I have a recipe that calls for 16 ounces of buttermilk...but don't have any. How can I make buttermilk? What is a substitute for buttermilk?

  • 1
    Just saw this very similar question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3120/buttermilk-substitute Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 16:13
  • Your title conflicts with your question. Your title is a question that hasn't been asked and the answer is to get a starter. Your actual question of a substitution should be closed as an exact duplicate of the question you linked to. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 21:42

4 Answers 4


In recipes, buttermilk brings liquid, some milk solids, some acid, and if it is not made from skim milk (it is a cultured product), some fat. In a pinch, you can substitute approximately 1 cup milk with 1 tbl lemon juice or vinegar.

For information on making your own cultured buttermilk, see this article from Serious Eats. It is made from milk and an active culture starter from commercial or previous buttermilk batches, much akin to making yogurt.

Edit: As hinted in Fisher's answer, for some applications, particularly quick breads and muffins, buttermilk can also be substituted one to one with yogurt or sour cream.


You can make a buttermilk substitute. You'll need milk and lemon juice (using a ratio of 1 Tablespoon of acid per cup of milk)

  1. Place a Tablespoon lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.
  2. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.
  3. Let stand for five minutes.

You can also make your own non-cultured buttermilk. Buttermilk was originally the product of butter production. If you follow instructions to make butter (agitating heavy cream, recommended at least 35% milkfat content until the solids & liquids separate--this can be done via electric mixer or even with a marble in a jar), you will have not just butter but also buttermilk. The buttermilk that is made this way is not tangy like cultured buttermilk, but perfectly good for baking--and even drinking.

Traditional old-fashioned buttermilk used fresh, raw cream that was allowed to culture & sour (raw cream contains the right buggies for this and when done in an environment (e.g. a diary farm that had been processing cultured dairy for a time) rife with the cultures it would sour more quickly & evenly. Most folks nowadays use a live lactic-acid producing culture to control the flavor & production. You can also use yogurt or culture buttermilk as a starter for your cultured butter. After you have cultured your cream, you follow the basic butter making steps and wind up with cultured butter and tangy cultured buttermilk.

While various recipes are available online, I have used Ricki the Cheese Queen's recipe for cultured butter: http://www.cheesemaking.com/Butter.html with good results.

It would also be fun to try the jar & marble method (great for kids, too): http://www.ehow.com/how_5678906_make-butter-baby-food-jars.html

Or, yogurt is a good buttermilk substitute. You can use 3/4 cup of yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup milk or water to get the consistency right.

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    No, if you follow instructions to get butter, you won't get usable buttermilk. While the result is indeed what was originally called "buttermilk", today's recipes are geared towards the cultured full-fat milk product sold under the label "buttermilk". Traditional buttermilk has neither the fat nor the acidity needed for today's recipes.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 16:04
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    Good point on the acidity of the homemade buttermilk. This may be an erroneous assumption, but I think that most commercial buttermilk is made with skim or low fat milk, so the fat content shouldn't be as much of an issue.
    – Fisher
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 15:21
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    Minor point of contention: traditional buttermilk (where the cream has been left to sour) would have the acidity. Butter & buttermilk made with sweet cream will not.
    – Fisher
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 15:23

Actual buttermilk is obtained as a by-product when extracting butter from sour cream.
But that is a lengthy process.
For a quicker way to get buttermilk, you can mix curds with water in the ratio of 3:1.

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