The Best Buttermilk Substitutes to Save Your Recipes

Out of buttermilk? Try our simple buttermilk substitutes that take just minutes to prepare, and you'll be back to baking in no time.

Buttermilk is the go-to thick and creamy dairy staple for adding a rich, tangy flavor to all kinds of sweet and savory recipes. Cultured buttermilk is easily available in all grocery stores these days, but if you happen to be craving fluffy buttermilk biscuits or pancakes and don’t have a jug on hand, not to worry. You can easily learn how to make buttermilk with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen. And if you don’t have the stuff to make your own, our Test Kitchen’s got equally easy and tasty buttermilk substitutes that will have your recipes turning out delicious.

Buttermilk Substitutes

It’s important to know that you can’t simply use regular milk as a buttermilk substitute. This is especially true in baking since buttermilk’s acidity works with the baking soda in the recipe to leaven. Here are some buttermilk replacements when you’re in a pinch.

  • Make your own buttermilk: For each cup of buttermilk, add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid. Stir; let stand 5 minutes before adding to the recipe. This is also called sour milk.
  • Cream of tartar: If you don't have lemon juice or vinegar, you can also make buttermilk by stirring 1¾ tsp. of cream of tartar into 1 cup of regular milk.
  • Yogurt: For each cup of buttermilk, replace with 1 cup of plain yogurt.
  • Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream: Stir together ¾ cup with ¼ cup plain milk to make 1 cup.

Need a vegan buttermilk substitute? Use the step above to make your own buttermilk, only swap it with a nondairy milk beverage such as soy, oat, or almond milk.

biscuits on wire rack with jar of blackberry port jam
Jason Donnelly

What Is Buttermilk?

Back in the day (somewhere in the 18th century), it was simply the remaining fluid after the fat was removed while churning cream into butter—hence, the name buttermilk. Today, the cartons and jugs you find in the dairy case are cultured buttermilk, which is made of low-fat or fat-free milk with added bacterial cultures.

Put your newfound buttermilk substitute to good use by whipping up a tangy pie, fluffy mashed potatoes, or even as a brine for juicy chicken.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles