Buttermilk is a cultured milk product used in many recipes. However, if it does not fit with their diet, a person can easily make a number of buttermilk alternatives at home.

Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid left behind when churning cream to make butter.

Today, businesses often make buttermilk by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk. This causes the milk to ferment, giving it a slightly sour, tangy taste.

People use buttermilk to make several foods, including:

  • biscuits
  • cakes
  • pancakes
  • waffles
  • muffins
  • fried chicken

There are a number of alternatives to store-bought buttermilk.

This article outlines how a person can make a variety of buttermilk substitutes, including those suitable for many popular diets.

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A vegan diet excludes all animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. A 2018 Gallup poll states that around 3% of people in the United States are vegan.

A 2019 study linked a diet low in animal foods, combined with a higher intake of plant-based foods, with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Below are some vegan alternatives to buttermilk.

1. Lemon juice and a plant-based milk alternative

Soy milk and almond milk are popular plant-based milk alternatives.

To make this, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 1 cup of a preferred milk alternative to make a buttermilk substitute.

Then stir the mixture and leave it to stand for 5–10 minutes until it slightly curdles.

2. Vinegar and a plant-based milk alternative

This is similar to the above recipe. However, instead of lemon juice, a person can mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar with their milk alternative. White wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar are both suitable options.

Again, stir the mixture and leave it to stand for 5–10 minutes before using it.

3. Vegan sour cream and water

Vegan sour cream is commercially available as a suitable option for buttermilk alternatives.

To make the buttermilk substitute, mix 1/2 a cup of vegan sour cream with 1/2 a cup of water. Then whisk the mixture until it reaches the correct consistency.

Depending on the thickness of the vegan sour cream, a person may wish to adjust the two ingredients’ measurements slightly. This will allow them to reach the desired consistency of traditional buttermilk.

4. Tofu, water, and acid

Tofu is a food product made from soybean curds. It contains no cholesterol or gluten and is low in calories. A person can use tofu to create an alternative to buttermilk.

To make a tofu buttermilk substitute:

  1. Take 1/4 of a cup of tofu and add it to a blender.
  2. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and a pinch of salt.
  3. Add around 3/4 of a cup of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, while blending the mixture.
  4. Stop adding water once the mixture reaches its desired consistency.
  5. Let it sit for 10 minutes before use.

A ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is very low in carbohydrates and high in fat.

The main goal of the keto diet is for a person to get most of their daily calories from fat.

Some studies suggest that this diet, despite being high in fat, can help a person lose weight.

Some health professionals also believe that keto diets may be beneficial in tackling the following health conditions:

  • Cancer: A 2017 review suggests that keto diets, in combination with traditional treatments, may help people with cancer. However, the authors say that more research is needed.
  • Diabetes: A 2019 review proposes that keto diets may improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. However, its use in those with type 1 diabetes is still controversial.
  • Epilepsy: According to a 2019 review, doctors have recommended keto diets since the 1920s to help treat epilepsy in children. Today, doctors will prescribe the treatment, while dietitians usually monitor any side effects. There is also research to say it may be effective to treat the condition in adults. However, the review authors state that adults may have issues with maintaining this diet.

It is worth noting that the vegan alternatives to buttermilk listed above are also suitable options for a keto diet.

Below are some other low carb alternatives to buttermilk.

5. Unsweetened coconut milk and acid

Unsweetened coconut milk traditionally has very low carb levels and can be quite high in fat. It also makes an effective buttermilk replacement in recipes when combined with a suitable acid such as lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar.

To use unsweetened coconut milk to make a buttermilk alternative:

  1. Add 1 cup of coconut milk to 1 tablespoon of acid.
  2. Stir the mixture.
  3. Leave it to sit for 5–10 minutes before using.

If a person is on a keto diet they should check the amount of carbohydrates in the coconut milk. Some brands have more carbohydrates than others, making them less suitable for a keto diet. This alternative to buttermilk is also vegan.

6. Unsweetened cashew milk and acid

Another suitable alternative to regular milk is cashew milk.

Cashew milk is very low in carbohydrates, making it suitable for keto diets.

To make a buttermilk alternative, mix 1 cup of unsweetened cashew milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.

Then stir the mixture and leave it to sit for 5–10 minutes before using.

Again, this alternative to buttermilk is also vegan.

While a person can replace the dairy elements with plant-based products, there are several other buttermilk alternatives that still contain dairy products.

Below are some of the best dairy alternatives to buttermilk.

7. Milk and vinegar

Milk and vinegar combine well to create a suitable alternative to buttermilk.

The vinegar gives the milk an acidic, tangy taste, similar to buttermilk. Apple cider and white wine vinegar work well in this recipe.

To make the buttermilk alternative:

  1. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a measuring cup.
  2. Top up with milk until it measures 1 cup.
  3. Stir the mixture, leaving it for 5–10 minutes before using it.

8. Milk and lemon juice

Lemon juice is a suitable alternative to vinegar when making buttermilk substitutes.

Use the same recipe as above, replacing the vinegar with lemon juice.

A person can use either freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice when making this buttermilk alternative.

However, bottled lemon juice often contains preservatives, such as sodium benzoate and sodium sulfite.

Sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms in some people, so consider this when deciding which products to use.

9. Milk and cream of tartar

Another suitable acid that can combine with milk to make a buttermilk alternative is cream of tartar.

Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is the powdered form of tartaric acid. It features in a number of baking recipes.

To use cream of tartar to make an alternative to buttermilk:

  1. Mix 1 and 3/4 teaspoons (5 grams) of cream of tartar with 1 cup of milk.
  2. Because cream of tartar can clump when added to milk, it is worth adding it to 2 tablespoons of milk first, whisking the mixture thoroughly.
  3. When these ingredients combine to form a paste, stir the mixture into the remaining milk.

Another option for some recipes is to add the cream of tartar powder to the other dry elements before adding the milk.

10. Sour cream and water

Sour cream has a similar flavor to buttermilk.

Cream fermented with lactic acid bacteria becomes sour cream. This gives it the tangy, sour flavor.

Sour cream is not a direct substitute for buttermilk because it has a much thicker consistency.

However, a person can make a suitable alternative to buttermilk by mixing sour cream and water.

Mix 3/4 of a cup of sour cream with 1/4 of a cup of water. Then whisk the mixture until it is smooth.

11. Plain yogurt and water

Plain yogurt also has a tangy flavor that makes it a suitable alternative to buttermilk.

However, due to its thick consistency, plain yogurt often does not work as a direct replacement. This is particularly the case when the recipe requires buttermilk to create a thin batter.

Therefore, a person should thin plain yogurt with water to create their buttermilk alternative.

Mix 3/4 of a cup of plain yogurt with 1/4 of a cup of water. Then whisk this mixture until it reaches the same consistency as buttermilk.

12. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It has a similar consistency to thin yogurt, and its taste is comparable with buttermilk.

A person can use unflavored kefir as a direct replacement for buttermilk. Therefore, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup of kefir.

Kefir contains friendly bacteria and offers several health benefits, including antiobesity, antioxidative, antiallergenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

The paleo diet attempts to mimic the diet of people who lived during the Paleolithic era. This dates from around 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

This diet typically contains food that Paleolithic humans could obtain by hunting and gathering before farming became commonplace.

Common paleo diet foods include lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

These diets often limit ingredients such as dairy products, legumes, and grains.

Below are some buttermilk alternatives that are suitable for people on a paleo diet.

13. Unsweetened coconut milk and fresh lemon juice

Coconut milk is paleo-friendly because it tends to consist of just water and coconut.

However, a person on a paleo diet should be careful when purchasing coconut milk, as some products also contain other added ingredients such as thickeners and extra flavors.

To make this recipe, add 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk to 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Then stir the mixture and leave it to sit for 5–10 minutes before using. This recipe is also vegan.

14. Nut milk and fresh lemon juice

The paleo diet allows a variety of nut milk, including almond and cashew milk.

Again, check the ingredients when purchasing nut milk to ensure it does not contain added ingredients.

A person can make a suitable buttermilk alternative by mixing 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 cup of either almond or cashew milk.

Then stir the mixture, leaving it for 5–10 minutes before using it. This recipe is also vegan.

15. Homemade nut cream and lemon juice

An alternative to using store-bought nut milk is using a homemade nut cream.

Homemade nut cream is a suitable option for people who do not enjoy plant-based dairy alternative milk. It is also a good way to avoid the preservatives that sometimes appear in them.

To make this alternative to buttermilk:

  1. Soak 1 cup of raw, unsalted nuts in water. Cashews and macadamia nuts are suitable options for this recipe.
  2. After soaking, drain the nuts and purée them in a blender.
  3. While blending, slowly add 1 cup of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.

This recipe is also vegan.

Buttermilk is a common ingredient that appears in many recipes.

However, there are a number of alternatives to buttermilk that suit a variety of different diets, including vegan, paleo, and keto diets.

Alternatives to buttermilk can include milk and dairy products, while others use alternative milk such as soy, nut, and coconut milk.

Alternatives to buttermilk make use of suitable acids to create its tangy flavor. Common acids include lemon juice, vinegar, and cream of tartar.