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Why Use Buttermilk in Pancakes? (Plus Simple Substitutes to Try Instead)

Why Use Buttermilk in Pancakes? (Plus Simple Substitutes to Try Instead)

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Pancakes might be one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast. You might not eat them every single day, but it’s certainly a treat when you do.

If you’ve recently started making your own, you’ve likely noticed that most recipes use buttermilk. Why is buttermilk used in almost all of the pancake recipes out there?

Keep reading to learn a bit more about this breakfast staple and why buttermilk makes so much sense. It’ll help you to appreciate what this simple ingredient does and how it helps you to have the most enjoyable pancakes.

You’ll also learn about some potential buttermilk substitutes to use in a pinch.

The Appeal of Buttermilk

To understand the appeal of buttermilk, it’s necessary to learn about what it does to pancakes. People use this as an ingredient because it helps to give the pancakes extra height.

This is because buttermilk is capable of reacting with baking soda. Having taller and fluffier stacks of pancakes will be very appealing.

It also helps the pancakes to have a more tender quality. They’ll be very moist and tasty if you choose to use buttermilk to make them.

Some describe the taste of pancakes that are made with buttermilk to be very rich. It also has a little bit of a “tangy” taste.

There might be people out there who don’t love the taste of buttermilk pancakes. If you think that the taste of buttermilk isn’t the best, you can substitute it for other ingredients.

Yogurt That Has Been Watered Down

As weird as this might sound, it’s possible to use yogurt as a substitute for buttermilk. Some people really love the taste of pancakes that have been made using yogurt.

Of course, you can’t just use the yogurt without doing something to it first. It needs to be watered down using some milk or water before you’ll be able to use it.

This is easy enough to do, and the results should be pretty good. Using plain unsweetened yogurt is best for this.

You’ll want to use one-fourth of a cup of milk or water and three-fourths of a cup of yogurt. This is the correct ratio and you can do the math to match it to how much buttermilk is called for in the pancake recipe that you’re using.

Milk with Acid

Just using normal milk is going to be fine as well if you add some acid to it. To acidify the milk, you’re going to want to add something such as lemon juice to it.

You can use one tablespoon of lemon juice and then fill a cup the rest of the way with milk. It’s necessary to allow the milk to sit for five minutes before you start using it.

Just exercise a bit of patience and wait it out. The milk needs time to react to the acidic element that has been added to it.

For many, this is going to be a better option than buttermilk when they don’t like the tangy taste that the buttermilk provides. It’s definitely a good option to use that’s easy to pull off.

Milk and Cream of Tartar

What if you don’t have any lemon juice that you can use? If you still have milk, you can combine it with cream of tartar to create a really good buttermilk substitute.

All you need to do is add three teaspoons of cream of tartar to one cup of milk. Whisk everything together and you’ll have a buttermilk substitute that you can rely on.

Since there’s a chance you’ll have cream of tartar somewhere in your kitchen, it’s good to remember this substitute option. It could come in handy when you’re in a pinch and really want to be able to make some pancakes.


Kefir might not be an ingredient that you’re familiar with. It’s a type of fermented milk that has the consistency of thin yogurt.

You can use this as a straight substitute for buttermilk in any recipe. So long as you make sure that you have unsweetened and unflavored kefir, you’re going to be good to go.

This type of milk can be purchased at many major grocery store chains and retailers. If you’ve never given it a shot, it’s certainly worth trying to see how you like it.

Consider Using Just Egg Whites

Now that you know what you can use instead of buttermilk, it’s time to consider what else you can do to make your pancakes turn out perfectly. Everyone wants to be able to have the fluffiest pancakes around, after all.

Buttermilk can indeed help the pancakes to be taller and fluffier. There’s something else that you can do to make them fluffy, though.

If you avoid using full eggs, you might be able to get better results. Instead of using an entire egg in your pancake recipe, you could try separating the egg whites and using those.

This should make it possible to get much fluffier pancakes overall. If your goal is to have light pancakes that taste fantastic, this is well worth trying.

Final Thoughts

Buttermilk is something that can make pancakes that much better. There’s a reason why it’s a common ingredient in the most popular pancake recipes.

It helps to make them taller while also making them richer. The tangy taste of buttermilk is something that appeals to many people.

There are those who don’t like it too much, though. It’s possible to substitute other ingredients so that you can enjoy pancakes that aren’t quite so tangy.

You can use milk that has been acidified, milk that has been combined with cream of tartar, kefir, and more. Just choose whichever option suits you the most.

Remember that you can also make pancakes fluffier by using egg whites instead of full eggs. Making a few adjustments to your approach might make them even better than ever.

Give your family the pancakes that they deserve. You’ll love seeing everyone happy around the breakfast table in the future.

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