5 Easy-to-make and Smart Vegan Buttermilk Substitutes

Vegan buttermilk substitutes
Being a vegan does not mean that you cannot savor the delicious dishes that call for buttermilk. Non-dairy milk can be used to substitute buttermilk in a dish, by simply adding a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to it.
Contrary to its name, buttermilk is not leaded with butter. Instead, butter from the milk is skimmed off to obtain buttermilk, which makes it a low-fat dairy product. The buttermilk that is commonly found in the market is cultured buttermilk, which is prepared by adding lactic acid bacteria to low-fat or non-fat milk.
The taste and flavor of both traditional and cultured buttermilk are quite similar, though cultured buttermilk is slightly thicker than the traditional one. Buttermilk is an important ingredient in cookies, desserts, and smoothies. It lends a sour taste and creamy texture to dips and sauces. In baking, it accentuates the leavening action of baking soda, and makes baked goods soft and fluffy by giving them a spongy texture.

Buttermilk pancakes are usually light and fluffy, while buttermilk ice-creams are creamier and more delicious. The lactic acid present in buttermilk reacts with the alkaline baking soda. The reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide, which help lift and expand the dough and lighten the texture of the food making it soft and fluffy. However, vegans cannot use this ingredient in baking, as they avoid all animal products including dairy products. Here are some good buttermilk substitutes that can replace this dairy product in various recipes.
Buttermilk Alternatives for Vegans
Soy Milk and Vinegar
Soy milk is a healthy and inexpensive substitute for buttermilk. Moreover, it can be easily found in your local supermarket all year round. Its texture is more similar to that of whole milk than fat-free or low-fat milk. Nutritionally, it is almost equivalent to dairy milk. It contains an equal amount of protein with less fat and no cholesterol. Fortified soy milk also contains calcium.
soy milk
To substitute buttermilk with soy milk, you have to mix a small amount of vinegar and lemon juice to it. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to make your homemade non-dairy buttermilk.

Amount of buttermilk required: 1 cup

To be replaced with: 1 cup soy milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar (white/apple cider vinegar) or lemon juice.

Note: Soy milk is a good substitute for buttermilk and dairy milk, when it comes to baking. However, you may notice a subtle change in flavor, as soy milk can lend a nutty flavor to baked goods. For savory dishes, opt for unsweetened and unflavored soy milk. In desserts, make sure to adjust the amount of sweetener, if you are going to use sweetened soy milk. If you are going to use soy milk in custards, puddings, ice-creams, or smoothies, consider to add a thickener to the recipe. Some soy milk brands, however, already contain thickeners.
Almond/Cashew Milk and Vinegar
Due to their creamy consistency, almond and cashew milk work well for desserts, fruit smoothies, and other creamy drinks. Almond milk can make creamy soups, and mouth-watering smoothies and puddings. The taste and flavor of almond and cashew milk are not similar to dairy milk. But still, they are considered to be good milk substitutes.
cashew almond milk
To replace buttermilk with almond or cashew milk in a recipe, you have to add a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to it. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to get your non-dairy buttermilk.

Amount of buttermilk required: 1 cup

To be replaced with: 1 cup almond/cashew milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar (white/apple cider vinegar) or lemon juice.

Note: While using almond or cashew milk to substitute buttermilk in desserts and other sweet dishes, consider to reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener used by one third, as almonds and cashews are naturally sweet. Baked goods made with almond milk do not brown so easily, which can be corrected by adding or increasing the amount of sugar.
Coconut Milk and Vinegar
This creamy milk obtained from the flesh of coconuts can add richness and a creamy texture to both sweet and savory dishes. From delectable puddings and pancakes, to crunchy cookies, and flavorful chickpeas and spinach, this versatile milk can accentuate the taste and flavor of any dish.
coconut milk
Mix coconut oil with a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice to use it as a buttermilk substitute. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes to get coconut buttermilk. The addition of lemon juice or vinegar gives a tangy flavor to coconut buttermilk, similar to that of dairy buttermilk.

Amount of buttermilk required: 1 cup

To be replaced with: 1 cup coconut milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

Note: In baking, the light coconut flavor of this non-dairy buttermilk would probably bake out in the process, and so, you may not notice any change in flavor in the end product. But in other dishes, it can add the coconut flavor, which should be kept in mind while substituting it for dairy buttermilk.

Sometimes, you may notice coconut milk separating into two layers - a thick layer of cream that forms at the top of the watery liquid. Be sure to combine the two parts thoroughly by shaking the can, or emptying its content in a bowl and then stirring it with a spoon, before using it in cooking.
Rice Milk and Vinegar
Rice milk is another non-dairy milk that can be used to replace both milk and buttermilk in many recipes. It contains more carbohydrates than dairy milk, but does not contain much protein or calcium. So, it is not nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk. However, commercial brands of rice milk are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
rice milk
As far as its texture is concerned, rice milk has a light and translucent consistency. It has a naturally sweet taste, and so, you may like to adjust the amount of sweetener in desserts and other sweet dishes while using rice milk. Like soy and almond milk, it can be soured or acidified by adding a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice to it. Allow this mixture to sit for 5 minutes before using it to replace buttermilk in the recipe.

Amount of buttermilk required: 1 cup

To be replaced with: 1 cup rice milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

Note: Rice milk can make excellent soups, vegetable casseroles, desserts, smoothies, and shakes. Due to its natural sweetness, rice milk works well in desserts and sweet dishes, but is less suitable for savory dishes. As far as baked goods are concerned, rice milk usually does not change the texture and flavor of the end product.
Vegan Sour Cream
Use vegan sour cream to substitute buttermilk in the recipe. Sour cream is nothing but the regular dairy cream fermented with lactic acid bacteria, which thickens the cream besides making it sour. Vegan sour cream on the other hand, is made from non-dairy milk, like almond and cashew milk, or tofu.
vegan sour cream
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Amount of buttermilk required: 1 cup

To be replaced with: ½ cup vegan sour cream + ½ cup water

Note: Sour cream is not very acidic, which is why many people like to add a tablespoon of lemon juice to it while substituting buttermilk. Sour cream can make excellent dips, salad dressings, and a topping for baked potatoes. It can be used in baking cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, and other desserts as well.
In most recipes, you won't be able to make out much difference while substituting buttermilk with non-dairy buttermilk derived from soy, almond, coconut, or rice milk. Nevertheless, the fact cannot be ignored that buttermilk has a unique taste and flavor, which is not completely replaceable. But still, the substitutes mentioned in this article would work well for most recipes, and help you relish the scrumptious dishes that call for buttermilk.