The Ingredient Swap You Can Make If You're Out Of Buttermilk

Buttermilk can help make delicious dishes like spicy buttermilk fried chicken and chocolate buttermilk pie, but not everyone has it in their kitchen at all times. So if the craving strikes, but you don't want to run to the grocery store, there is a much more common food you can use to replace it: yogurt.

Why does this work so well? Buttermilk is different from regular milk in that it's fermented and specifically contains more lactic acid — both qualities that yogurt also possesses. It's not surprising, then, that the two taste pretty similar, especially when used as an ingredient in recipes. If you get plain yogurt — without any added sweeteners — the tart, tangy flavor can act as an effective stand-in for buttermilk's sourness. And because both substances are fermented, they can react with baking soda to help baked goods rise. Since yogurt has a little more moisture than buttermilk, it can also bring help prevent your baked goods from turning out dry and crumbly.

Yogurt works as a buttermilk substitute

To make matters easier, yogurt can typically be swapped for buttermilk in a 1:1 ratio — so if you need a cup of the latter, use a cup of the former. While you can use plain, unsweetened yogurt just fine as a buttermilk substitute, you may want to try a plain Greek yogurt for an optimal replacement. Greek yogurt tends to be a little tangier than the regular stuff, and it may be easier to find in grocery stores than unsweetened yogurt. Since it is a little thicker than a typical cup, you'll want to thin it out with a little skim milk before pouring it into your recipe to mimic buttermilk's texture — try using one part yogurt combined with two parts skim milk.

While you can sub regular yogurt with buttermilk in a 1:1 ratio, if you pick up an extra-thick cup, try adding a splash of milk or water as needed. Nailing the right consistency also depends on what dish you're whipping up. Cooking recipes, like buttermilk Belgian waffles, may be more forgiving, so you can go with the straightforward substitution. But baked goods, which often require a more exact liquid-to-solid ratio, might be a little pickier. If you're making zingy lemon buttermilk pound cake, for instance, you may want to thin your yogurt out a little. Either way, this swap is almost always easier than hunting down buttermilk at the grocery store.