Your go-to guide on how to make buttermilk is here – from authentic homemade versions to quick and easy buttermilk substitutes that deliver fluff and tang to your favorite recipes!
When I think of “buttermilk,” I think of big, fluffy, buttery biscuits next to a big plate of fried chicken.
There’s something about the word that makes us think “big and fluffy” and “rich and flavorful,” but here’s something you might not know:
What is 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 it’s is way more than just a substitute for milk in biscuits. It’s like the Swiss-army knife of dairy liquids!
Here is why I LOVE buttermilk:
- Great flavor
- Multiple ways to make it
- Easier to digest
- There are lots of great substitute methods
4 Ways to Make 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.
Note: 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 Buttermilk Substitutes
- 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.
- Combine 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and 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.
- Mix 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 ratio (thinning with whole milk as necessary).
Your most frugal option will depend on what you normally keep in your pantry!
6 Benefits and Uses
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 buttermilk more often and keep some in the fridge:
- It should be easier to digest for anyone who is lactose intolerant – much of the milk sugar has been broken down into lactic acid.
- The 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 it 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.
How do you make buttermilk from regular milk?
If you have access to raw milk, you can use a starter culture and combine with real milk. If you don’t have access to raw milk, you can combine 1 Tbsp of store-bought buttermilk per 1 cup of fresh milk and allow it to thicken at room temperature.
What can I use if I don’t have buttermilk?
There are multiple ways to make substitutes that are listed above. A substitute can be made using vinegar, lemon juice, cream of tarter, yogurt, sour cream, or kefir in combination with milk.
How much vinegar do I add to milk to make buttermilk?
To make a substitute using vinegar, follow a 1 Tbsp vinegar to 1 cup milk ratio. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Recipes Using Fresh Buttermilk
Looking for the perfect recipe to try out your buttermilk? Check out these!
- Potato Buttermilk Bread
- 21 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes
- Almond Crusted Baked Chicken (sub in buttermilk for milk)
- Homemade Ranch Dressing