Homemade Buttermilk – The Best Buttermilk Substitute

Making your own buttermilk at home is easier than you might think! Whether you’re out of buttermilk or simply prefer the satisfaction of creating homemade ingredients, I’ve got you covered. With just a few simple ingredients, you can whip up a batch of creamy and tangy buttermilk substitute right in your kitchen.

Overhead view of buttermilk in a white bowl with a hand using a ladle to lift some out.

What Makes This Recipe Great!

  • Reduce Waste: By making your own buttermilk, you can eliminate the need for purchasing plastic cartons from the supermarket. It’s an eco-friendly choice that helps reduce waste and contribute to a more sustainable kitchen.
  • Quick and Easy: With a preparation time of under 15 minutes, making homemade buttermilk is a quick and convenient process. You’ll have fresh buttermilk ready to use in no time.
  • Cost-effective: Making your own buttermilk is not only environmentally friendly but also budget-friendly. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create a batch of buttermilk at a fraction of the cost compared to buying it ready-made. It’s a smart way to save money while enjoying the benefits of homemade goodness.

About This Recipe – In More Detail

Buttermilk is a versatile ingredient used in various recipes, from quick soda bread and tender biscuits to tangy salad dressings and moist cakes. You can even use it to tenderise meats like this buttermilk-marinated chicken burger.

While store-bought buttermilk is readily available, making your own allows you to have a fresh supply on hand whenever you need it. Just like our homemade whole milk ricotta, it isn’t thing you always have to hand when you need it.

To make homemade buttermilk, you’ll need just three simple ingredients: milk and a couple of acidic agents. The acid helps to thicken and sour the milk, giving it that distinct tangy flavour. There are a few different acidic agents you can use, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar. I found the best results come from using a mixture of vinegar and cream of tartar.

The process is straightforward. You’ll start by measuring out the milk and adding the acidic agents. Then, give it a good stir and let the mixture sit at room temperature for a specified period of time. During this time, the acid will react with the milk, causing it to curdle and thicken, resembling the texture and taste of traditional buttermilk.

By making your own buttermilk substitute, you have control over the freshness and quality of the ingredient. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce waste and save money by using ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

A small glass jug of homemade buttermilk is being poured into a white bowl. Surrounding the bowl are some dried flowers, a striped cloth and an old recipe book.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is a versatile ingredient commonly used in culinary and baking applications. It is a fermented liquid that undergoes a unique process to develop its distinct flavour and texture. Traditionally, buttermilk was made by churning butter, resulting in the leftover liquid known as buttermilk. However, modern commercially available buttermilk is typically made by introducing lactic acid bacteria to skimmed milk.

Unlike its name suggests, buttermilk doesn’t contain butter. Instead, it offers a tangy taste with a slightly creamy consistency. This acidity comes from the lactic acid produced during fermentation, giving buttermilk its characteristic flavour profile. Cultured buttermilk, as it is often called, boasts not only culinary versatility but also several potential health benefits.

In Western cuisine, buttermilk is widely used as a baking ingredient, particularly in recipes that require leavening. The acid in buttermilk reacts with baking soda or baking powder, resulting in carbon dioxide bubbles that help baked goods rise. This interaction contributes to tender and moist textures in pancakes, biscuits, cakes, and other delightful treats. Buttermilk’s unique flavour also adds depth to dressings, marinades, and other savoury dishes.

While some individuals may enjoy drinking buttermilk as a refreshing beverage, its true magic lies in its ability to enhance recipes. Its tangy and creamy qualities lend themselves well to a wide range of culinary creations, allowing cooks and bakers to explore countless possibilities in their kitchen.

Equipment Needed To Make Your Own Buttermilk Substitute

  • Bowl: Used to mix the ingredients together.
  • Measuring cup: Used to measure the milk.
  • Measuring spoons: Used to measure the cream of tartar and white vinegar.
  • Whisk or spoon: Used to mix the ingredients and ensure there are no lumps.
  • Airtight container: Used to store the homemade buttermilk in the refrigerator.


An overhead view of the ingredients needed for this recipe, labelled with the names of each one.
  • Full-Fat Milk – I am using full-fat whole milk to give you the results more akin to traditional buttermilk. If you wish to make a low-fat buttermilk, use skimmed milk but increase the vinegar by another teaspoon.
  • Cream of Tartar – This white powdery acidic substance is produced as a by-product during wine fermentation. It can be used in many recipes as a stabiliser, in combination with baking powder as a leavening agent and in this recipe as one of our acidic components to curdle the milk and produce a thick, creamy texture.
  • White Vinegar – This is our second acidic component in this recipe to assist the cream of tartar with its work. You can substitute the vinegar with fresh lemon juice if you’d prefer.

Variations and Substitutions

Make It Low Fat – If you would rather produce a low-fat version of buttermilk, you can. Simply add in an extra 1 tsp of white vinegar.

Substitute the Vinegar – You can use fresh lemon juice instead if required. Or for great results, use citric acid in its place.

Step-By-Step Guide – How To Make Homemade Buttermilk

Step 1: Pour milk and add cream of tartar

  • In a bowl, pour the milk and add the cream of tartar.

Step 2: Add white vinegar

  • Add the white vinegar to the bowl.

Step 3: Mix thoroughly

  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly until no lumps of the powder remain.
A hand is pouring vinegar into milk in a jug.
A hand is using a spoon to stir the buttermilk ingredients together.

Step 4: Let the milk stand

  • Let the milk stand undisturbed at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Step 5: Stir curdled milk

  • The milk will start to curdle. Stir it well before using.

Step 6: Transfer and store

  • Transfer the homemade buttermilk to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.

Note: Mixing cream of tartar and white vinegar with milk creates a homemade buttermilk substitute. Letting the milk stand allows it to curdle and develop the tangy flavour and thick texture of buttermilk. Stirring the curdled milk ensures it is well mixed before using. Finally, transfer the homemade buttermilk to a container and store it in the fridge for future use.

A hand is lifting a spoonful of buttermilk from a blue bowl.

What is Buttermilk Used For?

Buttermilk has long been a valued ingredient in baking, yielding excellent results in a variety of recipes. Whether you’re making pancakes, soda bread, cakes, or biscuits, buttermilk often plays the role of the secret ingredient, imparting tenderness and lightness to your treats.

So, how does it work? Buttermilk’s acidic properties come into play when combined with an alkaline ingredient like bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in a flour-based batter. This combination triggers a chemical reaction, causing carbon dioxide bubbles to form. As the batter or dough bakes, these bubbles expand, resulting in a rise. The heat of the oven then sets the structure, ensuring the baked goods maintain their height and texture. The end result? A stable, yet light and fluffy crumb that’s simply irresistible.

In addition to its leavening prowess, buttermilk offers other benefits as well. It adds moisture to the final product, keeping it moist and preventing dryness. Buttermilk also imparts a subtle richness and a pleasant tangy flavour.

Beyond baking, buttermilk can also be utilised as a meat tenderiser. By marinating various cuts of meat, such as chicken, beef, or pork, in buttermilk for a few hours, you can achieve incredibly tender and juicy results when cooking. The acidity of the buttermilk works its magic, breaking down the proteins and creating a more succulent texture in the meat.

With its versatility and ability to enhance both sweet and savoury dishes, buttermilk proves to be an indispensable ingredient in the kitchen, allowing you to create exceptional culinary delights that are sure to impress.

overhead voew of buttermilk in a white bowl with a spoon resting in it.


How much is 1 cup of buttermilk in grams?

1 cup of buttermilk is equivalent to approximately 225g.

How many millilitres is in 1 cup of buttermilk?

In the UK 1 cup is equivalent to 237ml however a metric cup is slightly different and is equivalent to 250ml

Does Buttermilk Contain Lactose?

Yes it does, being a product that is made from cows milk, buttermilk does contain lactose.

Cultured Buttermilk Vs Buttermilk

You may have come across the terms “buttermilk” and “cultured buttermilk” and wondered about their differences.

Traditional buttermilk was originally a by-product obtained during the process of hand-churning butter. It is the residual liquid that remains after the butter is separated. Traditional buttermilk had a distinctively sweet and rich flavour, with small particles of butter and traces of butterfat suspended in the pale yellow liquid. It was often used in recipes for its nutritional value and flavour enhancement.

However, the buttermilk available in supermarkets today is not the same as traditional buttermilk. Modern buttermilk, often referred to as cultured buttermilk, is produced by introducing specific live lactic-acid bacteria such as Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. These bacteria ferment and multiply in the milk, transforming it into cultured buttermilk. The flavour of modern cultured buttermilk is slightly more sour and lacks the sweetness and richness of traditional buttermilk. It also has a thinner consistency compared to the original version.

In this recipe, we use full-fat milk to create a homemade buttermilk that closely resembles the traditional version. While it may not be exactly the same, using full-fat milk helps achieve a rich and creamy buttermilk with a flavour that’s reminiscent of the original buttermilk, without the need for churning your own butter.

By using full-fat milk, you can enjoy a delicious buttermilk that adds depth and character to your recipes, bringing a touch of nostalgia and culinary tradition to your dishes.

Pro Tips and Guidance

  • Choose the Right Milk: Choose a full-fat milk when making buttermilk as it produces a richer and creamier result. Skimmed or low-fat milk may not yield the desired texture and flavour.

  • Fresh Ingredients: Ensure that the milk you use is fresh and within its expiration date. Fresh milk provides the best base for making buttermilk.

  • Resting Time: After mixing the milk and acidic ingredient, allow the mixture to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. This resting time allows the milk to curdle and develop the characteristic tang of buttermilk.

  • Stir Before Using: Before using the homemade buttermilk, give it a gentle stir to ensure the curds and whey are well combined. This helps achieve a consistent texture and flavour in your recipes.
Overhead photo of buttermilk in a bowl with a small glass jug filled next to it. It is surrounded by decorative items.


  • Storage: Transfer the homemade buttermilk to a clean, airtight container for storage. This helps preserve its freshness and prevent any odours or flavours from being absorbed.
  • Refrigeration: Store the buttermilk in the fridge to maintain its quality and extend its shelf life. The cool temperature helps slow down any bacterial growth.
  • Shelf Life: Homemade buttermilk can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. However, it’s best to use it as soon as possible for freshness and flavour.
  • Freezing: I don’t recommend storing buttermilk in the freezer as the texture will change upon thawing.

Note: The texture and taste of homemade buttermilk may slightly change during storage, but it can still be used in various recipes.

Check Out These Buttermilk Recipes

A loaf of soda bread on a heart-shaped wooden chopping board, surrounded by leaves of fresh parsley

Quick Buttermilk Bread

A quick and easy loaf of bread using buttermilk to assist with leavening the dough.

A hand is holding a finished buttermilk chicken burger next to one that is open and sat on a wooden board. Burger fillings and ingredients are surrounding the burgers.

Buttermilk Chicken Burger

Here, we use buttermilk to tenderise the meat, making for a delicious chicken burger in a brioche bun.

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A small glass jug of homemade buttermilk is being poured into a white bowl. Surrounding the bowl are some dried flowers, a striped cloth and an old recipe book.

Homemade Buttermilk

5 from 7 votes
You might often see buttermilk as an ingredient in many recipes and it isn't always something you have to hand. However, it's actually super easy to make your own buttermilk with only a few ingredients. Today, we show you how.
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Course: ingredient
Cuisine: American, British
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Rest Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 Cup
Calories: 181kcal


  • 250 ml Full-Fat Milk
  • 10 g Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp White Vinegar


  • In a bowl, pour the milk and add the cream of tartar.
  • Add the white vinegar.
  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly until no lumps of the powder remain.
  • Let the milk stand undisturbed at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • The milk will start to curdle. Stir it well before using.
  • Transfer the homemade buttermilk to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.


Recipe Notes

  • You can use low-fat milk as a substitute, but the finished product will be thinner in texture. Add an extra 1 tsp of vinegar if you wish to use low-fat milk. 
  • You can substitute the vinegar for lemon juice if desired. 
  • You can store homemade buttermilk in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 104mg | Potassium: 2039mg | Fiber: 0.02g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 418IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 318mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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