Buttermilk is one of those annoying ingredients you either have too much of, or you don’t have at all. It’s usually sold in cartons larger than you need, so leftovers sit in the fridge for weeks. By the time you need it again, the milk will have gone bad. If you’re tired of this endless bad buttermilk cycle, do not fret. There is a solution! Make your own.

A bit about buttermilk

Buttermilk is an acid, so recipes that call for it won’t turn out right if you just use plain milk. You need a substitute with the same acidity as buttermilk. This acid is usually required to create a reaction with baking soda or other leavening agent in the recipe. Regular milk just isn’t acidic enough. Substituting with plain milk will also produce drier, less flavorful baked goods and can reduce the rise on your muffin tops, biscuits or other breads and baked goods.

How do you make a cup of buttermilk?

It’s super simple. You can make a good buttermilk substitute with two inexpensive ingredients you already have in your refrigerator: lemon juice and milk. This substitute works because adding lemon juice to milk makes the milk acidic, which is exactly what your recipe is calling for. You’ll see the milk proteins start to clump or curdle — that’s how you know it’s working.


  • ~ 1 cup of whole milk (or milk of your preference)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or distilled white vinegar)


  1. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup, then add milk until the liquids reach the 1-cup line. Let stand for about 10 minutes. The milk will curdle and thicken — this is a good thing. Stir well. 

When to use it

The acidification of the milk happens as soon it hits the lemon juice, so you don’t have to wait any additional amount of time to use your buttermilk substitute in your recipe. 

Your new concoction can be used just as you would regular store bought buttermilk. Use it in pancakes, biscuits, cakes, scones, dressings, dips and more.

Substitutions for your substitution

Vinegar: If you don’t have lemon juice, distilled white vinegar will do the job, too. Lemon usually adds a slightly more enjoyable flavor, but both are nearly imperceptible.

Dairy-free alternatives: Lots of recipes call for buttermilk — onion rings, ranch dips, pancakes. Don’t let your lactose-free diet stop you from enjoying them. Substitute your preferred non-dairy milk such as coconut, soy, almond, rice or oat, in place of the whole milk.

Biscuits-How to make a buttermilk substitute at home

Also see, This is the difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.