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Substitute for Buttermilk

Substitute for Buttermilk

Baking enthusiasts have come to appreciate the benefits of buttermilk in their favorite recipes. And they do for good reason. It’s so flexible and versatile; it’s a welcome addition to various baked goods. Buttermilk is even a regular substitute for some everyday baking ingredients. But what if, for some reason, you run out of it?

As food enthusiasts, one of the essential things to know is how to replace ingredients in a recipe, which applies to buttermilk. In cases where you don’t have buttermilk in hand, you can make substitutes for it from other elements in your kitchen.

Substitute for Buttermilk

With the correct information, you can whip up a handy alternative from yogurt, milk, vinegar, and many other regular kitchen ingredients. And if you’re cooking other recipes like fried chicken, for instance, you can still find handy substitutes for buttermilk.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is derived from skim or low-fat milk. The milk is mixed with lactic acid bacteria and then heated. Afterward, it’s left to rest, and the bacteria feed on the sugar in the milk, kicking off the fermentation process. The process leads to the milk developing a thick texture and a tangy, sour taste.

Many may assume buttermilk is gotten from butter because of the name, and they won’t be wrong. But the name comes from the ancient traditional method of preparing it, where the buttermilk is extracted as a by-product of churning butter. Buttermilk also stays fresh for a longer time than regular raw milk, and this is because of its bacteria content.

Buttermilk is sold in cartons at grocery stores in liquid form, but you can also find it in powder as well. The powdered buttermilk is rehydrated by adding water before it’s used. And for the powdered buttermilk, it’s advised to follow the instructions listed on the packaging for best results.

Buttermilk Nutrition Facts

Buttermilk Nutrition Facts

Buttermilk Uses in Recipes

Buttermilk has a high acidic content that makes it useful in numerous culinary applications. The acidic nature allows it to soften meat and baked goods quickly. This property is why it’s used as a marinade for chicken recipes. The acid in buttermilk also helps to activate baking soda in the dough to release carbon dioxide bubbles. The bubbles, in turn, help the dough to rise, adding airiness and softness.

Buttermilk is also sought-after for its sour, tangy taste, which brightens numerous liquid recipes. And in addition to leavening baked goods, it also breaks down the gluten content and adds moisture to the dough, resulting in a richer and creamier taste. Because of its remarkable properties, you’ll find buttermilk in;

  • Cakes
  • Bread
  • Cornbread
  • Marinades
  • Pancakes
  • Syrup
  • Coleslaw
  • Waffles
  • Frosting
  • Dressing
  • Mac and cheese
  • Sherbet
  • Buns
  • Biscuits
  • Muffins
  • Pies
  • Fudge
  • Tarts
  • Donuts

Buttermilk Substitutes

You may choose to seek a substitute for buttermilk for many reasons. Most times, you’ve run out and are in the middle of a recipe. You may also wish to avoid its sour, tangy flavor in your recipes. You may be lactose-intolerant or have guests that are. And sometimes, it’s because you’re preparing a vegetarian recipe.

So, if you ever need a substitute for buttermilk, you can pick from any of these handy options;

Milk and Acid

Horizon Organic Whole Milk Single, 8 Fl Oz

Acidified milk combines the acidic nature of buttermilk with its dairy base, which makes it an ideal substitute for it. Plus, you can quickly whip out this option in your kitchen if you’re ever in a bind. When using milk and acid, you should consider what kind of buttermilk you’re replacing. For instance, if a recipe asks for low-fat buttermilk, then use low-fat milk.

The best thing about this option is combining the milk with any acidic ingredient from your kitchen. You can mix one tablespoon of freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice with one cup of milk. If you don’t have lemon juice, distilled white vinegar is your next best acid for this purpose.

You can also mix 1¾ teaspoons of cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) into the dry ingredients of your dough and add a cup of milk. And if you’re lactose-intolerant, use lactose-free milk for this substitute. This alternative works for all baked goods and can be an excellent addition to soups and sauces.

Diluted Sour Cream

Hoosier Hill Farm Heavy Cream Powder Jar, 1 Pound

Suppose you have sour cream in your fridge, water it down to get a convenient buttermilk substitute. Sour cream is also a fermentation product, as it’s made by adding lactic acid to the cream. As such, it shares the same tangy taste with buttermilk but comes in a thicker consistency.

Whisk ¾ cup of water with ¼ cup of sour cream to substitute for one cup of buttermilk. And make sure to whisk until you get an evenly smooth texture. You can use this combination for pancakes, donuts, pies, and many other baked goods. You can also use it for creamy soups.

Silken Tofu, Water and Acid

Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Firm, 12.3 Ounce

This substitute option is excellent for those on a vegetarian diet. Plus, it also works if you’re lactose-intolerant and don’t have lactose-free milk. Tofu is rich in protein and low in carbs, but it’s thick enough to add texture and moisture to baked goods when pureed. And when mixed with an acidic ingredient, you get an acceptable substitute for buttermilk. To use this option, blend ¼ cup of silken tofu with ¾ cup of water till it smoothens. Then, add one tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar.

Diluted Yogurt

Cultures for Health Vegan Yogurt Starter Culture

Yogurt has a tangy, sour flavor similar to buttermilk, so it’s a good substitute for cakes, pancakes, and many other baked goods. But yogurt, like sour cream, is thicker and may not correctly incorporate into the dough, and the baked goods may come out dense. Plus, if the buttermilk in the recipe is for flavor, then yogurt may overwhelm this since its tang is heavier. So, to use it, mix ¾ cup of plain yogurt with ¼ cup of water to get one cup of buttermilk. Also, you can swap the water with milk for a creamier texture but make sure it matches the type of buttermilk you’re replacing.

Coconut Milk and Acid

Thai Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk, 13.66 Fl Oz

Not only is this substitute perfect for vegetarians, but also lactose-free and keto diets as well. In addition to being dairy and high in fat, buttermilk is also rich in carbs, which makes it unsuitable for Paleo diets. But coconut milk is entirely dairy-free and low in carbs, and when mixed with acid, you get a handy alternative for buttermilk. And coconut milk has a consistency that’s close to buttermilk.

When using this option, consider unsweetened coconut milk as it offers the best keto-friendly advantage. Blend one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with about one cup of unsweetened coconut milk.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens if you use milk instead of buttermilk?

Buttermilk has an acidic content that brings out specific results in various recipes, and if you use only plain milk in such situations, you won’t end up with the desired results. It’s why mixing plain milk with an acidic ingredient is always recommended for such cases.

Can you substitute Greek yogurt for buttermilk?

No, you can’t. Greek yogurt isn’t as fluid as buttermilk, and when used, you may not have as moist baked goods as you would with buttermilk.

Can I use almond milk in place of buttermilk?

Yes, you can. Like coconut milk, almond milk is another keto-friendly, non-dairy and vegan option to use in place of buttermilk. But you’ll have to mix it with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar to mimic the properties of buttermilk. One cup of almond milk combined with one tablespoon of lemon juice is suitable for one cup of buttermilk in any baked recipe.


If you have to avoid buttermilk, it doesn’t mean you have to scrap recipes that call for it. Pick any of these buttermilk substitutes, and you can achieve the same expected results. Plus, these options give you the chance to be flexible with your cooking experience, so you can always surprise yourself every time.