Home Articles 10 Buttermilk Substitutes (+ Buttermilk Recipe)

10 Buttermilk Substitutes (+ Buttermilk Recipe)

You can’t make buttermilk biscuits without buttermilk…or can you?

This list of buttermilk substitutes says you can.

A Glass of Buttermilk with Granola

Buttermilk is useful in all sorts of things. 

It works wonders in waffles, cakes, and pancakes. And you can add it to salad dressings, coleslaw, or cornbread.

Heck, you can even use it to make tender buttermilk baked chicken

Of course, you can’t use it if you don’t have it. That’s where these buttermilk substitutes come in handy.

But first, let’s answer an obvious question: what is buttermilk?

What is Buttermilk? 

Today’s buttermilk is a bit different from what it used to be.

Originally, it was the milky liquid left after churning butter. Butter + milk, get it?

But today, food scientists intentionally make buttermilk by adding bacterial cultures to regular white milk.

That turns it into buttermilk, which is a thick, yogurt-like liquid with a slightly fermented taste.

Even though today’s buttermilk is different, you still use it the same way. And despite its bold, not-for-everybody taste, it’s pretty versatile.

That said, it’s not something many people drink on its own. So you might not always have it on hand.

In that case, you can use one of these handy alternatives.

Top 10 Buttermilk Substitutes

Milk and Lemon

1. Homemade Buttermilk – Milk + Lemon Juice 

As I mentioned above, if you add bacteria cultures to milk, it’ll ferment. But it’s unlikely you have any of those lying around the house. 

So how can you make buttermilk at home? Simple. Just add acid to regular milk! 

Specifically, lemon juice. When combined, the milk will begin to curdle, and you’ll have what many bakers use on a daily basis – homemade buttermilk.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to a measuring cup.
  2. Fill the cup with milk until it reaches 1 cup.
  3. Gently stir and leave for a couple of minutes.
  4. Use as you would normal buttermilk.

I use this almost all the time, and it works wonders in cakes, cookies, sauces, and more.

How to Substitute: Use just under 1 cup of milk + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of buttermilk.

Note: the measurements don’t have to be exact. You can measure about 1 cup of milk and mix it with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and it’ll work just fine.

White Vinegar Poured on a Small Glass Dish

2. Milk + White Vinegar 

Combining milk and white vinegar is the same as mixing milk and lemon juice. In fact, the steps are precisely the same, and the results are mostly the same.

Some people prefer this option simply because they don’t always have fresh lemons on hand.

But I find white vinegar can affect the flavor of the recipe. Also, the type of acid (acetic acid) makes the homemade buttermilk slightly firmer.

In general, vinegar and lemon work interchangeably. But in my experience, lemon juice makes more tender cakes.

Also, be sure to use white vinegar. Apple cider, white wine, or balsamic will obviously impart flavor to your recipe.

How to Substitute: Use just under 1 cup of milk + 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per 1 cup of buttermilk.

Kefir Buttermilk in Glasses

3. Kefir 

If you don’t want to make a buttermilk substitute, just buy one. 

Kefir is like buttermilk’s lesser-known, more-expensive cousin. It’s just as fermented, just as thick, and tastes pretty much the same.

There’s not much difference between the two, to be honest. Which is why it’s my go-to for all buttermilk recipes.

That said, kefir does contain many more probiotics and beneficial bacteria, making it better for your gut health.

This is especially helpful in dressings and uncooked recipes.

Unfortunately, heating it will kill many of those microbes, making it more or less the same as buttermilk in cakes, marinades, and sauces.

Just be sure to get unsweetened, unflavored kefir.

How to Substitute: Use 1 cup of kefir for every 1 cup of buttermilk.

Milk in Glass and Bottle

4. Milk/Water + Yogurt 

For most recipes, you can usually substitute plain yogurt for buttermilk, as they’re quite similar in many areas.

Both are fermented milk products, and they contain similar levels of calcium, fat, and calories (yogurt has a little more calcium).

The difference you’ll notice is the consistency – yogurt is much thicker.

This won’t make too much difference in cakes and bakes, but you’ll notice that thickness is salad dressings or slaw.

So, I recommend watering the yogurt down with milk or water. That way, you can properly swap it out on a 1 to 1 ratio.

Here are my recipes:

  • Whisk 3/4 cup of plain yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk.
  • Whisk 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of milk.

From there, use it as you would buttermilk.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk for 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup of milk.

Buttermilk Powder in a Glass Bowl

5. Buttermilk Powder

These days, everything is expensive. And if you don’t drink buttermilk, it might go bad before you use it all.

That’s why I buy buttermilk powder instead. It’ll give you the same great flavor of buttermilk, but the shelf life is much longer.

It’s not hard to use, either:

  • Just mix one part powder with four parts water – 1 tablespoon of powder per 1/4 cup of water or milk.

Alternatively:

  1. Add 1/4 cup of powdered buttermilk to the dry ingredients for every 1 cup of buttermilk called for.
  2. Then add 1 cup of water to the recipe with the wet ingredients.

You can use it in any recipe that calls for buttermilk. Easy peasy.

Keep a can on hand, and be sure to double-check the amounts needed, as some brands may vary.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 cup of powdered buttermilk + 1 cup of water.

Sour Cream in a Wooden Dish

6. Milk/Water + Sour Cream 

Using sour cream is like using yogurt, but the taste is a little tangier.

It’s also important to note that sour cream has more fat than buttermilk. So don’t be surprised if your food tastes a little different because of that.

Buttermilk makes light bakes because the acid reacts with the baking soda, providing air to the batter.

Sour cream works in a similar way, but the added fat will likely make the finished product slightly denser.

To use:

  1. Whisk 3/4 cup of sour cream with a 1/4 cup of water or milk.
  2. Adjust as needed.

This one is probably my favorite substitute for cold, savory foods, such as salad dressings, slaw, etc.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk with 3/4 cup of sour cream + 1/4 cup of milk or water.

Almond Milk

7. Soy or Almond Milk + Lemon Juice or Vinegar 

What if you need a dairy-free option for buttermilk?

Well, the concept is the same, believe it or not. Dairy-free milk + acid = vegan buttermilk!

Use soy or almond milk (unsweetened) with lemon juice or vinegar, and it will work just as well as the recipes above. And it’s made the same way:

  1. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring cup.
  2. Top it with soy or almond milk to reach 1 cup.
  3. Gently stir and leave for a few minutes.

The taste isn’t exactly the same, but it’s close enough for baking.

But avoid coconut milk at all costs. That’s one mixture that will not turn out right.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk for just under 1 cup of soy/almond milk + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice/vinegar.

Cashew Milk in a Bottle and Glass

8. Cashew Milk + Vinegar

I separated cashew milk from the soy/almond replacement above for one simple reason: it doesn’t do as well with lemon juice. 

I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true. At least in my experience.

Whenever I’ve added lemon juice to cashew milk, it doesn’t take on the right texture for buttermilk. 

However, it works perfectly with vinegar in the same amounts listed above.

Use unsweetened cashew milk, follow the same steps, and use it on a cup-for-cup ratio.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk for just under 1 cup of cashew milk + 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

Sliced Tofu

9. Tofu + Water + Vinegar 

Substituting a tofu mixture for buttermilk isn’t as simple as other options on the list. It takes a little more time and effort, but it isn’t difficult. 

First, make sure you start with silken tofu. If you use regular or firm tofu, the final product won’t be smooth and liquid like buttermilk.

The exact amount of the ingredients is as follows:

  • Tofu: 1/4 cup
  • Salt: One pinch
  • Water: 1/2 cup + 3 teaspoons
  • Lemon juice (or vinegar): 1 tablespoon

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Add silken tofu, a pinch of salt, water, and lemon juice to a blender.
  2. Blend the mixture until you have a smooth consistency.
  3. Then, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

You may be wondering why you’d want to go to all that trouble.

That’s an easy one, too. It’s one of the best vegan buttermilk substitutes for baking. Period. 

It may not work as well for slaw or salad dressings. For baked goods, though, it’s excellent.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 cup of tofu, 1 pinch of salt, 1/2 cup + 3 teaspoons of water, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Applesauce in a Bowl

10. Applesauce

Alright, this last one is the one you might not believe.

But it’s also the easiest. You don’t have to add anything, stir anything, or blend anything.

Simply use applesauce instead of buttermilk.

Like the tofu mixture, this one only works with baked goods – not sauces, marinades, or dressings.

However, also like the tofu mixture, it works exceptionally well for baked goods. 

It gives them the same light, moist texture, and an incredible taste. You can even use it at a one-to-one ratio, so there are no tricky conversions.

Just be sure you’re using plain old applesauce. (No sugar added is best.)

Don’t try using cinnamon- or pear-flavored applesauce. You might not like the results if you do.

How to Substitute: Swap 1 cup of buttermilk with 1 cup of applesauce.

Best Buttermilk Substitute (+ Homemade Buttermilk)

Cuisine: American
Servings

1

serving
Prep time

5

minutes
Total time

5

minutes

Try these buttermilk substitutes when you want a good alternative! From milk combinations to applesauce, these replacements are almost just as good.

Ingredients

  • Option 1: (Best in Large Amounts) Milk and Vinegar/Lemon Juice
  • Just under 1 cup milk

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar/lemon juice

  • Option 2: (Best Overall) Kefir
  • 1 cup kefir

  • Option 3: (Best for Marinades) Yogurt and Milk
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup milk

Instructions

  • (Best in Large Amounts) Milk and Vinegar/Lemon Juice
  • Use just under 1 cup of milk + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice/vinegar per 1 cup of buttermilk.
  • (Best Overall) Kefir
  • Use 1 cup of kefir for every 1 cup of buttermilk.
  • (Best for Marinades) Yogurt and Milk
  • Swap 1 cup of buttermilk for 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup of milk.
Buttermilk Substitutes

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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