If you bake at home a lot – or make a lot of Southern food – then you probably have some buttermilk in the fridge right now ready to go. If not, you may be reluctant to buy a whole pot or carton just for the small amount asked for in the recipe you happen to be trying out. In that case, we have some good news for you.
First of all, buttermilk tends to keep longer than most other dairy products, so there’s no need to fret if you doubt you’ll be able to polish off a whole pot in a week. It also makes for quite a tasty drink, so that’s one way to make sure none goes to waste at least.
More importantly, it’s very easy to make a quick buttermilk proxy at home from common ingredients – even vegan ones, in case that’s your preference. We’ll show you how to make buttermilk from milk of all types down below, as well as cover all other eventualities with some emergency buttermilk alternatives. But first, let’s start from the beginning. What is buttermilk anyway?
Simply put, buttermilk is a byproduct of making butter. It’s the rich and tangy liquid that remains in the churn once the butter itself has been taken out. It’s generally thicker than regular milk yet incredibly low in fat. That’s because most of the milk fats have been concentrated into the butter. It’s also rich in cultures.
As an ingredient, it helps keep baked goods moist and tender for longer. And because it’s acidic, it also reacts to baking soda, which can help you achieve a fluffier rise.
How to make buttermilk at home
All you need to make buttermilk at home is milk and something acidic.
For the acid, distilled white vinegar is generally best, although lemon juice also works well. Stay away from darker vinegars or more distinctive acidic flavours, unless you’re certain they can complement the rest of the recipe.
For the milk, pretty much any type will do, whatever the fat content. That said, because true buttermilk is generally thicker than a lot of milk, you may be better off using the creamiest milk available to you if the right consistency is crucial (cream itself will be too thick, though). That said, your homemade buttermilk will (and should) look more curdled than store-bought, so don’t expect to replicate it exactly. In most cooking and baking scenarios, the important thing isn’t the viscosity of the buttermilk, but the flavour.
You can also use common vegan milk substitutes too. Almond milk and coconut milk work particularly well but, as you’ve probably gathered by now, you should consider the taste of each and whether it will fit in your recipe. It will taste slightly different to the buttermilk intended for use in the recipe you’re attempting.
Once you’ve chosen your milk and acid, there are only two steps to follow to create your own buttermilk at home:
Pour approximately 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the vinegar or lemon juice into 1 cup (225 ml) of your preferred milk.
Stir the mixture thoroughly (at least 5 minutes). It should look slightly curdled when done.
Yep, that really is it.
There are other solutions open to you if you don’t have buttermilk to hand. For many recipes, you can simply substitute the buttermilk for equal parts plain yoghurt. Of course, the runnier the yoghurt the better. Greek yoghurt and kefir are both valid alternatives.
Another thing you can try is adding cream of tartar to milk instead of the vinegar or lemon juice recommended above. Just stir 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of cream of tarter into 1 cup measure of milk. This isn’t just a great option if you happen to also be missing vinegar or lemon juice, but also if the thought of curdled milk make you squeamish.
Recipes with buttermilk
We can’t finish without pointing you towards some of our favourite recipes that use buttermilk. Of course, that means taking a trip to the deep South.
Since we’ve been focusing on buttermilk as a baking ingredient, let’s start with the Southern staple of biscuits. These homemade buttermilk biscuits are fluffy, moist, and delicious, whether eaten for breakfast or used to mop up grits and gravy for dinner.
So that’s how to make your own buttermilk at home the easy way, with a couple of buttermilk-rich recipes to try out as well. But what if you want to try making authentic buttermilk the hard way? Then click here to find out how to make your own butter.