On Buttermilk Substitutes

Reader Jud writes:

There are several favorite baking recipes of mine that require buttermilk. Inevitably, I have to make a trip to the store to buy fresh buttermilk if i want to use one of them. I’d like to be able to substitute powdered buttermilk that has been rehydrated. My problem is that there appears to be two types of powdered buttermilk at stores – the kind I apparently mistakenly just bought, which makes a thin “sweet buttermilk” drinkable variety (my wife tells me this is what buttermilk originally was) – and the kind that is a powdered version of the sour buttermilk we find in store dairy cases.

I believe the type I think I should have purchased is sold by King Arthur on their online store. Would you please illuminate me, and possibly your blog readers about what I should be using?


I’m not certain how much help I can be with this, Jud, since I’m not too familiar with powdered buttermilk. When I need a substitute for buttermilk I just add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or fresh-squeezed lemon juice to a cup of low-fat or regular milk. Any one of those combinations makes a perfectly good substitute for buttermilk, since buttermilk, despite its exotic name, is nothing more than low-fat milk (the refuse from the butter churn) that’s been acidified by the action of bacteria.

My guess is that your wife is probably correct that the reconstitute-able buttermilk powder isn’t the same as the kind that King Arthur sells. Back in the day, buttermilk for drinking wasn’t always allowed to sour for very long. Usually just long enough to acquire a refreshing tang. Long-soured buttermilk, the kind we now buy in cartons for baking purposes, was probably too strong for all but the burliest farm hands. Thus the buttermilk powder your wife buys probably doesn’t have the acid needed to activate a chemical leavener.

All of which is a long way of saying that if you prefer a buttermilk powder over a make-do solution, I’d suggest going with King Arthur. But you really don’t need to go to the expense since acidified milk works great.

7 thoughts on “On Buttermilk Substitutes”

  1. I also get good results with either sour cream or yogurt, thinned with milk or water to the appropriate consistency.

  2. I always keep a container of powdered buttermilk in the fridge for baking because I only keep skim milk around, and souring that tends to lead to drier baked goods. Sometimes I thin sour cream or yogurt and use that instead, with good results, if I’ve run out of the powder, which you don’t reconstitute. Simply add the powder to the dry goods and use water with the wet.

  3. If you buy a carton of fresh (not powedered) buttermilk for a baking project, you can freeze the leftovers and save it for later. The buttermillk will separate a bit during freezing, but as long as the recipe contains eggs or something to emulsify the ingredients, all will be well. The thawed buttermilk also works well for marinating/tenderizing chicken.

      1. I also freeze leftover buttermilk in 1 cup portions to use for making ranch dressing. I have to admit, I’ve also been curious about the dry buttermilk in the baking aisle.

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