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How to Make Buttermilk

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Forgot to buy buttermilk or don’t want to buy a whole carton when you only need a small amount? Learn how to make buttermilk with two simple ingredients!

milk and lemon juice in measuring cup

Did you forget to add buttermilk to your shopping list? Or do you hesitate to buy a container when you only need half a cup for a recipe? You’re not alone and the good news is you can easily make your own. The process of how to make buttermilk is simple. It requires just 2 ingredients, and you’re likely to have both of them in your kitchen already.

What is Buttermilk?

In the old days, buttermilk was the fermented liquid that remained after cream was churned into butter. Now, the buttermilk you buy at the supermarket is regular milk that has active cultures/good bacteria added to it. This creates a chemical reaction that causes the milk to thicken and develop a signature tangy flavor. When added to baking recipes, buttermilk adds a subtle, pleasant tang and also improves tenderness, moisture, and color. Additionally, it reacts with baking soda in baking recipes to make cakes, cupcakes, muffins, pancakes, and biscuits rise.

What You’ll Need To Make Buttermilk

ingredients to make buttermilk

  • Milk (skim, 2%, or whole)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice OR white vinegar (contrary to its name, white vinegar is actually clear)

How To Make Buttermilk

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a measuring cup. Pour milk to the 1-cup line (use this same ratio of lemon juice/vinegar to milk when you need more or less than 1 cup of buttermilk). Stir to combine the liquids.

milk and lemon juice in measuring cup

Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. You’ll begin to see small curdled bits in the mixture; this means it’s ready to add to the recipe. Note that homemade buttermilk is not cultured and thick like store-bought. Even if you don’t see much change in the appearance of the mixture, the acid has been added to your milk and it will work just like real buttermilk in most recipes.

homemade buttermilk

Other useful tips

  • If you need to use dairy-free milk (i.e., almond, soy, or oat milk), that’s fine; you’ll use the same ratio of vinegar/lemon juice to milk and follow the same steps.
  • You can freeze buttermilk for up to 3 months. If you’d like to freeze it in smaller portions, put 1 to 2 tablespoons in an ice cube tray and pop it into the freezer for an hour or so. Once it’s frozen, seal the buttermilk cubes in an airtight container.
  • Given the limited amount of lemon juice/vinegar that you can add to milk without negatively impacting flavor, homemade buttermilk will not get as thick and creamy as store-bought, but it will still behave in the same way when used for baking.

If you need less than 1 cup of buttermilk, here are some helpful ratios:

1/4 cup buttermilk =  ¾ teaspoon lemon juice/vinegar plus 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup buttermilk = 1 teaspoon lemon juice/vinegar plus 1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk = 1½ teaspoons lemon juice/vinegar plus 1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk = 2 teaspoons lemon juice/vinegar plus 2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup buttermilk = 2¼ teaspoons lemon juice/vinegar plus 3/4 cup milk

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Homemade Buttermilk

Forgot to buy buttermilk or don’t want to buy a whole carton when you only need a small amount? Learn how to make buttermilk with two simple ingredients!

Servings: 1 cup
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk, any kind

Instructions

  1. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a measuring cup.
  2. Pour milk to the 1-cup line (use this same ratio of lemon juice/vinegar to milk when you need more or less than 1 cup of buttermilk). Stir to combine the liquids.
  3. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. You’ll begin to see small curdled bits in the mixture; this means it’s ready to add to the recipe. Even if you don’t see much change in the appearance of the mixture, the acid has been added to your milk and will work just like the store-bought version.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • I have powdered buttermilk and I bought to use when baking but it just doesn’t seem to work when prepared using the carton directions. Do you have any success using powdered buttermilk? If so, any tips?

    • — Virginia Tate on August 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Virginia, I’ve never used powdered buttermilk so, unfortunately, I don’t have any wisdom to share — sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is a recipe for soured milk, not buttermilk. You can use it as a substitute for buttermilk in baking, but don’t try to drink it like buttermilk. You will not be happy!

    • — AliceK on June 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thank you for this information! It is very helpful. I have tried to do this before and two things that helped were knowing that the liquid will not be thick as store-bought and to wait ten minutes for it to curdle. I also appreciated the breakdown amounts for when you need less than one cup. I didn’t know you could freeze buttermilk. Awesome information-Have a great day.

    • — Cheryl Skornik on June 2, 2022
    • Reply

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