Buttermilk powder has become a pantry staple for many home cooks and bakers. This shelf-stable dairy product lends a tangy creaminess and boosts browning in baked goods like pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and muffins.
An Overview of Buttermilk Powder
Buttermilk powder is simply dried buttermilk. To make it, cultured buttermilk is first pasteurized and concentrated. It is then roller dried or spray dried into a powder.
The powder contains about 5% moisture or less. This low moisture content prevents bacterial growth, giving buttermilk powder a long shelf life of 18-24 months. It also makes the powder easy to store at room temperature.
When reconstituted with water, buttermilk powder has a thick, creamy texture and tangy taste similar to cultured buttermilk. It can be used as a 1:1 substitute in any recipe calling for liquid buttermilk.
Beyond baking, buttermilk powder has many savory uses. It can add tang and moisture to dressings, dips, marinades, and sauces. The powder's slightly acidic pH even helps tenderize meat. Nutritionally, buttermilk powder provides calcium, protein, and potassium.
Why Find a Substitute?
There are several reasons you may need a buttermilk powder substitute:
- You've run out of buttermilk powder and don't have time to get more.
- You bought buttermilk powder and it has expired or gone bad.
- You want to avoid dairy and need a non-dairy substitute.
- You simply want to experiment with different ingredients.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that convenient substitutes for buttermilk powder abound.
Milk and Acid Substitutes
One of the easiest substitutions combines milk with an acidic ingredient. The acid sour the milk, giving it a similar tangy flavor and thick texture as buttermilk.
Lemon juice or distilled white vinegar work best. Apple cider vinegar can also be used but may impart more flavor.
To make one cup of buttermilk substitute, mix:
- 1 cup milk (preferably 2% milk)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken before using in place of buttermilk powder.
The amount of buttermilk powder replaced depends on the recipe liquid, but generally:
- 1 cup milk/acid substitute = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
When using this substitute in baked goods, you may need to reduce other liquids in the recipe since the milk/acid mixture provides more moisture.
Key Takeaway: An easy buttermilk powder substitute combines milk with lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit to sour and thicken before using.
Thick Dairy Substitutes
Other dairy products naturally have a similar tangy, thick texture as buttermilk powder. They can be thinned with water as a substitute in many recipes.
Plain unsweetened yogurt is an excellent buttermilk powder alternative. Since Greek yogurt is extra thick, dilute it more:
- 1⁄2 cup plain yogurt + 1⁄2 cup water = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
- 2/3 cup Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup water = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
Yogurt's natural tanginess mimics buttermilk's flavor. Just watch out for added sweeteners or flavors.
Sour cream is another great substitute. Thin it with water at a 1:1 ratio:
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream + 1⁄2 cup water = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
It provides the same rich, creamy tang as buttermilk powder.
Cream cheese is extra thick, so dilute it more. A good ratio is:
- 1⁄3 cup cream cheese + 2⁄3 cup water = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
The cream cheese gives a rich texture, while the water thins it out.
Key Takeaway: Yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese can replace buttermilk powder when thinned with water. Their tangy flavor mimics buttermilk's taste.
Powdered Dairy Substitutes
If you want to avoid the extra moisture from liquid dairy swaps, turn to powdered versions instead.
Dry milk powder combined with an acid like lemon juice or cream of tartar mimics buttermilk powder.
To make 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder substitute:
- 1/3 cup dry milk powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or cream of tartar
Key Takeaway: Powdered milk works well to replace buttermilk powder when an acidic ingredient is also added.
Powdered yogurt is not as readily available as other dairy powders. But if you can find it, use a 1:1 ratio to replace buttermilk powder.
- 1⁄4 cup powdered yogurt = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
It provides the same thick texture and tangy flavor.
Powdered Sour Cream
Dehydrated sour cream powder combines well with liquid to mimic buttermilk powder. Use it as a 1:1 substitute:
- 1⁄4 cup powdered sour cream = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
Vegans or those with dairy allergies can replace buttermilk powder with non-dairy alternatives.
Canned coconut milk has a rich texture similar to dairy. Mix it with lemon juice or vinegar to sour it:
- 1 cup coconut milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
The coconut flavor will come through, so it's best for sweet baked goods.
Soy or Almond Milk
Bold plant-based milks can work too. Soured with vinegar, they won't provide the same richness, but can mimic buttermilk's tanginess.
- 1 cup unsweetened soy/almond milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar = 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder
Buttermilk Powder Substitute Recipes
Buttermilk powder substitutes using common pantry ingredients can easily be whipped up. Here are two recipes to try:
Quick Buttermilk Substitute
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
Whisk together milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Let curdle for 5 minutes before using.
Replace 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder.
Thick Buttermilk Substitute
- 1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cornstarch (for thickness)
Whisk together yogurt, water, and cornstarch until smooth.
Replace 1⁄4 cup buttermilk powder.
Key Takeaway: Handy buttermilk powder substitutes can be made by combining everyday ingredients like milk, yogurt, and vinegar.
Tips for Replacing Buttermilk Powder
When using a substitute, keep these tips in mind:
- Opt for substitutes with a tangy, acidic flavor to mimic buttermilk's taste.
- Adjust liquid in baked goods recipes to account for moister substitutes.
- If baking soda is used, ensure your substitute has an acidic ingredient to react and leaven.
- For marinades, dressings or breadings, sprinkle buttermilk powder substitute over meat, vegetables, or fish.
- For a like-for-like replacement, turn to powdered dairy substitutes like dry milk or yogurt powders.
- When using plant-based milks, add cornstarch or arrowroot to help mimic buttermilk's thickness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about substituting for buttermilk powder:
Can I use regular milk instead of buttermilk powder?
Plain milk can mimic buttermilk powder's texture, but lacks the necessary acidity. Mix milk with lemon juice or vinegar first to sour it before using as a substitute.
Is powdered milk the same as buttermilk powder?
No. Powdered milk is made from just milk, while buttermilk powder comes from cultured buttermilk. They have different flavors and acidity levels. But powdered milk can work when an acid is also added.
What's a good vegan buttermilk powder substitute?
For a dairy-free option, mix canned coconut milk with lemon juice or vinegar. The coconut flavor comes through, so it works best in sweet baked goods. Soy or almond milk soured with vinegar can also substitute in a pinch.
Can I use buttermilk powder instead of baking powder or baking soda?
No, you cannot substitute buttermilk powder for baking powder or baking soda. Buttermilk powder is acidic and adds moisture, while baking powder and baking soda are chemical leaveners that make baked goods rise.
How long does buttermilk powder last if substituted for fresh buttermilk?
An opened package of buttermilk powder will last 6-8 months in the pantry. An unopened package can last up to 2 years in a cool, dry place. Always check the "best by" date and store it in an airtight container.
With a bit of creativity, you can easily whip up a substitute for buttermilk powder using ingredients you likely have on hand. While cultured buttermilk may provide the ideal flavor and texture, these handy swaps get the job done when you're out of the powdered stuff.
Whether you crave fluffy biscuits or need a quick marinade, give one of these buttermilk powder alternatives a try. Sour milk with lemon juice or vinegar, thin yogurt or sour cream with water, use powdered dairy products, or create dairy-free versions with coconut milk.