Skip to Content

5 Best Substitutes for Buttermilk in Your Kitchen

Buttermilk is a staple ingredient in many recipes, from pancakes to fried chicken. It adds a tangy flavor and helps create a light and fluffy texture.

However, sometimes you may find yourself without buttermilk in your kitchen when you need it most. Luckily, there are several substitutes that can work just as well in your recipes. In this article, we will discuss the 5 best substitutes for buttermilk in your kitchen.

Let’s get started!

The Role of Buttermilk in Baking and Beyond

In the world of baking, buttermilk is considered a “wet ingredient” and often used in combination with dry ingredients like flour. Its acidic content reacts with baking soda, creating carbon dioxide bubbles that help baked goods rise and become light and fluffy. Buttermilk also adds moisture to recipes, making them tender and moist.

It’s important to note that there are two types of buttermilk: traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid leftover after churning butter, while cultured buttermilk is made by adding special bacteria to milk. For baking purposes, either type can be used as long as it has a tangy flavor.

Besides its role in baking, buttermilk can also be used as a marinade for meats, in dressings and dips, or even in soups and stews. Its tangy flavor adds depth to savory dishes and its thick consistency can help thicken sauces.

5 Best Substitutes for Buttermilk in Your Kitchen

1 – Milk and Vinegar

In the first substitution, let’s combine a cup of milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. The duo has a unique ability to curl into a buttermilk-esque texture.

The characteristic flavor profile leans on the acidic side, complementing recipes that require the lift of leavening agents. In terms of consistency, milk and vinegar make for a suitable match. Plus, you can use it as a direct substitute in any recipe that calls for buttermilk!

A cautious ratio applies here — for every cup of buttermilk, use a cup of milk with a tablespoon of acid. This versatile substitute is perfect for cakes, muffins, and scones.

2 – Milk and Lemon Juice

Similar to its predecessor, a blend of milk and lemon juice mimics the defining features of buttermilk. This duo provides an acidic note that intertwines well with the savory and the sweet.

The texture is similar to buttermilk—slightly thicker than regular milk. In terms of flavor, this blend is a bit more citrusy than the milk and vinegar option. If your recipe calls for buttermilk in a meat marinade, consider using this substitute as it adds a unique tang to the dish.

When substituting, keep the ratio at a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of buttermilk called for. Employ it in pudding mixes, pie crusts, and other baked goods.

3 – Milk and Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is not commonly found in every kitchen, but when combined with milk, it can stand in as an effective buttermilk replacement.

The resulting mixture isn’t as thick as buttermilk, but the flavor and acidity levels are comparable. In terms of baking, this substitute works best in recipes that call for buttermilk as a leavening agent. Its role is to activate the baking soda or powder needed for rising.

To create this substitute, use a cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar, following a 1-to-1 ratio to the amount of buttermilk required in your recipe. It’s a great addition to quick bread and cake batters.

4 – Kefir

Kefir, a fermented milk drink, is a robust alternative for buttermilk. It boasts a tangy flavor profile and a consistency akin to drinking yogurt. This healthful beverage contains a range of probiotics, to aid in digestion. Due to its composition, kefir is an effective substitute for buttermilk in baking, dressings and dips, and marinades.

Unlike other substitutes that require you to make a mixture, kefir can be used as is, making for a direct 1-to-1 cup swap. Its versatility spans across various recipes, including soups, marinades, and, of course, baked goods.

5 – Lactose-Free Milk and Acid

For the lactose-intolerant or those with a preference for lactose-free options, a combination of lactose-free milk and an acid like lemon juice presents an excellent buttermilk stand-in. This substitute features a flavor and texture similar to traditional buttermilk, making it ideal for baking and savory dishes.

What types of milk work best? Opt for lactose-free milk, soy milk, or almond milk. And to create a tangy flavor, add in a tablespoon of an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

The ratio for this substitute is the same as the others — one cup of milk and one tablespoon of acid for every cup of buttermilk needed. It’s perfect for enhancing the texture of pancakes, waffles, and cheesecakes without sacrificing taste or dietary restrictions.


In conclusion, while buttermilk may be a common ingredient in many recipes, it’s not the only option.

You can easily substitute with everyday ingredients like milk and vinegar or kefir for a tangy and flavorful result. Just remember to keep the ratios in mind and experiment with different substitutes to find your favorite.

With these 5 best substitutes for buttermilk in your kitchen, you’ll never have to worry about running out of this versatile ingredient again!