Substitutes for buttermilk

I’ve mentioned this several times before but I’ve never really written it up properly and have decided to do so to have a quick reference for myself.

If using citric acid, going by this recipe for using citric acid to replace lemon juice, then
1 cup milk + slightly less than 1/4 tsp citric acid.

In all cases, let the mixture stand for five to ten minutes before using.

1) From GourmetSleuth:

These subs. are good for baking and batters – not for uncooked foods like dressings.
For 1 cup buttermilk select one:
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

2) Other pages give different quantities:
1 cup milk plus 1 3/4 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup milk plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice OR 1 1/3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar to above milk amount.

3) For dairy-free alternatives, these suggestions from Dairy-Free Made Easy by Alisa Marie Fleming, Fleming Marrs:

Recipe I [too vague to be helpful :P]
2 to 3 tsps of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or cream of tartar to one cup of non-dairy milk (rice, soy, oat etc.) —

Recipe II [very interesting!]
1/4 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup + 3 Tbs water
1 Tbs lemon juice or vinegar
pinch sea salt
–> Blend all ingredients together

4) This page extracted from The Gluten-Free Baker Newsletter has a thorough write-up including tips on:

* improving consistency by making 1 full cup, even when only 1/2 is required
* in recipes, to check for consistency rather than volume of the liquid when using low-fat milks
* differing results when using non-dairy milks
* in gluten-free recipes, if substituting regular milk with buttermilk, add 1/4 tsp baking soda to the dry mixture for every 1/2 cup buttermilk


Green tea silken tofu

Following my attempt at making firm tofu using nigari as a coagulant, I picked up some Glucono-Delta Lactone (GDL) coagulant at Phoon Huat and decided to give this dessert-style tofu pudding (a.k.a. 豆花 douhua/tau huay/ tau foo fah) a go. GDL is thought to be a more healthy coagulant compared to inorganic calcium compounds.

Unlike moulded tofu, silken tofu doesn’t require any special container and produces a greater volume of tofu in relation to the amount of soya milk used. Typically, it takes less than an hour to be ready for serving.

William Shurtleff’s Book of Tofu says that

[GDL is] an organic acid that solidifies soymilk in much the same was that lactic acid or a yoghurt starter is used to curdle dairy milk. A newly discovered solidifier made from natural gluconic acid, lactone makes it possible for the first time to solidify very thin soymilk, and even cold soymilk, by simply heating it to somewhat below the boiling point.


Following the recipe in Shurtleff’s Book of Tofu:
1 tsp lactone, dissolved in 2 Tbs water
3 1/4 cups soya bean milk
1 Tbs matcha green tea powder
3 Tbs sugar or honey

1) First, I began by making soya bean milk and measured out 3 1/4 cups whilst it was still hot.
2) Mixed in 1 Tbs green tea matcha powder and 3 Tbs sugar. As matcha often clumps up, it helps to sift it into the milk and use a whisk to make sure it is thoroughly incorporated.
3) Dissolved the 1 tsp lactone in 2 Tbs of water.
4) Poured the lactone solution into the soya bean milk, whilst gently stirring.
5) I made individual portions by dividing the still liquid soya bean milk into 6 custard cups. You can also leave the tofu to set inside a single pot. There is no separation of curds and whey, unlike the other method of making firm tofu.
6) The Book of Tofu says to let the soya milk stand uncovered for half an hour while it cools and sets, then cover with cling film and refrigerate. I made the mistake of covering the custard cups with cling film right away, and ended up with condensation on the inside.

Verdict: compared to commercially prepared tofu, mine definitely tasted like an amateur’s attempt. The texture, while very light and soft, could have been smoother. There was also a faint sour taste The green tea flavour was quite subtle, and the amount of sugar was just nice – I wonder what it would have tasted like without any sugar at all?

Anyhow, this is definitely worth another try. The Book of Tofu says that nigari makes the most delicate and delicious silken tofu, so I may use that alternative the next time.

My previous tofu-making postings:
Coagulants for homemade tofu
Making tofu at home
Making tofu at home P.S.
Another word on tofu coagulants

Green tea smoothie with rice & soy milk

This is just too yummy not to write about. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo because I made it for a midnight snack so no natural light for getting good shots. [P.S. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to consume green tea at midnight! I was so hyper when I went to bed :P]


Of all the commercial non-dairy milks, my favourite is the Rice & Soy Beverage from Eden Foods. It’s got a rich, creamy texture and it’s subtle tastes are probably due to the inclusion of amazake, which is made from organic short grain brown rice and the fermentation starter, koji (Aspergillus Oryzae) as well as kombu seaweed. As amazake is fermented, those on a strict anti-candida diet should probably avoid this milk alternative. Read more about amazake and a detailed description of the product here.

There are instructions on the side of the carton to make the green tea smoothie:
1 cup Rice & Soy Beverage
1 tsp matcha green tea powder [1 used 1 1/2 tsp]
Blend till green tea dissolves and enjoy!

I have some homemade red bean paste in the fridge, so perhaps tomorrow morning I’ll try a red bean version.

Buckwheat pancakes with red bean paste

Buckwheat red bean pancakes

As I wrote earlier, using buckwheat is one way to rotate foods and keep food intolerance reactions at bay. With a 1kg bag of buckwheat flour to use up, I made some more pancakes today. I was inspired to make these red bean rolls from photos of various wagashi in the recipe books I have.

I found the all-buckwheat pancakes the last time a bit too brittle in texture and deduced that this was because of the low gluten content of buckwheat. So instead of simply mixing it with plain all-purpose flour, I chose bread flour which has a higher percentage of gluten, and thus I figured would produce a more pliable pancake.


3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup plain bread flour/high-gluten flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
approx. 320ml soya milk [or any other kind of milk]
2 tsp melted butter

Mix flours & baking powder together.

Mix beaten egg into flour, then add milk a bit at a time until consistency of pouring cream is reached.

Beat in the melted butter.

I cooked the pancakes in a 10cm blini pan on medium-high heat. Low heat means that they are in the pan longer and a hard surface develops, whereas I wanted soft pancakes that could be rolled.

Red Bean Filling

There are clear instructions from Just Hungry – but leave out the salt and sugar and if you are short of time, there’s no need for overnight (or any) soaking, although soaking will shorten the cooking time and save electricity/gas. Like 日式和菓子, one of my wagashi recipe books from Hong Kong, Just Hungry tells us to boil the beans quickly once, throw away the water then boil again.

As I already had cooked red beans in the fridge from the day before, I simply put some in a skillet and gently stirred it around over low heat with sugar added to taste (which can be omitted if so desired). This dries out the cooked beans to make it into a paste and you can mash the beans up at the same time. Don’t overcook or it will get too dry and have crispy bits forming – at the crispy stage, it will have become the equivalent of Mexican refried beans (inspiration for a whole new dish ^_^?)!

If the red bean paste is too crumbly and not sticking together, mix in oil till you get a nice paste consistency. I used cold-pressed organic safflower oil but it imparted a distinct taste when I compared it with the oil-free red beans; although I didn’t notice the safflower oil taste when I ate the dish later in the day. So remember to use a flavourless oil, or choose one that will enhance the dish. Coconut oil might be worth a try, but can be overpowering so best to mix with another oil. Butter would probably be good. I’ve heard that the reason red bean paste in Chinese restaurants and food stalls tastes so good is because lard is used :).

Finally, spoon some red bean paste in the middle of a pancake and roll it up!

Leftover pancakes can be frozen (with paper or cling film in between the pancakes) and I usually leave my cooked red bean in the fridge, where it soon disappears into many different dishes.

I put a couple in today’s snack bento, but they fell apart and also weren’t that nice cold. I popped them into the microwave and yumminess was soon restored (^_^)!

9/2/08 update: In my second attempt to put these into a bento, I deconstructed the pancakes & filling as illustrated below. It worked much better this way.

bento buckwheat pancakes redbean 400

Red bean soy smoothie

I’ve blogged earlier about various azuki/ red bean recipes and how versatile an ingredient they are. In my recent attempts at making Chinese snacks and Japanese wagashi, red beans are a very common ingredient.

Inspired by the packaged red bean milk 紅豆奶 and green bean milk 綠豆奶 I saw in convenience stores everywhere in Taiwan, one of my favourite ways to consume red beans (and green mung beans) is in a smoothie with whatever type of milk I have on hand – cow’s milk, soya bean milk, oat milk, rice milk etc. It’s a great breakfast food, sustaining and healthy.

Red milk soya milk

The best part about having red bean soya milk is that both the red bean and soya milk can be easily made at home with as little sugar as you want. I usually omit sugar completely and even with no sugar at all the smoothie can be very yummy!

Follow the instructions at Just Hungry for making soya bean milk and do have a look at Zlamushka’s helpful slideshow on how to make soya milk. Just Hungry also describes how to make red bean paste, however I do it slightly differently. I soak the beans in at least two and a half times the volume of water for a few hours – not as long as 24 hours – until they swell up, then I cook them in fresh water without salt or sugar in a mini electric crockpot, adding more water if it gets too dry.

Chunky red bean paste (as described in Just Hungry’s instructions) tastes better in various snacks and sweets (such as the familiar Chinese tau sar/dou sha bao 豆沙包, in steamed or bread bun versions, and Japanese botamochi/ohagi) but I’ve found that it’s more useful to blend the cooked red beans into a smooth paste. When you want to make a smoothie, the smooth red bean paste can be easily mixed by hand with the soya bean milk to the desired consistency. A mini whisk for beverages is very useful for this (available in Daiso).

I used to drink my red/green bean smoothies cold, but in the last couple of years I’ve noticed how cold foods upset my digestive system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cold foods and drinks are generally to be avoided as they are too cooling/yin. Do note that green mung beans are also classified as yin in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Red azuki beans are more neutral in yin/yang terms and therefore a better choice.

However, the wonderful thing about red/green bean milk is that it’s also delicious hot! Think of warm Chinese red bean desserts, such as the glutinous rice balls in sweet red bean soup I made earlier or the Korean version. After mixing the red bean paste & soya bean milk from the fridge, just heat up the smoothie in the microwave or on the stove and it’s ready to be enjoyed ^_^.

5-coloured glutinous rice balls in milk soup 五色白玉ミルク

This recipe comes from a book of Japanese autumn & winter wagashi or sweet snacks: 《和果子.和甘味 (秋冬篇)》 (in Chinese and English). The Japanese name for glutinous rice balls is shiratama and glutinous rice flour is shiratamako.

Shiratama round

The five colours are supposed to be white, pink (red rice powder 紅穀粉), green (matcha/ green tea powder), brown (brown sugar) and yellow (pumpkin). As I don’t have red rice powder, I made lavender-coloured ones using purple mountain yam powder 紫山藥粉. I like the fact that only natural colourings are used because artificial additives tend to cause food intolerance reactions for me. [23/12/07 update: read more about natural colourings for glutinous rice dough here.]


Serves 4

100g glutinous rice flour
1 tsp cooked pumpkin flesh [NB: no discernible pumpkin taste in the cooked rice balls]
1 tsp brown sugar [NB: surprisingly doesn’t make the glutinous rice balls that sweet]
1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) [NB: too much, green colour comes out too dark, matcha taste is too strong and bitter]
1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder [NB: the slight medicinal taste might not appeal to everyone; as I noted here, mountain yam is commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicinal food]
300ml milk/soya bean milk/coconut milk
appropriate amount of red (azuki) bean paste

1) Divide the glutinous rice flour into five 20g portions.
2) Mix the cooked pumpkin flesh with 20g glutinous rice flour. I tried to distribute the pumpkin evenly by rubbing it into the flour.
3) Melt the brown sugar in a little bit of warm water. Mix with 20g glutinous rice flour.
4) Mix 1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) with 20g glutinous rice flour.
5) Mix 1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder with 20g glutinous rice flour. This is what the packet of yam powder looks like:

Purple mountain yam powder

6) Mix each portion of flour with just enough warm water to make a dough that can be rolled smoothly. I’ve read some recipes that specify warm water, and Commoi mentions in the comments here that it’s supposed to make the texture of the dough more smooth.

Do use your hands to mix the flour and water so that you can accurately gauge the correct consistency. After my initial problems getting the dough shaped nicely, I’ve realised that If the dough is too soft, it’s difficult to roll into an evenly-rounded shape.

Divide each flavour of dough into four pieces to make four rice balls of each flavour (the photo below shows triple quantities). To divide the dough evenly, I rolled each piece of dough into a strip then put it this chopping sheet with measurements and cut the strip with a pair of scissors into the required number of pieces.

Shiratama uncooked

7) Boil a large pot of water to cook the glutinous rice balls. They are ready when they float to the top. (See my notes on storing the leftover glutinous rice balls here.)

8) Serve in milk soup with a dollop of red (azuki) bean paste. As the red beans and coconut/soya milk were already cool or taken from the fridge, I put the whole dish in the microwave to heat up before serving.

The red beans were cooked without sugar and sweetened to taste when serving, as I did here. In the original recipe, the soup is made from cow’s milk. Instead of this, I made two options: coconut milk (see photo of round-shaped balls above) or soya bean milk (see photo of dented balls below). Both can be sweetened with white sugar to taste when serving.

Notes on making soya bean milk: please follow the instructions from Just Hungry. You can also squeeze the liquid out of the soya bean pulp before cooking and it won’t be so hot and difficult to handle. Then you simply need to bring the liquid to the boil, scooping the foam off the top as you go. One way to take away the raw taste is to add a few pandan leaves when boiling the soya bean milk.

Alternatively, cut down the manual labour of soya bean milk making by using a blender with filter core attachment, or use a soya milk machine.

The Japanese style is to make a dent in the middle of each glutinous rice ball, as shown below. However, for today’s Winter Solstice celebration, round glutinous rice balls are eaten to symbolise family togetherness, so I also made a round version. The shape does make a difference to the ‘mouth feel’ 口感 with the round shape producing a firmer, more chewy (or ‘Q’) version and the flattened, Japanese shape gives a softer yet pleasantly sticky texture.