How to Make Buttermilk

by Alice Currah on March 6, 2013


People who have never lived in Seattle have no clue just how real seasonal affective disorder really is.  The constant rain and grey skies doesn’t exactly motivate people, including myself, to do much outdoors.  Instead, the gloomy weather begs for us to stay indoors and remain comfortable sipping on our endless cups of coffee.  This probably explains why Starbucks was founded here and our obsession with all things coffee.

I also believe there is a direct correlation with the weather and the foods we prepare and eat.  When it’s so wet and miserable outside, spontaneous baking becomes my go-to therapy to fight the grey away.  But today I found myself suffering the consequences of not having what I needed to bake. #Fail.

I wanted to bake bread with buttermilk as a main ingredient, but already knowing I didn’t have buttermilk, I thought I would go to my trusty tangy substitute, sour cream.  #Fail again.  I never have buttermilk on hand unless I have a recipe in mind I know I need to buy it for.  But how could I be out of a Costco sized tub of sour cream?  This baffles me.  Oh well.  When life gives you no buttermilk or sour cream, make your own buttermilk substitute.

Thank goodness I always have lemons, vinegar, and milk on hand.  Not that you need all three but if you have milk and either a lemon or vinegar in your pantry, a tangy “buttermilk” can be made in about 5-10 minutes.

By adding a tablespoon (I like to add 1.5 tablespoons) of either lemon juice or white(or cider) vinegar to a cup of milk minus a tablespoon, you add enough acidity to it that it starts to slightly transform into a tangy curdled milk – exactly what we want.  Some recipes call for waiting 5 minutes, but this is when I would encourage you to check your buttermilk after 5 minutes.  If it looks slightly curdled, then yes, you have achieved what you needed the milk to do.  However, if it doesn’t look slightly curdled (like what it looks like when milk or cream goes bad), wait a few more minutes.  Another tip I would add is to taste the milk.  What you are looking for as far as taste is concerned is a noticeable tang to the milk.  If after stirring the milk and tasting it the tanginess is faint, add another teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait 2 minutes.

Happy Baking!

How to Make Buttermilk
Recipe type: Basic Substitute
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
An easy way to make a buttermilk substitute for your baking needs.
  • ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white vinegar (cider vinegar works,too)
  1. Add the milk and lemon juice together and stir.
  2. Allow the milk to rest for at least 5 minutes but no longer than 10 minutes.
  3. When the milk is slightly curdled, the buttermilk is ready to use.
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ry March 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm

…And then use that in your next batch of pancakes. Bliss.


Alice Currah March 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Buttermilk pancakes pretty much equal my idea of a perfect morning.


The Dutch Girl March 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Having lived in Seattle, well Olympia which is even wetter!, I know what you mean. I am in Wisconsin now and have replaced the rain with snow. Somehow that is not nearly as bad, although I must admit I am ready for the snow to go away.

Thanks for the buttermilk tip. I too run out of the stuff at inconvenient times.


Alice Currah March 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Although I would not want to live with constant snow, it sure is beautiful when we do get it.


Jeff @ Cheeseburger March 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm

This is an excellent guide. I’ve always wanted learn how to make buttermilk but just didn’t have time to and simply didn’t know how. I guess this is a good time to get to it. This is perfect since I’m planning to have pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.


nags March 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm

should the milk be at room temperature?


Alice Currah March 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Hi Nags,
Yes, room temp. What I like to do is make the buttermilk first before starting the recipe I need to use it for. This way it’s ready when I start baking and it doesn’t disrupt my cooking flow.


My Kitchen Stories March 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Ha I always just did this when I wanted some buttermilk for baking and kept it secret like I was cheating. Well apparently I wasn’t, great pics girl. I dont think I could survive that kind of weather


minims March 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm

may I substitute milk gone bad?


Alice Currah March 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Hi Mini- No, you can’t. The acidity the lemon and vinegar reaction brings to the milk is different than rancid milk. Hope this helps.


Kara March 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I just popped cornbread into the oven to accompany dinner. It called for buttermilk! You’re a life saver! Thanks, Alice!


Alice Currah March 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Glad it worked for you!


emma September 13, 2013 at 5:58 am

when you add vinnegar, the milk should be in room temp or hot? thnx


Carmen aka keenpetite October 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Found recipe for cornbread needs buttermilk (none in frig, grocery shopping tomorrow) decided to make buttermilk as recipe say)adding blueberries to it, delish.
Appreciate great recipes & hints.
Carmen aka keenpetitee


Alice Currah October 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for stopping by Carmen!


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