You can count on terrific flavor and old-fashioned goodness when a recipe calls for buttermilk. A versatile Southern staple, buttermilk is a main ingredient in creamy salad dressings, fruit-filled smoothies, and of course, flaky buttermilk biscuits. Stirred into quick breads and pancake batters or used alongside convenience products, buttermilk adds tenderness and flavor usually expected only in scratch cooking. This hard working beverage will both quench your thirst and help your pound cakes rise to awe-inspiring heights. Don’t skip over the recipe if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, however. While nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the real thing, there a few substitutes that will perform well in a pinch.
In “the old days,” buttermilk was the butter-flecked liquid left after hours of churning butter. The refrigerated versions available today- both full fat and fat free – are made thick and tart by special cultures added to the milk. When making baked goods, buttermilk is usually added with baking powder or baking soda (if your recipes uses self-rising flour, these ingredients have already been added). Have you ever noticed how your batter fizzes up? The acids in the buttermilk react with the baking soda (or powder), which creates the fizz, which leads to tender, light, and tasty baked goods.
If you finished off the buttermilk last night by pouring it over a glassful of old-fashioned cornbread, maybe you have another dairy product that will do in a pinch. Sour cream and plain yogurt are both acceptable substitutes if you don’t have the real thing. Use a 1:1 ratio, but some bakers like to thin the sour cream or yogurt with a little milk. Either way, there should not be any significant differences in terms of spread, rise, and browning. Delicious kefir can also be substituted using 1:1 ratio. Some believe that kefir is almost indistinguishable from buttermilk, in both taste and texture of the finished product.
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The most common substitute for buttermilk is the combination of milk and lemon juice or vinegar. This mixture won't get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it serves its purpose just as well.
Makes one cup
Pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to a liquid measuring cup, and add enough whole milk or heavy cream to equal 1 cup. Stir well and let stand 5 minutes. When the milk curdles, it is ready to use.