How many times have you found yourself in desperate need of pancakes, but without the requisite buttermilk in the fridge? Or there's the other scenario: You want to make a recipe, but you're reluctant to buy an entire carton of buttermilk when you only need a half-cup. For either situation, I have a solution: It's easy to make a very quick buttermilk substitute in less than 10 minutes.
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Why Do We Need Buttermilk Anyway?
Whether we're talking pancakes or quick breads, the role of buttermilk in almost any baking recipe is to add tenderness and lighten the batter. Once the acids in the buttermilk get in contact with the baking soda or baking powder in the batter, a giant fizz-fest takes place. The reaction with the baking soda (or powder) cancels out the sourness of the buttermilk, leaving our baked goods airy, tender, and tasty beyond reckoning.
Making a Substitute for Buttermilk
If we don't have buttermilk in the fridge, the closest substitute would be another dairy product with a little acidity added — milk with a spoonful of lemon juice or white vinegar does the job quite nicely. This mixture won't get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will perform its role in the batter just as well. Incidentally, yogurt or sour cream thinned with milk (or plain water, in a pinch) also work well as buttermilk substitutes.
Thank goodness for buttermilk substitutes, because a good pancake craving should never go unsatisfied.
Measure 1 scant cup of milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.
How To Make a Quick & Easy Buttermilk Substitute
Makes 1 cup, recipe can be halved, doubled, or tripled as needed
What You Need
1 scant cup milk (whole, 2%, or heavy cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
Combine the milk and lemon juice. Measure 1 scant cup of milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.
Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened and you will see small curdled bits. This substitute will not become as thick as regular buttermilk; you will also not notice the curdled bits in your finished recipe.
Use the buttermilk. Use this substitute (including curdled bits) as you would buttermilk in your recipe.
Other Buttermilk Substitutes:
Yogurt: Mix 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/4 cup water to thin. Use as you would buttermilk.
Sour cream: Mix 3/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup plain water to thin. Use as you would buttermilk.
Kefir: Thin kefir as needed with milk or plain water until it reaches the consistency of buttermilk. Use as you would buttermilk.
Cream of tartar: Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened and curdled.