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When I think of “buttermilk,” I think of big, fluffy, buttery biscuits next to a big plate of fried chicken.
What do you think of? Pancakes? Ranch dressing? Moist quick breads?
There’s something about the word that makes us think “big and fluffy” and “rich and flavorful,” but here’s something you might not have known about buttermilk:
Buttermilk is the liquid by-product that you get when you make butter and if you let the raw milk sit to sour before you make butter, it’s naturally soured and slightly cultured. This slightly cultured beverage contains healthy bacteria that helps keep our digestive system in proper working order (and should be refrigerated once it’s soured, by the way).
But buttermilk is way more than just a substitute for milk in biscuits. It’s like the Swiss-army knife of dairy liquids!
4 Ways to Make Real Buttermilk
- Make cultured butter. The liquid byproduct is cultured buttermilk.
- Buy a starter culture and combine with fresh milk.
- Allow raw milk to sit at room temperature to clabber. Culture and re-culture several batches of milk until the milk thicken dependably and tastes tart, but not bitter.
- Combine 1 Tbsp of store-bought buttermilk per 1 cup of fresh milk and allow to thicken at room temperature.
If you have an affordable source of raw milk, either #1 or #3 will be your most frugal options. For those who do not (including myself), the best route will be #4, and saving some from each batch to re-culture another one.
7 Ways to Make a Buttermilk Substitute
- Add 1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Allow to sit at room temperature until the milk thickens.
- Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. Allow to sit at room temperature until the milk thickens.
- Add 1 3/4 tsp cream of tartar to 1 cup of milk. Allow to sit at room temperature until the milk thickens.
- Combine 3/4 cup plain homemade yogurt with 1/4 cup whole milk.
- Combine 1/2 cup plain homemade Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup whole milk.
- Combine 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/2 cup whole milk.
- Substitute homemade kefir for buttermilk in a one-to-one ration (thinning with whole milk as necessary).
Your most frugal option will depend on what you normally keep in your pantry!
6 Lesser Known Facts and Benefits of Buttermilk
Just in case “because it makes everything taste better” isn’t a good enough reason for you, here are four more reasons to consider using it more often and keeping some in the fridge:
- Buttermilk should be easier to digest for anyone who is lactose intolerant – much of the milk sugar has been broken down into lactic acid.
- Buttermilk’s natural acidity inhibits the growth of bad bacteria, meaning it has a longer shelf life!
- 1 Tbsp buttermilk + 1 pint cream = homemade sour cream
- Let buttermilk sit at room temperature for 1-2 days until the milk has visibly separated from the whey. Strain the whey from the curds using a fine mesh strainer and you have homemade cream cheese.
- If you’re out of baking powder, substitute baking soda and replace the liquids in the recipe with buttermilk.
- Use buttermilk in place of whey, yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice when soaking grains to reduce phytic acid.
10 Recipes that Highlight the Deliciousness of Buttermilk
- Buttermilk Pie – Happy Mothering
- Oat Banana Pancakes (flour and egg-free) – How We Flourish
- Hubby’s Favorite Chocolate Cake – Sorty Crunchy
- Heavenly Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins – Richly Rooted
- Best Buttermilk Pancakes – Richly Rooted
- Buttermilk Biscuits – Richly Rooted
- Chicken Soup & Steamed Dumplings – Keeper of the Kitchen
- Soaked Buttermilk Bread – Kitchen Stewardship
- Top Secret Banana Bread – Common Sense Home
Do you have a favorite buttermilk recipe? Which substitute do you use when you’re out of the good stuff?
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