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Ever wondered how to make buttermilk? When you need a substitute, you can quickly make your own with these tips!

You’re about to start a recipe and realize you don’t have one of the key ingredients—buttermilk! Don’t you worry, we’ve got the solution. We love kitchen tips, so keep reading for all of our buttermilk substitutes!

Ingredients for how to make buttermilk substitute on the counter.

Don’t Have Buttermilk? Make It!

There are a lot of recipes that call for buttermilk. Buttermilk Biscuits, Buttermilk Syrup, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and Ranch Dressing to name a few.

Sometimes I want to make these recipes but I don’t have any buttermilk in my fridge. That’s where these simple buttermilk substitute recipes come in and save the day! So instead of having to run to the store, just use one of these subs instead.

What is the difference between milk and buttermilk?

First off, buttermilk is NOT regular milk that has gone bad. If you have sour-smelling milk, toss it out. Buttermilk is milk combined with lactic acid that creates a tangy flavor. When used in a dish along with baking soda the chemical reaction adds tenderness to the dish.

A measuring cup of milk and a container of lemon juice on a counter.

What is a Substitute For Buttermilk?

There are a few substitutes for buttermilk that you can use, or you can even make your own buttermilk recipe. Both are great options!

Always use a 1:1 ratio substitute. So if the recipe calls for ½ cup buttermilk, then use ½ cup of your homemade buttermilk substitute.

Need 2 cups buttermilk? Use 2 cups of the substitute.

You get the idea. 😉

A measuring cup of milk and cream of tartar on a counter.

How to Make Buttermilk

There are many ways to make buttermilk. Our go-to recipe for buttermilk is usually with milk and lemon juice. But today, we are not only sharing this recipe but as well as several other buttermilk recipes you can use as well.

Substitution options

If you need to make 1 cup of buttermilk substitute you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of milk. You can use whole milk, skim milk, or anything in-between.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar OR lemon juice OR cream of tartar to the milk. Do not add all three. Only choose one to mix with the milk (we typically use lemon juice)
  • Stir the liquids and let it sit for 5 minutes

It’s that easy. After it has rested for 5 minutes, you’re ready to use it in any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

Storing Info

STORE. Store buttermilk in an airtight container like a mason jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks

FREEZE. You can freeze both store-bought buttermilk and the buttermilk substitute. Hopefully, between the two you’ll always have some on hand. I suggest using an ice cube tray. Measure 1 tablespoon of buttermilk for each slot in the tray. Freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer Ziploc. Label and keep frozen for up to 3 months. 

A container of yogurt and buttermilk on a counter.

Buttermilk Substitute Yogurt

Another substitute can be made with yogurt. Here is what you’ll need for this DIY buttermilk:

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek yogurt)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • Mix and sit for 5 minutes

Note: Always allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes to allow it to combine and curdle a bit. 

A container of sour cream and buttermilk on a counter.

Sour Cream + Kefir Substitute

Want another one? Whisk together sour cream and milk (or even water).

  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • Mix and sit for 5 minutes

This hack is particularly good in coffee cakes and pancakes.

A carton of kefir and buttermilk on a counter for how to make buttermilk.

Recipe FAQ

Can I use kefir as a buttermilk substitute?

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that has a similar tang to buttermilk. You can substitute an equal amount of kefir for buttermilk in recipes. Just be sure that it is unsweetened and unflavored kefir.

Can I make buttermilk without dairy?

Yes, you can make dairy-free buttermilk substitute! Use non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or soy milk, and add acidity to mimic the tang of buttermilk. For every cup of non-dairy milk, you can add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Stir it together and let it sit for 5 minutes to curdle and thicken. This vegan buttermilk substitute can be used in recipes just like regular buttermilk.

What does buttermilk do in baking?

There are 3 main reasons to bake with buttermilk: The acidity helps activate leavening agents such as baking soda, resulting in lighter and fluffier baked goods. It adds moisture to the batter. It contributes a distinct tangy flavor that enhances the overall taste of recipes like pancakes, biscuits, and cakes.

For Recipes Using Buttermilk, Try:

5 from 9 votes

How to Make Buttermilk

By: Lil’ Luna
Ever wondered how to make buttermilk? When you need a substitute, you can quickly make your own with these tips!
Servings: 1 cup
Prep: 6 minutes
Total: 6 minutes


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • Stir milk and lemon juice together until combined.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes before using in a recipe.



If you don’t have lemon juice, you can also use the same amount (1 tbsp for every cup of milk) of white vinegar OR cream of tartar.
You can store your buttermilk substitute in the fridge in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, for 1-2 weeks.


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

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Other
Cuisine: American
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Share it with us on Instagram using the hashtag #lilluna, so we can see what you’re creating in the kitchen!

About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Recipe Rating


  1. I was somehow never able to make the lemon juice hack work until I started getting the True Lemon brand freeze-dried juice powder! (You can get this online and in some stores, and they have other citrus flavors too that are very nice for putting in water or using in recipes. Want Orange-Cranberry scones but you’re out of OJ, or want a more pronounced orange flavor? It’s your answer!) And I’ve never had a better homemade lemonaid in my life than with this stuff and SO quick!!

    I think the bottled liquid lemon juice has added ingredients that make it shelf stable, makes it taste awful and seems to interfere with the above process somehow. HOWEVER, adding just a little water to some of the powdered True Lemon (that tastes SO much better than the bottled stuff anyhow) before adding it to the milk makes this recipe PERFECT without adding too much liquid that it just thickens right up!!

    Another fairly important note is that 1% and non-fat milk have never worked for me, no matter how hard I tried. And whole milk *always* works better than 2% – think about the name “butter-milk”.. the higher the butterfat content, the better it works. I haven’t ever tried to make buttermilk with heavy cream because I think it would be way too think and heavy cream is expensive to throw out if it fails, so I’ve never tried it. I have however used 1/2 and 1/2 and it’s amazingly thick and works awesome for something like a homemade ranch for people who are used to HV brand shelf-stable ranch! That stuff is so think with thickeners, something people used to store-bought ranch dressing are used to, texture-wise. It’s the only way I got my grandkids to eat the homemade type, they’re used to the thick store bought and wouldn’t touch the homemade because it was “too watery.”

    Once I made it with 1/2 and 1/2, they just asked about the tangy taste and I had a pouch of the powdered HV brand buttermilk-style in the panty (that had been sitting there forever because hubby bought it thinking he was helping me out,) and I showed them it said “buttermilk” on it and they just shrugged and ate it happily. They recognized the branded label. When they’re older I’ll teach them to make the homemade version and explain I switched “years ago” and they never noticed, and they’ll be fine. Just gotta work with their limited understanding and social programming.

    Now if I could just get that to work with my brand-obsessed S-I-L and I’d be golden… LOL

    1. Yep! That’s typically what I use…. milk and lemon juice. But there are a few options listed in the post to make your own buttermilk.

  2. 5 stars
    Need buttermilk, this helps to know how to make my own!! Have plain Yogurt, did not know what to do with it, now I know one thing!! Have anymore, how to use plain yogurt?? Would love to here them!!

    1. Oh I’m glad this was helpful! Yes, a few ideas are to fluff up waffles, use it in a warm soup (similar to a sour cream substitute), use it as a veggie dip (add some other spices or a packet of dry onion soup mix), make frozen yogurt pops or drops, use it in smoothies, etc. There are lots of ideas on the internet too!

  3. 5 stars
    I love the convienence of using Regular items when you Dont have buttermilk in your fridge. There really is no difference. So nice to know!

  4. 5 stars
    I didn’t know you could use lemon juice, i always just use vinegar. You would think i would keep regular buttermilk on hand as often as I use it!

  5. 5 stars
    I have never thought to make my own buttermilk. Thanks for the idea. It will save me a trip to the store one of these days for sure.

  6. 5 stars
    this is wonderful because recipes never usually call for that much buttermilk so i end up wasting my store-brought ones. i will just make my own now!

  7. 5 stars
    I have never made my own & hate when a recipe calls for buttermilk, but I am out. This will come in so handy!! Thanks!