How to Make Buttermilk

Save yourself the emergency trip to the supermarket—if a recipe calls for buttermilk, follow this simple technique for making your own with items you already have in your pantry.

Well, dang. The recipe calls for buttermilk and I don’t have any. Is there a substitute for buttermilk in baking? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up the dream of buttermilk pancakes or biscuits when I found myself short just one ingredient: buttermilk. As it turns out, it’s actually wildly easy to make homemade buttermilk. Here’s how:

Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • Why buttermilk? Can’t I just use milk? Buttermilk brings a pleasant tang to cakes, breads, biscuits and other family favorites while adding very little fat. Like yogurt and sour cream, this acidic ingredient also helps tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a softer texture and more body. Plus, it helps quick breads rise.
  • If baked goods have baking soda, use buttermilk. Baking soda, a leavening agent in many baked goods, requires acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses to activate it. If the baking soda doesn’t properly activate, your light-and-fluffies will be more like dense-and-heavies.
  • Does it work in all baked goods? Buttermilk can be used in almost all baked goods, but keep an eye on other acidic ingredients in your recipe. Especially take note if your recipe calls for baking powder, which already contains an acid to help with leavening. You may want to use regular milk so you don’t end up with a baked good that is too tangy.
  • Is there a dairy-free option? You bet. Combine 3/4 cup plain or vanilla almond milk yogurt, 1/4 cup almond milk and 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar. Let stand for 5–10 minutes before using.

Check out these quick substitutions for common ingredients

How to Make Homemade Buttermilk

What you’ll need:

  • Milk
  • Vinegar, fresh lemon juice or cream of tartar
For each cup of buttermilk:
  • To make buttermilk with vinegar, a tried and true method, use 1 tablespoon white vinegar, plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.

  • Use the same method to make buttermilk with lemon juice. Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.

  • To make buttermilk with cream of tartar, the ratios are different. Use 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk.

Two More Buttermilk Alternatives

Yogurt makes a great substitute for buttermilk. Just use 1 cup of yogurt for each 1 cup of buttermilk in your recipe. If using thick yogurt, like Greek yogurt, then thin it with some water and measure out a cup.

Or, try a handy powdered mix, such as Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend, which you can find near dry and canned milk in the grocery store.

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