How to Make Buttermilk

Four Methods:Making Buttermilk from a CultureCapturing Buttermilk when Making ButterSubstitutes for ButtermilkUsing Buttermilk

Buttermilk is traditionally either the liquid taken from making butter or is specifically cultured from bacteria. Both of these ways of creating buttermilk are fairly time consuming, albeit rewarding, for the self-sufficient householder. However, many cooks are hoping to get the tangy flavor that buttermilk is renowned for, only to discover they didn't buy any buttermilk; in such a case, instant buttermilk substitutes are the solution, and these are offered here as well as the more traditional method for making buttermilk.

Method 1
Making Buttermilk from a Culture

While time-consuming, this is the most true-to-type buttermilk available. Once you've tried the first batch at home, it's likely you'll want to keep making your own fresh version.

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    Add a bacterial starter of 6 to 8 ounces/180-235ml of active fresh cultured buttermilk to a clean quart jar. Use 6 ounces/180 milliliters (6.1 fl oz) if you are certain of the freshness of the starter. When in doubt, use a full cup of buttermilk as starter.
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    Fill the rest of the jar with fresh milk.
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    Screw the lid on on securely. Shake thoroughly to mix. Label the jar with the date.
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    Let the jar sit out in a warm part of the room until thickened. This should take about 24 hours. If you find it takes longer than 36 hours, the starter was no longer active (meaning that the bacteria has died). The buttermilk may or may not be tasty if it takes longer than 36 hours but it can still be used for baking.
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    Check to make sure the thickened buttermilk coats the glass. This happens because the bacteria have fermented the milk, and the lactic acid is causing the milk proteins to thicken. Refrigerate immediately.

Method 2
Capturing Buttermilk when Making Butter

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    Make butter. There are various methods for doing this––see How to Make Butter for your preferred method.
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    Capture the buttermilk as you knead the butter. The buttermilk will appear at various stages of making butter and most of it can be drained into a pouring jug and kept for use in cooking.
    • Be aware that the last "dregs" of the buttermilk might not be as palatable as the first buttermilk. However, this end buttermilk can still be given to livestock or pets for nourishment.

Method 3
Substitutes for Buttermilk

Making Substitute Buttermilk from Yogurt

This is a fast substitute for buttermilk that makes use of the tangy flavor already present in the yogurt.

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    Mix 3/4 of a cup of plain, quality yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk.
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    Stir. Let stand for 5 minutes.
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    Use as required in the recipe.

Making Substitute Buttermilk with Vinegar

This is a quick fix substitute solution that doesn't take long. It won't be anywhere near as rich as real cultured buttermilk but it still carries the tangy taste that is often required by a recipe calling for buttermilk.

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    Pour a cup of milk into a mixing bowl.
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    Add one tablespoon of quality white wine vinegar.
    • If you don't have vinegar, use lemon juice in the same quantity.
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    Let stand. The mixture will curdle after about 5 minutes.
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    Use as required in the recipe asking for buttermilk.

Making Substitute Buttermilk with Cream of Tartar

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    Pour a cup of milk into a mixing bowl.
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    Add 1 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to 2 tablespoons of milk taken from the bowl. Then add the mixed liquid to the remaining milk in the bowl.
    • Mixing the cream of tartar first will prevent it from forming lumps, as it will do if added to a larger amount of liquid.
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    Mix well. The milk will turn acidic from the cream of tartar and the tanginess will carry over into the food you're making.

Making Substitute Buttermilk with Lemon

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    Stir 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice with 1 cup of milk.
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    Let stand for 5 minutes. Then it's ready to use.

Method 4
Using Buttermilk

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    Buttermilk has various uses, most of them involve baking or cold drinks. Buttermilk breaks if heated to a near boil, which is why it tends to be confined to baking and cold foods. Most commonly, buttermilk is used for:
  • Buttermilk scones or buttermilk biscuits
  • Buttermilk pancakes
  • Buttermilk cake
  • Improving the texture of smoothies and ice cream (as well as adding a tangy taste)
  • Enriching soups and dressings: When added to cold soups and salad dressings instead of cream or milk, buttermilk imparts a velvety and thick texture.
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Tips

  • With the substitute buttermilk versions, you can change the sizes if you need more buttermilk for the recipe. Keep the ratios the same and double or triple as needed.
  • Buttermilk can also be purchased from stores stocking dairy products. These will have been fermented using the bacterial process.
  • Dry buttermilk is available from some health food stores and specialty stores. Follow the instructions on the package for revitalizing it (it's usually around 1/4 cup powder to 1 cup water). Alternatively, add it dry to a recipe's dry ingredients.

Things You'll Need

  • Culturing jar if making from bacteria
  • Clean storage container, preferably glass, for keeping the buttermilk
  • Mixing bowl and mixing implements

Article Info

Categories: Eggs and Dairy