Buttermilk being poured in to a clear glass.
Helpful Tips,  Recipes

How to Make Buttermilk

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Many recipes call for buttermilk, but who uses enough to warrant buying a whole jug? If you’ve ever wondered how to make buttermilk, read on. There are several quick and simple methods for making it yourself and saving time and money.

Now you don’t have to run to the store when you realize your cake calls for buttermilk or you decide to whip up some biscuits with dinner. And you’ll never again have to buy a whole jug when the recipe only calls for a tablespoon or a cup.

Buttermilk biscuits on red towel next to rolling pin.
Buttermilk biscuits. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Why buttermilk is necessary

Buttermilk is required in certain recipes for a few reasons. Without it, certain breads or cakes wouldn’t quite taste right. Here are a few more reasons why buttermilk is necessary:

  • The acidity balances out the sweetness in many recipes and adds a tangy flavor.
  • It produces the gas that makes dough or batter rise by activating baking soda. Without it, breads and cakes would fall flat.
  • Buttermilk helps tenderize gluten, which gives baked goods a softer texture.
  • It helps quick breads rise higher and gives them a lighter texture.
  • Buttermilk can help tenderize meat before frying.
  • It adds tang to condiments like ranch dressing.

When a recipe calls for it, you will notice if it is missing. Making your own will help save money and add flavor and texture to your breads, cakes and other recipes.


Buttermilk can be made using your choice of milk – whole, 2 percent, 1 percent, non-fat or the non-dairy milk you prefer. Here are some of the best ways to make buttermilk in a pinch.


Adding vinegar to milk gives it an acidity that is similar to buttermilk. Pour one tablespoon of white vinegar into a one-cup measuring cup and then add milk until it reaches the one-cup line. Gently stir the mixture and let it sit for approximately five minutes. 

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is also an acid that you can use to make buttermilk. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice to a one-cup measuring cup and pour in milk until it reaches the one-cup line. Stir the mixture gently and let it sit for about five minutes.

“I almost always make my own buttermilk because recipes I use simply don’t require the full quart of buttermilk I have to buy, and I hate for it to go to waste. I use the method where you add one tablespoon of acid to a measuring cup and fill the remainder of the cup with regular milk, then let it stand for five minutes. This works with lemon juice and vinegar perfectly. I then have exactly what I need to make Irish soda bread, buttermilk pancakes, pineapple upside down cake and more.” – Michelle Price Honest and Truly

Half of a lemon sitting in a glass citrus juicer.
Lemon. Photo Credit: Pixabay by Pexels.

Cream of tartar

Cream of tartar is another acidic substance that can be added to milk to create homemade buttermilk. When using cream of tartar, add 1 ¾ teaspoons per cup of milk. Because cream of tartar can clump together in the milk, it can be added with the dry ingredients instead. Add the milk with the liquid ingredients.


Yogurt is tangy and acidic like buttermilk. To use yogurt as a substitute, whisk together ¼ cup milk and ¾ cup yogurt for each cup of buttermilk required. Yogurt can also be substituted cup–for–cup for buttermilk, but since yogurt is thicker, it may affect the consistency of the recipe.

Sour cream

Sour cream is also acidic and tangy. It is best to add some milk because it is thicker than buttermilk. Add ¼ cup milk to ¾ cup sour cream for each cup of buttermilk needed. 

Dairy-free buttermilk

To make dairy-free buttermilk, use the vinegar or lemon juice method above with the non-dairy milk of your choice. Coconut milk, almond milk and cashew milk work best. 

Silken tofu

Combine ¼ cup pureed silken tofu with ½ cup plus three tablespoons of water, one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Blend for about 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy. 

“In a pinch I make buttermilk by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to one cup of milk and letting it stand for five to 10 minutes. This naturally thickens and slightly curdles the milk, making a very satisfactory buttermilk substitute.” – Jessica Haggard, Primal Edge Health

Ways to use buttermilk

Buttermilk is required in many recipes and can add unique flavor to some of your favorite dishes. Here are a few different ways you can use buttermilk to jazz up your cooking and baking.

  • Add buttermilk to mashed potatoes to give them tang and add a different taste.
  • Use it to make ranch dressing for a charcuterie board.
  • Add it to your coffee in place of milk or half-and-half. Use a small amount at first to make sure you like the flavor.
  • Use in smoothies for a boost of protein and some extra flavor. 
  • Make a marinade for chicken with a few spices of your choice and cook in the air fryer.

No matter which way you make buttermilk, it will hopefully save you an extra trip to the store so you have more time to bake and create in the kitchen. The next time you need buttermilk, choose one of the methods above and get baking. 

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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