Buttermilk: The Pain In The Neck Ingredient


Has this ever happened to you? You’re reading a new recipe and thinking about giving it a try. It’s a recipe for some sort of tasty baked goods like muffins or a cake and you’re thinking to yourself *yum* this recipe sure sounds good. And then you come across it. The pain in the neck ingredient. Buttermilk.


Now I know that buttermilk can add an extra richness to baked goods, but most recipes usually call for something like 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the stuff and it seems that you can only buy buttermilk in quarts at the store. So now you are left either making a whole bunch of buttermilk-using recipes in the next few weeks, or you end up tossing it out. And so I find myself avoiding buttermilk recipes altogether.

Rather than to just keep avoiding buttermilk recipes, I’ve been gathering some ideas on how to get around the buttermilk dilemma. Here’s what’s in my notes so far for clever ways to Make Your Own buttermilk:

1. Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of regular milk.
It seems like I’ve seen this helpful hint in numerous cookbooks over the years, and yet I’ve never put it to the test. It’s basically a way to add the “tang” of buttermilk to your regular milk with a sour ingredient like lemon juice or vinegar. Probably one of the most thrifty ways to come up with a substitute for buttermilk.

buttermilk saco

2. Use powdered buttermilk.
There’s an instant powdered version of buttermilk on the market manufactured by a company called Saco. I was able to find it in my local grocery store (Meijer) on the baking aisle. It cost $4.19 for a 12 oz container that says it is equivalent to 3.75 quarts of liquid buttermilk. So far I’ve only tried this product in the powdered form to make a spice mixture that I mixed into mayo and sour cream to make a ranch dip. (which turned out good by the way). This looks a like a really good solution to making buttermilk in small quantities. If you can’t find this product in your local stores, you can order it from Amazon in a slightly larger size. Here’s a link: Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend, 16-Ounce Canister (Pack of 3)

3. Substitute yogurt.
Some folks make a substitute for buttermilk by using plain or vanilla yogurt and thinning it down with some regular milk. A good solution if you tend to always have yogurt on hand.

4. Use a buttermilk starter.
And finally, here’s a thrifty idea from the Dining on a Dime Cookbook for making your own buttermilk, but in larger quantities for folks who are doing enough baking to make it worthwhile. Take 3-1/2 cups whole milk and mix it with a 1/2 cup of purchased buttermilk. Mix the two together and let it sit out in a warm spot for 24 hours. You then have yourself a fresh batch of buttermilk! If you save a 1/2 cup of this mixture you can use it as a starter for a new batch and just keep it going and going rather than having to purchase the store bought buttermilk again.

How about you? Have you tried any of these buttermilk substitutions? Or do you have an even better idea? Please share!

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  1. buttermilk can be frozen. I freeze mine in 1/2 cup containers and freeze with great results. I also make my own from the frozen when I need more.

  2. Well its good to know that the vinegar/lemon juice method produces good results! (And the Saco powdered stuff too!)

    I don't think I'm quite ambitious enough to try Kathryn's idea of making butter ๐Ÿ™‚ (but you never know)

  3. Well, you could make butter and have real buttermilk! I only did that once. I usually add vinegar to milk, but i think i might add some yogurt, too.

    I wouldn't use powdered milk as the process they use does bad things to the milk, but that's just me. I generally drink raw milk – as close to natural as possible.