How To Make Buttermilk Substitutions on

Isn’t it so frustrating to not find buttermilk at home when you need it? And most times you realise you’re missing buttermilk only when you’re bang in the middle of making your favourite fried chicken or cake. Sigh. I’ve been there too.

Like most Indian households, I have have curds (naturally made yogurt) in my fridge at any given time. And I use this to make buttermilk in a jiffy whenever I need it. I also use limes or vinegar (acidified buttermilk). While these, and the other substitutions I’ve listed below give you good results when you use them (while cooking and baking), it is not buttermilk in its true form. The buttermilk I was using was a buttermilk substitute — it had more acid than usual — which was invariably good for my cakes, as the lactic acid reacted with baking soda or baking powder and leavened the dough (without yeast).

Buttermilk, is actually the low fat ‘milk’ that is left behind when one makes butter. Made with either full fat milk or rich cream, the resulting butter and buttermilk are no doubt far better tasting than the store bought ones or the substitutes, but the resulting quantity is far lesser than expected — one would have to invest in a lot of milk or cream, and time, to make a considerable amount of homemade butter and buttermilk (and wait longer for the buttermilk to ferment, to use in the cake recipes). Which is why I guess you and I resort to the store bought buttermilk substitutes — which are also called cultured buttermilk as they are pasteurized (the buttermilk from unpasteurized milk has all the bacteria that’s good for you), and thereby have added cultures (instead of naturally fermented milk).

Quite nutritive, buttermilk is also enriched with probiotics — making it the best drink after a meal. You and I do our stomachs and guts a huge favour every time we gulp buttermilk down — the ones with live cultures (not the pasteurized version). Refer the link(s) at the end of this post for further reading.

Visit stores no more! Granted, you may not have vinegar or yogurt in your kitchen, but surely you have milk and lemons or limes? Or perhaps cream of tartar? There! You’re all set to continue with your recipe and not stop and fret. You can choose the short-cut substitute (the first method is my favourite short-cut substitute) or the long way. Either way, you won’t be disappointed, and your cakes and cookies, and salads and fried chicken will turn out great. You can store it for up to 2 weeks days in the fridge.

Alrighty then, I’m off to make some buttermilk. And then some sour cream. And then pineapple upside down cake! See you soon with that recipe!

  • Curds or Yogurt and Milk or Water

Add 1/4 milk or water to 3/4 cup curds or yogurt. Stir and use immediately!

  • Lemon or Lime or White Vinegar and Milk

Add 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice or lime juice, or white vinegar (white wine vinegar works too) to 1 cup of milk. Stir it in and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Done!

  • Cream of Tartar and Milk

Add 1 and 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar to a 1/4 cup milk in a glass or bowl. Mix well so no lumps remain. Add 3/4 cup milk and wait for 5 minutes. There!

  • Sour Cream and Milk or Water

This one is also instant. Mix 1/4 cup milk or water with 3/4 cup sour cream. Stir and use.

  • Kefir

Replace buttermilk with an equal amount kefir. (

  • Cultured Buttermilk (yes, the real deal!)

If you can get you hands on active buttermilk cultures, you can add it to milk and let it sit out for 12-24 hours to make your own buttermilk!

How To Make Buttermilk Substitutions on

Notes: Ensure the milk is neither too warm nor too cold. Test it on your wrist — it must be a little less than lukewarm; neither cold, nor hot. Heat it up if it is cold and let it cool. Frozen buttermilk may not defrost the same way — it gets more grainy — but it can still be used to bake and cook when thawed.

Related Links:

Potential Health Benefits of Buttermilk (the spruce)

Buttermilk (Wikipedia)

Buttermilk Substitute (BBC good food)

Buttermilk Substitute (Bright Eyed Baker)

How to Make Makeshift Buttermilk (FOOD52)

The Best Buttermilk Substitutions (Joy the Baker)

Buttermilk Substitutions, Measures and Equivalents (the spruce)

How to Make a Buttermilk Substitute (the balance)

How to Make Real Buttermilk at Home (the balance)

4 Ways to Make Your Own Buttermilk (the spruce)

How To Make Buttermilk from Plain Milk with Lemon Juice or Vinegar (the kitchn)

2 thoughts on “How To Make Buttermilk Substitutions”

  1. Thank you. This is so helpful. I’m a one person household, and I just can’t justify buying a quart of buttermilk for a recipe when I need a few ounces.

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