How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

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Discovering how to make buttermilk substitute is a game-changer in the kitchen, especially when you’re in the middle of a recipe and realize you’re fresh out of real buttermilk!

jar of buttermilk next to sliced lemons with text reading "how to make buttermilk substitute".

Make Your Own Buttermilk Substitute

Buttermilk brings a tangy flavor and tender texture to a wide range of dishes, from buttermilk pancakes and moist chocolate cakes to fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits.

It’s a similar principle to what adding plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, or sour cream does to all kinds of cooking and baking recipes.

When the acid reacts with a leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder, it provides richness and moisture. When we use it to marinate meat, the acid helps to tenderize it. It’s good stuff!

So, when we run out of this essential ingredient, it’s a bummer!

In this guide, I show you a simple way to make DIY buttermilk using everyday kitchen ingredients, so this doesn’t happen again.

Making buttermilk from scratch is as easy as using regular milk and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.

This simple reaction of allowing the acid and milk to sit and curdle, mimics the taste and texture of traditional buttermilk, making it a fantastic option for those unexpected baking moments.

So the next time you want to whip up some buttermilk waffles or chocolate chip buttermilk muffins and you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, there is no need to stop what you’re doing to run to the grocery store!

Ok, but what exactly is buttermilk?

Despite the name, it does not contain any butter. Although, originally, it was a fermented dairy product made from leftover liquid that remained after churning butter. 

These days, in the United States, it is now a commercially produced pasteurized product that has been fortified with bacteria to naturally ferment lactose and produce lactic acid bacteria. There’s a whole science behind it!

While not typically sipped on by itself here in the U.S., it is possible. Many people across the globe enjoy it as a drink on its own.

I just use it in some of my favorite recipes!

Why you’ll love learning How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

It will come in handy – When equipped with this easy substitution, you’ll never worry about running out of buttermilk again!

Simple ingredients – You can confidently create homemade buttermilk with ingredients you probably already have.

Easy to make – For a quick substitute, add lemon juice or white vinegar to the milk, stir it gently, and let it sit. That’s it!

glass bottle of buttermilk.

Equipment you’ll need


Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.

  • Acid – White vinegar or lemon juice are the two common acids, but you can also use cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is measured differently as this acidic ingredient comes in powder form.
  • Milk – Good news, you can honestly use whatever type of milk you want! Dairy or non-dairy milks, whatever you prefer. Skim milk, low-fat milk, whole milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, plain milk, soy milk, you name it. 
glass bottle of buttermilk next to lemons.

How to make Buttermilk from Milk

This easy buttermilk substitute only takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and it makes one full cup of homemade buttermilk that is a great substitute for the real thing.

This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.

  1. Step One: Pour 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or vinegar into a 1-cup measuring cup.
  2. Step Two: Add the milk to fill the cup the rest of the way up to the rim of the 1-cup line. 
  3. Step Three: Gently stir the milk and vinegar (or lemon juice) and set it aside for 5 minutes before using.

What are the Measurements for Each Acid to Make 1 Cup Buttermilk?

  • Lemon Juice – 1 Tablespoon with remaining milk to fill the rim of the 1-cup measuring cup.
  • Vinegar – 1 Tablespoon with remaining milk to fill the rim of the 1-cup measuring cup.
  • Cream of Tartar – 1 3/4 teaspoons and 1 whole cup of milk.

Once it starts to curdle, it’s ready to use! Whether baking quick breads, marinating fried chicken, or making ranch dressing, the combination of acid and dairy creates the most beautiful results!

spoon pouring lemon juice into a cup of milk.

Mistakes to Avoid When Making Buttermilk

Steering clear of common mistakes is important when making the best buttermilk substitute. 

  • One big no-no is rushing the process—give the acid about 5-10 minutes to work its magic for the right consistency and flavor. On the other hand, you don’t want it to curdle for too long. 
  • Also, if using a dairy milk product, opt for regular pasteurized milk instead of ultra-pasteurized milk, as the high heat treatment of the ultra-pasteurized milk can sometimes affect the consistency.
  • When choosing vinegar, avoid strongly flavored types like red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar as they can add an unwanted taste to your dishes. And remember, don’t swap out the recommended vinegar or lemon juice for another acid.
  • Each one has a unique flavor, and using something different might give your final dish an unexpected taste. By avoiding these common slip-ups, you’ll ensure a successful and tasty outcome whenever you whip up your homemade buttermilk substitute!

Tips & Suggestions for Making (and Using!) this Buttermilk Substitute Recipe

  • Getting that slightly curdled look in your milk is normal when making buttermilk. It’s what you want to happen. The acid, whether from lemon juice or vinegar, works with the proteins in the milk to give it that tangy buttermilk flavor used in many delicious recipes.
  • However, you don’t want to let it sit for too long once you see it starting to curdle. While a bit of curdling is good, letting it go too far might make it too thick for some recipes. Stick to the 5-10 minute range, and you’ll get the right texture and flavor for whatever you are cooking.
  • Getting the right amount of buttermilk in your recipes is important for the perfect outcome. Even though it’s a liquid, buttermilk has a thicker consistency than regular milk. When measuring it, use a clear liquid measuring cup with markings and a spout.
  • Before pouring, gently stir the buttermilk to make sure everything’s mixed evenly. If your recipe mentions a specific amount, gently pour the buttermilk into the measuring cup until it reaches that point.
  • Being precise in measuring buttermilk matters, especially when your recipe needs a specific quantity, as it can really affect how your dish turns out in terms of texture and taste.

How to store leftovers

How to store leftovers

You don’t need to worry about an expiration date with this particular recipe because you’re only making enough to use on the spot. However, if you happen to double the recipe or have a bit left over, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge.

How long will buttermilk substitute last in the fridge?

It’ll last you up to 2 weeks!

Can I freeze it?

Sure you can. It freezes well for up to 3 months. Some people like to pour small amounts into ice cube trays. This is a smart way to be able to thaw only what you’re going to use.

spoon lifting buttermilk from a measuring cup.


What if my recipe only calls for 3/4 cup of buttermilk?

Make life simple for yourself and make 1 cup of buttermilk and then just use what you need.

Is there anything that I can use to replace buttermilk completely?

You’ll want to use an acid and dairy. Something like kefir which is a fermented dairy drink, or plain yogurt. If you’re using Greek yogurt, thin it out a bit, as it’s quite thick.

What does buttermilk taste like?

Like slightly sour milk!

Need more ways to use buttermilk? Try these:

Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread

Coleslaw (Cracker Barrel Copycat)

Honey Corn Bread

Lemon Bundt Cake

milk pouring into a measuring cup.
jar of buttermilk next to sliced lemons with text reading "how to make buttermilk substitute".

How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

Melissa Williams | Persnickety Plates
Discovering how to make buttermilk substitute is a game-changer in the kitchen, especially when you're in the middle of a recipe and realize you're fresh out of real buttermilk! |
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine American
Servings 1 Cup
Calories 150 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk


  • Pour the vinegar or lemon juice into a 1 cup measuring cup.
  • Fill the rest of the way up to 1 cup.
  • Gently stir the milk and vinegar (or lemon juice) and set it aside for 5 minutes before using.


The milk will look slightly curdled, that is the point, however don’t let it sit too long to fully curdle.
  • Lemon Juice – 1 Tablespoon with remaining milk to fill the rim of the 1-cup measuring cup.
  • Vinegar – 1 Tablespoon with remaining milk to fill the rim of the 1-cup measuring cup.
  • Cream of Tartar – 1 3/4 teaspoons and 1 whole cup of milk.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 150kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 8gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 93mgPotassium: 381mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 396IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 301mgIron: 0.01mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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