Whether you want a dairy-free alternative to buttermilk or you don't have buttermilk on hand and need a quick replacement, this vegan buttermilk trick is for you!
I say trick instead of recipe because this is a 2-ingredient method that works with soy milk, oat milk, and pea milk.
Vegan buttermilk works in place of traditional buttermilk in baked goods like pancakes, waffles, and biscuits. Unlike traditional buttermilk, it's not great on its own with cornbread (yes, this is a thing!).
What is vegan buttermilk?
Before we talk about dairy-free buttermilk, we need to talk about traditional buttermilk. Buttermilk is, in short, fermented milk. Traditionally it was made from the liquid left after making butter, which is then fermented overnight.
Buttermilk is rich, thick, tangy, and creamy. It is made up of water, milk proteins, milk sugars, and a small amount of fat. So how do we imitate that without milk? It's surprisingly easy.
Vegan buttermilk is made using non-dairy milk and an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. The acid coagulates the milk, resulting in a thick and tangy texture similar to buttermilk.
This recipe is versatile and works with a variety of non-dairy milk and acids.
This method works best with higher-protein plant milk. That's because the curdled proteins are what contribute to the thick buttermilk consistency.
I recommend using unsweetened, unflavored milk for the most neutral flavor, but flavored milk does work.
- Soy milk: My go-to option which results in the thickest buttermilk.
- Oat milk: This will take a little longer to curdle than soy milk.
- Pea protein milk: Another good option because it is high in protein, however, the flavor is less neutral than soy or oat milk.
Not recommended: rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk. Almond milk may curdle but results are inconsistent due to the low protein content.
This curdles the proteins in the plant milk. Different acids also provide different flavors.
- Lemon juice: This makes a bright, lemony flavor that is great in muffins and baked goods. However, I find that lemon juice curdles milk less consistently than vinegar.
- Apple cider vinegar: This adds a slightly fruity flavor.
- White vinegar: This makes the tangiest but most neutral flavor.
Technically other vinegars like rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, and even balsamic vinegar work. I don't recommend using them because they have a strong flavor that could alter the overall flavor of recipes.
How to make buttermilk
To make vegan buttermilk:
- Measure out one cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy or oat milk.
- Scoop out one tablespoon of milk. This is optional, but it makes it so that the recipe yields 1 cup of buttermilk.
- Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Stir to combine.
- Let sit for 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken significantly and appear lumpy when ready to use.
How to use
Use dairy-free buttermilk in place of traditional buttermilk at a 1:1 ratio.
Vegan buttermilk adds a tangy flavor, helps with leavening, and yields more tender baked goods.
Keep leftover buttermilk in the fridge for 3-4 days. Note that it may continue to thicken slightly in the fridge.
Vegan buttermilk does freeze well. Liquids expand as they freeze, so make sure not to overfill the jar that it is frozen in. When ready to use, transfer to the fridge to defrost overnight. I don't recommend defrosting it by heating it up in the microwave.
More plant-based basics
If you're new to eating plant-based, don't forget to check out more plant-based staples.
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- 1 cup unsweetened unflavored soy milk see note #1
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar see note #2
- Pour 1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy milk into a bowl or jar. Remove one tablespoon of the milk.
- Add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. Whisk to combine.
- Let the mixture rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. It is ready when thickened and lumpy.
- Keep leftover buttermilk refrigerated for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Milk: Soy milk works best due to its high protein content. Oat milk and pea protein milk also work. I don't recommend almond, rice, or coconut milk.
- Vinegar: This recipe works with an equal amount of plain vinegar or lemon juice.