Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that I don’t keep on hand unless i want to make a recipe like my Coffee Cake! It goes bad and I can’t really pour it onto my cereal (I’ve tried, doesn’t work well) If I know I’m making a bunch of recipes with buttermilk, then I will get some. But on occasion I’ve been known to use a buttermilk substitute to make do when I don’t have. I’ve always wondered though, how do the substitutes compare in cost.
Buttermilk originally was the liquid left over when making milk. This actually makes it lower in fat than normal milk because all the fat is inside the butter and not the buttermilk. However most commercial buttermilk is actually made with a process more like yogurt. Bacteria is added to milk and then left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours. Commercial buttermilk is more acidic than old-fashioned buttermilk, and can contain sugar, salt and stabilizers.
There are a few well-known substitutes for buttermilk that do a pretty good job of imitating the taste. There might be some taste differences, I noticed that when I made fudge using the milk and lemon substitute and not buttermilk I could really taste the lemon. But I think generally baking with a substitute should be okay.
1. Lemon and milk
Just add a tablespoon of lemon or some other acid like vinegar, and then fill the rest of the cup with milk. Stir it all together, and wait 5 minutes.
2. Watered down yogurt
Take about 3/4 cup of plain unsweetened yogurt, and add 1/4 cup of water to it. Until it is the consistency of buttermilk.
3. Cream of Tartar
Add 1 3/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to a cup of milk. Stir together.
4. Powdered Buttermilk
Add 1/4 cup of powdered buttermilk with 1 cup of water. Mix it all together.
Now that we’ve detailed all the substitutes lets look at the costs of each one.
There are a couple of things that make this chart interesting to me. First of all, there isn’t much difference between buttermilk, yogurt, and cream of tartar + milk. Second, buttermilk powder is really expensive. This makes sense when you consider all the extra work that goes into making buttermilk powder. It is however the least perishable option of all of them. So don’t use it as a substitute if you are thinking that you are saving money. Lastly lemon and milk is by far the cheapest substitute, at almost 1/2 the cost of normal buttermilk. It would be even cheaper if you used vinegar instead of lemon juice because vinegar is about 1/4 the price of lemon juice. I haven’t actually tried that substitute however so I stuck to the more common one.
There are two reasons why lemon + milk is cheaper is than plain buttermilk. One regular milk is about half the cost of buttermilk so using it will be cheaper. Two lemon juice is not too much more expensive than buttermilk so the cost of it does not increase much. In contrast cream of tartar is really quite expensive, so even the little amount that you use drives the cost of the substitute up a lot.
I should also mention that an alternative to letting your buttermilk go to waste is freezing it. You can take your buttermilk and put it into an ice tray, freeze it. And then melt it when you are going to use it. Shake it up and then you should be good to go!
And that’s it, if you forget to buy buttermilk or want to save money on your baked goods use milk + lemon instead of buttermilk. Has anyone noticed the difference in the food that you have created using a substitute? Let me know in the comments!