A quick and easy Buttermilk Substitute is a must-have recipe for every kitchen!

Nothing quite has the taste of buttermilk in a recipe! It has a bright, tart flavor that brings out the best in everything from sauces, dips, dressings, and it even makes cakes and breads extra light and fluffy.

But sometimes a recipe calls for just a small amount of buttermilk or there just isn’t any. Here is a recipe for a buttermilk alternative that will save the day!

Easy Buttermilk Substitute in a clear jar

Why Use Buttermilk in Recipes

Buttermilk originally was the liquid that came from the process of making butter but now most store-bought buttermilk has added lactic acid during processing. Buttermilk adds a rich tangy flavor to recipes (like ranch dressing) and it has a thicker consistency compared to regular milk.

Beyond flavor, buttermilk is acidic so it reacts with other ingredients (like baking soda) within baking recipes. It can help with things like the rise of a batter or dough (like in pancakes) and making gluten more tender (in banana cake).

The good news is that if you don’t have any in your fridge, you can make your own sour milk or use one of the substitutes below.

What is a Substitute for Buttermilk?

  • Buttermilk gets its unique slightly sour taste from the lactic acid in it.
  • Lactic acid is important for baked goods calling for buttermilk and if making a substitute, you’ll need to include something acidic (like lemon or vinegar) along with milk or light cream.
  • Kefir is essentially a drinkable yogurt made from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep and can be used as a buttermilk alternative cup-for-cup as it is.

If you do buy a small container of buttermilk at the store, you can freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray for future use.

You can also purchase buttermilk powder online or at some grocery stores. I prefer to just mix my own per the suggestions below.

Easy Buttermilk Substitute in a pyrex measuring cup

Ingredients & Variations

DAIRY: A buttermilk substitute needs a base. Whole milk, 2%, or non-fat will do. For a dairy-free buttermilk substitute, use unsweetened soy milk or oat milk or almond milk or light cream.

ACID: The most common acid used in making a homemade buttermilk substitute is lemon juice since most kitchens have it, but lime juice will work in a pinch. White vinegar or apple cider vinegar are other alternatives for the acid component.

Substitutes For 1 Cup of Buttermilk are:

  • 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
  • 1 cup of milk to 1 ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar (check expiration dates to make sure it is still active). Let sit 10 minutes.
  • ¾ cup of sour cream or plain yogurt thinned with ¼ cup of water.
  • kefir can be substituted with no changes

How to Make a Buttermilk Substitute

Buttermilk alternative is super easy to make. It is not actually buttermilk but it is a suitable substitute.

  1. Combine milk and lemon juice or vinegar (per recipe below) in a cup or bowl.
  2. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes before using.
  3. Once combined, the milk will slightly curdle and thicken, this is expected. Give the soured milk a stir before using.

Great Uses for Buttermilk

Here are some great ways you can use the rest of that buttermilk so it doesn’t go to waste!

  • Soup: Adding buttermilk instead of regular milk to tomato soup will thicken it, making a slightly new flavor and a rich creamy texture.
  • Tenderize Chicken: The acidity in Buttermilk is amazing for marinating chicken before frying!
  • Mashed Potatoes: Instead of customary milk in mashed potatoes, add a little buttermilk instead. The texture will be creamier, buttery, and more delicious!
  • Homemade Dressings: Never go back to store-bought with this creamy & flavorful homemade version.
  • Glaze: Use a mixture of buttermilk and powdered sugar for a perfect Vanilla Bundt Cake glaze.

Favorite Recipes Using Buttermilk

Did you use this Buttermilk Substitute? Be sure to leave a comment and a rating below!

Easy Buttermilk Substitute in a clear jar
5 from 22 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

How to Make Buttermilk Substitute

This is a quick and easy way to substitute Buttermilk for any recipe!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cup
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  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar


  • Combine ingredients and stir to mix.
  • Let sit 5 minutes, mixture will thicken as it sits.


Once combined, the milk will slightly curdle and thicken, this is expected. Give the soured milk a stir before using.
Other substitutes for buttermilk:
  • 1 cup of milk to 1 ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar (check expiration dates to make sure it is still active). Let sit 10 minutes.
  • ¾ cup of sour cream or plain yogurt thinned with ¼ cup of water or milk.
  • kefir can be substituted with no changes
5 from 22 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 102 | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 104mg | Potassium: 369mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 463IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 296mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pantry
Cuisine American
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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. Hello Holly , what percentage of regular milk do you use ? I’ve never made before but eager to now . Just a quart of store bought buttermilk cost down here (south) , $5 . Spend & Pennies , Love being here . Thank you !5 stars

  2. Love the hushpuppy recipe!
    Folks should know, you can buy Buttermilk Powder in the baking section of grocery stores. It’s usually on the top shelf by the baking powder & soda. Lasts for years , mixes with water. I am NEVER without it! Use for everything requiring milk.

  3. Buttermilk is also good for anyone with kidney problems. One cup will “unlock” (as the older folks say) your kidneys and give you relief.