Dairy-free buttermilk reacts when mixed with baking soda and forms carbon dioxide, which helps baked goods to rise. This makes it ideal for leavening vegan baked goods and helping them to rise.
I often get the question, can I substitute soy milk for oat milk or almond milk in this recipe? So I went and tested three kinds of plant-based milk to see which makes the best dairy-free buttermilk substitute so that you don't have to!
🗒 What Is Buttermilk?
Traditional buttermilk is not vegan and is made from the liquid left as a byproduct of making cream. However, commercial buttermilk is simply soured milk that has added acid/bacteria to create a similar effect. This makes it super easy to create an alternative buttermilk using non-dairy milk.
When acid is added to milk it will curdle. This happens as the introduction of acid lowers the ph level and the milk protein molecules unwind. This process is referred to as protein denaturing. (source: The Kitchn)
In order to make homemade vegan buttermilk, you simply need non-dairy milk that contains protein, and acid.
🥛 Ingredients Needed
When it comes to non-dairy milk, soy milk hands down makes the best vegan buttermilk. It has roughly 6-10 grams of protein per cup which is pretty much on par with dairy milk.
When I tested all three kinds of plant-based milk, almond milk did curdle, but only very slightly. Oat milk barely curdled at all. You can see the results of this test in the FAQ section at the end of this post.
Although I haven't personally baked with them, pea milk and hemp milk also have high protein content so would likely curdle nicely. Pea milk has about 8g of protein per cup and hemp milk has 3g of protein. (source: Holland&Barrett)
In terms of acid, you need apple cider vinegar which will curdle the milk. You can also use white wine vinegar or lemon juice.
🥣 How To Make Vegan Buttermilk
(1) Add apple cider vinegar and soy milk to a mixing bowl or measuring jug.
(2) Stir and allow it to sit for 3 minutes.
This is usually down to the type of milk used. As mentioned above, the protein content of milk is key to getting it to curdle and become buttermilk.
As eggs aren't used in vegan baking, the role of buttermilk is extensive in ensuring that your bakes turn out how they should.
Buttermilk and baking soda are often used in tandem in vegan cakes and bakes as a leavening agent. Therefore, I do not recommend swapping out plant-based buttermilk for regular plant milk whenever a recipe calls for it.
I find that soy milk makes the best vegan alternative to buttermilk. As shown in the images below, it curdled much better than almond milk or oat milk.
You can use non-dairy buttermilk to make buttermilk pancakes, pie crust, buttermilk biscuits, waffles, or any vegan baked goods which call for a buttermilk substitute.
You can store it in an airtight jar and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Although, it is so quick to make I usually prep it just in advance of making a recipe.
Yes, you can freeze it in an airtight jar or container. If using a glass jar, be sure to leave some space for the liquid to expand when frozen.
To defrost the buttermilk, place it in the fridge overnight before using it. Give the jar a good shake before adding it to your recipe.
🥧 More Vegan Basics
- 236 ml (1 cup) soy milk, (room temperature) or almond milk or oat milk *see notes
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- Add the soy milk and apple cider vinegar to a mixing bowl or measuring jug. Stir to combine the ingredients and allow it to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes.
- The buttermilk is ready to use once it is curdled and has separated. If using almond milk or oat milk, it may take up to 10 minutes for the milk to curdle.
- Stir the buttermilk again and use immediately.
- If you have leftover buttermilk, store it in an airtight jar and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Although, it is so quick to make I usually prep it just in advance of making a recipe. You can also freeze it in an airtight jar or container. If using a glass jar, be sure to leave some space for the liquid to expand when frozen. To defrost the buttermilk, place it in the fridge overnight before using it. Give the jar a good shake before adding it to your recipe.
- Soy milk makes the best vegan alternative to buttermilk. Due to the higher protein content, it curdles much better than almond milk or oat milk.
- Unless a recipe calls for chilled buttermilk (like my vegan buttermilk pie crust), then it's best to use room-temperature ingredients.
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