Best Buttermilk Substitutes: Swap, Mix, and Bake

Buttermilk – it’s that one ingredient that leaves you scratching your head. Standing in your kitchen, cookbook in hand, you read the recipe for the fifth time. Yes, it says, “buttermilk.” But what if you don’t have any? Do you rush to the store, or can you find a workaround? Today, we’ll explore the world of buttermilk substitutes, and trust us, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to whip up a tasty batch of buttermilk pancakes even if you don’t have a drop of actual buttermilk in your fridge. Let’s dive in!

Getting Up-Close with Buttermilk

Before we dive into substitutes, let’s take a moment to understand what buttermilk is. Buttermilk is a slightly tangy, sour dairy product that’s usually left over from churning butter (hence the name). But don’t let that ‘leftover’ tag fool you. It’s a star in its own right in the baking and cooking world. Buttermilk has a special ability to tenderize gluten, giving baked goods a soft and fluffy texture. Ever wondered why your grandma’s buttermilk biscuits were so darn tasty and light? Yep, you guessed it: buttermilk.

Do You Really Need a Substitute for Buttermilk?

Why, you ask, do we need to talk about substitutes for buttermilk in baking and cooking? Well, we’ve all been there. You’re knee-deep in baking, hands covered in flour, when you realize you’re out of buttermilk. Or perhaps you’ve decided to go dairy-free, or you’re baking for a vegan friend. That’s when buttermilk substitutes swoop in to save your day (and your recipe).

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Enter the Dairy-Based Substitutes

So, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Here are some dairy-based buttermilk substitutes that you can make using ingredients likely already in your kitchen:

Milk + Lemon Juice

This one’s a classic. Just add a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of milk, stir, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Voila! You have a perfect substitute for 1 cup buttermilk. This works great for cakes, like in these decadent brownie recipes.

Milk + White Vinegar

Just like the lemon juice substitute, replace the lemon juice with white vinegar and follow the same process. Works like a charm every time!


Have some plain yogurt lying around? You’re in luck! Mix 3/4 cup of yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk, and there you have it – a great buttermilk substitute.

Sour Cream

When mixed with a bit of water or milk, sour cream can make a good buttermilk alternative. Mix 3/4 cup of sour cream with 1/4 cup of water or milk, and you’re all set.

Cream of Tartar + Milk

Another handy option for a buttermilk substitute is cream of tartar mixed with milk. Add 1 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar to a cup of milk. Stir it well, then let it sit for about 10 minutes until it curdles slightly.

Dairy-Free and Vegan Substitutes

For those who want to avoid dairy, or are catering for vegans, there are also plenty of substitutes for buttermilk.

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Soy Milk + Vinegar

Take a cup of soy milk, add a tablespoon of vinegar, and let it sit for a few minutes. The soy milk will curdle, creating a vegan-friendly buttermilk substitute.

Almond Milk + Lemon Juice

This combination works similarly to the soy milk and vinegar mix. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of almond milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Coconut Milk + Vinegar

If you’re looking for a tropical twist to your dishes, try a combination of coconut milk and vinegar.

Rice Milk + Vinegar

Rice milk combined with vinegar also works as a buttermilk substitute. This one is a bit thinner than other substitutes, so it works best in recipes where the buttermilk isn’t the main star.

buttermilk substitutes - a bowl of greek yogurt on a wooden table

Substituting in Recipes

Remember, these buttermilk substitutes won’t taste exactly like buttermilk. They are meant to mimic its acidity and ability to tenderize baked goods. Some changes in flavor might occur, but this can be a good thing! Substitutes can bring new flavor profiles to your dishes, sparking creativity in your cooking. So don’t be afraid to experiment!

Frequently Asked Questions About Buttermilk Substitutes

We’re always here to help answer your kitchen quandaries. Let’s tackle a few common questions about buttermilk substitutes:

What ingredients can substitute for 1 cup of buttermilk?

There are numerous substitutes for 1 cup of buttermilk. Here are a few examples:

  • 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 cup milk + 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • For vegan options: 1 cup soy milk or almond milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
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Can I replace buttermilk with milk?

In recipes that call for buttermilk, it’s the acidity that’s important. Milk alone doesn’t have the same acidity as buttermilk. So while you can’t replace buttermilk with plain milk, you can easily create a substitute using milk and an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

What is a substitute for 2 cups of buttermilk?

To substitute 2 cups of buttermilk, simply double any of the 1 cup substitutes mentioned above. For example, use 2 cups of milk with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar.

What can I use instead of 1/2 cup of buttermilk?

To substitute 1/2 cup of buttermilk, halve any of the 1 cup substitutes. For example, you could use 1/2 cup of milk mixed with 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.

buttermilk substitutes - fresh buttermlk biscuits on a pan

Wrapping it up

Whether you’re avoiding dairy, vegan, or just out of buttermilk, there are countless ways to substitute this classic ingredient in your favorite recipes. Experiment with different buttermilk substitutes to discover new and exciting flavors in your baking and cooking. Remember, cooking is an art and sometimes the best dishes are born out of improvisation!

Before we go, we want to leave you with a few tools from our favorite kitchen appliances that can assist you in your buttermilk substitute adventures.

Don’t forget to try out some of the recipes we mentioned in this post and share your results with us. Happy cooking, foodies!


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