Follow our simple guide to find out everything you need to know about buttermilk including how to store it once made and what you can make with it too.
Buttermilk is traditionally served as a drink, but it is often used in baking. When combined with baking soda, it reacts to form carbon dioxide which helps cakes, waffles, scones, and bread rise.
Historically, buttermilk was a fermented drink that was made from the liquid leftover from churning butter (hence the name) but now it is usually made using a ‘culture’ which is a type of bacteria; though not enough to be harmful.
You can also use buttermilk to marinate meat in, as the acidity helps make the meat more tender and more flavorsome. This explains why it is a key ingredient in many chicken recipes.
Buttermilk is sometimes hard to find in supermarkets which is why it’s a good skill to have in your repertoire. In this article we cover the following:
Can you make buttermilk with yogurt?
It is possible to make with yogurt but you will still need to add milk so it might not be cost-effective. If you would like to add yogurt it will make the flavour more acidic which works well in a cake recipe as the sweetness will balance it out. The mixture will also be thicker. Therefore you will find that it more closely resembles the buttermilk you find in the supermarket.
If you aren’t in a hurry then you can mix milk with plain yogurt and leave out the lemon juice. The cultures already in the yogurt will help to make the buttermilk.
To make a buttermilk substitute using yogurt, mix 300ml yogurt with 100ml milk. This isn’t exactly making it but it is something you can use if you can’t find the real thing.
Can you make buttermilk without regular milk?
Our Senior Food Writer, Jessica, likes to use full-fat milk to get better results. But it is also possible to use other kinds of milk such as skimmed. Soy milk can be used if you want to make a vegan alternative.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free buttermilk option you’ll be glad to know that you can easily swap out the regular milk in our classic recipe for a dairy-free alternative. Try almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk.
How to make buttermilk
- 250ml milk
- 1tbsp lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
- Mix the milk with the lemon juice with a spoon.
- Leave the mixture to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes until the milk changes colour and texture. It will then be ready to use in your chosen recipe.
Lemon juice is the acid that is often used when making buttermilk. However, our Food Writer, Keiron, points out that you can also use distilled white vinegar. He says ‘it will work just as well using vinegar but the flavour of lemon juice is more preferable especially when baking.’
How to store buttermilk
You can store buttermilk in the fridge 3-4 days after making however buttermilk is best served and used fresh. Just remember if you keep buttermilk it will continue to ferment and become more acidic over time.
Shop-bought buttermilk will last around 2 weeks in the fridge, but please check the packaging for direct instructions.
You can also freeze buttermilk. You’ll need to do this as soon as you can after making it. It will last up to 1 month in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.
What can I use as a substitute for buttermilk?
There are a number of ingredients you can use as a substitute. Delia Smith recommends substituting buttermilk by using the equivalent amount of runny natural yogurt.
Our Test Kitchen team uses soured cream when they aren’t able to make their own buttermilk or can’t find buttermilk in the supermarket.
Food Editor Samuel explains; ‘this is one of those ingredients that you don’t need that often but really makes a difference in the recipe when it’s used – we don’t always have trouble finding it but when we do we make it ourselves. On the rare occasion when we can’t make it ourselves we use soured cream.”
The key thing is that you make sure you find a substitute for buttermilk and don’t just leave it out of your recipe otherwise the recipe may not work.
Recipes that use buttermilk
Buttermilk chicken skewers
This recipe marinates tender pieces of chicken breast in a buttermilk and paprika infused marinade. The buttermilk makes the chicken extra succulent and flavoursome.
Get the recipe: Buttermilk chicken skewers
Buckwheat and buttermilk pancakes
Buttermilk makes these pancakes extra spongy and soft. It also gives these buckwheat pancakes a citrus kick of flavour thanks to the lemon flavouring of the buttermilk.
Get the recipe: Buckwheat and buttermilk pancakes
Indian-fried buttermilk chicken
Marinate chicken drumsticks in this buttermilk based sauce for at least 2 hours. The meat will literally fall off the bone once cooked. The buttermilk pairs nicely with garlic and onions to make a crisp coating.
Get the recipe: Indian-fried buttermilk chicken
Cornbread is a savory bread native to North America. The cornmeal and buttermilk pair nicely together in this recipe to make a soft, lightly sponged bread with a golden color.