In a pinch and looking for a buttermilk substitute? Here, you’ll find SIX dairy substitutes and THREE non-dairy substitutes with exact measurements and ratios to help you out. Once you learn how easy it is, you’ll be ready to make any kind of buttermilk recipe!
What is buttermilk?
Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink, giving it a sour and tangy flavor. It’s often used in pancakes, bran muffins, homemade buttermilk biscuits and even salad dressings, like homemade ranch dressing. It does not have any butter in it, but it’s called buttermilk because traditional buttermilk is made from leftover liquid when churning butter.
Now, buttermilk is usually made with water, milk lactose, and casein. Casein is a dairy protein and the milk lactose assists in easier digestion compared to whole milk or other cow’s milks. If you have a sensitivity or intolerance to dairy products, it’s best to stay away from buttermilk.
How to Make Buttermilk (Buttermilk Substitutes)
Here are 6 substitutes that are easy to whip up when you don’t have buttermilk. Each of these substitutes will yield 1 cup of buttermilk. Add more if the recipe calls for more than 1 cup, and be sure to mix the blends together before adding to your recipe.
Milk & Vinegar
Milk and vinegar are a great substitute when creating buttermilk. Your best options are distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 1 cup milk, then let it sit for 5-10 minutes. It’s best to use whole milk; if the recipe calls for low-fat buttermilk, use low-fat milk.
Milk & Lemon Juice
Milk with lemon juice also works as a homemade buttermilk substitute because buttermilk requires acid. Lemon juice has enough of a punch but is subtle enough to simulate the sour parts of buttermilk. Whisk 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, so it can thicken slightly. (Found out here how much juice is in one lemon.)
Milk & Cream of Tartar
Milk paired with cream of tartar is an easy buttermilk substitute recipe because cream of tarter adds that important acidic element. With every one cup of milk, use 1 ¾ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Whisk fast because cream of tartar does clump, or mix it with your dry ingredients before adding the milk.
Sour Cream & Water or Milk
Since sour cream is also fermented, it gives a very similar taste to buttermilk, so it’s a great replacement. To account for sour cream’s thicker consistency, add water or milk to thin it out. Whisk together ¾ cup of sour cream and ¼ cup water or milk to make that 1 cup of buttermilk.
Plain Yogurt & Water or Milk
Plain yogurt like Greek yogurt also has a tart and sour flavor which is why it works well in place of buttermilk. You’ll need to add ¼ cup of milk to ¾ cup of plain yogurt to get the right consistency. You can also use water and it’ll work just as well.
Buttermilk Powder & Water
Most bakers will have buttermilk powder in their pantry, so if you don’t have that on hand, then this won’t be the most useful buttermilk substitute. With this one, you’ll add a small amount, like ¼ cup of powdered buttermilk, to 1 cup of water. It’s as simple as that!
Non-Dairy Buttermilk Substitutes
If you have a dairy intolerance or sensitivity, here are 3 dairy-free buttermilk substitutes. Most of the dairy buttermilk substitutes above and below can be switched out with vegan/dairy-free milks like almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and even coconut milk. Here are a few to give you exact measurements:
Dairy-Free Milk & Acid
Using a lactose-free milk like soy milk is a solid start for a non-dairy buttermilk alternative. Make sure it’s an unsweetened milk, so it doesn’t alter the overall flavor of your recipe. You’ll combine 1 teaspoon of whatever vinegar you’d like to 1 cup of milk. Like some other substitutes, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken up.
Unsweetened Soy Milk & Lemon Juice
You likely have soy milk in your fridge if you have a dairy intolerance and enjoy milk often. Like the substitute above, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of soy milk. It also needs a few minutes to thicken before adding to your recipe.
Tofu & Water
Believe it or not, tofu works as a homemade non-dairy buttermilk substitutes. It’ll take an extra step of blending ¼ cup of silken tofu with lemon juice, vinegar, or salt. Then add in your ¾ cup of water until you’ve reached that thick buttermilk consistency.
What is the best dairy-free substitute for buttermilk?
The best dairy-free substitute for buttermilk is any kind of non-dairy milk with lemon juice or vinegar. These two ingredients are most likely what you already have on hand. Using the ratios above, they’ll give you that perfect buttermilk taste.
Where can I find store-bought buttermilk?
Buttermilk will most likely be in the dairy section at your nearest grocery store. Look for all of the milk, sour cream, heavy cream, and cottage cheese and it should be right with them. Buttermilk substitutes will be spread throughout the store in the produce, vinegar, and baking sections.
Does it matter what kind of milk I use?
For dairy substitutes, it’s best to use whole milk so it matches the fat content of buttermilk. But, using 1% or 2% milk will do the trick. You can add 1 tablespoon of melted butter to match the fat content if that’s a concern for your recipe. For non-dairy milk substitutes, this won’t matter since you’re already using something that usually has a lesser fat content.
Favorite Buttermilk Recipes
For the recipes below, it’s okay if you don’t have buttermilk on hand—you can practice using some of these substitutes! You can easily adjust them with the above options. And some of these recipes might just call for milk; try a buttermilk substitute for a different flavor profile.