Buttermilk lends a creamy texture and tart flavor to dips, sauces and salad dressings. In baked goods, it helps activate the leavening action of baking soda and adds a rich, tender taste with less fat than whole milk.
If you avoid dairy — whether it's due to an allergy, lactose intolerance or dietary preferences — there are dairy-free options you can use in place of buttermilk.
"It's very easy to substitute dairy buttermilk with a plant-based product," says Karl Guggenmos, chef and senior culinary advisor at Healthy Meals Supreme. Here are some dairy-free substitutes that make for great vegan buttermilk.
1. Soured Plant Milk
Choose the plant milk of your choice, and add lemon juice to it to create a soured version. "Simply pour 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or cider vinegar into a cup and add one cup of almond or coconut milk," Guggenmos says. Then, let the mixture sit at room temperature for 5 minutes until it begins to curdle.
"The best results come from the plant milks that curdle, like soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk," says Suzannah Gerber, executive chef of Haven Foods, a food and medical industry consultant and author of Plant-Based Gourmet.
2. Vegan Sour Cream
Vegan sour cream diluted with water is another good option. It has the tang and sourness of buttermilk, and thinning it out with water helps make its consistency match buttermilk. This is a solid option for dressings or dips in particular, as well as in baked goods.
Try mixing water and sour cream in equal parts, then do a one-to-one substitution of that mixture. That is, if the recipe calls for one cup of buttermilk, swap in a half-cup of water and a half-cup of vegan sour cream, combined. We like Tofutti Better than Sour Cream.
Adjust the mixture depending on your preference for a thicker or thinner consistency. You can use this same method with vegan yogurt, too.
3. Homemade Nut Cream
Another option is to make your own nut-based buttermilk-like cream.
To do so, soak raw, unsalted cashews, macadamias or other nuts in water, then purée them with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and additional water, using one cup of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for every cup of nuts.
With this method, one cup of cashews yields approximately one-and-a-half cups of vegan buttermilk substitute.
4. Silken Tofu
Another vegan alternative to buttermilk is silken tofu, which doubles as a good source of protein. By combining it with an acid — like apple cider vinegar — you'll break down some of the starches in the tofu, says Gerber.
Mix 3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Add it to the blender with one cup of soft silken tofu, says Gerber. Another option is to use a quarter-cup of lemon juice instead of the water and apple cider vinegar mixture, Gerber notes.
"Pulse to start and blend on medium so it doesn't get too aerated," she says. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before using it.
Read more: How to Cook Silken Tofu