How to Make Buttermilk in a Pinch

Who keeps buttermilk in their fridge all the time? Not me so I had to learn How to Make Buttermilk in a Pinch.

Thankfully it is super easy and you can do it in 10 minutes with ingredients you will have on hand.

You don’t want to just substitute plain milk. The acid in buttermilk adds lightness to the crumb of your baking and gives baking soda a boost in rising.

It also adds a slight tang to your baking. You might not notice the tang in a quick bread or muffin with lots of flavour. It is probably lending tenderness and moistness to that recipe.

But take a biscuit or pancake or neutral bread like Bread Machine Buttermilk Bread and you want the tangy-ever-so-slight sourness it lends in addition to a tender crumb and flakiness.

You can choose from a lot of products so you are sure to have one on hand.

Can I Use Any Milk to Make Buttermilk?

I usually only have coffee cream in the house so I have to start by diluting the cream down to the milk MF range. Not hard again, thankfully!

A word on the milk. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk – the stuff in cartons that doesn’t need to be refrigrated won’t work. It has been pasteurized at such high temperatures that there are not enough nutrients left for the acidifier to feed on.

How to Make Vegan Buttermilk

Thankfully a vegan version of buttermilk is equally as easy. You can use soy, oat or almond milk. Soy and oat may be a bit thicker than almond milk but any of them will work. You can use apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice for your acidifier. Use the same ratio 1 cup milk- 1 Tbsp of your choice + 1 Tbsp acidifier of choice.

Acidifier Choices

Some acidifiers are more robust than others and some lend more tang and flavour than others.

My pick is Kefir for a robust culture and a lot of tangy character. But… it may not be the most common ingredient on hand.

Making Buttermilk with Kefir

White Vinegar is my next choice. I find there is no flavour in itself – just the desirable tangy sourness.

Lemon juice is another good choice. I sometimes can pick up the lemon so I wouldn’t use lemon juice say in Buttermilk Biscuits where there really are no other flavours going on. OK- not the end of the world- you could certainly use it if you like.

You just mix your milk and acidifier together and give it 5-10 minutes to do its work in a warm place in our kitchen. The warmer it is the more active the acidifier. Your counter top is ok. If you have a bead proofing setting on your oven that is even better. Or on top of a warming center burner on low on your stove.

A cup of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar on a table with a whisk.
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How to Make Buttermilk in a Pinch

Make your own Buttermilk with easy ingredients you probably have on hand.
Prep Time5 mins
Resting Time10 mins
Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American
Yield: 1 cup


  • 15 Tbsps milk (Not UHT) (1 cup less 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp acidifier of choice – lemon juice OR white vinegar OR kefir See Notes for comments and suggestions.

Vegan Buttermilk

  • 15 Tbsps non-dairy milk of your choice (non-UHT) ex. soy, oat or almond
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice

Other Options for Buttermilk Substitutes

  • 1 cup yogurt equals 1 cup buttermilk may make final texture of baking a bit heavier than acidified milk
  • OR
  • 1 cup sour cream equals 1 cup buttermilk may make final texture of baking a bit heavier than acidified milk
  • OR
  • 1 3/4 tsps cream of tartar in 1 cup of milk


  • Mix milk and acidifier of choice and allow them to sit 5-10 minutes at room temperature or slightly warmer. Use in recipe as directed.


Note:  Kefir is a very active cultured diary product.  It will produce a strong reaction and impart a significant tang to the buttermilk. This is great for Buttermilk Biscuits or Pancakes where you are looking for the tang.
Note that you can substitute kefir on a 1:1 basis for buttermilk in a recipe where you are really looking for bright & tangy flavours.  It may overpower lightly flavoured or sweeter product like a quick bread.
Lemon juice is the most neutral  flavour-wise.  It would be great in quick breads or sweeter recipes.
White vinegar lands somewhere in between kefir and lemon juice.
How to Make Buttermilk in a Pinch

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