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10 Substitutes for Buttermilk in 3 Categories

Buttermilk is a popular ingredient in baking and cooking. You can use it to add moisture and tanginess to a variety of dishes. But what is buttermilk, and how can you substitute it when it’s not available? Discover the best buttermilk substitute in this article.

Traditional buttermilk is the liquid that remains after you churn cream into butter. People used to consume it as a beverage or mix it into their favorite recipes. It’s an essential ingredient in many dishes as it’s a cheaper alternative to regular milk.

Facts About Buttermilk

Facts About Buttermilk

Here are some quick facts about buttermilk that you may find interesting.

  • It’s Acidic: During the production of cream, manufacturers allow the cream to ripen and ferment. This ripening process makes the buttermilk acidic and ideal for leavening cakes.
  • You Can Culture It: Cultured buttermilk is a manufactured version of real buttermilk. Producers make it by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk, resulting in a thick dairy product similar to yogurt.
  • It Comes in Many Forms: You can find buttermilk made with low-fat milk products. There are also vegan alternatives and powdered versions available.
  • It’s Healthy: Real buttermilk is high in protein, calcium, and vitamins. Some studies show that a small quantity of buttermilk daily can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It Helps With Digestion: The lactic acid bacteria in buttermilk makes it easier to digest than other dairy products. It can help you maintain regular bowel movements.

What is Buttermilk Good for?

What is Buttermilk Good for?

In terms of cooking, buttermilk is a versatile ingredient with many applications. Its tangy flavor makes it a great addition to homemade ranch dressing and soda bread.

What’s more, you can add regular buttermilk to coffee cake and chocolate cake as a leavening booster.

Buttermilk is an ingredient in fried chicken because of its acidity and enzyme content. You can marinate chicken and other types of meat in buttermilk to tenderize them.

No doubt, having a carton of buttermilk ready at home allows you to cook delicious recipes.

Reasons for Seeking Buttermilk Substitutes

Reasons for Seeking Buttermilk Substitutes

Despite the many health and functional advantages of real buttermilk, not everyone can have it. Below are some reasons why people may seek buttermilk substitutes.

It’s Not Available

Buttermilk is sometimes not available in certain parts of the world. It can also be a seasonal ingredient in other regions. If buttermilk isn’t available in your area, you can make buttermilk substitutes at home.

Dietary Restrictions

Dietary Restrictions

Others who have lactose intolerance or are allergic to dairy products can’t have buttermilk. Buttermilk is high in fat, and people watching their calories can’t eat it as well. Fortunately, it’s easy to substitute buttermilk using non-dairy and low-fat ingredients.

Veganism

Traditional buttermilk uses cow’s milk as a main ingredient. Vegans may seek buttermilk alternatives made from plant-based milk. You can easily make vegan buttermilk using an acid and a non-dairy milk substitute.

Convenience

Sometimes, you simply don’t want to run to the store to buy buttermilk. The good news is you can use what’s available in your fridge to make buttermilk yourself. Ingredients like sour cream and yogurt can replace buttermilk in salad dressings and quick breads.

Best Substitutes for Buttermilk

Best Substitutes for Buttermilk

What’s great about buttermilk is that you can recreate its functionality and flavor with other ingredients. Buttermilk substitutes work just as well as real buttermilk in cooking and baking applications. Here are some of the best substitutes for buttermilk.

Milk and a Tablespoon of Vinegar

Milk and a Tablespoon of Vinegar

Milk and vinegar can replace buttermilk by replicating its acidity and texture. To prepare it, all you have to do is measure out a cup of milk.

Afterward, add one tablespoon of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to the cup.

Stir the milk and vinegar together, then let this mixture rest for 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature. Over time, the vinegar will curdle the milk and make it thicker. You can now use it as a substitute for buttermilk.

Milk and vinegar are some of the best replacements for real buttermilk because of convenience.

Everyone has these ingredients in their pantry, and they work just as well as real buttermilk.

The vinegar should evaporate upon cooking, so there’s no need to worry about its taste. You may use milk and vinegar in buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, and marinades.

Plain Yogurt or Greek Yogurt

Plain Yogurt or Greek Yogurt

Yogurt has the same composition as buttermilk. It’s a fantastic buttermilk substitute because of its lactic acid bacteria content.

Acidity and enzymes in yogurt work as a meat tenderizer, similar to buttermilk. Plus, you can find yogurt in most grocery stores, unlike buttermilk.

The only difference between yogurt and buttermilk is consistency. Buttermilk is thicker than milk yet thinner than heavy cream.

You may want to adjust the yogurt’s thickness if you’ll use it for baking. Otherwise, your dessert may come out too dry or too tangy.

Making buttermilk from yogurt is easy. Start by pouring a small amount of water into the yogurt and stir it in. Check the yogurt’s thickness by drizzling it with a spoon, then add more water if necessary.

Sour Cream

Sour Cream

Sour cream is a quick buttermilk substitute you can use in recipes.

Manufacturers make sour cream by adding Streptococcus lactis to light cream and allowing the mix to ferment.

The process of making sour cream is similar to buttermilk. As a result, both sour cream and buttermilk are tangy, acidic, and creamy.

You can use sour cream for replacing buttermilk in salad dressing, cakes, and soups.

However, you should consider a slight difference in flavor and texture. Sour cream is tangier and thicker than buttercream. You may want to dilute it with water or milk.

Kefir

Kefir

Plain kefir is a fermented dairy product from Eastern Europe. It uses a combination of bacteria and yeast cultures on kefir grains to produce a delicious drink.

Kefir is healthy because of its probiotic properties and nutrient content.

You can easily find vegan versions of this beverage at groceries.

Kefir is a fantastic buttermilk substitute because it has a similar flavor profile as buttermilk.

It’s tangy, creamy, and effervescent, with a thin yogurt-like consistency. You can use kefir for smoothies, baked goods, and salad dressings.

Vegan Substitutes for Buttermilk

Vegan Substitutes for Buttermilk

Plant-based buttermilk substitutions offer people beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. A vegan substitution for buttermilk may have less fat content than traditional buttermilk.

In addition, it’s sustainable, versatile, and easy to whip up. Let’s explore some of the best vegan substitutes for buttermilk.

Silken Tofu

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu is another quick buttermilk substitute that produces excellent results. This vegan alternative is a softer and creamier version of regular tofu.

Manufacturers make it by coagulating soy milk gently, resulting in a custard-like consistency.

For some, it may sound strange to add silken tofu to baked goods. That said, it’s a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine.

Japanese people add silken tofu to Pon de Ring donuts to achieve a pillowy texture. Others mix silken tofu into pancakes and puddings to produce delectable vegan treats.

To transform silken tofu into a vegan buttermilk substitute, you’ll need to blend it with additional ingredients. Combine the silken tofu with any non-dairy milk, then add a touch of lemon juice or vinegar.

Blend the ingredients in a food processor until you achieve your desired texture and flavor.

Cream of Tartar and Non-Dairy Milk

Cream of Tartar and Non-Dairy Milk

Non-dairy milk works well as a buttermilk substitute. That said, you need extra acidity to achieve a thicker consistency. This is where the cream of tartar can help.

Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate, is a by-product of the wine industry. It’s a dry white powder that bakers use to stabilize egg whites in meringues.

What makes cream of tartar useful in buttermilk substitutes is its high acidity.

It reacts with the proteins in non-dairy milk to produce a buttermilk substitute.

To make a plant-based buttermilk from scratch, combine ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar with two cups of non-dairy milk. Coconut milk, oat milk, and almond milk all work for this recipe.

Stir in the cream of tartar until it dissolves, then let it sit for at least ten minutes. The vegan buttermilk should thicken and you may now use it for dishes.

Fruit and Water

Fruit and Water

In some cases, you can use fleshy fruits like bananas and avocados as a buttermilk substitute. These fruits will add creaminess and sweetness to your baked goods. You can use fruits to substitute buttermilk if you have a nut allergy.

To turn fruits into a buttermilk substitute, blend avocado or banana with water. Add a splash of lemon juice for tartness. Your fruity alternative is now ready for incorporation into various dishes.

Buttermilk Substitutes in Baking

Buttermilk Substitutes in Baking

Buttermilk serves many purposes in baking recipes. First, the acidity of buttermilk means it reacts with baking soda and baking powder, creating carbon dioxide.

The carbon dioxide raises cake batters and makes baked goods fluffy.

Moreover, buttermilk adds moisture to desserts and imparts a subtle tangy flavor. The acidity of the buttermilk breaks gluten down in flour, developing a tender crumb.

These are just some substitutes for buttermilk whenever you need it for baking.

Lemon and Milk

Lemon and Milk

Did you know that adding lemon to milk works the same way as adding vinegar to milk? The fresh lemon juice acidifies the milk, causing it to curdle and thicken. Yet, lemon is better than vinegar for baking because of its citrus scent.

To make buttermilk using lemon and milk, measure one cup of buttermilk, then add one tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir the lemon juice and milk and let it rest for 5-10 minutes at room temperature.

Once the mixture is thick, you can use it instead of real buttermilk.

Powdered Buttermilk

Powdered Buttermilk

Nowadays, you can buy cultured buttermilk powder as a substitute for fresh buttermilk.

Cultured buttermilk powder works as well as liquid buttermilk, and has a longer shelf life. Using it is convenient and easy.

To use powdered buttermilk, check the packaging for instructions on reconstitution.

Typically, all you have to do is combine the powdered buttermilk with water until you get your desired consistency. Be sure to stir the mixture to get rid of all the lumps.

Another way to use powdered buttermilk for baking is by adding it directly to the dry ingredients. Powdered buttermilk can be advantageous because it doesn’t incorporate excess moisture. On top of this, the buttermilk boosts the creaminess of the final product.

Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese

In some cases, you can use cream cheese as a buttermilk replacement. Like buttermilk, cream cheese has a sourness that can boost the flavor of your dishes.

However, you do have to thin the cream cheese out to get the same consistency.

To make a buttermilk substitute out of cream cheese, first cut your cream cheese into cubes. Microwave the cream cheese at a low setting for a few minutes to melt it.

Once melted, stir milk, lemon juice, or water into the cream cheese to lessen its viscosity.

Let the cream cheese mixture cool before using it. Note that cream cheese is saltier than buttermilk. Make sure to adjust the flavor by lessening the salt in your recipe.

How to Make Buttermilk Substitutes Yourself

How to Make Buttermilk Substitutes Yourself

The quickest substitute for buttermilk is ready-made ingredients like yogurt and sour cream. Still, if you want to use real buttermilk, you can make it at home as well. Here’s a homemade buttermilk recipe to try.

What you’ll need:

  • Good quality heavy cream, room temperature
  • Plain yogurt with live cultures
  • Whisk or electric mixer
  • Cheesecloth, for straining

Instructions:

  1. First, culture your cream by adding a tablespoon of yogurt with live cultures for every two cups of heavy cream. Stir in the yogurt and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours. The longer you allow the cream to ferment, the tangier your buttermilk will become.
  2. After 24 hours, transfer the cultured cream to the fridge and allow it to chill for at least an hour. Cooling the cream makes it easier to churn. Meanwhile, fit a whisk attachment to your mixer.
  3. Next, pour the cultured cream into your mixing bowl. Mix the cream on medium to high speed until it turns into whipped cream. At this point, scrape the sides of your bowl then continue mixing at a low to medium speed. You may also use a wire whisk if you don’t have an electric mixer.
  4. As you churn, the cream will begin to sweat and form lumps. Eventually, the butter will separate from the buttermilk. Strain the butter out with a cheesecloth and set it aside. You can wash the butter and add salt or spices if you wish.
  5. The leftover liquid from the churning process is your cultured buttermilk. Store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. You may use this alternative to buttermilk as you would regular store-bought buttermilk.

Tips for Substituting Buttermilk

Tips for Substituting Buttermilk

Making a buttermilk substitute at home is simple and fun. You can get creative as you figure out how to use what’s available. Keep these tips in mind to get the best results.

Compare the Nutritional Profiles of Buttermilk Substitutes

Compare the Nutritional Profiles of Buttermilk Substitutes

Dairy and non-dairy products are all different nutritionally. For instance, cream cheese is 30% fat, while soy milk is only 2 percent fat.

The differences in nutritional profiles between buttermilk substitutes can affect your recipe.

Depending on your application, the additional fat content can make your dishes more moist and indulgent.

Not only that, people with health issues should also pay attention to the type of buttermilk substitute to use.

If you don’t mind the extra calories, you can go for an alternative like full cream milk and vinegar. For those who prefer a healthier option, silken tofu or yogurt may be the best choice.

Consider Flavor Profiles

Consider Flavor Profiles

Different buttermilk substitutes have varying flavor profiles. When choosing an alternative to buttermilk, think about what goes well with your recipe.

Coconut milk can give pancakes a tropical profile, but it may have a noticeable taste if you use it in buttermilk fried chicken.

Similarly, the acid you use to thicken the buttermilk may also impart certain flavors. Lemon is more suitable for baked goods if you want them to have citrusy notes.

Meanwhile, you can use cream of tartar if you want a less prominent tartness. Playing with these flavor profiles can be to your advantage.

Maintain Acidity

Maintain Acidity

Acidity is an important factor when making buttermilk. Regular milk has a basic pH of 6.7 to 6.9, while buttermilk has an acidic pH of 4.4 to 4.8. This acidity plays a role in the recipes you use them in.

In cakes, the acid reacts with baking soda, producing bubbles that’ll lead to the dessert’s fluffiness. Without adding acid to your buttermilk substitute, your cake may fail to rise.

Additionally, the acid tenderizes meats and reacts with the proteins in flour to create a soft crumb.

Buttermilk can contribute to a dish’s tanginess and depth of flavor. Plus, it may affect the consistency of sauces. Acidity in buttermilk can thicken salad dressings or other batters. Because of this, you should always maintain acidity when making buttermilk alternatives.

Adjust Consistencies

Adjust Consistencies

When making buttermilk substitutes, another factor to consider is consistency. The consistency of buttermilk depends on its type.

The traditional version is thinner and closer to milk. Meanwhile, cultured buttermilk has a thicker but pourable consistency.

Consistency is essential because it affects how watery your final product may become. For sauces and salad dressings, you’ll want to use a thick consistency of buttermilk.

Using a thin buttermilk can also make pancakes overly flat.

Even so, if you don’t water down substitutes like cream cheese and yogurt, you may end up with a dry dish. For this reason, getting the right consistency is key in buttermilk substitutes. Don’t be afraid to add more water if you think it’s necessary.

Be Patient

Be Patient

Why is it important to wait five to ten minutes after combining an acid and dairy product?

The waiting period ensures the chemical reaction between the acid and milk finishes. It lets the milk curdle, thereby thickening it.

Giving your buttermilk substitute time to rest also develops flavor. The acidity mellows out, creating a well-balanced final product.

This is why you should be patient whenever you’re making buttermilk.

One tip is to always make the buttermilk first. When a recipe calls for buttermilk, combine the milk and acid before preparing any of your other ingredients. Doing so gives your buttermilk enough time to curdle before you use it.

Experiment with Ratios

Experiment with Ratios

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with the ratios of acid, milk, and water. Because of differences in the characteristics of dairy products, it can take varying amounts of acid to create buttermilk.

Acids like cream of tartar are more concentrated than vinegar and lemon juice. Meaning, you’ll need to use more vinegar than cream of tartar.

When you’re making a buttermilk substitute, it’s best to start with a conservative amount of water. Adjust the consistency slowly, and then add acid as needed.

Taste the buttermilk to find out if you should change the ratios. Experimenting with what works and what doesn’t helps you develop stand-out dishes with buttermilk.

Conclusion

Conclusion

Buttermilk substitutes are useful ingredients when you don’t have traditional buttermilk available. You can make them out of plant-based milk or other dairy products in your area.

Some examples of buttermilk substitutes are yogurt, kefir, silken tofu, or plain milk and vinegar.

These substitutes work just as well as the real deal. Plus, they can be healthier and more flavorful in some cases.

Plant-based buttermilk substitutes are sustainable, making them desirable.

Finally, when making buttermilk substitutions, always consider consistency, acidity, and flavor. Be patient and don’t be shy to experiment. There are countless possibilities when it comes to buttermilk alternatives.

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