Simple Buttermilk Substitute

substitute for buttermilk

Buttermilk seems to be infamous for never being there when you need it for a recipe. On the flipside, many times when you do buy buttermilk it goes to waste because you don’t use it all before it expires. Buttermilk is one of those products that you don’t really need until you need it. Fortunately, there is a buttermilk substitute that uses common ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen.

Firstly, what is buttermilk? Buttermilk is a mildly sour milk with a slightly thick texture. Buttermilk traditionally was made from the liquid leftovers from the butter churning process. However, in modern times, most buttermilk is made by adding a bacteria or culture called streptococcus to milk. The culture thickens the texture while creating buttermilk’s classic flavor. After the bacteria is added, it sits for several hours on low heat to ferment. Basically, commercially produced buttermilk typically has no butter byproducts despite still having the word butter in its name.

Buttermilk Substitute

As  you probably guessed, to make a buttermilk substitute you need milk and something to sour that milk. Here is the classic substitution method:


  • 1 cup low-fat, reduced-fat, or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar


  • Mix the above two ingredients together. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Congratulations, you have made a substitute for buttermilk.
  • Note that you can reduce the quantity you produce by simply reducing the measurement sizes. For example, to cut the above recipe in half you could mix a 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar with a 1/2 cup of milk. This makes it easy to use only what you need.

Alternative Buttermilk Substitutes

Here are a couple alternative substitutes for buttermilk instead of the ones above. Similarly to the recipe above, you can reduce the ingredient quantities as needed.

Yogurt & Milk


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk or water


  • Mix the ingredients until well combined. You can also use Greek yogurt but you will need to increase to milk to 3/4 cup to account for Greek yogurt’s thickness.

Sour Cream & Water


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Mix the ingredients until the texture is like buttermilk.

Cream of Tartar & Milk


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar


  • Add the cream of tartar to the milk and mix the ingredients until combined. You may need to give it a good mix because the cream of tartar can make the milk lumpy.

Photo Credit: jeffreyw

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