Best Buttermilk Substitute

Don’t have time to pick up some buttermilk? Here’s the best buttermilk substitute to use in recipes like pancakes, biscuits, and more.

Buttermilk substitute

Buttermilk is a key ingredient in recipes like pancakes and biscuits: but you might not always stock it in your refrigerator! This thick dairy product is common in baking recipes. But why is it needed, and what’s the best buttermilk substitute? Keep reading.

What does buttermilk do in recipes?

Why is buttermilk included in recipes? Couldn’t butter or milk do the trick? This tangy fermented dairy product was traditionally the liquid left over from churning butter (hence “butter milk”). It’s used in recipes for the following reasons:

  • It adds a tangy nuance that enhances the flavor.
  • It gives a tall rise and helps with leavening! When baking soda and acidified dairy are combined in a batter, they release carbon dioxide bubbles that help lighten whatever you’re making. 

Best buttermilk substitute:

Use milk with lemon juice or white vinegar.

The best substitute for buttermilk? The most popular buttermilk substitute out there is using milk plus an acid: either lemon juice or white vinegar. This mimics the tang and acidity of the buttermilk. You can most types of milk: whole milk, 2%, 1% or even non-dairy milks. (Skim milk is less ideal because of its watery texture, but you can use it in a pinch.) Here’s how to do it:

  • Combine 1 scant cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.
  • Allow to stand for 5 minutes before using.

Related buttermilk recipes

Here are some recipes where you could use this buttermilk substitution:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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