Buttermilk is delicious, and you do not have to give up your vegan ways to enjoy this magical drink. In fact, there is actually a way to make a buttermilk-like liquid using nothing but tasty almond milk. In this article we will discuss buttermilk in a little more detail, what it is and how it is made. We will also discuss a home-grown method for making your own almond milk. These two sections will be followed by our featured information, in a section entitled How to Make Buttermilk with Almond Milk.
The term “buttermilk” is actually the name given for a number of different dairy drinks, and it actually refers to a certain process that can take place even with non-dairy substitutes. Historically, the word buttermilk referred to the liquid that remained after milk’s curdling process. In this process, the milk was usually churned to make butter from cream, and the resultant liquid was preserved as buttermilk. Today, as it was yesterday, buttermilk is used to make a variety of tasty treats, from pancakes and waffles to biscuits, cakes and muffins.
The treats noted above are always better when made with buttermilk. That’s because the leavening process works best when buttermilk is involved.
While the old ways for making buttermilk still exist across this great country, new technologies have hastened this process quite a bit, making the whole process more rapid and efficient.
In a minute we will talk about how buttermilk is traditionally made, but first let us explore a final question here: “Why do so many recipes call for buttermilk?” The answer is pretty simple. First, buttermilk contains fewer calories and less fat than regular milk. It is also loaded with great vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D, calcium and potassium. Lastly, because it is thicker than regular milk, it makes everything made with it that much creamier and adds greatly to the leavening process.
How Is Regular (Dairy) Buttermilk Made?
Buttermilk has been made the same way for years, although new technology has hastened the process quite a bit, as we noted above. Historically, buttermilk was created by allowing regular milk to sit for an extended period of time, allowing the cream and milk to separate naturally. Today, artificial environments and new techniques can make this process happen much more quickly.
As milk sits, bacteria that is produced by the lactic acid in the milk causes it to ferment, which leads to the butter churning process. The fat resulting from the fermented cream has a lower pH level and thus condenses easier than fresh cream. This acidity in the fermented cream helps to ward off potentially harmful microorganisms, which translates to buttermilk with a longer shelf life—longer than even regular milk.
As we prepare to make buttermilk from almond milk, the most important thing to take away from this section is that the active cultures in milk and cream are responsible for creating the lactic acid. And it is that lactic acid in the resulting substance that is responsible for creating buttermilk—or at least responsible for the curdling process that makes buttermilk possible. It is also that lactic acid that makes buttermilk the perfect liquid in the leavening process when making baked goods.
Why Almond Milk?
Because buttermilk is traditionally and historically made from dairy milk, you would think that vegans are simply out of luck—that vegans will never be able to enjoy things like buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk biscuits and cakes. That might have been true in the past, but new techniques, borne out of necessity, have now made it possible to create great tasting non-dairy buttermilk from almond milk.
Before we outline the process for making buttermilk with almond milk, let us first describe why almond milk makes the best substitute for regular dairy milk.
Today there are scores of non-dairy milk substitutes on the market, most of which are highly processed. Almond milk however, which has a long history, is not heavily processed. Almond milk has been around for millennia. In places where dairy milk was unavailable or taboo (think India), almond milk has served as a stalwart alternative to dairy milk, largely because the process for making it is actually quite easy. In fact, you can even create your own almond milk from home if you are the adventurous type in the kitchen.
Almond milk can be made just by soaking almonds in water overnight. Once they have soaked, allowing the moisture to penetrate and thus expand the almonds, place them in a blender or preferably a food processor with a puree setting and once again add a sufficient amount of water—enough water to keep the almonds completely submerged. Puree the almond kernels using the food processor or blender until they create a liquid within the water. Keep in mind that you will have to strain the water from time to time to remove any excess grit that is created by the almond skins.
By pureeing your soaked almonds in water, you are retaining all the healthy fats, proteins and nutrients of the almonds in the water. The result will be a milky substance called almond milk.
Almond milk can be drank as is, used as a low-fat, high-protein cream substitute in your coffee, or substituted for regular milk in thousands of food and drink recipes.
Although almond milk and flavored almond milk (vanilla, mocha, etc) are widely available, there are currently no vegan buttermilks sold in stores. Currently, vegan buttermilk—made from almond milk—has a small private market, but it has yet to really take off commercially.
The only option left is to create your own buttermilk from home using homemade or store-bought almond milk.
How to Make Buttermilk with Almond Milk
If you are a vegan, and the tasty recipe you want to experience calls for buttermilk, you are NOT out of luck. That’s because it IS possible to create non-dairy buttermilk from almond milk.
Harken back to the second section of this article in which we talked about how dairy buttermilk was made, and remember the part about the lactic acid being responsible for curdling process. Now keep in mind that you can create your own acidic substance that will do something similar to almond milk.
Imagine you have a recipe that calls for a half cup of buttermilk. Now, take your almond milk and pour into a measuring cup, stopping just shy of the one-half mark. Now it is time to add just a spoonful of the active acidic ingredient that will help with the curdling process. Here you have many acidic options from which to choose, including apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice. These ingredients, whichever one you choose, will serve as the acid needed in the process, having the same effect that lactic acid has in regular milk.
After you add a spoonful of apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice to the almond milk, whisk the mixture very briskly with a whisk or a fork. Then, wait some time for the curdling process to begin—a process that will separate the cream from the almond milk. This will normally take place in just 5-10 minutes. The acid you added to the almond milk will slowly begin to thicken the almond milk, forming a cream-like substance that can be substituted for buttermilk any time the recipe calls for it. Now you can enjoy delicious buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, muffins and more, without sacrificing your vegan ways or eating habits.