What’s a Good Buttermilk Substitute?

Buttermilk is one ingredient that is commonly used in a wide range of recipes, from pancakes to biscuits. Unfortunately, people often run out and need a buttermilk substitute.

It has been a culinary staple for thousands of years. It was first introduced in Europe before being popularized in the United States. Buttermilk adds a sharp, tangy flavor to recipes similar to salad dressing but with a thicker than regular milk. Moreover, it’s used for baking because of its soft, moist texture. 

If you make a dish calling for buttermilk but don’t have any or want an alternative, here are some substitutes to try.

What is Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is a liquid made from the fermentation of butter that transforms into a cream. The cream is beaten until it solidifies into a non-fat liquid.

It has a somewhat sour flavor, acidic, and thin consistency. Its acidity gives baked products a light and soft texture while enhancing the overall flavor.

The added benefit of buttermilk is it has less fat than regular milk. It’s packed with Vitamin A, D, Calcium, and Potassium and is an excellent source of Probiotics. 

Substitutes for Buttermilk

Say you’ve just started baking and suddenly realize you’re out of buttermilk. The good news is that if you’ve run out, there are plenty of buttermilk alternatives to choose from.

1. Milk and Lemon Juice

What’s great about this alternative is that you can use oat or almond milk if you’re vegan or gluten intolerant. However, the strong acidity of the lemon may be too much for some.

It has an almost watery consistency making it an excellent substitute in pancakes. Of course, your pancakes will get a lemony kick, but that’s not necessarily the worst thing. Compared to buttermilk, it is inevitably thin, making it unsuitable for dough and biscuits.

Simply mix 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and white vinegar. Add a cup of whole milk to the mixture. And wait for five minutes before using it. 

2. Milk and Vinegar

The milk and vinegar combination gives it a similar acidity to buttermilk. This particular substitute has a tangy taste and thin consistency, making it great for pancakes or flapjacks. 

The downside is that it won’t deliver the light, fluffiness you get from the buttermilk. Plus, the slight hint of vinegar flavor may be too intense for some. It’s often very watery compared to buttermilk, making it less desirable for use in cookie dough or cake batter.

3. Cream of Tartar 

Cream of tartar is not made from dairy. Instead, it’s an acidic ingredient produced through the winemaking process. However, the acidic flavor makes it a good substitute for buttermilk.

It has a light, powdery consistency. And the cream of tartar mixture is often an excellent substitute in cakes, scones, and muffins. This is because the acidity speeds up the rising process of dough. For this particular substitute, add 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar to 1 cup of buttermilk in a recipe.

4. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink initially from Caucasus, Russia, and Central Asia. Kefir and buttermilk have similar flavors and include probiotic bacteria cultures used to ferment fresh milk.

But Kefir contains more probiotic strains, while buttermilk only includes one. In addition, Kefir has a tangier flavor and a thicker consistency.

Because Kefir has more probiotics, it may cause cramps or gas. In addition, it contains an unusually high amount of alcohol than buttermilk. Therefore, it may be unsuitable for people with poor alcohol tolerance.

Kefir is a good option for making biscuits, cakes, and cookies because it keeps the dough thick. This results in a light and fluffy texture. You can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting for buttermilk in baking recipes. 

5. Greek Yogurt 

Greek yogurt is made from the fermentation of milk, which gives it a similar consistency to buttermilk. They both have the same tanginess and behave similarly when used in baking. 

Due to its rich and delicate sweetness, yogurt is an excellent alternative for baking biscuits, muffins, and cookies. Greek yogurt also gets the job done if you want to thicken sauces and soups. But make sure to add it while the stove is off to avoid curdling. You can substitute buttermilk for Greek yogurt in baking recipes at a 1:1 ratio. 

However, Greek yogurt has a thicker consistency than buttermilk. Therefore, it’s not ideal for specific recipes such as bread, as it can result in a gummy texture. However, you can fix this by adding water to the mixture.

6. Sour Cream

Yes, it might sound surprising, but you can substitute buttermilk with sour cream. Buttermilk and sour cream have similar acidity and moisture levels. Although it does contain less fat. However, it’s still one of the closest alternatives.

This is an excellent substitute for making dips and dressings because of its rich flavor. In addition, it’s an excellent option for baking cakes because it adds to the cake’s moisture. When substituting, use 1 cup of sour cream for every 1 cup of buttermilk stipulated in the recipe.   

7. Applesauce

While applesauce does not resemble buttermilk, it contains both the acidity and moisture present in buttermilk. Since applesauce has zero fat and doesn’t contain any lactose, it’s great if you are vegan or lactose intolerant. 

This apple puree works perfectly for baking cakes and muffins because of its creamy texture. However, it does not work well for pancakes and waffles due to the absence of fat. Therefore, it will lack the fluffiness that buttermilk provides.

We recommend substituting buttermilk with applesauce at a 1:1 ratio when baking.


When following a recipe and finding yourself in need of buttermilk, it can be tricky to know what substitute to use. However, sourcing an alternative is easier than you think. In fact, the best buttermilk substitute is likely in your home already.