How to Make a Buttermilk Substitute

Buttermilk Substitute
Buttermilk Substitute. The Picture Pantry/Alloy/Getty Images

Making a recipe that calls for buttermilk? If you don't have any on hand, you're trying to avoid buying some because you only need a small amount or you're searching for a dairy-free alternative, one of these substitutes can be used in its place. 


  • Milk (just under one cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice


  1. Place a Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.
  1. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.
  2. Let the mixture stand for 5-10 minutes, so the milk has a chance to thicken and curdle. Then, use as much as your recipe calls for. This works with non-dairy milks, too. So, if you only have soy milk or almond milk in the fridge, that's fine. But you'll want to stick to an unflavored variety.

Other Buttermilk Substitutes

Yogurt: Thin plain yogurt with milk or water to achieve the consistency of buttermilk. 3/4 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup water usually works well.

Sour Cream: Combine sour cream and either milk or water to create a buttermilk consistency. 3/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup water should do the trick.

Cream of Tartar: Add 1-3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to a cup of milk, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. This will thicken and curdle just like the substitute made with vinegar or lemon juice.

Kefir: Replace the buttermilk called for in your recipe with an equal amount of kefir.

Since it contains lactic acid, just like buttermilk, it'll do the same job.

Why These Buttermilk Substitutes Work

These substitutes create a good flavor approximation of buttermilk, but they do a lot more than that. Whenever you see buttermilk called for in a pancake, quick bread or batter recipe, it's there to act as the acid in the recipe.

When the acid in the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda in the recipe it leavens the batter or dough, allowing it to rise without the addition of yeast, and makes your baked goods light and fluffy. That's why so many pancake recipes include buttermilk. All of the buttermilk substitutes outlined above include an acid to perform this important function in your recipe.

Make Your Own Buttermilk

Have heavy cream in the fridge? If so, you have everything you need to make real buttermilk. Just know that this will give you traditional buttermilk, and not the cultured buttermilk that is sold in stores. It doesn't have the same acid content, so it shouldn't be used to leaven baked goods.

Never Run Out of Buttermilk Again

If you never seem to have buttermilk when you need it, or you buy a bottle for a recipe and it goes bad before you ever find another use for it, consider switching to powdered buttermilk. Similar to powdered milk, it can be reconstituted whenever you need it and in whatever quantity you need. Saco is the most common brand. Look for it near the powdered milk at the grocery store, or order it online.

Buy Powdered Buttermilk on Amazon

Before You Go ...

Bookmark or pin my ingredient substitutions list, so you'll have it the next time you get stuck on a recipe.