Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that few of us have on hand regularly. If we are planning ahead for a particular recipe, like a cake or a Creamy Corn and Potato Salad with Bacon, then maybe we pick up some at the store. But more often than not, at least in my experience, buttermilk takes us by surprise in the ingredient list. And unless you have extra time and easy access to a market, you might think, “oh well.” But it’s so easy to make your own homemade buttermilk with just two ingredients that you probably have in the house at this very moment! Milk and lemon juice or distilled white vinegar makes a perfect buttermilk substitute. How exciting is that?

Whisking vinegar into milk to make buttermilk

What Is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is just slightly soured milk. Originally, it was the liquid that was left behind after the cream had been churned into butter. Now the buttermilk we buy at the grocery store is cultured buttermilk, which is made through a different process since all of our milk is pasteurized. The acid in the milk helps act as a tenderizer and also adds tang to different dishes. And, when buttermilk interacts with baking soda, it can help make baked goods rise better.

Bowls of milk, lemon juice, and vinegar with whisk

How to Make Buttermilk

Buttermilk is so easy to make. All you need is whole or 2% milk (less fat won’t give you a full enough flavor), plus distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also use cider vinegar. For every cup of buttermilk you want to make, stir 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk, and let it sit for 10 minutes. The acid will cause the milk to curdle very slightly, which is what you want. That’s it!

Making a buttermilk substitute

Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that few of us have on hand regularly. But luckily for us, making buttermilk at home is easy and quick.

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Other Buttermilk Substitutes

You can also use lactose-free milk in place of regular milk when making a buttermilk substitute at home. It might be a little sweeter than one made with regular milk, so keep that in mind.

You can also use sour cream as the base. Mix 3/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup milk. Stir well. This will have a similar tanginess to buttermilk.

Kefir is another good base. Again, mix it with acid in the same proportions: 1 cup kefir with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice.

Soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk are good for those who are vegan or dairy-free. The ratio is the same: 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of non-dairy milk.


Buttermilk is still good to use for at least a week after the “buy by” date, or expiration date, on the container. You can freeze buttermilk for up to 3 months. Defrost it in the fridge overnight. You can also freeze this buttermilk substitute.

Mixing lemon juice into milk to make buttermilk

Buttermilk Recipes

Bowl of salad with bacon and buttermilk dressing

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How to Make Buttermilk

Fast homemade buttermilk in minutes.
Yield: 1 Cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes


  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar


  • For every cup of buttermilk you want to make, stir 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 152kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 105mg | Potassium: 322mg | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 395IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 276mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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