This easy Buttermilk Substitute requires just two ingredients and comes together in seconds. No more running to the store in the middle of baking your favorite recipes! Recipe includes a how-to video.
Quick & Easy Buttermilk Substitute
Have you ever been in the middle of prepping what will be a beautiful batch of waffles or pancakes and BAM–you realize you need buttermilk?! I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep a bottle in my fridge at all times, so when this happens, I’m left with two options: get in the car and drive to the store, or just make this easy buttermilk substitute. The choice is really an no-brainer.
While real, cultured buttermilk is honestly better than any substitute and will always yield the best taste, texture and flavor, when you’re in a pinch a substitute is better than nothing at all (and better than just regular milk–more on that below!) This “recipe” I’m sharing today is extremely simple and uses ingredients that, unlike the real thing, are almost always already in your kitchen.
What does buttermilk do?
- Imparts a rich, slightly tangy flavor.
- Can be a major factor in creating texture and rise (as you can see in my tall, fluffy banana muffins).
- Adds moisture, much like sour cream.
What You Need
This quick and easy buttermilk substitute is incredibly simple, and my hope is that you have what you need at home already. Here’s what you need:
- Lemon juice OR vinegar. Fresh or bottled lemon juice OR distilled white vinegar will work equally well. Whichever you choose, this ingredient is the acid that will change your milk into buttermilk. Having trouble deciding between the two? Don’t think too much about it–you really won’t taste either ingredient in your end result, so just use whatever you have on hand!
- Milk. If you’ve ever used store-bought buttermilk, then you know it’s pretty thick. To get this quick and easy substitute as close to the consistency of the real thing, I recommend using whole milk or even heavy cream. If all you have on hand is 2% milk, that will work–thinner buttermilk is still better than nothing. And yes, non-dairy milks work just fine too!
SAM’S TIP: While I haven’t tried these myself, here are a few other substitutes that should work well for replacing one cup of buttermilk: 1 cup of plain yogurt; ¾ cup sour cream (or full fat Greek yogurt) + ¼ cup water or milk; 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar + 1 cup milk; or buttermilk powder (follow package instructions).
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make My Easy Buttermilk Substitute
- Add one tablespoon of either vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup.
- Add milk until you reach 1 cup of liquid.
- Stir together. The mixture may curdle; do not stress if this happens–this is a good thing!
- Use as needed.
SAM’S TIP: Many buttermilk substitute recipes suggest you let the milk mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before using. This actually isn’t necessary, because once the milk and acid are combined, the acidification happens instantly! If you still feel better letting the mixture sit, you can just prepare your buttermilk substitute at the beginning of your recipe.
Today’s recipe is for a full cup of buttermilk and can easily be doubled. Here is a breakdown for recipes that require less than a cup of buttermilk:
- ¾ cup buttermilk = 2 ¼ teaspoons lemon juice/vinegar + milk to fill to ¾-cup line
- ⅔ cup buttermilk = 2 teaspoons lemon juice/vinegar + milk to fill to ⅔-cup line
- ½ cup buttermilk = 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice/vinegar + milk to fill to ½-cup line
- ¼ cup buttermilk = ¾ teaspoon lemon juice/vinegar + milk to fill to ¼ cup line
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Buttermilk is acidic, and any recipe that has been created using it is typically designed to have a specific reaction between the buttermilk (acid) and the leavening agents (usually baking soda). Note: sometimes I do use buttermilk without baking soda, like in my coffee cake and vanilla cake. In these instances it is to enhance the moisture and flavor of the recipe.
Regular milk isn’t acidic, which means the reaction won’t take place. Your baked goods may not rise properly and can turn out drier, less flavorful, and less tender if you use plain milk where buttermilk is called for.
Yes! You can use the ratio mentioned above with non-dairy milks, and you’ll still be left with a fantastic buttermilk substitute! I rarely bake with these milks, but this is a good vegan buttermilk substitute if you need one.
It should hold up about a week in a sealed container in your refrigerator. However, I recommend just making it as needed rather than making it in bulk in advance.
Generally I would not recommend it. While some recipes will fare well with this substitution (I often make my biscuits with buttermilk instead of the whole milk indicated), not all recipes will be as forgiving and it is best to use the type of milk called for.
I know that this isn’t new information to many seasoned bakers, but I’m hoping that it will help someone out in a pinch.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
How to Make Buttermilk Substitute
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh or bottled) may substitute 1 Tablespoon white distilled vinegar
- 1 scant cup* milk
- Pour one Tablespoon of lemon juice (or one tablespoon of vinegar) into a liquid measuring cup.
- Add milk until liquid reaches the 1-cup line (at eye level).
- Stir. The milk will thicken a little and may appear to be slightly curdled or chunky.
- Use buttermilk in your recipe as instructed (note that this recipe yields a cup, please use only the amount called for in your recipe).
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Thanks for sharing! I’ve noticed when i make buttermilk as soon as it’s all mixed in, it becomes thicker (like buttermilk you buy at the store) however when it sits out for a longer time, it becomes watery with large chunks at the bottom. Is that normal? and is it still okay to use? I’ve always just discarded it and made it again
Hi Lillian! That is a normal reaction. I typically try to use it pretty quickly after preparing to avoid this issue. It’s actually the way you start to make cottage cheese. I hope this helps. 🙂
I have recipes like my grandmother’s and mom’s banana bread that simply call for “soured milk” which is made by the process you describe. That aside, my main question is can I just dilute some plain yogurt with milk and get the same acidity? I like the thickness of store-bought buttermilk, and just acid and milk mixed together doesn’t do it for me. I use yogurt and milk in “buttermilk” pancakes a lot rather than buying a quart or more of buttermilk.
Hmm that’s interesting. It could work, but I’d have to do a little bit of research to know whether or not it would work well.
Do I have to use whole milk to make buttermilk or can it be skim
Hi Jesse! Skim milk should work. Just remember you will have less fat in your recipe. 🙂
Hi!! Can I do this substitute with cream / whipped cream and vinegar or lemon instead of just milk?
I know it might be an annoying question, I just don’t have regular milk handy but will go to the market if it’s not the best option:)
Are you referring to heavy cream here? If so I believe that should work as a substitute for the milk. 🙂
could i use whole milk to make this?
Hi Leslie! That is what I recommend using. 🙂
Can I use Half and Half + lemon juice to make faux buttermilk? Thanks!
Sugar Spun Run
Hi, Margot! Yes, that will be fine. 🙂
My recipe calls for 1 1/4 cup of buttermilk, how much vinegar or lime juice should I add to the milk?
Hi Lola! I would use 1 TBSP + 3/4 teaspoon of vinegar. 🙂
Can I use lime juice rather than lemon? Also, if using 2% milk should I make up for the lost fat in another way.
Hi Helen! The lime juice should work just fine. The 2% milk will work but your final baked good may not be quite as moist and flavorful, without playing with the recipe it would be tough to tell what other alterations would need to be made. It should still turn out and be tasty though. 🙂
Can I use powdered milk in place of a whole milk
If you hydrate it that should be fine
I’m planning to bake Chocolate cake but i only have fresh milk on hand.
Is it okay to use fresh milk for buttermilk substitution?
By the way, thanks for the recipe.
Hi Joy! I think that should work just fine. 🙂
Hi Sam, do you think using 2% lactose free milk would be okay? Or will it completely mess up the recipe I’m using it for? Thanks!
Hi Sadie! I have never tried it, but I think it should work here. 🙂
I was wondering if I could use skim milk for this substitution would it still work the same?
Hi Gloria! I haven’t tried it but it could work. It’s definitely worth a shot. You will be losing a lot of fat in whatever recipe you use it in though, so just be careful. 🙂
I wanted to doctor a red velvet box cake and I wanted to try buttermilk as a substitute for water. Because I only trust Sam’s recipes for anything I used her buttermilk recipe in my cake mix. Just sampled the cake and it’s wonderful. I was worried about the cake having a vinegar taste but it didn’t. 5 stars. Keep up the great work Samantha!!!
I am so glad you enjoyed it so much, Rachel! I actually have a red velvet cake coming next week, so stay tuned! 🙂
Hi! Can I keep it in the fridge for later use ? Or do I have to use it right away ?i made some for waffles and I think it’ll be too much for us right now 😊
Hi Zunaira! It should be fine to save, I would cover it though and stir again before using. Don’t be alarmed if it’s curdled, that’s fine 🙂
Hi, I wanted to know: in my house, I don’t have lemon juice, but I do have crystallized lemon packets. Would those be okay to use for this?
Hmm, I’m not sure, I’m not familiar with those. Do you have vinegar? I would recommend that instead.
Hmm, not sure if I have vinegar. Oh well.
I used 1% milk and put 2 tbsp of lemon juice. After I put 1 tbsp of lemon juice it never curdled. I added another tablespoon and am waiting for the results. It doesn’t look like any curdling is happening? Is this normal?
Sometimes you just can’t quite see the curdling but I definitely wouldn’t be adding the second tablespoon of lemon juice.
Can I use 2% milk instead of Whole milk. Would it be the same measurements then?
1tbsp is lemon juice, and scant cup of milk (2%)?
Hi Kalen! Yes you can use 2% milk, just be aware that you will be losing some of the fat from the milk and that may ultimately impact your recipe. 🙂