Food hack: How to make buttermilk

Buttermilk tends to be one of those ingredients that pops up in a recipe every now and then and you usually don’t have it in the fridge. But never fear, those days of being buttermilk-less are over!
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  • Learn how to make buttermilk with our food hack brought to you from the experts at our Test Kitchen.

    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, it was a fermented drink that was made from the liquid leftover from churning butter (hence the name). Now it is usually made using a culture – this is usually some kind of bacteria; though not enough to be harmful.

    You can also use buttermilk to marinade meat in, as the acidity helps make the meat more tender and more flavoursome. This explains why it is is a key ingredient in many chicken recipes. It is sometimes hard to find in supermarkets. But don’t worry, this handy hack will mean you can whip up some yourself if you are ever in need.

    Donna Hay in her book Modern Baking highlights how great buttermilk is for making fluffy pancakes, moist cakes, light scones and rich dressings.

    This nifty food hack shows how you can make buttermilk at home with only two ingredients – milk and lemon. And just a little bit of patience too! Once you have made it, why not try whipping up a batch of homemade buttermilk scones.

    How to make buttermilk from regular milk

    It doesn’t take much to make. All you need is to mix 250ml milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and leave it for 5 minutes. Just watch our video to find out more.

    Our Senior Food Writer, Jessica, likes to use full fat milk to get better results. But it is also possible to use other milks such as skimmed. Soy milk can be used if you want to make a vegan alternative.

    Lemon juice is the acid which is usually used when making buttermilk. However, our Food Writer, Keiron, points out that you can also use distilled white vinegar. He says “it will work but the flavour of lemon juice is more preferable especially when baking.’

    The milk will change colour and texture, this means you can use the mixture in the same way as you’d use buttermilk in the recipe.

    Just remember, the longer you keep buttermilk it will continue to ferment and become more acidic over time.

    Try making buttermilk pancakes with your freshly made buttermilk. How about using as a marinade to make buttermilk chicken.

    What can I use as a substitute for buttermilk?

    There are a number of ingredients you can use as a substitute. Though our hack is so simple that you will never need a substitute again!

    Delia Smith recommends substituting buttermilk by using the equivalent amount of runny natural yogurt, using ¼ skimmed milk to ¾ natural yogurt mixed together or replacing buttermilk with soured cream.

    Our Test Kitchen team use soured cream when they aren’t able to make their own and buttermilk is hard to find. 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 we can’t make it ourselves we use soured cream.”

    The key thing is that you make sure you find a substitute and don’t just leave it out or your recipe may not work.

    How to 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 is no bad thing in a cake 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.