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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. 

Buttermilk substitute in a measuring cup

What is buttermilk?

Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid leftover after churning butter. What is sold in most grocery stores is cultured buttermilk which is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to regular milk. Buttermilk has a sour taste and can be drank straight or used in cooking and baking.

Can I substitute milk for buttermilk?

Buttermilk reacts with rising agents, like baking soda and baking powder, to form carbon dioxide and act as a leavening agent. If you have a recipe that calls for both buttermilk and a rising agent, you shouldn’t substitute regular milk. You can either purchase buttermilk, or make your own buttermilk substitute at home.

Where to Buy Buttermilk

Buttermilk is usually sold in the refrigerated portion of your grocery store, near other milk products like sour cream and heavy cream. It is usually sold in small cartons or bottles.

How to Use Powdered Buttermilk

Powdered buttermilk or buttermilk powder is a shelf stable powder that makes buttermilk when combined with liquid. To use it in a recipe, simply combine the powder with either milk or water by stirring. The general ratio for buttermilk powders is 1 part buttermilk powder to 1 part liquid.

How to Make Buttermilk

You can make traditional buttermilk by making your own butter at home. To make your own butter you will need heavy cream. You can follow THESE instructions to make butter in a mason jar. If you need a quick and easy option, simply place heavy cream into food processor and process until the heavy cream turns into whipped cream. Continue processing until the cream solidifies and butter forms. The remaining liquid is buttermilk.

How to Make a Buttermilk Substitute

OPTION ONE: Buttermilk Substitute with Lemon Juice

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to regular milk. Let stand 5 minutes.The milk will get thicker and clumpy and is ready to use in any recipe calling for buttermilk.

Rachel squeezes half a lemon into a measuring cup of milk

OPTION TWO: Buttermilk Substitute with White Vinegar

Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to regular milk. Let stand 5 minutes.The milk will get thicker and clumpy and is ready to use in any recipe calling for buttermilk. Other vinegar options are not a good replacement for white vinegar.

Rachel adds a tablespoon of white vinegar to a measuring cup of milk

OPTION THREE: Buttermilk Substitute with Cream of Tarter

Add 1 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tarter to regular milk. Stir. Let stand 5 minutes.The milk will get thicker and clumpy and is ready to use in any recipe calling for buttermilk.

Rachel stirs in a tablespoon of cream of tartar into a measuring cup of milk

Having trouble remembering all your options? Here is a great cheat sheet for making your own buttermilk substitute at home.

Buttermilk Substitute Cheat Sheet: Buttermilk Substitute = 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice OR 1 tablespoon white vinegar OR 1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Popular recipes on my site that use buttermilk: The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Corn Bread Muffins, Cajun Fried Chicken Strips, Easy Skillet Cornbread, Disneyland Style Hand Dipped Corn Dogs.

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