When you want to make a dish that’s light and tender – and add just a little bit of extra, slightly tart flavor! – you can’t do better than reach for a bottle of buttermilk. It’s one pantry staple of which we never seem to have enough, and we’re always having to run out to the store to grab some more.
Don’t believe us? Then you might be forgetting the important role buttermilk plays in some of our absolute favorite recipes, like our:
- Hummingbird Cake
- Pimento Basil Cream Chicken
- Fried Pickles
- Cornbread Waffles with Chili
- Cinnamon Roll Cake
- Baked Popcorn Chicken
- Surprise Egg Muffins
Since there’s nothing worse than not having a key ingredient right when you’re craving some biscuits, waffles or fried chicken, we had to wonder if there was anything that could save the day when we find ourselves in that predicament. Turns out, there’s an absolutely easy homemade buttermilk hack, and it uses only two ingredients you’re almost guaranteed to have on hand when the buttermilk runs dry: regular milk, and lemon juice.
Yes, that’s all you need to whip up a perfect substitution. As the folks at Statosphere explain in the video below, the only thing required is mixing the milk and the lemon juice together in the right proportions, then setting it aside to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Then all you need to do is use the mixture as you would regular buttermilk.
So why does this trick work? Because the combination of the regular milk and the lemon juice serves the same purpose in a recipe that buttermilk does, i.e. to add a little bit of acidity to the mixture of ingredients. When that acidity combines with things like baking soda or baking powder, the reaction creates the lightness we’re all looking for in things like biscuits, while counteracting the more sour taste of the buttermilk.
Whether we’re talking pancakes or quick breads, the role of buttermilk in almost any baking recipe is to add tenderness and lighten the batter. Once the acids in the buttermilk get in contact with the baking soda or baking powder in the batter, a giant fizz-fest takes place. The reaction with the baking soda (or powder) cancels out the sourness of the buttermilk, leaving our baked goods airy, tender, and tasty beyond reckoning.
Buttermilk comes from its acidity naturally, thanks to lactic-acid-producing bacteria. (Commercially-produced buttermilk that you get at the store adds this bacteria to pasteurized and homogenized milk. Traditionally, before pasteurization, the bacteria was produced as milk fermented after being churned for butter.) In the absence of buttermilk, you just add an acidic ingredient, the lemon juice, to some dairy, and voila! You’ve got a mixture that’ll serve the same purpose.
To see it in action, and to get the proportions right for the next time you need it, check out Statosphere’s video below.
Live in the United States and/or don’t use milliliters to measure your liquid ingredients? No worries; we’ve got you covered! For the milk, 250 milliliters is roughly equivalent to 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons; for the lemon juice, 15 milliliters is equivalent to 1 tablespoon. So if you need to make this hack in greater quantities in the future, just remember that the ratio is roughly 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a little over a cup of milk!
Now you tell us— have any of you used this buttermilk substitution hack before? Do you know of any other good swaps for buttermilk in your favorite recipes? What are some of your best dishes to make with that great buttermilk flavor? And if you try this hack for the first time soon, come back and let us know how it turned out for you!