I’m sure you’ve been in this situation before. You open the refrigerator and find you’re out of buttermilk. Buttermilk is one of the most important baking ingredients. But the good news is there are a lot of buttermilk substitute options.
Now, let’s talk about buttermilk for a moment. What is it? It’s a slightly sour milk that contains lactic acids. Proteins in buttermilk are curdled, resulting in a texture that’s thicker than regular milk. However, don’t mistake buttermilk for cream, as it isn’t as thick. Another advantage is that buttermilk is lower in fat.
Why is buttermilk so important in baking? Well, when you combine the lactic acids in the milk with baking soda, you get a dream come true scenario. You get a recipe that has lightness and tenderness, two aspects that are hard to achieve.
The dream scenario is to use buttermilk to neutralize the metallic taste of baking soda (sodium carbonate). But more often than not, we find ourselves in a position where we need to “make do with what we have.” If you are out of buttermilk, there are always options. Today, I want to discuss the buttermilk substitutes you can use.
Best buttermilk substitute options
Milk and lemon
You can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice. For this recipe, you need an 8-ounce measuring cup. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice (or vinegar) to the cup, and top it off with low fat milk. Stir, and then let it sit for two minutes. At this point, the milk is acidic and curdled, just like buttermilk. If your recipe requires two cups of buttermilk, add just 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar. No need for two tablespoons.
Milk and yogurt
This is another recipe you can use as a substitute for one cup of buttermilk. For this recipe, you need ¼ cup of milk and ¾ cup of plain yogurt. Stir them together to get a thick substitute.
Almond milk and vinegar
This is the non-dairy option for those who are lactose intolerant. You need ¼ cup of almond milk and ¾ cup of almond yogurt. Add half a teaspoon to the mix and stir. You can substitute almond products with soy products.
Milk and cream of tartar
For this recipe, you need 1 cup of regular milk. Add almost 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar. However, in order to ensure that you get a smooth mixture, start by mixing the cream of tartar with 2 tablespoons of milk. Once you have that mixed, add the rest of the milk to the cup. As with other recipes, cream of tartar contains lactic acid, which will simulate the acidity of buttermilk.
Sour cream and water
This recipe is measurement-free. The only trick is to use equal parts of water and sour cream. Whisk them together for few minutes to get the lactic acid environment of buttermilk.
Kefir is probably the best buttermilk substitute. The reason is simple: you don’t need to do anything. Just substitute one cup of buttermilk with one cup of kefir. It’s as simple as that. The only thing you need to pay attention to is to use unsweetened and unflavored kefir.
Why do baking recipes call for buttermilk?
I said previously that buttermilk triggers a chemical reaction that is a dream for baked goods. To understand the process, I take you back to elementary school and your science class. Do you remember how you made volcanos? I remember the first time I saw it. I thought it was magic. All you had to do was pour vinegar over baking soda. And suddenly, bubbles appeared and poured over the top.
The same reaction happens with buttermilk and baking soda. Or baking soda and any other acidic ingredient. The chemical reaction releases CO2 bubbles that will leaven and lighten your baked goods. And the best part is it works great with any of the buttermilk substitute options I mentioned.
Popular buttermilk recipes
Just so that you can get an idea of what you can bake, I will give you some popular recipes made with buttermilk, and you can try the substitutes.
The first recipe is soft and tender buttermilk beignets. You can eat them right from the fryer.
We also have roasted strawberry buttermilk cake. What you get is summer fruit that is transformed into soft, warm candy. The ultra-sweet strawberries are the perfect topping.
Last, but not least, we have brown butter banana bread with rum and coconut. This is probably one of the best combinations of butter and buttermilk you can find.