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How to make Buttermilk - Food Gypsy

Kitchen Basics – How to make Buttermilk

With a little food science, you can conjure buttermilk from thin air. Well, kinda’.  Learn how to make buttermilk with just milk, lemon, or vinegar as a substitute for buttermilk in almost any recipe, in this edition of Kitchen Basics.

I take issue with buying buttermilk.  Largely because it only comes in litre (4 cups) containers and I really only need 250mls (1 cup) for most recipes.  As a general rule, I waste the rest, so WHY? That’s money literally going down the drain.

I really hate wasting food.  It’s a personal pet peeve, no doubt deeply rooted in a family upbringing where food was precious, so every bit of it was treated with the utmost respect.

What is buttermilk anyway?

Traditional buttermilk is sour milk leftover from making cheese or cream, but that’s not what you’re buying in most grocery stores.  Most commercially produced buttermilk we buy on the shelves now is a cultured product produced with the addition of Lactococcus lactis cultures to simulate the naturally occurring bacteria found in old-fashioned buttermilk, but it bakes well.

How to make buttermilk substitute, in an instant.  A kitchen basic for every cook.

Instead of buying buttermilk for every recipe that calls for it in smaller quantities (and wasting food), I use a trick my Grandmother taught me, many summers ago.

To make an instant buttermilk substitute Grandma would sour 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon or white vinegar and voila – buttermilk (aka: acidified buttermilk).

Milk, before - FG Acidified Buttermilk - FG

How Far Can You Hack Your Buttermilk?

The only application that I don’t recommend this buttermilk substitute for is buttermilk chicken, be it roasted or brined, then fried. For that, use real buttermilk.  The enzymes and cultures (be they natural or introduced) in the buttermilk helps to break down the proteins in meats making it creamy and juicy when cooked.

Also, chances are you’ll use the whole litre/four cups for fried chicken, so splurge.

I mean come on, whoever heard of doing two pieces of fried chicken!?

Cook well.

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How to make Buttermilk - Food Gypsy

Kitchen Basics – How to make Buttermilk

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  • Author: Cori Horton
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x


An easy kitchen hack for almost any recipe that calls for buttermilk, from pancakes to biscuits. This buttermilk substitute mixes fast and easy.


  • I cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or white vinegar)


  1. Add lemon juice (or vinegar) to milk and stir to combine. Allow to stand for one or two minutes to curdle and thicken.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Sauces
  • Cuisine: American



Cori Horton

Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Hi, I am trying to understand the meaning of this section: “… the acid present in buttermilk helps counteract baking soda, which is basic.” Could you please explain? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Gregory,
      Apologies for the long delay. Life stuff. :)

      I’ve reviewed the post in question, but I don’t see that phrase anywhere. I did see an out of place headline.
      drop me a line if I missed something.

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