DIY Buttermilk Substitute: 4 Ways


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mid-recipe, and realized that it called for buttermilk that I didn’t have. I’m not the type of gal who enjoys special trips to the grocery store for one item; especially because I know I will end up spending $300 dollars on things that I never meant to buy.

The reason people like to use buttermilk, instead of milk or water, all comes down to the resulting texture and flavor difference. Buttermilk adds a soft, creamy quality to whatever you’re baking. It gives it an extra lift in the oven, as well as a richer flavor. Buttermilk is perfect for moist and tender baked goods.

If you were to use plain milk, the results would be very different. Pancakes, for example, would have a dryer, bready texture, and not have as bold of a flavor. Who would want that?

Buttermilk makes your biscuits rise and taste better, your chicken moist and flavorful, and your crepes soft and dreamy. So when your guests bite into your food, they will be impressed. They will definitely think you spent more time on it than you did, because buttermilk just brings the quality of the recipe to another level with no added effort.

A lot of what I cook is Southern food, which more times than not calls for buttermilk. Blackberry cobbler, buttermilk biscuits, buttermilk fried chicken and my sister’s famous gluten-free buttermilk pancakes. Buttermilk is an essential ingredient, yet somehow, when I am writing my grocery lists, buttermilk never makes an appearance.

My sister always has buttermilk in her house, but most of the time half of the container goes bad before she can use it all up. Of course, there is the option to freeze the leftover buttermilk in ice-cube trays before it expires, and simply thaw to use later. But honestly, life is too crazy for most of us to remember the expiration date of the buttermilk sitting in the fridge.

I still use the ice-cube tray method for preserving my leftover homemade buttermilk, because it is very easy to do. I freeze it as soon as I have measured out the buttermilk I am using though, that way there is no added hastle.

I can even leave the buttermilk frozen if I am going to be making buttermilk biscuits. They will melt just enough to make a dough, but keep the dough very cold, making the end product even flakier.

Luckily, there are four great options for a DIY buttermilk substitute. It is super convenient because you can have buttermilk whenever you need it. Now you can always be able to get that wonderful tenderness in your recipes, even if you have a terrible memory. You can make the exact amount you need for the recipe, so there is none wasted.

Buttermilk Substitute #1


The most common buttermilk substitute is made with milk and either lemon juice or white vinegar. Most people usually have these two ingredients on hand, and this is my go to method. I find that is the most effective way to go.


Combine the two ingredients together.


Let the mixture sit for five to ten minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened and you will see small curdled bits. This substitute will not become as thick as regular buttermilk.

DIY Buttermilk Substitute {Lemon Juice Method}


  • 1 scant cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or white vinegar)


Measure 1 scant cup of milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. It will thicken and curdle a bit. Use as buttermilk.

Buttermilk Substitute #2


The second method uses sour cream and water. This method ends up resembling real buttermilk the most in consistency.


Put the sour cream into a small bowl, and pour in the water.


Whisk it together until all of the water is fully incorporated.

DIY Buttermilk Substitute {Sour Cream Method}


  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup water


Measure ¾ cup of sour cream into a small to medium sized bowl, or a 2 cup liquid measuring cup. Pour in the water, and whisk until it’s smooth and combined. Use as buttermilk.

Buttermilk Substitute #3


The third method involves cream of tartar, which is often used in meringue to help it thicken faster.


Thoroughly whisk one teaspoon of cream of tartar into the milk. Let the mixture sit for several minutes. It should thicken to almost a buttermilk consistency.

DIY Buttermilk Substitute {Cream of Tartar Method}


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar


Thoroughly whisk the cream of tartar in with the milk. Allow to sit at room temperature for several minutes, until the consistency is that of buttermilk. Use as buttermilk.

Buttermilk Substitute #4


The fourth option for a buttermilk substitute consists of greek yogurt and water.


Simply whisk the ingredients together and use in your recipe as you would with real buttermilk.

DIY Buttermilk Substitute {Yogurt Method}


¾ cup greek yogurt

¼ cup water


In a glass bowl, whisk together the greek yogurt and the water until smooth. Use as buttermilk.

Recipe Notes:

  • Storage: If you end up having leftovers, you can freeze it immediately in ice-cube trays so you dont have to worry about remembering to use it. If you plan on using it within a week, you can store it in a mason jar until then.
  • How to use: When a recipe calls for one cup of buttermilk, use one cup of buttermilk substitute.
  • These recipes can be scaled up or down as needed to fit your recipe.
  • Recipes containing buttermilk should be made in non-reactive cookware, such as plastic, ceramic, or glass.

What recipe will you save with a DIY buttermilk substitute?

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