How To Make Buttermilk
Learn how to make buttermilk with this easy tutorial. You only need two ingredients and about 10 minutes to make this simple substitute!
What is Buttermilk?
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a baking basics post and I figured it was about time to add another one to the collection. One of the most common questions I’ve been receiving lately is for buttermilk substitutes.
Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid that’s left in a churn after making homemade butter. It’s naturally non-fat and rich in cultures, and it stays fresh longer than regular milk. Nowadays, buttermilk is made by inoculating regular milk with cultures. The stuff you get at the store is quite thick and tangy, but it’s so simple to make at home too!
I love to use buttermilk in baked goods because it creates a tender crumb and also helps add moisture. However, it isn’t always something that people keep on hand. Plus, no one really loves to make an extra trip to the grocery store for one ingredient in a recipe.
So today I’m showing you exactly how to make homemade buttermilk with just two simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand. This is a great recipe to keep for when you need some in a pinch!
What You’ll Need For This Recipe
As promised, you can easily make your own buttermilk using just two basic ingredients. Here’s what we’ll be using:
Lemon juice or vinegar: You can use either freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar in this recipe. Any type of vinegar will work, so long as it’s fairly neutral in flavor (i.e. white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.). However, I prefer using white vinegar when possible.
Milk: You can use any kind of milk that you prefer for this recipe. Skim, 2%, whole, or even almond milk all work great!
How to Make Buttermilk
For this DIY buttermilk recipe, you’ll need some milk and an acid. You can use any kind of milk, I typically use whole milk because it’s what I usually have on hand. For the acid, I usually use fresh lemon juice, but you can also use distilled white vinegar.
You’ll start by adding 1 tablespoon of either fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar into a measuring cup.
Once you’ve added the acid, pour in 1 scant cup (just under 1 cup) of milk. In other words, you’ll pour the milk into the measuring cup until it reaches the 1 cup line. Then, stir the mixture together well and set it aside for about 5 to 10 minutes before using it in your recipe. The mixture should look a little curdled, that’s when you know it’s ready.
Side note: I use these OXO angled measuring cups and love them! You don’t have to worry about getting to eye level with the measuring cup to make sure you have the right amount.
What does buttermilk do in baking?
It helps to create tender baked goods and keeps them moist. It’s also acidic. So if your recipe calls for baking soda, it will react with the baking soda to help your baked goods rise.
Can you make it without dairy?
Yes, you can use non-dairy milk such as almond milk in this recipe.
How long does it last?
Store-bought buttermilk lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge, but the homemade version has a shorter shelf life. I recommend enjoying this within 3 to 4 days of making it, just to be on the safe side.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, but this is best used the same day you make it.
Different Ways To Use It:
You can use this in any of these delicious recipes!
How To Make Buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
- 1 scant cup (225 ml) milk
- Pour the lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup. Then, pour in the milk until it reaches the 1 cup line.
- Stir the mixture well, then set aside for 5-10 minutes before using in your recipe.
THANK YOU FOR THIS RECIPE. I NEVER THOUGHT IT WAS THAT SIMPLE TO MAKE. BECAUSE YOU ONLY USE ONE CUP AT A TIME OR LESS I FIND THAT I AM HAVING TO THROW AWAY THE REST. I ALSO USE IT AS A MARINADE FOR MY SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN. YUM!
hugs and blessings
So glad you found the post helpful, Louise!
Thank you for another great solution in baking. I just started to read your hints , suggestions, and recipes. I find them educational, easy to use, money saving and time saving. Oh, and delicious.
Thank you, Terrie! So glad you’re finding them helpful!
Excellent , easy to understand directions !
Hi, thanks for the recipe, I will be able to use it for baking at home..! I just wanted to know, before adding milk, does it have to be at room temperature or warm or cold?
It’s not necessary for the milk to be at room temperature, you can add it when it’s cold.
I have buttermilk on hand 99% of the time guess that goes to my heritage, being born and living a very large portion of my life in the state of Georgia, I did know about the acid mix though no matter how well you plan there are times that buttermilk is needed and not on hand. I enjoy your posts and have used several recipes that you have shared and find them excellent. So thanks for sharing. ET
I typically keep some on hand too, but every now and then when I run out this works great! Glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Edna!
I tried making buttermilk by adding lemon juice to milk but I discovered that lactose free milk did not curdle, no matter how much acid I added.
Hi, Sadie! Have you tried using almond milk?
Uh oh..,I didn’t know it was supposed to curdle. I used lactose free milk. Is 1/2 cup going to ruin my banana bread?
Hi, Toni. It depends on the recipe, but it should probably be okay because you still had the acidity from the lemon juice/vinegar.
Hi i wanted to know for how long we can store buttermilk in the fridge
Can I prepare it now if I’m using it tomorrow?
That would be fine! It should keep for a few days, just make sure to stir well before using it.
Not only is this recipe right on the mark, in terms of accuracy (the end result IS delicious buttermilk!); but also a great money saver!
I have made a lifestyle change that includes making everything I can from raw ingredients. No cans, boxes, premades, never with preservatives, etc. I have actually lost a bet of 110lbs in the process!?. Yay me. Anyway, I have a whole Pinterest category of “Dairy from Scratch” and making buttermilk is a proud part of that list.
The savings I spoke of… Think how much the grocery store charges for the tiny container of buttermilk you purchase. Then think of how much it would cost to if you replaced most of the buttermilk contents with milk and just a bit of white vinegar or lemon juice, and what the cost of those ingredients would be? Far less! Always is. With this recipe for buttermilk, for homemade feta cheese, cream cheese, marscapone… I could go on! For now… Kudos for this recipe for homemade buttermilk!
Can you make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge? Or is it a ‘make and use” recipe?
Yes! It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
Hi Danielle, When I do my mise en place I make sure I have a lemon on hand to make my own. Since usually I only need a little bit if I buy it I feel obligated to make more things to not waste it. I have been using many of the recipes you send out, thank you for the ideas.
So glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Ray!
In the baking department there is a 12oz can of cultured buttermilk powder. Easy instruction to make and once opened it keeps forever.
Hello. Thank you for this easy tutorial. I’m glad I don’t have to buy an entire half gallon of expensive buttermilk in the store. I only need 1/2 cup so can I cut the recipe by 50%? Will that make any difference in the product outcome? I don’t want to waste any if I make the full cup.
Yes, it’s fine to cut this recipe in half to make 1/2 cup!
I love how thorough you are on the directions! Can I use bottle lemon juice? I never have lemons..thank you
Yes, that’s fine!
I love this! I volunteer at a ranch where we make butter from whipping cream. I have taken the buttermilk which is left over and made quick breads, pancakes and biscuits. I agree with you about making things from raw ingredients! I’m out of buttermilk and appreciate this recipe!
IH i was wondering if i could use 200ml of milk and the same amount of the rest ingredients and if not what would the mesuring be?
That would probably be okay.
I’ve also made Buttermilk this way before, living out of town you have to substitute things a bit! Im wanting to make Southern Fried Chicken for dinner this evening do you think it’s safe with the lemon juice/ vinegar buttermilk to marinate the chicken? Ie just thinking of the acid?
I think it would probably be fine! I’ve used actual buttermilk with a little lemon juice added to it to marinate chicken and didn’t have any issues.
Hello, I’m excited to try this since the unopened carton of buttermilk went bad. I’m trying your Irish Soda bread that calls for 1.5 cups. Per other comments I can just calculate for this amount, but since it will be a thinner consistency, how will I know when I’ve added enough and not too much?
Hi, Ellen! Yes, just multiply this recipe by 1.5. For the Irish soda bread recipe, I would start with 1 and 1/4 cups of this buttermilk and then drizzle in a little more as needed.
Can you please describe the look of the homemade buttermilk? Im a novice baker. I was doubtful last week when following similar instructions for a banana bread recipe that I made. I was alarmed by how quickly the lemon and milk seized up and how it kept getting thicker and thicker. I was afraid maybe I’d made it too soon in advance. Very curdled I would call it. It made the banana bread batter kind of funky in appearance but the result was very good when we ate the bread. I would like to embark on this soda bread recipe. I have read here that the lemon and milk can be stored in the fridge so I guess I don’t have to worry about making the buttermilk exactly 15 minutes before using it. This whole baking thing is making me feel like I’m back in the science lab and am about to raise havoc. LOL
Hi, Rick! It should just be slightly curdled and it won’t be quite as thick as actual buttermilk.
I just made banana bread with homemade clabbered milk. It works great and yes it does seize up but let it sit , 10 minutes you get clumps, but it gets smoother about an hour room temperature thicker and thicker is good
What are your thoughts on what I may have done wrong with this recipe, it’s made my vanilla cake that I’ve made in the past with real buttermilk taste like lemon cake?
Hi, Priscilla! Did you let the mixture sit for a few minutes before you used it in the recipe? I’m assuming you use lemon juice too? You could try using vinegar next time you make it and see if that helps.
wondering if this recipe would work if halved? as in 1/2 tablespoon and add milk till it’s half a cup?
Yes, that would be fine!
If I need 1 1/2 cups buttermilk so I add additional vinegar? I no matter how much milk it’s always the same amount of vinegar? Thanks
You’ll increase the amount of vinegar too. For 1 and 1/2 cups just increase the vinegar to 1 and 1/2 tablespoons.
If i only need 1 1/2 tablespoons of buttermilk, how much lemon juice should i use?
I would just mix 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of milk, let it sit for a few minutes, then measure out what you need.
This is really good and worked excellently in my buttermilk biscuits. The only thing I would suggest is mentioning to use a whisk to stir. It makes it more fluffy
I love your recipes and make your chocolate cake a lot. Can I use plain yogurt in place of buttermilk?
It really depends on the recipe. It would more than likely be okay in most baked goods, but it will make the baked good denser if you use yogurt instead of buttermilk.
I have more of dry milk. Can that be used? And how pls
I think that would be fine. I would use the dry milk directions to prepare 1 cup of milk, then add the lemon juice or vinegar.
My mom taught me to make clabbered milk, or buttermilk in the ’60’s when I was a child. She taught me to let it sit out on the counter until it got thick. 10 minutes you get a milk with clumps,but after an hour it’s smooth and thick. Temperatures and humidity may play a part in the time to thicken.
Hi danielle, thanks for the recipe but can i use an apple cider vinegar in place of the distilled white vinegar in case i can’t get
Yes, that’s fine!
Can evaporated milk be used for buttermilk?
Yes, but you will need to add some water to the evaporated milk so it’s similar to milk. You can mix together 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of water to get 1 cup of milk.
Curious as to if this can be used in buttermilk pie?
I haven’t tried it for that, so I’m not quite sure.
Hi thanks for this recipe…..can I make use of evaporated milk or powdered milk mixed with water..
I haven’t tried powdered milk, but evaporated milk mixed with water (to make it more like milk) will work.
My refrigerated store bought buttermilk lasts indefinitely. It continues working well as I only make biscuits once a week, as a rule. How do you know when buttermilk is bad? I wonder if homemade buttermilk, your recipe would last longer also, at least longer than the 3-4 days.
If the buttermilk is very chunky, discolored, or you see mold then it’s no longer good to use. You could probably store my homemade buttermilk a little longer, but for food safety reasons I only recommend 3 to 4 days.