How to Make Buttermilk
Knowing how to make buttermilk can be a time saver as well as being more friendly on your pocketbook! You can make the exact amount you need for almost any recipe that calls for buttermilk! I tested out 4 different ways to make homemade buttermilk and can’t wait to share my findings with you! (If you scroll all the way to the bottom you can see where I tested these buttermilk recipes on my mile-high Buttermilk Biscuits!)How to Make Buttermilk at HomeI have been baking for the last 15+ years and I have to tell you, I sure do feel foolish. I have been told time and time again to make homemade buttermilk you use 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. And that will replicate store-bought. I got to thinking… does it?It all started with a simple taste test. I had some store-bought buttermilk on hand and I made up a cup of milk with vinegar and tasted each. What did I find? It tastes nothing like buttermilk nor does it measure up in texture and appearance. So why have I have making it this way for so long?I set out to replicate store-bought buttermilk with the same standard ingredients. Milk + an acid. I was surprised to find out that 1 tablespoon is not enough. Two tablespoons were so much better! From this day on, if you ever need to make buttermilk at home, try adding 2 tablespoons of the vinegar or lemon juice.Why Use Buttermilk in Recipes?Buttermilk brings a pleasant tang to cakes, bread, and biscuits. It helps tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a softer texture and more body. If baked goods have baking soda, then using buttermilk is a good option. Baking soda is a leavening agent that requires acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses to activate it.The following variations of homemade buttermilk can be used in most recipes that call for buttermilk.Vinegar Homemade Buttermilk RecipeThis is the classic, one that everyone knows. After testing the standard recipe I changed it up a bit:1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 tablespoons vinegarWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.When I added 2 tablespoons versus 1, the consistency changed from thin milk to a thicker, chunkier (or curdled) version. But the most important reason I made the change was for taste. When I tasted the standard milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar, I could barely detect it was there. When I added TWO tablespoons vinegar, the flavor was much more consistent with tangy store-bought buttermilk.Simply put, 2 tablespoons of vinegar help to best replicate the thick, creamy, tangy storebought buttermilk.Lemon Juice Homemade Buttermilk RecipeProbably the second most popular way to make buttermilk at home is with fresh lemon juice. Same as with the vinegar, I found that 1 tablespoon was not enough in a cup of milk. So, you guessed it, I tested using 2 tablespoons. I also tested using 3 tablespoons and found that it didn’t change the texture too much, but did add a bit of a lemony flavor. If you are making blueberry lemon quick bread or any recipe that would be complemented with a hint of lemon, you can certainly use 3 tablespoons in 1 cup of milk to create lemony homemade buttermilk! But for standard recipes calling for buttermilk, here is the formula.1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juiceWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.I didn’t have any storebought lemon juice on hand so did not test its effectiveness. Sour Cream Homemade Buttermilk RecipeThis version of homemade buttermilk is not as common, but it sure is good! I know that I am more likely to have sour cream on hand (every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday dontchaknow) then buttermilk, so this option is a good one. To make sour cream buttermilk you need:1/2 cup room temperature whole milk + 1/2 cup sour creamWhisk the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.When it came to replicate the flavor and texture of store-bought buttermilk, this recipe was the clear winner. It is thick. It is creamy. And it is tangy! I tried adding in an additional tablespoon of vinegar and liked that version even better, but my tastes testers thought it was just a bit too much. If you like extra tang, you might want to try adding the additional vinegar too!Cream of Tartar Buttermilk RecipeThis version of homemade buttermilk was not as familiar to me, and I didn’t have high hopes for it as I started testing. The recipe is simple:1 cup room temperature whole milk + 2 teaspoons cream of tartarWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.When you whisk the cream of tartar into the milk it disintegrates quickly leaving you with homemade buttermilk the texture of… milk. After letting this version sit for about 15 minutes, I poured it into a different container and found that the cream of tartar had almost solidified at the bottom of the jar. Make sure that if you use this version to WHISK WELL immediately before use.Does the milk temperature matter?In all the research I did no one mentions whether or not using warm milk or cold milk makes a difference. So I wanted to know, does it?I did a simple test. In one bowl I added 2 tablespoons of vinegar to milk that I had heated in the microwave for 20 seconds. This version was instantly different; curdling and creating a thicker texture.In the second bowl, I added 2 tablespoons of vinegar to cold milk. The vinegar didn’t seem to have the same effect on texture or thickness.Conclusion: The warm milk version seemed to accept the acidity of the vinegar better, which makes perfect sense! We adhere to that rule (room temp ingredients) all the time in baking, why not apply it to our homemade buttermilk?BUT MY TESTING WASN’T DONE THERE!After doing all of this I wanted to know, does it make a difference in the final product? So, I whipped up a batch of my Buttermilk Biscuits. Well, four batches.Here is what we discovered:Sour Cream – these biscuits were great, were as tall as they should be, and soft. This was my favorite version of homemade buttermilk as I love buttermilk biscuits to have a golden crust on top and be delicate and sweet inside.Cream of Tartar– this was a surprise, but it really shouldn’t have been! The biscuits were more of a cakey texture. Still tall and delicious, but not as distinguishable in the individual flakey layers. This makes perfect sense! We add cream of tartar to baked goods all the time as it helps cookies and cakes rise as well as produces carbon-dioxide gas bubbles that break gluten apart and make it soft. If you want a biscuit that will melt in your mouth, this is the version to try.Lemon Juice– these biscuits tasted great, were as tall as they should be, and had flakey layers. We saw no difference between these biscuits and the vinegar buttermilk biscuits.Vinegar – these biscuits tasted great, were as tall as they should be, and had flakey layers. We saw no difference between these biscuits and the lemon juice buttermilk biscuits.In this picture, the order from left to right: sour cream, cream of tartar, lemon juice (I made 5 instead of 6, so it was bigger), and vinegar-based biscuits.Four options for how to replicate buttermilk at home! Course: Breakfast Cuisine: American Keyword: how to make buttermilk Servings: 4 servingsVinegar Buttermilk 1 cup room temperature whole milk 2 tablespoons vinegarLemon Juice Buttermilk 1 cup room temperature whole milk 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juiceSour Cream Buttermilk 1/2 cup room temperature milk 1/2 cup sour creamCream of Tartar Buttermilk 1 cup room temperature whole milk 2 teaspoons cream of tartarVinegar ButtermilkWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.Lemon Juice ButtermilkWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.Sour Cream ButtermilkWhisk the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours.Cream of Tartar ButtermilkWhisk the ingredients together until incorporated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 2 hours. Final conclusion?All four recipes for homemade buttermilk work! Just be sure you try adding TWO tablespoons next time you make the vinegar or lemon juice version. 🙂And while they all seem to work beautifully, they do seem to produce different results. But not enough that anyone would notice! We were scrutinizing every detail and that’s how we came to our conclusions, but if you were serving any of these to friends and family they would only have one reaction… “that’s a great biscuit!”Looking for recipes to use Homemade Buttermilk in?Buttermilk BiscuitsButtermilk Banana BreadRanch Dressing RecipeChocolate Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese FillingRocky Road Sheet CakeButtermilk Scrambled EggsButtermilk Pancakes meet Amanda RettkeAmanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.