Money-Saving Kitchen Tip: How to Make Your Own Buttermilk Substitute

Homemade buttermilk

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to buy an entire quart of buttermilk for just a few tablespoons. With a little know-how, you can make your own buttermilk substitute with ingredients you probably have on hand.

Traditionally buttermilk was the term used to describe the liquid remaining from the production of butter. Today’s buttermilk is cultured, meaning that bacteria has been added. The bacteria turns the lactose sugar present in the milk into lactic acid, which gives the buttermilk it’s acidic flavor. In baking the acid reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas, causing baked goods to rise and giving them their light, airy texture.

Substituting regular milk for buttermilk isn’t a good idea in most recipes because you’ll eliminate the acid needed for proper rising.  Making your own buttermilk is easy – you just need to add a source of acid.

Start with 1 cup of milk and add ONE of the following:

1 tablespoon lemon juice


1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar


1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes before using. Leftover homemade buttermilk can be stored in the refrigerator up to one week, or freeze in smaller batches for easy access.

Check out some of these recipes using buttermilk:

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Peach Buttermilk Ice Cream

Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

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6 thoughts on “Money-Saving Kitchen Tip: How to Make Your Own Buttermilk Substitute

  1. joyce

    I am a little confused concerning the cream of tartar usage to make buttermilk…your picture shows 1 T cream of tartar….but the directions below says 1 1/2 t cream of tartar…please clarify! thank you!

    1. Jessica Cox, RD

      Joyce – Sorry for the confusion. The image says “1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar,” which is the same as 1 1/2 teaspoons. Since many people don’t have a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon, we gave the equivalent measure in the text instructions.

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