How to Make Buttermilk With Stuff You Already Have

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.

Buttermilk is an easy item to forget when you are making your grocery shopping list. Luckily, it’s also incredibly easy to make at home, and you already have the ingredients and tools.

Let’s learn how to make buttermilk and what to use it for!

Buttermilk is an easy item to forget when you are making your grocery shopping list. Luckily, it's also incredibly easy to make at home and you already have the ingredients and tools to do it! Learn How to Make Buttermilk below. #buttermilk #diybuttermilk #recipesubstitutions 

How to Make Buttermilk

There comes a point in every homemaker’s kitchen career when she will inevitably forget something she needs for a recipe. This is why every good homemaker should be armed with the knowledge of good substitutions so there don’t have to be any last-minute trips to the grocery store.

Jug of milk on wooden table sitting on top of a striped cloth.

Traditional Buttermilk

Buttermilk is acidified milk. Originally, buttermilk was the leftover milk from making butter; on occasion, it was left to ferment. However, when a modern recipe calls for buttermilk, they are looking for an acidified version of milk, not the leftovers from making butter (unless you ferment it).

Traditional buttermilk is still good for many things (you can use it in the place of milk in most baking recipes), but keep in mind that it won’t have the same properties as “modern buttermilk,” which is what I’m going to show you how to make today.

To make true modern buttermilk, you must culture your milk to provide the acidity. Below, the “quick” method will provide the same results in a baked product in all your favorite buttermilk recipes.

Homemade Buttermilk

Make Homemade Buttermilk in 10 Minutes

You can easily make buttermilk at home with just two ingredients:

  • Pour 1 cup of whole milk into a measuring cup. Do not use skim milk.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Stir to combine.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes. The milk will curdle slightly, signaling it has turned into buttermilk.
  • Use in baking recipes that call for buttermilk, just like you would use store-bought buttermilk.
Pancakes with Strawberries

Uses for Buttermilk

Buttermilk can be used in many different ways and in many different recipes. Here are are few things you might use it in.

Here is an additional list of Recipes to Use Buttermilk.

Buttermilk Ingredients

How to Make Buttermilk: Step by Step

What You Need:

  • 1 cup of whole milk (not skim)
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or Vinegar
Buttermilk How To

In a small bowl, combine ingredients and stir to combine.

Let the ingredients rest for 10 minutes until the mixture curls and becomes thicker.

Use in a recipe as you would regular, store-bought buttermilk. Any leftover buttermilk can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Cream Cubes in a white bowl on a white background.

How to Freeze Buttermilk

You can easily freeze buttermilk just as you would freeze heavy cream, in cubes!

Pour any leftover buttermilk into a clean ice cube tray and place in the freezer until solid. Remove the cubes and store them in a freezer bag until you can use them in a recipe.

One standard-sized ice cube is roughly 2 tablespoons of liquid.

2 cubes1/4 cup
4 cubes1/2 cup
6 cubes3/4 cup
8 cubes1 cup
Measurements of buttermilk in cube sizes to standard measurements.

To thaw your buttermilk before using, place on the countertop in a bowl until thawed, thaw in the microwave, or place in a bowl in the fridge overnight to melt the cubes.

Alternatives to Buttermilk

If you do not want to make your own buttermilk or do not have any whole milk or lemon juice on hand, here are some other ways to create a buttermilk substitute for baking.

  • Use an equal amount of sour cream
  • Use an equal amount of plain yogurt
  • Use an equal amount of kefir
  • Use 1 cup of milk plus 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Use a Buttermilk Powder mixed with water
Recipe Binder Post Promo

Need to print this recipe for Homemade Buttermilk? Grab it below!

Buttermilk Recipe

Learn how to make buttermilk at home with just a few simple ingredients you already have on hand!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword buttermilk, homemade buttermilk, how to make buttermilk
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Calories 150 kcal
Creator Merissa


  • 1 cup whole milk not skim
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or vinegar


  1. In a small bowl, combine ingredients and stir to combine.
  2. Let the ingredients rest for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to curdle and turn thicker.
  3. Use in a recipe as you would store-bought buttermilk.
Nutrition Facts
Buttermilk Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 150 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 29mg10%
Sodium 93mg4%
Potassium 381mg11%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 0.1g0%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 396IU8%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 301mg30%
Iron 0.01mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Baked Muffins Buttermilk

Recipes That Use Buttermilk

How to Make Vegan Buttermilk

Vegan or dairy-free buttermilk substitute is easy to make if you need to keep your recipe dairy-free.

Just replace the whole milk in the recipe above with a dairy-free alternative milk such as almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, or coconut milk.

Add the same amount of white vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken before using it as your buttermilk substitute.

Dairy-Free Buttermilk Recipe

  • 1 cup milk alternative
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine. Let it sit for 10 minutes before using in your recipe.

Whipped Butter

More Homemade Dairy Products

Is making buttermilk the same as buying it?

Yes. Buttermilk is an acidified milk product. By adding acid to your milk you are creating the same type of buttermilk product that you find at the store.

Why didn’t my homemade buttermilk curdle?

Buttermilk does not curdle. It gets thicker as the acid reacts with the milk.

What happens if you use milk instead of buttermilk?

Your recipe may not have enough acid to interact with your rising agent (usually baking soda, possibly baking powder). The result could be a baked product that is too flat.

Is the liquid from making butter buttermilk?

No. The liquid from making butter can be used to make what we typically know as buttermilk, but only after an acid is added or the milk is fermented.

What recipes do you use buttermilk in? Have you ever made homemade buttermilk?

Me and Kady

Merissa Alink

Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple and frugal life on Little House Living since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to freedom on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.

This post on How to Make Buttermilk was published on Little House Living in August 2017. It has been updated as of September 2023.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support Little House Living by Sharing This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. It’s funny as I’ve never thought of “making buttermilk”. I’ve always considered buttermilk as making itself. 🙂 It’s the liquid that comes off butter when I make it. That liquid keeps for a long time in the refrigerator & I grab it anytime a recipe calls for milk. Give it a whirl sometime…. I think you’ll like it. Blessings~ Andrea

  2. I’ve used this same recipe for years to make pancakes, waffles and biscuits. Thanks, Marisa, for the opportunity to enter the contest.

  3. I have done this a lot, but not recently at all… I need to dig out those recipes that call for it again and do this. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

  4. I havn’t used buttermilk yet, but I’ve been wanting to try a red velvet cake recpie for a long time, and it needs buttermilk, and since I don’t want the rest of it going to waste, not make it. Maybe I will try now!

  5. I always use buttermilk for my healthy version of red velvet cupcakes! Would love for you to share your ‘how to’ buttermilk tip at Reader Tip Tuesday.
    it’s open all week & growing. Hope to see you there xo

  6. What, that’s it Merissa? No churning, no stiff muscles, no endless hours of staring off into the distance, just a little lemon juice. That’s really great to know. Thank you

  7. It’s good to know that I don’t have to buy buttermilk. I only need a cup when I make Irish soda bread and then the rest gets wasted! Thanks for the tip.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful post with us at Full Plate Thursday this week. Please keep our great state of Texas in your thoughts and prayers as we are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Hope you have a good week.
    Miz Helen

  9. I have been making “buttermilk” this way for several years. If you haven’t tried it yet you should; it is a common and easy way to substitute for buttermilk. I have made “buttermilk” biscuits using this simple recipe and the biscuits are terrific. It works well for waffles and pancakes too. Be sure to give the 10 minutes so the milk can get those important little curds on the top (that’s how you know it’s ready).
    Thank you, Merrissa, for getting this one out there! I think this will help people who might have overlooked recipes that contain buttermilk. Also really like the freezing of buttermilk, never thought to do that. Really enjoy your posts & website!