How to Make Buttermilk

filed under: Food + Drink on April 25, 2019

Knowing how to make buttermilk can be a time saver as well as being more friendly on your pocketbook! You can make the exact amount you need for almost any recipe that calls for buttermilk! I tested out 4 different ways to make homemade buttermilk and can’t wait to share my findings with you! (If you scroll all the way to the bottom you can see where I tested these buttermilk recipes on my mile-high Buttermilk Biscuits!)

How to Make Homemade Buttermilk

How to Make Buttermilk at Home

I have been baking for the last 15+ years and I have to tell you, I sure do feel foolish. I have been told time and time again to make homemade buttermilk you use 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. And that will replicate store-bought. I got to thinking… does it?

It all started with a simple taste test. I had some store-bought buttermilk on hand and I made up a cup of milk with vinegar and tasted each. What did I find? It tastes nothing like buttermilk nor does it measure up in texture and appearance. So why have I have making it this way for so long?

I set out to replicate store-bought buttermilk with the same standard ingredients. Milk + an acid. I was surprised to find out that 1 tablespoon is not enough. Two tablespoons were so much better! From this day on, if you ever need to make buttermilk at home, try adding 2 tablespoons of the vinegar or lemon juice.

Why Use Buttermilk in Recipes?

Buttermilk brings a pleasant tang to cakes, bread, and biscuits. It helps tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a softer texture and more body. If baked goods have baking soda, then using buttermilk is a good option. Baking soda is a leavening agent that requires acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses to activate it.

The following variations of homemade buttermilk can be used in most recipes that call for buttermilk.

Homemade Buttermilk with Vinegar

Vinegar Homemade Buttermilk Recipe

This is the classic, one that everyone knows. After testing the standard recipe I changed it up a bit:

1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 tablespoons vinegar

Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.

When I added 2 tablespoons versus 1, the consistency changed from thin milk to a thicker, chunkier (or curdled) version. But the most important reason I made the change was for taste. When I tasted the standard milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar, I could barely detect it was there. When I added TWO tablespoons vinegar, the flavor was much more consistent with tangy store-bought buttermilk.

Simply put, 2 tablespoons of vinegar help to best replicate the thick, creamy, tangy storebought buttermilk.

Lemon Homemade Buttermilk

Lemon Juice Homemade Buttermilk Recipe

Probably the second most popular way to make buttermilk at home is with fresh lemon juice. Same as with the vinegar, I found that 1 tablespoon was not enough in a cup of milk. So, you guessed it, I tested using 2 tablespoons. I also tested using 3 tablespoons and found that it didn’t change the texture too much, but did add a bit of a lemony flavor. If you are making blueberry lemon quick bread or any recipe that would be complemented with a hint of lemon, you can certainly use 3 tablespoons in 1 cup of milk to create lemony homemade buttermilk! But for standard recipes calling for buttermilk, here is the formula.

1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.

I didn’t have any storebought lemon juice on hand so did not test its effectiveness. 

Homemade Buttermilk with Sour Cream

Sour Cream Homemade Buttermilk Recipe

This version of homemade buttermilk is not as common, but it sure is good! I know that I am more likely to have sour cream on hand (every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday dontchaknow) then buttermilk, so this option is a good one. To make sour cream buttermilk you need:

1/2 cup room temperature whole milk + 1/2 cup sour cream

Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.

When it came to replicate the flavor and texture of store-bought buttermilk, this recipe was the clear winner. It is thick. It is creamy. And it is tangy! I tried adding in an additional tablespoon of vinegar and liked that version even better, but my tastes testers thought it was just a bit too much. If you like extra tang, you might want to try adding the additional vinegar too!

Homemade Buttermilk with Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar Buttermilk Recipe

This version of homemade buttermilk was not as familiar to me, and I didn’t have high hopes for it as I started testing. The recipe is simple:

1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.

When you whisk the cream of tartar into the milk it disintegrates quickly leaving you with homemade buttermilk the texture of… milk. After letting this version sit for about 15 minutes, I poured it into a different container and found that the cream of tartar had almost solidified at the bottom of the jar. Make sure that if you use this version to WHISK WELL immediately before use.

Room Temperature Buttermilk

Does the milk temperature matter?

In all the research I did no one mentions whether or not using warm milk or cold milk makes a difference. So I wanted to know, does it?

Homemade Buttermilk

I did a simple test. In one bowl I added 2 tablespoons of vinegar to milk that I had heated in the microwave for 20 seconds. This version was instantly different; curdling and creating a thicker texture.

Homemade Buttermilk Temperature Testing

In the second bowl, I added 2 tablespoons of vinegar to cold milk. The vinegar didn’t seem to have the same effect on texture or thickness.

Conclusion: The warm milk version seemed to accept the acidity of the vinegar better, which makes perfect sense! We adhere to that rule (room temp ingredients) all the time in baking, why not apply it to our homemade buttermilk?

BUT MY TESTING WASN’T DONE THERE!

After doing all of this I wanted to know, does it make a difference in the final product? So, I whipped up a batch of my Buttermilk Biscuits. Well, four batches.

Testing 4 Versions of Homemade Buttermilk in Biscuits

Here is what we discovered:

  • Sour Cream – these biscuits were great, were as tall as they should be, and soft. This was my favorite version of homemade buttermilk as I love buttermilk biscuits to have a golden crust on top and be delicate and sweet inside.
  • Cream of Tartar– this was a surprise, but it really shouldn’t have been! The biscuits were more of a cakey texture. Still tall and delicious, but not as distinguishable in the individual flakey layers. This makes perfect sense! We add cream of tartar to baked goods all the time as it helps cookies and cakes rise as well as produces carbon-dioxide gas bubbles that break gluten apart and make it soft. If you want a biscuit that will melt in your mouth, this is the version to try.
  • Lemon Juice– these biscuits tasted great, were as tall as they should be, and had flakey layers. We saw no difference between these biscuits and the vinegar buttermilk biscuits.
  • Vinegar – these biscuits tasted great, were as tall as they should be, and had flakey layers. We saw no difference between these biscuits and the lemon juice buttermilk biscuits.

Homemade Buttermilk test with Buttermilk Biscuits

In this picture, the order from left to right: sour cream, cream of tartar, lemon juice (I made 5 instead of 6, so it was bigger), and vinegar-based biscuits.

4.67 from 3 votes
homemade buttermilk
Homemade Buttermilk
Prep Time
5 mins
resting time
10 mins
 

Four options for how to replicate buttermilk at home!

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make buttermilk
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Amanda Rettke
Ingredients
Vinegar Buttermilk
  • 1 cup room temperature whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
Lemon Juice Buttermilk
  • 1 cup room temperature whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sour Cream Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup room temperature milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Cream of Tartar Buttermilk
  • 1 cup room temperature whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Instructions
Vinegar Buttermilk
  1. Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.
Lemon Juice Buttermilk
  1. Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.
Sour Cream Buttermilk
  1. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.
Cream of Tartar Buttermilk
  1. Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Recipe Video

Final conclusion?

All four recipes for homemade buttermilk work! Just be sure you try adding TWO tablespoons next time you make the vinegar or lemon juice version. 🙂

And while they all seem to work beautifully, they do seem to produce different results. But not enough that anyone would notice! We were scrutinizing every detail and that’s how we came to our conclusions, but if you were serving any of these to friends and family they would only have one reaction… “that’s a great biscuit!”

Looking for recipes to use Homemade Buttermilk in?

Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Ranch Dressing Recipe

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

Rocky Road Sheet Cake

Buttermilk Scrambled Eggs

Buttermilk Pancakes

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Comments

  • Carla D says:

    Hi Amanda quick question if we don’t use all the butter milk we make can we save it in the refrigerator? If so do you know how long I can store it? Thank you

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Yes, the buttermilk should last the life of the milk, so typically 5-7 days. 🙂

  • Linda Simmons says:

    Thanks for the testing recipes for homemade buttermilk. I had over the years used the 1 tablespoon of vinegar but never tried to see how it tasted. I love buttermilk but don’t always have it on hand. I also remember my mother making a cookie sheet full of biscuits every morning and never got her recipe. I know she used lard and flipped the biscuit cutout in bacon grease. These were very good and always fluffy and delicious. I am always looking for a recipe similar to what I was watching when mom made biscuits. Again, thanks.

  • Maria says:

    Thanks so much for the information and for all your research. So many recipes also call for whole milk and since we only have almond milk at home, I always find myself in a pickle. I can only find low-fat powdered milk and I hesitate to substitute with this. Any suggestions or ideas? Thank you.

  • Sandra Walker says:

    Amanda – I have to use Soy milk in all my baking. Most times there is no significant change in the quality of my baking. But do you know anything that will enhance the use of soy milk as far as the leavening process? Hoping you have an answer.
    sincerely, Sandra Walker

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Hi Sandra- I have not ever used soy milk so unfortunately, I do not know. Apologies!~

  • Anna Y! says:

    Made the sour cream version of this for some biscuits and it was delish! Thank you!!

  • Clarice Hamlin says:

    Can I use 2% milk if I don’t have whole milk?

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Yes, you can.

  • Javaria says:

    Hi actually i make a buns but it was very tasty and soft but weight its very more how to make soft buns and light

  • Estrella Bonilla says:

    Hi Amanda, I just wanted to let you know that I love all your recipes and how you explain and test the ingredients to make such delicious recipes.
    Thank you taking the time to explain how if I don’t have one ingredient I could use another and recipe will come out delicious because there’s been time that going to make a recipe and I don’t have buttermilk, and now I know that I can make my own and do my recipe. Please continue to give us these ideas and showing us that if you don’t have an ingredient you can still do the recipe. Thank you and God bless you and your family ❤️

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Blessing to you as well sweet Estrella!

  • Helen says:

    Hi Amanda. I have used yoghourt and milk to make my buttermilk when I’ve run out. I usually use about two tablespoons of Greek style yoghourt and about half a cup of milk. Sometimes I add more yoghourt, sometimes less. I usually use this in pancakes and they turn out nice and fluffy. You can use water, but it changes the consistency. Also, milk temperature doesn’t matter. I usually use milk straight of the fridge and use the homemade buttermilk straight away. I don’t let it sit.

  • Anne says:

    Can I use 1% milk? Thanks.

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Anne! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. Yes, you can use 1% milk in the recipe, but it may affect other recipes that call for buttermilk. Have a great day!

  • Elle says:

    Can you use 2 % milk?

  • Caroline says:

    Can you use this for marinating chicken for fried chicken or is it only for baking?

  • Sholeh says:

    Hi
    Thanks for sharing your knowldage with us,
    Which of these four type of buttermilk can i use to make homemade cream fraiche ?