7 Perfect Substitute for Buttermilk

by Ella

Buttermilk, with its tangy flavor and creamy texture, is a beloved ingredient in many culinary recipes, ranging from baked goods to savory dishes. However, there are times when you may find yourself in a pinch, lacking buttermilk in your kitchen pantry. Whether it’s because you want to avoid a trip to the grocery store or you have dietary restrictions that limit your use of dairy products, fear not! There are several excellent substitutes for buttermilk that can help you achieve the same creamy and tangy goodness in your culinary creations. In this article, we will explore a variety of alternatives to buttermilk, along with tips on how to use them effectively in your favorite recipes.

What is buttermilk?

Traditional buttermilk is the liquid remaining after churning butter from cream. In the past, it was a byproduct of butter-making, but nowadays, most commercial buttermilk is cultured buttermilk. Cultured buttermilk is made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria, giving it its characteristic tangy taste and thick texture.


The acidity of buttermilk is what makes it a valuable ingredient in cooking and baking. Its acidic nature helps tenderize meat, activate leavening agents like baking soda, and add a delightful tang to recipes.


7 Perfect Substitute for Buttermilk:

When you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use one of the following substitutes:


a. Milk and Lemon Juice:

It won’t thicken as much as traditional buttermilk, but milk and lemon juice are a great substitute when making scones, soda bread or pancakes, as lemon juice recreates that similar tangy flavour. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled or has small white lumps in it, it will be fine once cooked.


250ml whole or semi-skimmed milk (skimmed milk won’t thicken sufficiently, so avoid using this)

1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix the milk and lemon juice in a jug or bowl and leave at room temperature for 5-10 mins until the milk has thickened slightly.

b. Milk and vinegar

Similar to the milk and lemon juice combination, milk and vinegar can also be used to mimic the acidic properties of buttermilk.

250ml whole or semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar

Again, mix the milk and vinegar in a jug or bowl and leave at room temperature for 5-10 mins until the milk has thickened slightly.

c. Plain yogurt and milk:

Plain yogurt is a versatile and easily accessible alternative to buttermilk due to its tangy, acidic flavour and thick texture. Although plain yogurt can be replaced directly for buttermilk, some recipes which require a slightly runnier texture (like cake batter) will work better if it is mixed with a little milk or water.

200ml plain yogurt

50ml milk or water (if needed)

Mix the yogurt and milk (or water) together until smooth and use directly in recipe as required. If you only have Greek yogurt, then equal quantities of Greek yogurt and milk should be used in the mix.

d. Soured cream

Soured cream is another rich and tangy ingredient which is made using lactic acid bacteria to ferment cream. It works well in recipes that call for a thicker consistency, though you can thin it down with water or milk to achieve the desired texture.

180ml soured cream

50ml milk or water

Whisk together the sour cream and milk (or water) then use as needed.

e. Milk and Cream of Tartar:

Mix 1 cup of milk with 1.5 teaspoons of cream of tartar to create a buttermilk substitute. Cream of tartar is an acidic powder that acts similarly to vinegar or lemon juice in creating a tangy flavor.

f. Cultured buttermilk powder

If you often find yourself without buttermilk, keeping a jar of cultured buttermilk powder in your pantry can be a game-changer. This powdered, dehydrated form of buttermilk can be returned to a liquid state by adding water following the instructions on the pack.

4 tbsps cultured buttermilk powder

250ml water

Mix the ingredients together briskly so that the powder combines properly, then allow enough time for it to rehydrate following pack instructions.

g. Kefir

Plain, unflavoured kefir is produced by the lactic fermentation of milk, to create a similar tangy taste to buttermilk. You can use plain kefir to replace buttermilk cup for cup as it has a similar runny consistency.

250ml kefir (for every 250ml buttermilk required)

This can be used directly in a recipe.

Tips for Using Buttermilk Substitutes:

When using buttermilk substitutes in your recipes, keep the following tips in mind:

a. Measure Accurately:

When substituting buttermilk, ensure you measure the ingredients accurately to maintain the right balance of acidity and consistency in your recipes.

b. Adjust for Thickness:

The thickness of the buttermilk substitute may vary depending on the chosen alternative. If you find the substitute is too thick for your recipe, you can dilute it with a little water or regular milk.

c. Maintain Acidic Balance:

The acidity of buttermilk is essential for activating leavening agents like baking soda. Ensure your chosen substitute provides enough acidity for your recipe’s needs.

d. Consider Flavor:

Different buttermilk substitutes may offer slightly different flavors. For instance, using yogurt may provide a milder tang compared to vinegar or lemon juice. Consider how the substitute will complement the overall flavor of your dish.

Culinary Uses of Buttermilk Substitutes:

Buttermilk substitutes can be used in various culinary applications:

a. Baking:

In baking recipes that call for buttermilk, use your chosen substitute to achieve the desired texture and flavor in cakes, muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods.

b. Marinades and Brines:

Buttermilk substitutes work well in marinades and brines for meats, offering tenderizing and flavor-enhancing properties.

c. Salad Dressings:

Substitute buttermilk alternatives in salad dressings to add a tangy twist to your greens and vegetables.

d. Creamy Soups and Sauces:

In creamy soups and sauces, buttermilk substitutes can provide a tangy flavor and creamy texture.


While buttermilk is a beloved ingredient in many recipes, it’s essential to know that there are various substitutes available for those times when buttermilk is not on hand or when dietary preferences require alternatives. From milk and vinegar to plant-based milk options, each substitute offers its unique flavor and texture, allowing you to create culinary delights that are just as delicious and satisfying as those made with traditional buttermilk. So, the next time your recipe calls for buttermilk, feel confident knowing that you have an array of substitutions at your fingertips, ready to elevate your dishes to new heights of flavor and indulgence. Happy cooking!



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