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Can I Use Buttermilk Instead of Heavy Cream?

Can I Use Buttermilk Instead of Heavy Cream?

Have you had a recipe that calls for heavy cream, and you find out the hard way you don’t have any? But what about buttermilk? Can it take the place of heavy cream?

In most situations, buttermilk can take the place of heavy cream if the recipe does not call for baking soda. Buttermilk has acidity and reacts poorly with baking soda for recipes that call for heavy cream.

Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient and see when you can use buttermilk as a substitute and when you cannot.

The Differences between Buttermilk and Heavy Cream

If you can substitute buttermilk in place of heavy cream, it is one of the better options to choose. When cooking with buttermilk, there are some health benefits, and there are some precautions to consider.



Some people may get confused and think butter is an ingredient in buttermilk. This is not the case. Buttermilk is the leftover liquid when butter is made. It is created through a process called fermentation.

Once the butter is churned, the leftover liquid sits while the bacteria make lactic acid. The lactic acid is added to the milk and is heated up, and through the fermentation process, buttermilk is formed.

Buttermilk leaves a bitter taste compared to heavy cream. It works great for muffins, cakes, waffles, and pancakes. However, it is not recommended to use buttermilk with food that requires baking soda due to its acidity.

Remember the old-school experiments with homemade volcanoes with baking soda and acidity products? Only when a recipe calls for the mixture to rise should baking soda and buttermilk go together. It will leave a mess in the mixing process before you can cook the recipe if it calls for heavy cream.

Heavy Cream

Heavy Cream

Another name for heavy cream is heavy whipping cream. Heavy cream has up to forty percent fat, and the rest is milk. The way it is made is when the contents sit for a time, the fat causes the heavy cream to float to the top of the milk. It is then separated and scraped off the top.

Heavy cream is mainly found in textures that call for creamy substances, like soups, ice cream, and unique sauces. It is also used to decorate pies and cakes.

Heavy cream has more fat than buttermilk.

Butter is made by whipping heavy cream for an extended period. As the whipping process occurs, the butter separates from the heavy cream and is scraped off the top.

When Can Buttermilk Be Used in Place of Heavy Cream?

When Can Buttermilk Go in Place of Heavy Cream?

Both are dairy products, but you want the confidence to know when to use buttermilk when heavy cream is unavailable. First, remember the amount used for buttermilk to get the right texture needs adjustment.

It will take practice along with trial and error. Getting buttermilk to turn out thick will take a slow simmer and cool-down to get the right thickness in some meals. Some food items where buttermilk replaces heavy cream are:

  • Salad dressing,
  • Coleslaw,
  • Milkshakes,
  • Alfredo sauce,
  • Mashed potatoes.

When You Cannot Use Buttermilk to Replace Heavy Cream

We have already covered the issue concerning baking soda and how it would be a bad idea to put buttermilk in place of heavy cream. If the recipe calls for heavy cream, you have no choice. There are also times you cannot use buttermilk as a substitute:

  • Buttermilk cannot turn into whipping cream: Sometimes whipping cream is called for in a recipe. Buttermilk is a liquid that will not churn to cream. It will have a slight thickness but will not come close to the texture desired for a recipe that demands whipping cream.

Buttermilk cannot turn into whipping cream

  • When the fat content is necessary: Since heavy cream has a higher fat content, some recipes require what heavy cream has to offer. Buttermilk does not have the fat content to get the job done.

When the fat content is necessary

  • When taste is a factor: Some food items are unsuitable when met with a sour or tangy taste. In situations like these, it is best to stick with heavy cream.

When taste is a factor

  • When the texture is a factor: Heavy cream is the only way to go when you need the thickness and cannot settle for less. Buttermilk has a light and fluffy texture, while heavy cream is thick and rich.

When the texture is a factor

How to Make Buttermilk Work in Baking

Now that we know the basics of substituting heavy cream with buttermilk, these tips may save you in the baking process when you fall short on heavy cream.

If you cannot replace the heavy cream with buttermilk, try changing the recipe a bit to make it work.

How to Make Buttermilk Work in Baking

As much as we hate to bring chemistry and physics into the mix, it is what cooking is. Everything in cooking has a specific number of ingredients to make different meals.

Try these essential tips when you have to use buttermilk:

  • Removing the tangy flavor of buttermilk is easy. Splash a dash of vinegar or lemon juice. It will neutralize the acidity. Only use a little bit.
  • Use baking powder instead of baking soda when it is mandatory for the use of heavy cream. The baking powder will cause a rising effect as needed. If the rise is required, use the buttermilk with the baking soda. Note: These are not interchangeable for certain recipes.

No Heavy Cream, No Buttermilk, No Problem

So, if you want to use heavy cream and look in the refrigerator, you’re out. We told you about buttermilk, and you are excited to give it a shot. Now what? You’re out of that too! Panic would probably be the first thing to enter your mind.

We have good news to share to bring light to this subject. Not only can you substitute heavy cream with buttermilk, but you can substitute buttermilk with these five choices and still use it to replace heavy cream:

  • Vinegar or lemon juice and milk: Use one tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar and pour the right amount of milk to bring the measurement to one cup.

Vinegar or lemon juice and milk

  • Milk and cream of tartar: Mix one and a half teaspoons of cream of tartar with one cup of milk.

Milk and cream of tartark

  • Sour Cream: Take 3/4 cup of sour cream and mix it with 1/4 cup of water or milk.

Sour Cream

  • Yogurt: There are no mixtures needed. Use the same amount of yogurt as the recipe calls for with the buttermilk.


  • Dairy-free buttermilk substitute: Mix 1/4 cup of almond milk, 3/4 cup of vanilla or plain almond milk yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar. This will make one cup, but it needs to sit for five or ten minutes before putting it in a recipe.

Dairy-free buttermilk substitute

Related Questions

Is buttermilk healthy?

Is buttermilk healthy?

Yes, it contains vitamin D, probiotics, and calcium. As long as the person is not lactose intolerant or has dietary restrictions, it will keep them full and energized.

Can I use milk in place of buttermilk?

Can I use milk in place of buttermilk?

No. Milk will make a thick creamy layer, but not like buttermilk or heavy cream. The consistency and texture are not there.

Can I substitute buttermilk in place of sour cream?

Can I substitute buttermilk in place of sour cream?

Yes, buttermilk can replace sour cream, but the thickness will not be the same. The end result will have more of a liquid texture.