How to make buttermilk: 3 ways

Find out what buttermilk is and what is does in baking, plus learn three different ways to make a buttermilk substitute using ingredients you already have at home!

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How to make buttermilk: 3 ways

What is buttermilk?

Buttermilk is the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cultured cream. It was traditionally made at home from unpasteurised milk. Nowadays, store-bought buttermilk in Australia is made by using a culture to ferment milk. This gives buttermilk its thick, rich and fluffy consistency and a tangy, acidic flavour, although it has about the same fat content as regular milk.

What does buttermilk do in recipes? 

Buttermilk has a higher acid content than fresh cow’s milk. In baking, this acid reacts with bi-carbonate of soda, creating bubbles and that wonderful light and fluffy texture of baked goods. It’s also often used to give the end product a slightly tangy and more complex flavour.

When it's used in marinades for meats like chicken, it adds flavour and tenderises the meat.

How do you make buttermilk?

You can replace store-bought buttermilk by adding an acid to milk, or thinning out yoghurt or sour cream. You can use any milk you prefer, including plant-based milks, just note that the fat content may be reduced. There are 3 main methods to make your own buttermilk.

How to make buttermilk with lemon or vinegar

Measure out the same amount of milk as you need buttermilk in your recipe. Stir in 3 tsp of either lemon juice or vinegar for every 1 cup of milk. See below for more measurements for smaller amounts of milk:

1/4 cup milk = ¾ tsp acid
1/3 cup milk = 1 tsp acid
1/2 cup milk = 1½ tsp acid
2/3 cup milk = 2 tsp acid
3/4 cup milk = 2½ tsp acid 
1 cup milk = 3 tsp acid

Stir well and let it stand for 5-10 minutes before using. The buttermilk texture may look separated at the top, with some light curdling. This is fine. It’s best to use white vinegar, as other vinegars may give your finished recipe a different flavour.

How to make buttermilk with cream of tartar

Add 1 ¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar per cup of milk. Stir well and let stand for 5-10 minutes before using. Ensure your cream of tartar is not expired, or this method may not work.

How to make buttermilk with yoghurt or sour cream

Mix equal parts plain yoghurt and milk together, or equal parts sour cream and water together to create a buttermilk substitute. Stand for 5-10 minutes before using.

How to store buttermilk

Store buttermilk in the refrigerator. It tends to have a long shelf life. Alternatively, freeze buttermilk in smaller portions or ice cube trays. Use within three months. Thaw in fridge or microwave on low power until defrosted.

What to do with buttermilk

Check out the recipes below that you can make with buttermilk! From light and fluffy scones to battered and fried chicken, buttermilk is a fantastic ingredient that can be used in so many ways.

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