Best Buttermilk Substitutes

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Everything you need to know about cooking and baking with buttermilk, including how to make your own buttermilk substitute at home.

Creamy, rich and thicker than regular milk, buttermilk can be found in a variety of favorite recipes. It’s the main ingredient in Southern biscuits or fried chicken, and provides a signature flavor to dinner pancakes and red velvet cake. Unfortunately, it’s not an ingredient that many people have on hand, and it’s hard to use the entire carton. Don’t worry! No matter what you plan to do, you’ll find tons of buttermilk alternatives below (including dairy-free options!).

What is Buttermilk?

Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid left over after churning butter. Most grocery stores sell fermented buttermilk, which is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to regular milk. Buttermilk has a tart taste and can be drunk straight or used in cooking and baking.

Where to buy buttermilk:

Buttermilk is usually sold in small cartons or bottles. Find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, near other dairy products like sour cream and heavy cream.

Powdered buttermilk, or powdered buttermilk, is a shelf-stable powder that is mixed with water or milk to make liquid buttermilk. A general ratio to use is 1 part buttermilk powder to 1 part liquid.

How to make homemade buttermilk:

You can also make traditional buttermilk with homemade butter! To make your own butter, you’ll need heavy cream, a glass jar, and some upper body strength. For a quick and easy option, use a stand mixer instead. Process until the cream sets and forms butter. The remaining liquid is buttermilk. To thicken, you need cultured buttermilk.

Can I use milk instead of buttermilk?

Buttermilk reacts with leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder to form carbon dioxide and act as a leavening agent. If your recipe calls for buttermilk and starter, regular milk should not be used instead. Either buy a box or make your own buttermilk substitute at home.

Easy Buttermilk Substitute

If you don’t have buttermilk, or you don’t want to make a trip to the store, you can make your own buttermilk substitute using ingredients you already have on hand! Find exact measurements and instructions in the recipe card below.

  • milk + lemon juice
  • milk + vinegar
  • milk + cream of tartar
  • milk + sour cream or plain greek yogurt

You can also use plain American yogurt in place of buttermilk in many baking recipes. Since it has a nice runny consistency, just measure the amount of buttermilk listed.

Dairy Free Options

You can use any of the first three combinations listed above—lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, or cream of tartar—with your dairy-free milk of choice. Oat milk or soy milk will provide the texture and flavor most similar to cow’s milk, while almond milk may be a little thinner. Remember that soybeans are naturally sweet, so we recommend choosing one of our other savory recipes.

Other varieties work in a pinch, but sometimes coconut and rice milk can be hard to curdle or thicken just right. You may have to experiment to find what works best for you!

Choosing Buttermilk Alternatives

Not all buttermilk substitutes are alike, so you may need to make more choices depending on the type of recipe you’re making. Milk with lemon juice or vinegar works well in almost any recipe, especially bread and pastries. You’re also more likely to have what you need on hand.

When you want that signature rich flavor but need a loose batter or dough, choose the cream of tartar option. It’s also a good choice for creamy sauces so they don’t get too thick. For buttermilk pancakes, fried chicken, or bacon, use one of these sour creams or yogurts.

Buttermilk substitute.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Homemade buttermilk substitute is quick and easy, so we recommend mixing it up as needed. If you happen to use this ingredient a lot, you can store larger batches in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Store the mixture in an airtight jar or container and shake well before each use.

You can also freeze your buttermilk substitute for future use. Add it to a freezer-safe container, leaving room on top for the liquid to expand. For smaller quantities, divide the liquid into ice cube trays and transfer the ice cubes to an airtight container once they have set.

Stores for up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator when ready to use!

related recipes

If you liked this recipe, you might be interested in these popular recipes that use buttermilk:

watch the video below Rachel will walk you through each step of this recipe. Sometimes the visuals help, and we always let you watch our cooking shows.You can find the complete collection of recipes youtube, facebook watch, or our facebook pageor provide a corresponding recipe on our website.

Buttermilk substitute in a glass measuring cup.

Everything you need to know about cooking and baking with buttermilk, including how to make your own buttermilk substitute at home.

raw material

Option 1: Lemon Juice + Milk

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk (or non-dairy alternative milk)

Option 2: white vinegar + milk

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup milk (or non-dairy alternative milk)

Option 3: Cream of Tart + Milk

  • 1 3/4 teaspoon Cream of Tart
  • 1 cup milk (or non-dairy alternative milk)

Option 4: Sour Cream + Milk

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk


Plain yogurt can be a direct substitute for buttermilk.
In options 1 to 3, non-dairy milk can be used instead of regular milk.

The Best Buttermilk Substitutes