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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.

Buttermilk is used in fried chicken as a tenderizer.

This is because it’s slightly acidic nature and the enzymes present in buttermilk help to breaking 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.

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 helps 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.

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.

There for, you can easily substitute water and 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 of, 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

This depends on what your goal is.

My goal is simply to have a tender chicken so any dairy free milk mixed with acid will do, but I prefer those with a mild flavor.

This is why I tend to favor the use of water.

If you’re looking to curdle milk soy milk works well and almond milk is fine too.

Nut milks, other hand, won’t curdle.

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