Buttermilk Substitutions, Measures and Equivalents

No Buttermilk? Try These Recipe Hacks

A glass of milk (left) and a glass of buttermilk (right). Buttermilk is thicker and covers the glass
Ukko-wc/Wikimedia Commons

You've got a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but your fridge hasn't stocked that staple since 1940. What to do? No, worries! You can make your own substitute. Here are a number of ways to get around buttermilk in a recipe, as well as ways to incorporate buttermilk into recipes calling for regular "sweet" milk.

Why Cook with Buttermilk?

Buttermilk brings a slightly tangy flavor to recipes and adds fluffiness (think pancakes) and a wonderful rise to baked goods.

That's because the lactic acid in buttermilk—a product of fermentation—reacts energetically with baking soda, which is usually included in leavened recipes.

If you find buttermilk's tang appealing you may want to replace some or all of the milk called for in certain recipes. When using baking powder, however, take care in substituting buttermilk for regular milk as it upsets the balance of alkali to acid. Buttermilk has more acid than regular milk, which will reduce the carbon dioxide released and thwart the leavening process important to these recipes.

To achieve the desired result when using buttermilk instead of milk, be sure to substitute baking soda for some or all for of the baking powder. For each cup of buttermilk used in place of sweet milk, reduce the amount of baking powder by 2 teaspoons, and replace with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.

Buttermilk Substitutes

If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can get by with yogurt, another fermented dairy product that's high in lactic acid.

Yogurt may be substituted for buttermilk, volume for volume, meaning 1 cup of yogurt may be substituted for 1 cup of buttermilk. In the reverse, you can usually substitute buttermilk for yogurt or sour milk on a one-to-one basis.

Another option is "clabbered milk," a blend of milk and lemon juice or vinegar.

Or, if the lemon flavor (or vinegar flavor) is undesirable, cream of tartar added to milk will raise lactic acid as well.

Buttermilk Equivalents and Measures

Recipe calls for buttermilk but none in the fridge? Here are several ways to replace buttermilk.

  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk PLUS 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice (let stand for 10 minutes before using in recipe)
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk PLUS 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup water PLUS 4 tablespoons powdered buttermilk (reconstitute before using or add dry to dry ingredients and wet to wet ingredients before mixing)
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1/4 cup milk PLUS 3/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1/4 cup milk PLUS 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 8.5 ounces
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 242 grams

More about Buttermilk and Buttermilk Recipes

Here is more information and recipes including buttermilk.