Faux Buttermilk
Kitchen Tips

How to Fake Buttermilk

We all know the feeling of heading to our pantry or our fridge for that one ingredient and finding out we’ve either run out or didn’t remember to buy it at the store. Or there are some things, like buttermilk, that I almost never have. Having a few good substitutions on hand can save the day!

how to fake buttermilk

I’m far more often a cook than I am a baker. I whip up a lot of scones, make the occasional cookie, and for special occasions, I’ll do a cake, but my tastes skew far more savory than sweet. Which is why there are some very common baking ingredients I almost never have on hand when I need them for a recipe. Cake flour. Cream of tartar. Buttermilk.

Buttermilk is the most frequent culprit. I did buy actual buttermilk for my Buttermilk Belgian Waffle recipe {if it’s going to be the star of the show, I figure I should have it}, but for most of my cakes, pancakes, and other concoctions, I’ve faked it.

Fortunately, buttermilk is an extremely easy ingredient to fake. And I’m going to share just how to do that here.

So just what is buttermilk?

You’d figure it’s buttery milk, right? Because the recipes that call for it are delicious buttery goodness, like pancakes, waffles, and cake. Eh, not so much. In the old days, buttermilk was the thin rich tasting liquid left over in a churn after making butter. These days, it’s still cultured milk, but instead of being butter-churn leftovers, it’s deliberately made from adding cultures to pasteurized milk.

Since it used to be leftover from the churn, it was non-fat {all the fat went into the butter}. These days, you can get it non-fat or whole-fat, depending on what you need. Either way, it’s a nice tangy slightly thick additive that gives an extra bit of oomph to baked goods.

So what do you do if you can’t get it? Or if, especially these days, that’s really not something that you want to worry about going to the store over {“yes, let me risk leaving my quarantine for this obscure baking ingredient I can fake easily” said no one ever}.


Milk + Lemon Juice

This is my preferred method, especially for things like vanilla cake, buttermilk waffles, and buttermilk pancakes, things that could benefit from just a little bit of lemony tang. Lemon juice breaks up the milk and curdles it a little, giving you the same tangy creamy features of buttermilk.

It’s really that easy.

Here’s your formula: 1 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 cup milk = a perfect swap for 1 cup of buttermilk.

Pour, stir, and let sit for five minutes, and then it’s ready to use in your recipe.

Milk + Apple Cider Vinegar

I use my apple cider vinegar to keep bugs off my herbs more than I use it in my cooking, but it’s also a really good additive to milk if you’re trying to fake buttermilk. The same way the lemon juice does, it breaks up the milk and curdles it a little.

Same formula applies: 1 tablespoon vinegar + 1 cup milk = a perfect swap for 1 cup of buttermilk.

I’ve heard people say you can use other types of vinegar for this, but I think apple cider vinegar meshes better with your sweet baked goods…and honestly, it’s the vinegar I’m most likely to have in my kitchen.

Milk + Yogurt

If you’re making something where you don’t need to taste the distinctive buttermilk flavor but need something a little thicker than milk, you can combine milk and yogurt for a buttermilk-like thickness and consistency. This is great for cakes.

Here’s the formula: 1/4 cup liquid + 3/4 cup yogurt = a perfect swap for 1 cup of buttermilk.

It’s a lot less about the milk here and more about the yogurt. You’re just using the milk to thin out the yogurt. You can use water, too, if you want it even thinner.

Milk + Sour Cream

I use this combination a lot in pancakes and biscuits {this was the beginning of my favorite sour cream pancakes}. You take equal parts sour cream and water and whisk them together, and you’ve got your buttermilk substitute.

Try this: 1/2 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup milk = a perfect swap for 1 cup of buttermilk.

how to fake buttermilk

Here are my favorite recipes for using buttermilk {or fake buttermilk in this case!}:

The best thing about this, to me, is that you don’t have an extra ingredient cluttering up your fridge that you’re trying to use. Because unless you’re baking every day, I bet you’re not finding a pressing need for buttermilk in your everyday cooking!

But with these easy recipes for faking buttermilk, you won’t have the real thing but you’ll have a decent substitute for that creamy, tangy flavor that will work perfectly well in baked goods.

Happy baking!

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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