All out of buttermilk, don’t worry, you can make it at home with just two ingredients. Three different ways to make buttermilk so you don’t have to make an extra trip to the grocery!
In the South we cook with buttermilk a lot, but that doesn’t meant that I always have a quart in my fridge, and seriously the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is go to the grocery.
If this sounds familiar, then you’re going to love to know how to make your own buttermilk.
What is buttermilk
You might be thinking that buttermilk is just sour milk, but that’s not true at all. While it does have a tangy sour taste, it’s fermented milk. It used to be what was left after they churned butter, but now it’s a combination of milk and cultures, kind of like yogurt.
It’s generally thicker than cream but thinner than yogurt and has a distinct tangy taste. Most that you find in the grocery is made with skim milk. If you have a local dairy, you can find it made with whole milk which will be a little thicker and honestly makes the best biscuits you’ve ever had.
What to make with buttermilk
Buttermilk has a lot more uses than just biscuits, although I could live on classic buttermilk biscuits and honey butter biscuits. I use it in sour cream biscuits, cornbread biscuits, square biscuits, apple muffins, blueberry biscuits, oatmeal scones and in a praline sheet cake. It’s also great added to your favorite pancakes and it helps soda bread rise without yeast.
When I’m baking, I tend to remember to pick up buttermilk at the grocery, it’s when I use it for marinating that I find myself to be out of it and need a buttermilk substitute.
Why do you use buttermilk in baking
Buttermilk is one of those magical ingredients that makes baked goods tender by breaking down gluten and protein. Since it’s acidic, it reacts with baking soda which is alkaline and gives the baked goods more rise. That’s why buttermilk biscuits are tall and flaky. Even biscuits made with yeast, still benefit from buttermilk.
It’s also why muffins and cakes that use buttermilk are tender and moist.
Buttermilk for marinating chicken
Another great use for buttermilk is to use it for a marinade for chicken breasts. Let your chicken soak in this overnight or for at least 30 minutes for the most tender chicken breasts you can image.
When can use use a buttermilk substitute
You can use a buttermilk substitute for any recipe that calls for buttermilk. However, I find it works best in recipes where buttermilk is not one of the main ingredients. So for buttermilk biscuits, you could use a buttermilk substitute but they won’t taste quite as good as if you use real buttermilk.
However, a buttermilk substitute will accomplish everything real buttermilk is meant to do which is why it’s still better to use versus regular milk.
What you’ll need
- Milk – any type will do, you can even use skim.
- Lemon – you just need 1 tablespoon for a cup of buttermilk
- Vinegar – you can use any type, I prefer white but apple cider will work also.
- Powdered buttermilk – I prefer Bob’s Red Bill.
Three methods for a buttermilk substitute
While buttermilk substitutes will not be as thick as traditional buttermilk, the acidity will be there which is what you need for baked goods or marinates.
1. How to make buttermilk with lemon juice
All you need is milk, skim, 2% or whole milk will work, plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for each cup of buttermilk you need.
Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to a measuring cup and fill it to the 1 cup mark with milk. Stir the mixture and let it sit for about 5 minutes. The liquid will start to curdle a little. The texture will not be as thick as buttermilk.
2. How to make buttermilk with vinegar
You will need 1 tablespoon of any type of vinegar. I use a simple white vinegar that I always have in my pantry, but apple cider or white wine vinegar will also work.
You will use the same method as with a lemon. Add a tablespoon to a measuring cup and fill it to the 1 cup mark with whatever type of milk you choose. Then let it rest for about 5 minutes before using.
3. Buttermilk powdered substitute
If you don’t always have milk on hand, then it’s much handier to have a package of powdered buttermilk substitute in your pantry. Just follow the directions on the back of the package. You will just add water to the powdered milk and you’re ready to go. My favorite brand for powdered buttermilk is Bob’s Red Mill.
For me, having a bag of powdered buttermilk in the pantry means I’ll always have buttermilk when I need it and I don’t have to worry about having milk or lemons or vinegar to make a buttermilk substitute. I generally only need ¼ cup of the powdered to make what I need, so it lasts a long time.
FAQs and tips
Can you substitute buttermilk for cream?
While buttermilk is creamy, it is not a good substitute for cream. Most recipes that call for cream need the fat that is in cream to thicken a sauce. However, most buttermilk is made with skin or low fat milk and will not thicken a sauce.
How long does buttermilk last?
Buttermilk from the grocery has a shelf life of about 2 weeks. Buttermilk substitute is best used within 3-5 days.
What does buttermilk taste like?
Buttermilk has a slightly sour tangy taste, similar to plain unsweetened yogurt.
Can you freeze buttermilk?
You can freeze buttermilk and never have to use a substitute, try freezing it in an ice cube tray. However, it does take up room in your freezer which is why a buttermilk substitute is so handy.
Buttermilk recipes to try
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How to Make Buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1 cup milk
- Add lemon juice or vinegar to a measuring cup and fill the cup to the 1 cup mark.
- Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use any type of vinegar
- It will not get as thick as buttermilk but will start to curdle.