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Buttermilk Substitute for Fried Chicken

There are a number of ways to substitute buttermilk in fried chicken while keeping chicken juicy and delicious.

dairy free buttermilk in a glass creamer on a white marble counter

Buttermilk is used in fried chicken as a tenderizer.

This is because its slightly acidic nature and the enzymes present in buttermilk help break down the protein in the chicken.

Technically, you don’t even need a substitute for fried chicken if you make my recipe for fried chicken without buttermilk.

However, there are a number of things you can do to create a dairy free buttermilk.

Or, you can tenderize it in other ways.


Buttermilk was originally the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cultured cream. 

Traditionally, the milk was left to sit to allow the cream and milk to separate. During this time, naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria fermented the milk and turned it into buttermilk, making it tangier and thicker than regular milk.

However, modern buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk to ferment it.

How to Tenderize chicken without buttermilk

Dry Brine

A dry brine, or pre-salting, seasons the chicken like a wet brine, but it does not use any water.

Instead, a dry brine involves rubbing the salt onto the meat and skin. Then, you let the meat rest in the refrigerator for a period of time before cooking.

So, rather than drawing water in, making the meat soggy, a dry brine actually draws the chicken’s natural moisture out of the meat.

Then, the salt mixes with the chicken’s juices and is reabsorbed into the meat.

This breaks down the muscle proteins, leaving a juicer meat.

Use Kosher Chicken

Kosher chicken is already naturally more tender than other types of chicken.

This is because of the salting process required to make them kosher.

Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk is usually mildly acidic. This makes it good for tendering.

However, you should keep in mind that it may also add a tropical flavor to your fried chicken.


Papaya is an excellent natural meat tenderizer.

The enzymes in the fruit help break down the collagen in the meat, leaving you with tender chicken.

Dairy Free Buttermilk

It is pretty easy to make a dairy free substitute for buttermilk.

You can make make dairy free buttermilk with just about any dairy free milk, but the most popular are buttermilk with oat milk and buttermilk with almond milk.

All you need is your dairy free milk of choice plus vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar.

Water and Acid of choice

You may be surprised to learn that milk itself doesn’t add all that much taste to foods when used in cooking and baking.

Therefore, you can easily substitute water for dairy free milk in any of the variations bellow.

Dairy Free Milk and Vinegar

Adding vinegar to milk gives it an acidity similar to that of buttermilk.

You can use a number of types, like apple cider or distilled white vinegar. Distilled white vinegar has the benefit of a more neutral flavor.

To make 1 cup of buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a liquid measuring cup.

Then, add milk to the 1-cup line (237 millilitres) and stir.

Dairy Free Milk and Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another acid you can use to make buttermilk.

To make 1 cup of buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup.

Then, add milk to the 1-cup line (237 millilitres) and stir.

You can either use fresh-squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice.

Dairy Free Milk and Cream of Tartar

Another option is cream of tartar.  Cream of tartar is acidic and can be combined with milk to make a buttermilk substitute.

To make a buttermilk substitute, use 1 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar per 1 cup (237 ml) of dairy free milk.

Cream of tartar will clump if stirred directly into milk. So, it’s better to mix it with the other dry ingredients in your recipe, then add the milk.

Alternatively, you can add a teaspoon of milk at a time to the cream of tartar and mix it until smooth with each addition.

Best Dairy Free Milk to Use for a Buttermilk Substitution

Personally, I think full fat neutral flavored oat milks are the best dairy free milks to make buttermilk with.

This is because they are the most similar to regular milk so buttermilk with oat milk is the most like actual buttermilk.

However, you can also make buttermilk with almond milk and with soy milk.

Best buttermilk Substitute for fried chicken.

This depends on what your goal is.

If you want something to help the flour stick to the chicken, egg is your best bet. However, if you are looking for the tang buttermilk gives, then dairy free buttermilk is your best bet.

Yield: 8 servings

Buttermilk Substitute Fried Chicken

Pieces of fried chicken without buttermilk

This fried chicken uses a buttermilk alternative to make your classic Southern Fried Chicken. Based on my experiences, fried chicken tastes best without additional seasoning, so I've left it out, but feel free to add your own to taste if you want.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 1 whole chicken or 4 leg quarters, cut
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (130 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, optional
  • 1/2 cup mild flavored almond milk or mild flavored full fat oat milk or soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • Oil


  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and pepper. If you want to add any addtional seasoning you like in fried chicken, add it now too.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, place almond milk or oat milk or soy milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Gently stir and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes until milk slightly curdles.
  3. Add egg to the buttermilk mixutre and beat.
  4. Fill the bottom of the skillet with oil and heat. You know the oil is ready when you throw some flour into it and it sizzles or it reaches 350°F.
  5. When hot, add a few pieces of chicken at a time to the oil until the pan is full.
  6. Dip chicken in egg mixture. Dredge in flour mixture. Shake off excess. Add chicken to hot oil.
  7. Lower the flame to medium or medium-high. Fry until the bottom is golden brown, then turn over.
  8. Once both sides are cooked, remove and place on a cooling rack until cool enough to eat.


Instead of one whole chicken, I like to use about four chicken legs cut in half.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 530Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 253mgSodium: 1007mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 55g

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