A lack of buttermilk shouldn’t come between you and your Sunday pancakes—or your cheesy scones, buttery biscuits, or tender cornbread muffins. And lets face it, the chances of having a fresh carton of buttermilk in your fridge are slim to none (and running to the store is simply not an option once you’ve tempted yourself with the possibility of pancakes). Thanks to this quick substitution, you can carry on with your weekend baking, and no one will ever know you cheated.
Originally the slightly soured liquid leftover from churning butter by hand, buttermilk today is made by adding a culture to low-fat milk. It’s used in baked goods as an acidic element, which reacts with the baking soda to yield light and flaky results. The acid also tenderizes meat, which is why you’ll find buttermilk in fried chicken recipes. It’s also the secret to creamy ranch dressing, crunchy coleslaws, and great mashed potatoes.
Faking buttermilk is easy: you’ll start with milk (if the recipe calls for 1 cup buttermilk, begin with 1 cup milk), then stir in lemon juice or white vinegar, which acts as the acidic element. After 5 to 10 minutes, you’ll see that the mixture has curdled, meaning you’re ready to proceed with the recipe. Alternatively, you can whisk together 3 parts plain yogurt and 1 part milk for the desired amount of buttermilk.