Many years ago, I posted our super simple dairy-free buttermilk substitute recipe online. I later added it to my book, Go Dairy Free, along with several tips. Today, I’m updating our recipe online to include those tips, along with options and answers to frequently asked questions. You can jump to the recipe, but I do recommend reading the FAQs below at least once!
The Easiest Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitute Recipe with Options
I think I’ve covered the bases on almost all the FAQs we’ve received over the years. But if you have any other dairy-free buttermilk inquiries, don’t hesitate to ask!
How Does Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitute Work?
In baked recipes, the acid in buttermilk provides tenderness, full-bodied flavor, and lift. As it reacts with the baking soda, it also neutralizes the unpleasant flavor that baking soda can leave behind. The vinegar or lemon juice in our dairy-free buttermilk recipe provides an equivalent level of acid to ensure your recipe still performs in all of these areas.
In recipes that aren’t baked, buttermilk provides tangy flavor and a touch of richness. The acid in our dairy-free buttermilk recipe covers the taste, and you decide the richness based on the milk alternative you use.
Doesn’t Dairy-Free Buttermilk Need to Curdle?
No. The acid and milk beverage perform exactly the same in your recipes, whether they comingle ahead of time or not. There is no reason to try to “curdle” dairy-free buttermilk alternative before using it in your recipe unless you actually want the milk beverage to separate. Just toss the ingredients in!
The only reason we pre-combine the ingredients in this dairy-free buttermilk substitute recipe is for measurement. It’s much easier to add liquid to equal 1 cup than to measure out 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons of milk alternative.
Why Do Other Dairy-Free Buttermilk Recipes Say to Let it Sit?
Do you remember that story where a daughter asks her mom why she always cuts the ends off the roast before putting it in the pan? She did it because her mom always did, so she decided to ask her mom. It turns out her mom simply did it because the roast was always too big for her roasting pan! We’re pretty sure this step for making dairy-free buttermilk substitute has stayed alive in a similar way. People just didn’t bother to think about why this step was done and if it was necessary for their needs.
But it is Curdling like Mad! What Do I Do?
Most dairy-free milk alternatives do not “curdle” the way dairy milk does. Some will look exactly the same when added to the acid, and some will instantly separate or “curdle.” If it becomes too gloppy or clumpy, just whisk to smooth it out or give it a quick blend to emulsify. Problem solved and recipe saved!
Which Type of Milk Beverage Works Best for Dairy-Free Buttermilk?
Honestly, I just use whatever I have on hand, which is usually plain unsweetened coconut milk beverage or almond milk beverage. Richer, high protein types might provide a little more structure to your recipe, and fattier types might make the result a touch more tender.
Can I Use a Flavored or Sweetened Milk Beverage?
That depends on your recipe! Any flavor of milk beverage will generally function about the same. But you have to decide if added sweetness or the flavor of your milk beverage pairs well with the recipe.
How Can I Make a Thicker Buttermilk Substitute?
Some milk beverages are quite thin. When I want more of a buttermilk consistency, I use plain unsweetened dairy-free creamer or lite canned coconut milk instead of regular milk alternative. Both of these options will provide more of that whole milk or half and half consistency. In fact, you can even use a Half & Half substitute, like Califia Farms, Silk, or Ripple.
Which is Best to Use in Dairy-Free Buttermilk, Vinegar or Lemon Juice?
It really depends on your recipe. I prefer white vinegar in many recipes because it has the “cleanest” taste and doesn’t affect the flavor of the recipe in a notable way. But I like apple cider vinegar in a lot of breads and muffins. I only use lemon juice when it pairs well with the flavors in the recipe, like dairy-free ranch dressing or blueberry muffins, as examples. In my opinion, lemon juice can make some baked goods taste a bit off if the flavor doesn’t fit nicely.
Will Lime Juice Work in Dairy-Free Buttermilk?
Lime is almost as acidic as lemon, so it will work just fine. Again, it more comes down to the taste. Make sure lime fits the flavor profile of your recipe. You’d be surprised how much even 1 tablespoon can affect the taste of many recipes!
What About Cream of Tartar or Dairy-Free Yogurt for Substitutes?
This recipe focuses on our classic dairy-free buttermilk substitute. Cream of tartar doesn’t work in this recipe specifically. But see our Dairy-Free Buttermilk Guide for more options! We cover additional substitutes for dairy-free buttermilk in that quick reference post, including options using dairy-free yogurt or cream of tartar.
Can I Use Water Instead of Milk Beverage?
If the purpose of the buttermilk is simply to provide an acidic liquid, then you can use water. If you need it to provide any type of richness, then I would use milk beverage or lite canned coconut milk.
What Recipes Can I Use this Dairy-Free Buttermilk In?
It will work in most recipes, including things like pancakes, quick bread, biscuits, salad dressing, and even as a marinade for meats. The acid helps to tenderize proteins.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitute
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, added sugar-free, vegan, vegetarian, keto, and paleo friendly. Just be sure to choose the milk alternative that suits your dietary needs.
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
- Unsweetened plain dairy-free milk beverage or creamer or lite canned coconut milk
- Add the vinegar or lemon juice to a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk beverage to reach 1 cup.
- You can use this immediately as a 1:1 substitute for buttermilk in most recipes, including baking. There's no need to let it sit.
Nutrition Note: The nutrition information is based on unsweetened almond milk and will vary based on the type of milk alternative that you use.