
This is one that I recommend being more careful with measuring. Like the above methods, it needs to rest for five minutes before you can use it.
Sour cream as a replacement
Did you know you can use sour cream as a replacement? It needs to be thinned out with milk or water a bit before you can use it, but it has tanginess and acidity, so it is an easy substitution.
¾ cup sour cream + ¼ cup water or milk = 1 cup buttermilk
Yogurt as a replacement
Yogurt is an amazing replacement. It is tangy and delicious. Plus it has the added benefits of probiotics. Just like sour cream, it will need to be diluted. Regular plain yogurt needs the same ratio as sour cream, but Greek yogurt is thicker, so it needs a different ratio.
¾ cup regular plain yogurt + ¼ cup milk or water = 1 cup buttermilk
⅔ cup plain Greek yogurt + ⅓ cup milk or water = 1 cup buttermilk
Kefir as a replacement
Although probably not as common to have around, plain milk kefir makes a great replacement. You can use flavored kefir as long as you want those flavors in your baked good (I'm looking at you, pancakes). What makes it even more amazing is its a straight replacement.
1 cup kefir = 1 cup buttermilk
I don't recommend making extra buttermilk to store for later, but if you do, I recommend freezing it. You can store them in ½ cup portions in airtight containers (I use freezer bags and place them in a gallon freezer bag). It will keep for about 2 months.
Recipes you may like
Let's put that buttermilk to good use! Here are some of my favorite recipes that use it. These banana chocolate chip muffins are so good and tender, and this Irish soda bread wouldn't be the same without it. Buttermilk is essential for my red velvet bundt cake, honey cake, and donut cake. My mermaid cupcakes and lemon blueberry cupcakes have a deliciously tender crumb thanks to this amazing ingredient.
How to Make Buttermilk
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice*
- Mix the milk and lemon juice together in a cup or bowl.
- Allow the mixture to sit for five minutes, then use.