How to Make Buttermilk

Part of my Baking Basicsseries, this article explains a few alternative methods to produce your own buttermilk with just two ingredients, several buttermilk replacements, and how using buttermilk affects baked products!

What is buttermilk?

In a nutshell, it’s a little sour, acidic milk that’s thicker than conventional dairy milk.

Wikipedia provides a more scientific answer:

In the 1920s, cultured buttermilk was commercially launched in the United States. Cultured buttermilk is milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized before being injected with a culture of Lactococcus lactisor Lactobacillus bulgaricusplusLeuconostoc citrovorum to mimic the naturally occurring bacteria in the traditional product.Lactic acid generated by lactose bacteria during fermenting lactose, the major sugar in milk, is chiefly responsible for the acidity of cultured buttermilk.

As the bacteria generate lactic acid, the pH of the milk drops and casein, the major milk protein, precipitates, resulting in curdling or clabbering of the milk. This method thickens buttermilk more than ordinary milk. While both traditional and cultured buttermilk contain lactic acid, traditional buttermilk is less viscous than cultured buttermilk.

Why we use buttermilk

When a recipe asks for buttermilk, it is usually because the recipe also calls for baking soda, and the combination of the two aids in the creation of delicate, light baked products. That applies for both sweet and savory dishes!

The baking soda balances the acidity of the buttermilk and neutralizes the metallic flavor that baking soda might have.

Buttermilk is often used in dishes such as cakes, scones, breads, and biscuits. At the bottom of this page, you’ll find a list of some of my favorite buttermilk recipes!

Oh no, I don’t have buttermilk!

Don’t be alarmed! If you have milk (or non-dairy milk), chances are you also have one of the other components on hand to create your own in a matter of minutes.

Check the kitchen for one of these ingredients:

  • lemon juice
  • white vinegar
  • cream of tartar

How to make your own buttermilk substitute

Fortunately, this procedure could not be simpler. You’ll measure out one of the following quantities of lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar into a measuring cup, then fill it up with milk the rest of the way.

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice + enough milk to reach 1 cup equals 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar + enough milk to reach 1 cup equals 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 4 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1 cup milk 3

Now mix everything together quickly and put it aside for at least 5 minutes before adding it to your recipe.

How to make a dairy free buttermilk substitute

Can’t eat dairy? Not a problem! Simply replace dairy milk with coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk to make a dairy-free buttermilk alternative.

I haven’t tried it with macadamia nut milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, oat milk, or pistachio milk, but if you have and had success, please leave a comment and let me know!

Okay, but what’s powdered buttermilk?

You’ve probably seen powdered buttermilk in the grocery. It will come with instructions on how to use it in your recipe, but normally you will combine a particular quantity with your dry ingredients and then add the right amount of water when the recipe asks for liquid buttermilk.

This requires a bit more time and preparation than just substituting liquid buttermilk, but it works just as well in my experience. Just be sure to check the expiry date on the container since you know how I feel about keeping your cupboard free of expired stuff.

How long does homemade buttermilk last?

It may survive up to two weeks if stored in an airtight container in a very cold portion of your fridge (not the doors, which are the hottest and most often exposed to warmer air).

If you’ve ever wondered where the best and worst locations to keep your baking materials are, this page will provide you with some useful suggestions and information.

How can you tell if buttermilk has gone bad?

You’d think it’d be difficult to detect when buttermilk has gone bad since it’s already thicker, chunkier, and, well, awful!

But what you’re actually looking for is a shift in odor; it’ll be intense and quite nasty. I’ve always despised the phrase “you’ll just know,” yet it’s sort of true!

Also, if it’s making new pals like mold or the color has changed, it’s time to say good-by.

Can I freeze buttermilk?

Absolutely! I usually make just enough buttermilk for each dish when I make it, but if you know you’ll need a lot and won’t eat it up soon (within the next two weeks), you may freeze it in a freezer-safe, airtight container for up to three months.

Pour your buttermilk into ice cube trays for convenient serving! A normal ice cube tray contains roughly 1 ounce of buttermilk in each cavity, so if you required 1 cup of buttermilk for a dish, you would need 8 cubes.

How to thaw frozen buttermilk

Remove the frozen buttermilk from the freezer and store it in the refrigerator the night before you need it.

If you can’t wait that long, you may put the buttermilk in a sealed container or resealable bag and immerse it in a basin of warm water. It will defrost in less than an hour, but you should replace the water as it cools so that it is refilled with warm water.

Recipes that use buttermilk

  • The Perfect Banana Bread
  • Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Blueberry Muffin Bread
  • Chocolate Whoopie Pies
  • Cranberry Vanilla Bean Scones
  • Cupcakes with red wine chocolate filling and blackberry buttercream frosting
  • Rosemary Sea Salt Dinner Rolls
  • Copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits
  • Skillet Cornbread

I hope this was helpful! Is there anything more I should have spoken regarding this topic? Please let me know in the comments section below.

How to Make Buttermilk


Prep Time: 5mins
Total Time: 5mins
Servings: 1cup


This post outlines the different buttermilk substitutes and how you can make your own buttermilk at home with only two ingredients!


  • Measuring cups (glass)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Weck jars (canning)


Pick one:

  • 1tablespoonlemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1tablespoonwhite vinegar
  • 1 teaspooncream of tartar


  • 1scant cupmilk


  • In a measuring cup, combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, white vinegar, or cream of tartar.
  • Fill the measuring cup halfway with milk, up to 1 cup. Give it a brief stir with a tiny whisk or form, then let it aside at room temperature for 5 minutes before using it in your recipe.
    1 cup of milk
  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Dairy free substitute: Swap coconut milk, almond milk or soy milk for dairy milk.Yogurt substitute: For most baked good recipes like cake, you can swap 1 cup plain yogurt for buttermilk.Powdered buttermilk: You can find containers of powdered buttermilk in most stores. It will include instructions on the package to tell you the best way to incorporate it with your recipe, but typically you’ll mix a certain amount in with your dry ingredients and then add the appropriate amount of water when the recipe calls for liquid buttermilk.Storing: Store in an airtight container in the coldest part of your fridge for up to 2 weeks.Freezing: Store it in a freezer-safe, airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. Portion it using an ice cube tray or place in pre-measured bags/containers for easiest use in the future.Thawing frozen buttermilk: Take the frozen buttermilk out of the freezer and place it in the fridge the night before you’re going to need it. If you can’t plan ahead that much, you can also place the buttermilk in a sealed container or resealable bag and place that bag inside a bowl full of warm water. It will thaw out in less than an hour, but you’ll want to switch out the water occasionally as it cools so that it’s replenished with warm water.

More Baking Basics

How to Properly Measure Ingredients

Why Room Temperature Butter is Important

5 Steps You Should Never Skip When Baking

Shelf Life of Common Baking Ingredients


How can I make my own buttermilk?

How to Make Buttermilk in 10 Minutes
Make use of milk: Fill a liquid measuring cup halfway with 1 cup whole or 2% milk.
Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar for every 1 cup of milk.
Ready to go: The acid will gently curdle the milk.

How do you make buttermilk if you don’t have any?

To make buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and then fill the remainder of the measuring cup with milk. Then, carefully whisk the mixture and let aside for 5 minutes. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, lemon juice and cream of tartar work well as buttermilk substitutes.

Can you just use milk instead of buttermilk?

It is not suggested to substitute buttermilk in recipes that call for it with plain milk since the lack of acid will generate a different outcome. However, combining an acidic component with plain milk results in a replacement with qualities similar to buttermilk.

What is original buttermilk made of?

True buttermilk is created from cream rather than milk.

It is the liquid that remains after cream is churned into butter.

What is the closest substitute for buttermilk?

Substitute for buttermilk: whole milk + lemon juice

Concerning this method: Because both components are easily accessible, the combination of whole milk and lemon juice is one of the most frequent buttermilk alternatives.

Is sour milk the same as buttermilk?

Buttermilk is not the same as sour milk.

Buttermilk is either purposely cultivated to have a sour flavor or is a byproduct of butter production. If raw milk sour, it is absolutely safe to drink, and this is how the majority of the world consumes milk. However, if pasteurized milk soured, it was already spoiled.

What does buttermilk do in baking?

Buttermilk is a versatile ingredient that can raise baked products for the fluffiest pancakes, waffles, and biscuits, tenderize chicken and other meats, give sauces rich texture and acidic taste, and shine in delicate sweets like buttermilk panna cotta.

Can I use evaporated milk instead of buttermilk?

When you don’t have buttermilk on hand, this is a perfect substitute to give your dishes the needed tang.

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