None in your store? Learn to make it at home with 2 ingredients

How to make homemade buttermilk

You may be thinking, what is buttermilk?

Or why would I want to make my own buttermilk?

Or even, how would I use buttermilk?

And in fact, I was late to the buttermilk party.

I only ever came across it if I was in the US for work.

And ordered buttermilk pancakes.

(delicious, btw).

But then I discovered Samin Nosrat.

And her Buttermilk Roast Chicken.

What a game-changer to the Sunday roast.

It makes the chicken so moist.

But buttermilk isn’t always the easiest to find.

So, I found out how to make it at home.

And it turns out, it’s easy.

But first…

What is buttermilk?

Ok, first of all, it doesn’t contain butter.

The traditional buttermilk was the liquid leftover after whole milk has been churned into butter.

Nowadays, it’s a cultured, fermented dairy product.

It contains bacteria that make it sour and thicker than regular milk.

How to use buttermilk

It’s used mainly for baking.

But you’ll see it used in things like:

  • Biscuits
  • Cornbread
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Pound cake
  • Marinade for fried chicken
  • Smoothies and milkshakes
  • Mashed potatoes or grits
  • Instead of coconut milk or cream in curries and soups
  • Chocolate cake
  • Muffins
  • Creamy salad dressing

And as I mentioned, if you use it to marinade a whole chicken.

And you’ll be appointed Head of Sunday Roast every week.

Store-bought vs homemade

Store-bought buttermilk is thicker, tangier, and more acidic.

Homemade buttermilk is thinner and slightly sweet tasting.

So, it could give a different taste to your baking if you use homemade as it is less acidic than bought.

What can you substitute for buttermilk

You need to add an acidic ingredient so try lemon juice, vinegar.

Alternately, you can use plain yoghurt, sour cream, kefir, or buttermilk powder as a substitute.

How to make homemade buttermilk

But it’s very easy to make your own.

And I found this little recipe from BBC Good Food.

So, all you need is whole milk and white vinegar, or lemon juice.


  • 250ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar


  • Mix the milk and lemon juice in a jug. 
  • Leave at room temperature for 5-10 mins until the milk has thickened slightly.
  • It won’t thicken as much as traditional buttermilk, but it’s a great substitute when making scones, soda bread or pancakes.
  • Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled or has small white lumps in it, it will be fine once cooked. 


You can now use your buttermilk substitute 1-for-1 in baking recipes.

How long does buttermilk last?

Buttermilk keeps longer than most other dairy.

After a few days in the fridge, buttermilk separates into solids and whey, but if it comes back together when shaken, it’s usable.

You can freeze it!

Buttermilk freezes well.

Best way to freeze it is in measurements that you might often use e.g. freeze it in 1 cup measures.

Then simply, thaw frozen buttermilk in the refrigerator overnight.

How to make homemade buttermilk

Is as simple as that.

Never again will you think you can’t make a recipe that needs buttermilk.

Just get milk and lemon (or vinegar) and get cracking on making homemade buttermilk 🙂

For more tips and tricks, check out my page ‘How to…’

Main photo by Melanie Dompierre