The Ingredient Swap You Need To Make For The Best Homemade Buttermilk

How many times have you had high hopes of trying a new recipe and as you're measuring and pouring you come to find those fluffy pancakes or the how-to guide in crafting the perfect biscuit calls for an ingredient you forgot to grab at the grocery store? Buttermilk is one of those ingredients you may often forget, especially if you're unfamiliar with the number of ways this opaque liquid can be used to enhance your favorite foods. While Southern Living claims buttermilk is a handy product to have on hand at all times to add to everyday delicacies like chocolate cake or cornbread, The Pioneer Woman swears by its abilities to produce fluffier pancakes, not to mention its tangy taste which can be used to add a subtle yet distinct flavor component to some of your most loved baked goods or salad dressings. But what is buttermilk exactly?

According to Food Network, buttermilk is acidic, fermented milk that when purchased in the store, contains live cultures that continue to ferment just like yogurt and kefir, making it thick and creamy. In its purest form, the residual liquid from homemade butter is buttermilk which used to be left out to ferment before pasteurization came along. If you find yourself at the behest of your buttermilk pancake recipe and have none on hand, there is one ingredient swap you can make that serves as an excellent buttermilk substitute.

Make a great buttermilk substitute with one common milk-based product

Before you panic and start researching the best substitute for buttermilk, first make sure you've checked your refrigerator or freezer for any pre-frozen buttermilk from your other baking or cooking ventures. If you've cooked with buttermilk, you may already know its convenient storage capabilities. Southern Living claims this fermented milk can last up to three weeks in your refrigerator. Buttermilk also freezes well, especially in ice cube trays, so you can portion control any leftovers for future recipes.

If can't find any leftovers lying around, but you do have heavy cream, you can still make those decadent buttermilk pancakes with lemon and ricotta. According to a BuzzFeed article on the most convenient ingredient swaps, one home chef swears by mixing one teaspoon of vinegar into one cup of heavy cream for an easy and comparable substitute to standard cultured buttermilk.

Yet, Greatist advises home bakers to be weary of how they're using that heavy cream substitute. If you plan on using this alternative in your next baking foray, you may want to replace any baking soda with baking powder just to be safe. If you don't add enough vinegar, for example, heavy cream may not always produce a sufficient acidic reaction from baking soda which adds a certain amount of leavening to your recipes. If you're short on heavy cream and vinegar, there are other buttermilk alternatives worth trying.

Additional homemade alternatives to buttermilk

Heavy cream is not the only solution for making an at-home buttermilk substitute. Cook's Illustrated suggests milk when making homemade versions-just make sure you get those acidic measurements right. For every cup of milk add either one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to create that clabbered effect of real buttermilk. Yet, if you don't want the added flavors of lemon and vinegar, Cooks Illustrated recommends cream of tartar as well. For every cup of milk, add one and a half teaspoons of the powdered substance, whisking as you add to avoid any powdery lumps in your resulting mixture.

Beyond adding acidic agents to milk or cream, Country Living suggests swapping out buttermilk for yogurt on a 1:1 ratio since they're both fermented dairy products with a similar consistency. Of the many ways to use Greek yogurt, this variety can also serve as a buttermilk substitute when thinned out properly with water. Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman may have tested many of the buttermilk alternatives available concluding only true cultured buttermilk does the trick in making the fluffiest baked goods, however, any one of the listed alternatives works just fine in a pinch.