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Quick and Easy Buttermilk Substitutes

Updated: Jan 22

You have found yourself out of buttermilk or came across your recipe calls for some and you don't have any on hand? We have all been there!

Luckily, making homemade buttermilk is super easy and quick to achieve. Plus, you may even already have ingredients right in your kitchen!

What is Buttermilk?

Traditionally, buttermilk is produced as a by-product of butter churning. As the butter gets churned, the liquid that separates from the butter is buttermilk. Today's buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk, which ends up fermenting it, giving it its final tangy flavor.

The buttermilk flavor and much thicker consistency than milk and is very commonly used to make all sorts of baked goods, including cupcakes and cakes.

What can I use as a Buttermilk substitute?

You'll be surprised to find out that making your own buttermilk is very simple, and there are a few different ways to make it depending on what ingredients you may have on hand. My go-to is either vinegar or lemon juice, as I know I always have either available in our kitchen. Here you can pick the best option for you.

  • Milk and Vinegar

  • Milk and Lemon Juice

  • Milk and Cream of Tartar

  • Milk and Sour Cream or

  • Kefir

How do I make Buttermilk?

The key to a buttermilk substitute is milk (dairy or non-dairy) and an acid. An acid is super important in creating a buttermilk as it will combine with your liquid and create a curdled mixture. In the end, you'll have yourself your own buttermilk that works just as great as the ones in your grocery store.

I recommend using whole or 2% milk. However, if you prefer a different percentage or use strictly soy/non-dairy, this buttermilk hack will still work!

1. Milk and White Vinegar

You may use any type of vinegar here but try to resort to a dull-tasting vinegar such as apple, rice, or distilled. Any high-acidity kinds of vinegar can change the flavor too drastically and cause an unpleasant taste in your final recipe.

For 1 cup (240 ml) of buttermilk, use 1 tbsp (15 ml) of vinegar in a liquid measuring cup, and finish off with your milk until you reach the 1 cup line. Stir to combine and it's ready to use!

If you need 1/2 buttermilk (122 ml), use 1 1/2 (8 ml) tsp of vinegar instead.

I leave my buttermilk mixture out to set before using it since my recipes usually call for room temperature. Although it is not necessary to leave yours to set out if not needed.

2. Milk and Lemon Juice

This is my other go-to choice when it comes to making my own buttermilk, as I always end up having some lemons lying around. However fresh or refrigerated/bottled lemon juice can be used here. The acidity is an important component.

For 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, use 1 tbsp (15 ml) of lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup, and finish off with your milk until you reach the 1 cup line. Stir to combine and it's ready to use.

3. Milk and Cream of Tartar

Not as common of an ingredient, however, if you have this on hand and nothing else, don't worry! It still works, since cream of tartar is an acidic powder and has a neutral flavor, so don't worry about it affecting your overall taste.

For every 1 cup (240 ml) of buttermilk, add 1 3/4 tsp (5 g) of cream of tartar to your dry ingredients, then add your milk of choice separately with your wet ingredients. Due to the clumping nature of adding a dry ingredient to wet, adding it separately will alleviate this issue.

If you need 1/2 cup buttermilk (122 ml), use about 1/2 tsp (2 g) of cream of tartar instead.

4. Milk and Sour Cream or Yogurt

Sour cream and yogurt go through a similar fermentation process that gives them that slight tangy acidity flavor, similar to buttermilk. Although due to both being a thicker consistency, it's important to thin it out with your milk or water before adding it to your recipe.

For 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, use 3/4 cup (171 g) of sour cream or plain yogurt, whisked with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of milk or water until smooth and well combined.

5. Kefir

Kefir, you may or may not have heard of it before, but it does work well to create your own buttermilk! Kefir, believe it or not, is nearly the same as buttermilk, as it is a fermented milk beverage. You'll want to make sure to pick up unflavored kefir.

For 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, use the same amount of kefir, so 1 cup (240 ml) kefir.

Final Thoughts

Buttermilk is a very wide range of ingredient, useful for a deep decadent taste and texture. Even if you don't have buttermilk on hand, it's super simple to create right in your home kitchen using ingredients you probably already have on hand.

So don't worry if you have no buttermilk on hand, test these options in your next recipe and I promise you, you won't be able to tell the difference.

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