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Alisa’s Advice: Secrets to Better Dairy-Free Buttermilk

When it comes to brunch, everyone’s Grandma seems to have a favorite buttermilk pancake recipe. Pancakes don’t require buttermilk, but for that special version, you may be wondering how to substitute the key ingredient with a dairy-free alternative.

Grandma might have obtained her buttermilk fresh from the farm, as the low-fat byproduct of milk churned into butter. But today’s store-bought versions are really “faux” buttermilk, produced by adding a bacterial culture to low-fat or nonfat milk.

Home cooks have learned that a little lemon juice or vinegar added to milk does the trick in a pinch, and this goes for non-dairy milk alternatives, too.

To substitute 1 cup of buttermilk

  • Place 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup, and add enough non-dairy milk alternative (such a rice or flax milk beverage) to make 1 cup (250 mL).
  • Whisk and let sit for 5 minutes before adding the liquid to your recipe.
  • As another option, you can use 3/4 cup (175 mL) of non-dairy yogurt + 1/4 cup (60 mL) of non-dairy milk alternative to replace 1 cup (250 mL) of buttermilk.

Why use a buttermilk alternative?

Buttermilk or an acid in general, will add a touch of tang to the end product and will react with baking soda to help tenderize and raise baked goods. The tenderizing effects aren’t as noticeable when using gluten-free flours, but some still like the overall fluff and flavour it lends to pancakes, whether allergy-free or not.

If your recipe simply need the acid to react with baking soda and assist the rising process, then you can experiment with another acid in the recipe. Sometimes, I like to replace the buttermilk with orange, apple, or pineapple juice for a new flavour twist.


Alisa Fleming is a contributing editor to Allergic Living magazine and the author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein Free Living, and founder of

Related Recipes:
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Strawberry Shortcake Waffles

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