What Is a Good Substitute for Buttermilk?

Make a quick swap for buttermilk, whether you're prepping pancakes, dressings, fried chicken or something else.

March 26, 2020
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Photo by: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

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By Regan Burns Cafiso for Food Network Kitchen

Picture this: You're all set to make a batch of pancakes, only to discover there's no buttermilk in the fridge. Should you scrap your breakfast plans? Not so fast! It's easy to make a convincing substitute for buttermilk with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.

The great news is that, no matter what you plan to make, there are several good buttermilk substitutes. The one you should use depends on what you're making.

Buttermilk Substitute for Baked Goods and Pancakes

For baked goods like pancakes, waffles or muffins, soured milk makes an excellent ersatz buttermilk. To make your own soured milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup, then add enough milk to equal 1 cup. Stir well and let sit until it curdles, about 5 minutes. Use this mixture in your recipe in place of the buttermilk.

You can also make soured milk with cream of tartar. Use 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar per cup of milk. Because cream of tartar can get clumpy when stirred into liquids, some people prefer to mix it with their recipe's dry ingredients. In this case, use an equal measurement of milk for the buttermilk amount.

Buttermilk Substitute for Dips and Dressings

Plain yogurt works well if you're making a dip, dressing or marinade. Thin it with a little water or milk to mimic the consistency of regular buttermilk, then use this mixture cup-for-cup in your recipe.

Buttermilk Substitute for Marinades and Brines

If you're planning to brine chicken in buttermilk, to fry or roast it, you're in luck – you can use thinned yogurt or soured milk. For the best tenderizing flavor, opt for a scant cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, then add seasonings like salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika and minced fresh garlic or a dash of garlic powder.

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