Adding lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk in order to approximate buttermilk is a common trick, but some may not like the resulting flavor when used in pancakes. Are there any other options?
The acid in buttermilk helps baking soda do its job in recipes like biscuits and pancakes. To substitute regular milk in those recipes, the most common approach is to stir an acid like lemon juice or vinegar into it first. Though lemon is usually an acceptable flavor, we’ll admit the questionable appeal of vinegar pancakes.
In researching alternatives, we discovered one that we’d never considered: cream of tartar, an acid with a less noticeable flavor that’s often used to stabilize whipped egg whites.
When we used a mixture of cream of tartar and regular milk (1 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar for each cup of milk), our biscuits and pancakes came out just as lofty and light as those made with buttermilk, with no off-flavors. But there was one problem: Unlike lemon juice and vinegar, powdery cream of tartar can clump when you stir it into milk. The solution? Whisk the cream of tartar into your dry ingredients instead.
When you don’t have buttermilk on hand (and the tartness of regular milk mixed with lemon juice isn’t ideal), cream of tartar is an excellent alternative.