Best Buttermilk Substitutes

Buttermilk is a versatile ingredient used in various recipes, ranging from baked goods to savory dishes. Its tangy flavor and creamy texture add richness and depth to the dishes it is incorporated in. However, there may be times when this staple is absent from the pantry or when someone is looking for alternatives due to dietary restrictions.

Thankfully, several substitutes can effectively replace buttermilk in recipes without compromising taste or texture. These alternatives cater to a range of preferences and dietary needs, including options for vegans, lactose-intolerant individuals, and those simply seeking to explore new flavors.

This article explores various buttermilk substitutes that can be seamlessly incorporated into recipes, ensuring no dish is left incomplete due to the lack of this ingredient. Whether it’s for culinary experimentation or a last-minute substitution, these alternatives provide reliable options without sacrificing taste or quality.

Understanding Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a dairy product that is commonly used in various culinary applications due to its unique tangy flavor. It adds a rich and creamy taste to dishes, and can often be made at home with simple ingredients.

Buttermilk in Baking

In baking, buttermilk is valued for its ability to add moisture, tenderness, and acidity to recipes. Its acidity helps to activate the leavening agents, which creates a lighter and fluffier texture in baked goods. Examples of baked items that can benefit from the use of buttermilk include:

  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Muffins
  • Biscuits
  • Cakes

The tangy flavor of buttermilk also complements the sweetness in these baked goods, creating a well-balanced taste.

Buttermilk in Dressings

Apart from baking, buttermilk is also a popular ingredient in salad dressings and sauces. The characteristic tangy flavor adds depth and complexity to these preparations, while its creamy consistency enhances their smoothness. Some examples of buttermilk-based dressings and sauces are:

  • Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  • Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
  • Buttermilk Dill Sauce

Buttermilk has been a trusted ingredient in many culinary applications for its versatility, unique tangy flavor, and creamy consistency. While readily available at grocery stores, it can also be made at home to suit personal preferences in texture and taste.

Common Buttermilk Substitutes

Milk and Lemon Juice

A popular buttermilk substitute is the combination of milk and lemon juice. One cup of this substitute can be made by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of milk. After stirring, let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes or until it begins to curdle. This substitute works well in recipes that require buttermilk for its acidic properties, such as baked goods.

Milk and Vinegar

Similar to milk and lemon juice, milk and vinegar can also be used as a buttermilk substitute. To create this mixture, add one tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The vinegar will curdle the milk, creating a similar consistency to buttermilk. This substitute is suitable for recipes that call for buttermilk as a tenderizing agent or for its tangy flavor.


Plain yogurt is another effective buttermilk substitute. It’s possible to use either regular or Greek yogurt, depending on your preference. Thin out yogurt with water or milk (use a 1:1 ratio) until it reaches the desired consistency. Yogurt offers a good balance of acidity and creaminess, which makes it a great option for various recipes.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is also a viable substitute for buttermilk, particularly in recipes that call for a thicker consistency like dips or dressings. If a thinner consistency is needed for a recipe, you can mix sour cream with a small amount of milk or water to achieve the desired texture. Similar to yogurt, sour cream offers the tangy acidity that buttermilk provides in various recipes.

Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitutes

Finding a dairy-free buttermilk substitute is essential for many vegan and lactose-intolerant individuals. In this section, we will explore popular options like almond milk and soy milk, combined with an acid to create a dairy-free buttermilk substitute.

Almond Milk and Acid

Almond milk is a popular vegan and dairy-free choice often used in baking. To create a buttermilk substitute, simply combine almond milk with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. The ratio is typically:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes until it thickens and curdles. This mixture can then be used as a 1:1 substitute for buttermilk in your recipes.

Soy Milk and Acid

Soy milk is another dairy-free option that can be used as a buttermilk substitute. Similar to almond milk, combine soy milk with an acid, either vinegar or lemon juice, in the following proportion:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

After allowing the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, it will thicken and curdle, making it a suitable buttermilk substitute for your recipes.

Water and Cream of Tartar

For those who prefer a lighter option, water and cream of tartar can be used as a dairy-free buttermilk substitute. Cream of tartar is an acid that will cause the water to thicken and slightly curdle once mixed. Use the following ratio for this substitute:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Stir the ingredients together and let them sit for a few minutes. Once the mixture has thickened, it can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in your recipes.

Adapting Recipes

Baking with Buttermilk Substitutes

When baking, buttermilk substitutes can be used with a few adjustments in recipes that call for traditional buttermilk. Here are some examples of baked goods that can successfully incorporate buttermilk substitutes:

  • Pancakes: In pancake recipes, a common buttermilk substitute is a mix of milk and vinegar or lemon juice. It provides the tart flavor and acidity required for the batter. Simply replace the buttermilk with an equal amount of the substitute.
  • Biscuits: For biscuits, you may use sour cream or plain yogurt as a substitute for buttermilk. The thickness and acidity of these alternatives will give the biscuits a similar texture to those made with buttermilk.
  • Waffles: Waffle recipes can also benefit from using buttermilk substitutes. Use a mixture of milk and cream of tartar or a combination of milk and an acid in place of buttermilk. This will provide the necessary acidity to make tender, fluffy waffles.

Remember to stir the substitutes well before adding them to your recipes to ensure proper incorporation.

Making Dressings with Buttermilk Substitutes

Buttermilk substitutes can also be used in dressings for a variety of salads. Here are a couple of ways to adapt your dressings using buttermilk alternatives:

  • Plain Yogurt: Yogurt can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in creating creamy dressings. Just thin the yogurt with a little water or milk to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Vegan Options: For a dairy-free alternative, mix almond or soy milk with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. This will create a similar acidity to buttermilk and can be used in dressings.

Remember that using buttermilk substitutes may slightly change the taste or texture of your dressings, so adjust the ingredients accordingly to achieve the desired flavor.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Storing Buttermilk

Proper storage of buttermilk substitutes is crucial to maintain their freshness and effectiveness. It is best to keep them in airtight containers and store them in the fridge. Doing so will make the substitutes last longer and be ready for use whenever needed. If you purchase buttermilk from a grocery store, be sure to store it in the fridge after opening.

Measuring Buttermilk Substitutes

When preparing recipes that call for buttermilk, it is essential to measure the substitutes accurately. This will ensure that the taste and texture of the final product are as close to the original as possible.

  • Use a liquid measuring cup for measuring buttermilk substitutes. Pour the liquid substitute into the cup, and make sure you get the right level according to the recipe requirements.
  • For recipes involving a chemical reaction with baking soda, such as baked goods, use 1 cup of buttermilk substitute for every 1 cup of buttermilk stated in the recipe. The ratio is usually 1:1.
  • If your buttermilk substitute contains water, be mindful of the recipe’s liquid content. Adjust the water amount if necessary to prevent the final product from becoming too dry or too moist.

Remember that while these buttermilk substitutes may not be identical to the original, they can still yield satisfactory results. Proper handling and measuring techniques are essential to achieving the best possible outcome.

Other Buttermilk Variations

Buttermilk Powder

Buttermilk powder is a dehydrated form of buttermilk that retains its tangy flavor and can be easily stored for longer periods. To use it as a substitute for liquid buttermilk, simply mix the powder with water according to the package instructions, usually at a ratio of 4:1 (four parts water to one part powder). This option is ideal for those who do not use buttermilk often or wish to have a shelf-stable alternative on hand.


Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by adding kefir grains to milk, which is then left to ferment for a period of time. Unflavored and unsweetened kefir can make a suitable buttermilk substitute due to its similar tangy taste and consistency. Use kefir as a 1:1 replacement for buttermilk in recipes, ensuring that it’s at room temperature before adding it to your baking or cooking.

Vegan Buttermilk Substitutes

For individuals who follow a vegan diet or have dairy allergies, there are some vegan buttermilk substitutes available. These options can still provide the tangy flavor and tenderizing qualities of buttermilk to recipes:

  • Soy milk and vinegar: Combine 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar) and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes until it curdles. This mixture can be used as a 1:1 replacement for buttermilk in recipes.
  • Almond milk and lemon juice: Mix 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes to thicken. This can also be used as a 1:1 substitute for buttermilk.

Both of these vegan buttermilk substitutes can be used in various recipes, providing similar results to traditional buttermilk while catering to specific dietary requirements or preferences.

Recipes Using Buttermilk Substitutes

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken can be made tender and juicy with the help of a buttermilk substitute. Marinate the chicken pieces in a mixture of milk and lemon juice or vinegar (1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice/vinegar) for at least 30 minutes before coating and frying. This mimics the effect of buttermilk, allowing the acid in the mixture to tenderize the chicken while adding flavor.

Mashed Potatoes

To make creamier mashed potatoes, use a buttermilk substitute in place of regular milk. Combine 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to thicken. Then, gradually add this mixture to your cooked and drained potatoes while mashing. The acidity in the buttermilk substitute will enhance the flavor and make for smoother, creamier mashed potatoes.

Quick Breads

Quick breads, like cornbread and biscuits, often call for buttermilk in their recipes. You can easily use a buttermilk substitute in these recipes by mixing 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. This will help activate the baking powder, creating a light and fluffy texture in your baked goods.

Milk1 cup
Lemon juice/Vinegar1 tablespoon

Buttermilk Pecan Pie

For a twist on the classic pecan pie recipe, try using a buttermilk substitute in the filling. Mix together 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to thicken. Then, use this mixture in place of traditional buttermilk, along with your usual pie ingredients like pecans, eggs, and sugar. The buttermilk substitute will provide a tangy flavor that offsets the sweetness of the pie, making for a well-balanced dessert.


In summary, there are several effective buttermilk substitutes that can be used in recipes when buttermilk is unavailable. These substitutes provide the acidity and tanginess that buttermilk imparts to dishes, while being easily accessible and suitable for various dietary needs.

Some popular alternatives include:

  • Milk and vinegar
  • Milk and lemon juice
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Cream of tartar

Experimenting with these substitutes can help individuals find the perfect option for their cooking and baking needs. Each alternative offers a slightly different flavor and texture profile, so it’s important to choose the substitute that best complements the desired outcome in a specific recipe.

Practice and experience play a crucial role in determining which buttermilk substitute works best for a given dish. By exploring these options and understanding their unique characteristics, home cooks and professional chefs alike can continue to create delicious dishes, even when buttermilk is out of reach.

Best Buttermilk Substitute: We Test 6 Options

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
4.91 from 10 votes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 145 kcal


  • Milk and Lemon Juice
  • Milk and Vinegar
  • Yogurt and Milk/Water
  • Plain Kefir
  • Milk and Cream of Tartar
  • Milk/Water and Sour Cream
  • Buttermilk Powder and Water


  • Try a buttermilk substitute from our kitchen.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 145kcal
Keyword buttermilk substitute
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us
Latest posts by Cassie Marshall (see all)