How to Make Buttermilk

Save yourself the emergency trip to the supermarket—here's how to make buttermilk with vinegar or lemon.

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If you’re a newbie to the kitchen, you might not know just how essential buttermilk can be. Even some seasoned pros can underestimate its importance! And while we love how delicious it makes our bakes, we’ve definitely run into recipes that need buttermilk and realized we don’t have any in the refrigerator.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up the dream of buttermilk pancakes or biscuits when I found myself short of this ingredient. As it turns out, it’s actually wildly easy to make homemade buttermilk.

How to Make Buttermilk in a Pinch


  • Milk
  • Vinegar, fresh lemon juice or cream of tartar


For each cup of buttermilk:

  • To make buttermilk with vinegar, a tried and true method, use 1 tablespoon white vinegar, plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.

How to Make Buttermilk with VinegarTMB Studio

  • Use the same method to make buttermilk with lemon juice. Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.

How to Make Buttermilk with LemonTMB Studio

  • To make buttermilk with cream of tartar, the ratios are different. Use 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk.

Are There Other Buttermilk Alternatives?

Yogurt makes a great substitute for buttermilk. Just use 1 cup of yogurt for each 1 cup of buttermilk in your recipe. If using thick yogurt, like Greek yogurt, thin it with some water and measure out a cup.

You can also use powdered buttermilk, such as Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend, which you can find on Amazon or near dry and canned milk in the grocery store.

Tips for Using Homemade Buttermilk

Do I need to use buttermilk?

Yes, it makes a difference in the finished recipe. Buttermilk brings a pleasant tang to cakes, breads, biscuits and other bakes while adding very little fat. Like yogurt and sour cream, this acidic ingredient also helps tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a softer texture and more body. Plus, it helps quick breads rise.

Is buttermilk necessary when baked goods have baking soda?

Baking soda, a leavening agent in many baked goods, requires acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses to activate it. If the baking soda doesn’t properly activate, your light-and-fluffies will be more like dense-and-heavies.

Does buttermilk work in all baked goods?

Buttermilk can be used in almost all baked goods, but keep an eye on other acidic ingredients in your recipe. Especially take note if your recipe calls for baking powder, which already contains an acid to help with leavening. You may want to use regular milk so you don’t end up with a baked good that’s too tangy.

Is there a dairy-free option?

You bet. Combine 3/4 cup plain or vanilla almond milk yogurt, 1/4 cup almond milk and 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before using.

Quick Substitutions for Common Ingredients

Ellie Martin Cliffe
Ellie has spent almost 20 years writing and editing food and lifestyle content for several well-known publishers. As Taste of Home's content director, she leads the team of editors sharing tasty recipes, cooking tips and entertaining ideas. Since joining Taste of Home 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing cookbooks, curating special interest publications, running magazines, starring in cooking and cleaning videos, working with the Community Cooks and even handing out cookies and cocoa at local holiday events. Gluten- and dairy-free since 2017, she’s a staff go-to on allergy-friendly foods that actually taste good. If she's not in her plant-filled office, find Ellie in her family’s urban veggie garden, in the kitchen trying new GF/DF recipes or at a local hockey rink, cheering on her spouse or third grader.