Best substitute for buttermilk in a fried chicken recipe

If you are following a recipe for buttermilk fried chicken that calls for buttermilk and don’t have it on hand, this post is for you. I tested the best substitute for buttermilk in a fried chicken recipe, and these are my results.

Additionally, I have included the best dairy-free substitute for buttermilk in fried chicken.

From my kitchen to yours. Let’s get started!!

Why is buttermilk used in fried chicken?

Buttermilk is used in fried chicken recipes because it helps to tenderize the meat and gives it a tangy flavor. When chicken is soaked in buttermilk, the acidity in the buttermilk helps to break down the proteins in the meat, making it more tender and juicy.

Additionally, the tangy flavor of buttermilk pairs well with the savory and crispy coating of the fried chicken. So, using buttermilk in fried chicken recipes adds flavor and helps ensure that the chicken is moist and tender on the inside while crispy on the outside.

I tested frying chicken using milk and vinegar and coconut milk with vinegar, and the results were somewhat different; more on this later.

Let’s check it out.

Best buttermilk substitute for a fried chicken recipe

Frying chicken is relatively simple, or you can complicate it as much as you want. I tried replicating Popeyes’s fry chicken but then changed my mind. After all, this post was about testing the best buttermilk substitute for fried chicken and not the best-fried chicken recipe.

I opted for a simple dusted chicken recipe that involved soaking the chicken in buttermilk. My early experience working in a restaurant helped me get the oil to the right temperature so both chicken samples would be similarly fried the same way.

I combined my favourite spices with flour, cornstarch, and salt to make the dust to coat the chicken.

Milk and vinegar

Traditionally, buttermilk is made by fermenting the liquid left over after churning butter from cream. It is quite a simple process to ferment milk at home. Any acidic product will do the job. You have to play with the proportions of the ingredients.

I chose to use vinegar, which is how I made my buttermilk for the fried chicken test recipe.


1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or a tablespoon of squeezed lemon juice into a measuring cup.
Add a cup of milk to make 1 cup of liquid.
Stir the mixture and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
After 5-10 minutes, the mixture should have thickened slightly, and small curdles should have formed. This is your buttermilk.

Use your freshly made buttermilk immediately, or store it in the fridge for up to a week.

I marinated 3 pieces of chicken leg in buttermilk for an hour. Then toss them in the dust(mixture of flour, spices, and cornstarch) to heavily coat them to fry them afterward. It took 9 minutes for the chicken to reach 165°F, the internal temperature the chicken needs to get to be safe to eat.

Take a look at the picture to see the results.

fried chicken using buttermilk substitute milk and vinegar

The final chicken was tender, crispy, and delicious. I noticed the color was darker than the chicken marinated in the coconut mixture. Even though I fried both samples at the same temperature and for the same amount of time.

What I like best about this sample as a buttermilk substitute for fried chicken is that, you don’t taste the milk on the fried chicken. That is because milk has a mild flavor.

Coconut milk and vinegar

If you are looking for a buttermilk substitute because you have a dietarian restriction or are lactose intolerant, this will make the best buttermilk substitute for a fried chicken recipe.

Coconut milk is slightly acidic, with a pH range of approximately 5.5 to 6.5. This pH range is slightly more acidic than neutral (pH 7), but it is not considered highly acidic.

The acidity of buttermilk is what tenderize the meat. Therefore using coconut milk as a substitute for buttermilk for a fried chicken recipe makes sense.

However, since the coconut milk alone is not acidic enough, I used the same recipe to add more acidity to the marinate.

I used canned coconut milk. I don’t recommend using fresh coconut milk because it is lighter and has less fat.


1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice

Follow the same procedure as before, but instead of milk, use coconut milk.

The results from this test were similar when it came to chicken tenderness. The chicken was crispy, juicy, and tender.

Fried chicken using buttermilk substitute

The color of the fried chicken was by far better using this marinate. You can see from the picture how golden they look and delicious.

juicy fried chicken using buttermilk substitute

My conclusion is that milk is somewhat sweeter, and the sugar makes the skin caramelized, giving it a darker chicken color.

The big difference, however, was the flavor. You could taste the coconut milk on this test. Using coconut milk as a substitute for buttermilk for a chicken recipe will change the flavor profile, so your results won’t be faithful to the recipe you will follow.

Let’s see other possibilities for substitutes.

Milk and cream of tarter

Cream of tartar is a white, crystalline powder commonly used in baking and cooking as a leavening agent, stabilizer, and thickener. Its scientific name is potassium bitartrate, a byproduct of the winemaking process.

You can buy it at your grocery store in the spices section. A bag of 250mlg costs, on average, 1.50 dollars and can last ages. I always have it on hand to make play dough for my kid.

The cream of tartar is acidic, and it is also perfect for making buttermilk.

To make buttermilk with cream of tartar, you will need the following:

Pour 1 cup of regular milk into a mixing bowl.

Whisk the cream of tartar in a separate container with 1 tablespoon of water so it will combine well will the rest of the milk afterward.

Mix the milk and cream of tartar until they are well combined.

Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it thickens and curdles slightly.

Your homemade buttermilk is now ready to use in your recipe! It can be used as a substitute for store-bought buttermilk in any recipe that calls for it.

Use sour cream dissolved in water or milk.

Sour cream can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in specific recipes, but it’s essential to keep in mind that it has a thicker consistency and higher fat content than buttermilk. Here’s how to use sour cream as a substitute for buttermilk:

  • Measure out the amount of buttermilk called for in your recipe.
  • Add an equal amount of sour cream to a mixing bowl. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of buttermilk, you would use 1 cup of sour cream.
  • Whisk the sour cream until it is smooth and creamy.
  • Slowly add milk to the sour cream, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. For most recipes, you’ll want to add enough milk to thin the sour cream to a similar consistency as buttermilk.

Use the sour cream mixture in your chicken recipe as a substitute for buttermilk.

Remember that sour cream has a tangy flavor that can affect the taste of your recipe, so it may not be the best substitute for all recipes.

Also, sour cream may not work well in recipes where buttermilk is used to lighten the texture, such as in pancakes or biscuits, because sour cream has a higher fat content.

If you have half and half instead of cream, you can also use it. Keep in mind, though, that half-and-half has a lower fat content than heavy cream.

Plain yogurt

You can also use yogurt to tenderize the chicken as a replacement for buttermilk. If you find the yogurt too thick, you can dilute it with water to achieve a consistency similar to the buttermilk. 

non-dairy buttermilk substitute for fried chicken

The following suggestions will help you out if you are looking for a non-dairy buttermilk substitute. Remember, these substitutes are great for meat; I don’t recommend them for baked goods like cookies or cakes. 

Almond milk and vinegar or lemon.

If you don’t like coconut milk, then you can use almond milk. The proportions of ingredients are the same as before. Add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon or vinegar per each cup of almond milk and follow your recipe as usual.

Cashew milk and vinegar or lemon

Cashew milk and acid will also do the trick of tenderizing the chicken meat. To make 1 cup to replace buttermilk with cashew milk, add 1 tablespoon of acid, either vinegar or lemon.

Coconut milk and acid

I covered this one already in the section on best substitutes. I wanted to include it here so you know that coconut milk is dairy free.

Soy milk and acid

You can also use soy milk to make a buttermilk substitute. Just add some acid, as we have mentioned before, and you are good to go. 

Can I use eggs instead of buttermilk for fried chicken?

While eggs are often a binding agent in fried chicken recipes, eggs are not a direct substitute for buttermilk.

Buttermilk helps tenderize the chicken, imparts a tangy flavor, and provides a slightly acidic marinade that can help break down the proteins in the meat and make it more tender.

On the other hand, Eggs can help hold the coating onto the chicken, but they do not provide the same tenderizing effect or tangy flavor as buttermilk.

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand and want to make fried chicken, you can try using any of the buttermilk substitutes for a fried chicken recipe I cover in this post.


There you have it; You can save a trip to the grocery store by following any of the techniques I have outlined here to substitute buttermilk on a fried chicken recipe.


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