I live in the Middle East, and can’t find buttermilk for use in baking. We do however, have a plain drinkable, pourable yogurt called Laban , by a brand called Al Marai ( please google to see what it looks like and it’s consistency.) Will this drinking yogurt work the same as buttermilk in a recipe? It is made from cows milk, tastes exactly like plain yogurt but it’s a thick liquid in consistency, the same consistency as buttermilk as available in the UK. It is not as runny as other drinkable yogurts available in the West like actimel or Yakult.
I rarely have buttermilk around, and I most commonly substitute yogurt mixed with water. The kind of laban you're talking about* would be a similar mixture.
King Arthur Baking Company has published this nice article about buttermilk substitutions on their website:
Here are the most common suggestions [for substitutions]:
- 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice mixed into 1 cup of milk. Let the milk stand for 10 to 15 minutes, until it thickens very slightly and curdles.
- 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar mixed with 1 cup of milk. Shake until the cream of tartar dissolves.
- Sour cream thinned with milk or water to the consistency of heavy cream.
- Plain unsweetened kefir.
- Yogurt thinned with milk or water to the consistency of heavy cream.
The author of that article tested these substitutes in a number of different recipes and found that thinned yogurt consistently performed the best, or just as well as the other substitutes.
So, if your laban is really just diluted yogurt, it will also probably perform fine. But it might be worth trying to make diluted yogurt yourself, and testing that against laban.
*A note for other readers: in some places laban (or leben, or liben, or lben - لبن) is "buttermilk", in the traditional sense of the word. This kind of buttermilk is the liquid that's left over, and strained off, after cultured cream has been churned to make butter. Confusingly, this butter byproduct, is not what contemporary recipes call for, when they ask for buttermilk. What contemporary recipes are actually looking for is made from homogenized, pasteurized milk that's been inoculated with some bacteria cultures. This kind of buttermilk bears some similarity to traditional buttermilk, but it's typically quite a bit thicker. So, ironically in places where laban means "buttermilk", it may not be a good substitute for buttermilk.