Last Updated on February 12, 2023
Buttermilk is an amazing ingredient that has a multitude of functions! But, does buttermilk have lactose? And, what are the best substitutes?
We always prefer having regular everyday substitutions and lactose-free substitutions on-hand for dairy products. The best substitution for buttermilk is milk (dairy or vegan) combined with an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar). This formula opens up a ton of doors and makes substituting a breeze!
What is Buttermilk?
Buttermilk is a type of cultured milk that has been fermented using beneficial bacteria to create a very thick and tangy dairy product.
Traditionally, buttermilk was created as a by-product of butter churning. Once the butter has been churned, the leftover whey was left inside the churner at room temperature to promote the development and growth of naturally occurring bacterial cultures. This helped create a very unique tangy flavor and a product that lasts longer than milk.
Today, buttermilk is more often than not, man-made. It is made in a similar way to yogurt and kefir. Fresh pasteurized milk is inoculated with harmless lactic acid bacteria that turn it into buttermilk.
Traditional buttermilk is completely fat-free because all of the fat inside of the milk would be used to make the butter. This left only the fat-free liquid to ferment.
But, today, you can find buttermilk with varying quantities of fat, from skimmed to full fat. Naturally, the more fat buttermilk contains the higher the calorie count will be.
Store-bought buttermilk will always be creamier, thicker, more acidic, and tangier than handmade (or traditional) buttermilk. This is definitely because of the precise bacterial cultures used and because most of these products contain stabilizers, flavor enhancers, and other preservatives and additives.
Does Buttermilk Have Lactose - Is Buttermilk Lactose-Free?
Unfortunately, buttermilk isn't a lactose-free product. Many people have the misconception that because it has been fermented, the lactose disappeared.
While the fermentation does create less lactose, it doesn't take it away completely. People that are sensitive to lactose might be able to handle that inside buttermilk. But, if you are extremely sensitive or outright allergic, still stay away from this dairy product.
Whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent, and skimmed milk contain roughly between 9 to 14 grams of lactose per cup. Buttermilk contains between 9 to 12 grams of lactose per cup.
What Can I Replace Buttermilk With?
If you aren't sure what to use to replace buttermilk with, luckily, there are a ton of options to choose from! First, you have to decide whether you are looking for a lactose-free substitute, or just an everyday alternative (that does contain lactose).
We will discuss some lactose-free options in detail below, but here are some other easy alternatives that you can use.
Milk and Acid
The simplest and most readily available substitution is milk and acid. You can use any type of lactose-containing milk that you want (or have available). Simply add 1 tablespoon of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to the milk and just like that you have buttermilk.
To get the right consistency, however, it is recommended to leave the mixture to sit and curdle (thicken) a bit before using it.
You can simply blend sour cream for very thick buttermilk. But, if you have to you can adjust the consistency with water or more milk.
There is no need to add any type of acid because sour cream already is tart and tangy. It will also perform the same functions in cooking and baking that buttermilk does, arguably making it the most accurate substitute.
You have to use plain unsweetened yogurt. It cannot be flavored with any other ingredient (including vanilla). You can choose any type of plain yogurt, from fat-free to full-fat.
Yogurt works in the same way that sour cream does and you will most likely need to thin it with some water or milk.
How to Make Buttermilk Substitute - Lactose-Free Options
Here, we have compiled a list of lactose-free buttermilk alternatives. Some of these are very straightforward, while others require some calculations and measuring. Regardless of which you choose, they are all still extremely easy and convenient.
Unsweetened Vegan Milk and Acid
You can choose any type of vegan milk that you'd like. All of them are dairy-free and completely plant-based. We love using almond milk, soy milk, and even coconut milk.
To make one cup of vegan buttermilk, combine 1 tablespoon of acid (this can be lemon juice or vinegar) with 1 cup of vegan milk. If you don't have a liquid acid on hand, you can also use 5 grams (1 ¾ teaspoons) of cream of tartar.
Tofu and Acid
Tofu is a condensed soy milk product that is pressed into solid blocks. Tofu turns this product into lactose-free buttermilk, all you need is to blend ¼ cup (62 grams) of silken tofu with ¾ cup of water.
Once blended and completely smooth, add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of acid. Again, this can either be lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar.
For tofu specifically, we like to use white vinegar to prevent creating an unappealing color.
Vegan Sour Cream and Water
Using vegan sour cream is a fantastic option as it already contains the tanginess that buttermilk also has. This means you need one less ingredient to create lactose-free buttermilk.
You will, however, need to adjust the consistency of the sour cream to create buttermilk. You can start by mixing equal parts of sour cream with water and adjusting the consistency from there.
Learn more about Almond Bark vs White Chocolate
Buttermilk Substitute For Cake
First, you have to understand what buttermilk does in the cake to decide what to substitute it with.
Buttermilk helps give the cake a much more tender crumb and a light texture. It also adds some more complex flavors that balance well with the sweetness of the cake. It is also a fantastic ingredient that adds moisture to cake recipes.
So, naturally, you need a buttermilk substitute for a cake that will do those same things.
We would highly recommend making the "milk and acid" substitution or even just using plain yogurt or sour cream.
For lactose-free buttermilk substitutions, look at the flavor profile of the cake and choose lactose-free milk based on that. If you have an almond cake, then almond milk and acid would be the best substitution.
Lactose-Free Buttermilk Options
When it comes to lactose-free buttermilk, you can either choose to make your own or now have lactose-free buttermilk available in grocery stores. While there aren't many available at the moment, there is a great one called Mill It Plant-Based Buttermilk. This buttermilk retails at around $5-6 per 32oz bottle. It can be found in the US, in the chilled section of stores such as Whole Foods. Not only is it organic, but it's also non-GMO too!
As well as being lactose-free, it's also free of the following allergens: dairy, egg, gluten, nuts, peanuts, soy, and oil. And is suitable for the following dietary lifestyles: vegan, gluten-free, and keto. Because of this, it's suitable for a selection of dietary profiles.
You may be wondering what this plant-based buttermilk is made from. It contains the following ingredients:
- organic sorghum flour
- organic millet flour
- organic coconut cream
- organic sunflower seed butter
- organic locust bean gum
- gellan gum
- xanthan gum
- live and active cultures: s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus, l. lactis, b. lactis and l. acidophilus.
How Much Lactose in Buttermilk?
When it comes to buttermilk, there's actually a surprisingly low amount of lactose in it. The main ingredient in buttermilk is usually water. Water takes up around 90% of the whole product. With the other 10% consisting of lactose, protein casein, and butterfat. Lactose accounts for around 5% of the ingredients in buttermilk.
Can You Make Buttermilk With Lactose-Free Milk?
Absolutely. You typically only need two ingredients to make buttermilk - one of them being lactose-free milk. Nowadays, it's super easy to buy lactose-free milk in grocery stores. Some of our favorite lactose-free milk include:
Organic Valley Lactose-Free Milk
This milk costs around $5 for a 64oz carton. It's both organic and non-GMO. It's very natural and contains no antibiotics, pesticides, or synthetic hormones. It has a great taste, which is full of cream and has a mild sweet flavor.
Great Value Lactose-Free Milk
This milk costs just over $3 per 64oz carton. It comes in the following varieties: fat-free, low-fat, reduced-fat, and whole milk. It's fat-free, gluten-free, and kosher-friendly. This is only available from Walmart and is great if you're on a budget.
Horizon Organic Lactose-Free Milk
This milk costs around $5 for a 64oz carton. It's again, organic and non-GMO. What I love about this milk is that it's extra creamy, which is unusual for reduced-fat milk.
365 Lactose-Free Whole Milk
This lactose-free milk is only available from stores like Whole Foods Market and comes in varieties such as reduced fat, whole milk, etc. It has a mild flavor but is full of richness.
Lactose-Free Buttermilk Recipe
If you're looking to make your lactose-free buttermilk, then look no further. The ingredients needed for this are:
- 1 cup of lactose-free whole milk
- 1 tablespoon of acid (such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar)
Now all you need to do is:
Add both milk and lemon juice/vinegar to a bowl or jug. Leave for a few minutes to thicken. Use as needed.
Nutrition of Lactose-Free Buttermilk
You may be wondering about the nutritional value of lactose-free buttermilk. Each serving contains the following:
- calories: 19
- carbohydrates: 2g
- protein: 1g
- fat: 1g
- sodium: 1g
- sugar: 2g
Final Thoughts: Lactose-Free Buttermilk Substitutions
I hope this post has helped to answer the question: does buttermilk have lactose? We highly recommend experimenting with alternatives (especially lactose-free ones) to find what works best for you. This article is great for anyone struggling with finding the best substitutions for buttermilk, so make sure to share it with your family and the baking community!
LACTOSE-FREE BUTTERMILK RECIPE
- 1 cup lactose-free whole milk
- 1 tablespoon acid (such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar)
- Add both milk and lemon juice/vinegar to a bowl or jug. Leave for a few minutes to thicken. Use as needed.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.