Skip to content
Back to All Articles

5 Dairy-Free Buttermilk Alternatives to Try In Your Next Recipe


A ton of delicious recipes call for buttermilk, from waffles to coleslaw. And if you’re going dairy-free, you may fear you’ll need to part with some of your own favorite recipes, especially if buttermilk is a key ingredient.

While a relatively new idea, dairy-free buttermilk does exist on the market. However, finding it may be tough, especially with so few options currently available. Making your own buttermilk alternative is often the best option.

The good news is that you can use a dairy-free buttermilk substitute for the same results. In this quick guide, we’ll share some of our favorite alternatives.

What is Buttermilk, Anyway?

Put simply, buttermilk is fermented milk. Buttermilk is made by adding cultures to milk and allowing it to ferment over time. The result is a slightly thicker and tangy milk that has a bit of a vinegar smell.

Why is buttermilk often an ingredient when cooking certain dishes? While buttermilk does add a unique flavor to your favorite cake, it does so much more.

The acid in the buttermilk works to break down gluten, which results in a softer texture, especially in baked goods. Buttermilk can also tenderize chicken and improve the rise of baked bread.

What Flavors are We Trying to Replicate?

As mentioned above, buttermilk has a slight tang to it. The milk isn’t sour but tastes very similar to plain yogurt. When buttermilk is used simply for flavor, we must replicate that slight tang and acidity. Luckily, we can do just that with a dairy-free, vegan buttermilk substitute.

Our Favorite Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitutes

There are a lot of alternatives you can use for buttermilk in your favorite recipes. Keep in mind that each alternative will require a small amount of preparation, so you’ll need to whip them up before you start to cook. Any leftovers may be stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Here are a few of our favorite substitutions.

1. Lemon Juice

One of the easiest ways to make a dairy-free buttermilk substitute is to take a cup of milk alternative and add one tablespoon of lemon juice to it. Then, simply stir and let it sit until it curdles and/or thickens. Note that some dairy-free substitutes will only thicken and not actually curdle. You’re then free to use the alternative in any of your recipes.

There are various milk alternatives you can choose, based on your taste preferences. For example, you can try Pacific Foods Organic Almond Original beverage for a slightly nuttier taste. Or, you can opt for a more traditional alternative, such as Pacific Foods Organic Unsweetened Soy Original.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is often a more common pantry ingredient than lemon juice and it too can be used to create a buttermilk alternative. Simply combine one cup of milk alternative such as soy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk and one tablespoon of vinegar. Mix it and allow it to sit for up to 10 minutes.

Once your non-dairy buttermilk is thickened, it’s ready to use. While vinegar will result in non-dairy buttermilk, it won’t necessarily taste like the buttermilk you’re used to.

We recommend using this option when taste isn’t necessarily the most important purpose for the use of buttermilk in your recipe. If taste is important, go for the lemon juice option above.

3. Non-Dairy Sour Cream

The taste of buttermilk is very similar to that of sour cream. However, sour cream is obviously thicker than milk. So, to make this dairy-free substitute, you’ll need to combine non-dairy sour cream with a milk alternative to reach the desired consistency.

You can purchase non-dairy sour cream at your favorite grocery store or even make your own. Once you have your sour cream, take 3/4 of a cup of sour cream and combine it with 1/4 of a cup of milk alternative. Then, you’re good to go.

Of course, if you don’t have any milk alternatives in your fridge, you can always use water to thin down your sour cream.

4. Dairy-Free Yogurt

Dairy-free yogurt can also be used the same way as sour cream to create a dairy-free buttermilk alternative. Start with a cup of dairy-free yogurt and add ¼ cup milk alternative. If it still appears too thick, continue adding milk alternative until it thins into the desired consistency for your recipe. Just make sure you use plain yogurt that’s completely unsweetened.

5. Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar can also add the necessary acidity to your recipe when you can’t use buttermilk. For this substitute, you’ll want to add one and a half teaspoons of cream of tartar to the dry ingredients you’re using for your recipe. Then, add one cup of milk alternative to your liquid ingredients.

That’s it! You can then continue to prepare your recipe. The two ingredients will react together during the cooking process.

Dairy-Free Buttermilk FAQs

Is There Such a Thing as Dairy-Free Buttermilk?

While a relatively new idea, dairy-free buttermilk does exist on the market. However, finding it may be tough, especially with so few options currently available. Making your own buttermilk alternative is often the best option.

Can Almond Milk Be Used to Make Buttermilk?

Yes! You can use the above substitution options, such as lemon juice or yogurt, and almond milk to make your own buttermilk. For the best results, we recommend sticking to unsweetened almond milk which will help you recreate the flavor of traditional buttermilk.

Does a Dairy-Free Buttermilk Substitute Taste the Same?

While traditional buttermilk has a distinct taste, the recipes above get pretty close. Buttermilk is tangy and acidic. Ingredients such as lemon juice and yogurt can help you replicate that taste in your recipes.

Can You Simply Omit Buttermilk in a Recipe?

It depends. If the buttermilk is being used for leavening a cake or some bread, for example, you shouldn’t leave it out. Otherwise, you run the risk of baking a very dense dessert.

Dairy-Free? Try Pacific Foods Plant-Based Milks in Your Recipes!

At Pacific Foods, we provide a wide range of wholesome and dairy-free milks you can use in your recipes. Whether you’re looking for the nuttiness of almonds or the tropical flavor of coconut, we’ve got you (and your pantry) covered. Stock up by shopping our products today.