Sometimes we forget to buy a recipe ingredient; sometimes we live in a remote area with limited access to exotic things, or even mundane ones; sometimes we need to avoid certain foods; and sometimes we don’t want to buy a whole jar/bottle/pound of something we’ll probably only use once. Whatever the reason may be, every once in a while, you need a good recipe substitute!
If we all had a well-stocked supermarket for our pantry, we’d never have to worry about finding recipe substitutes. But since that’s not the case, it’s time to get resourceful. Many of these swaps will be indiscernible, some may taste a bit different, often for the better. But the bottom line is that they’re all viable substitutes and getting a knack for switching can vastly expand your recipe reparatory. No fresh basil at your market? Make a switch and now you can add delicious parsley pesto to your lineup. Be flexible in your approach and you'll be amazed at how many things you can substitute. Happy swapping!
Allspice: For 1 teaspoon mix 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.
Almond meal: For 1 cup, place a scant cup of sliced almonds (with or without skins) with 1 tablespoon white sugar in a food processor (or blender) and process until finely ground.
Anchovies: For 2 anchovies, use 1 teaspoon miso paste or 1 teaspoon well-drained, pureed canned tuna.
Arrowroot starch: For 1 tablespoon arrowroot use 1 tablespoon cornstarch, potato starch or rice starch; or 2 tablespoons flour.
Baking powder, double-acting: For 1 teaspoon, use 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch.
Baking powder, single-acting: For 1 teaspoon, use 2/3 teaspoon double-acting baking powder; or use 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch.
Baking soda: For 1/2 teaspoon, use 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder; you must also replace the acidic ingredient in the recipe (lemon juice, buttermilk, yogurt) with a non-acidic liquid.
Balsamic vinegar: Mix 1 tablespoon apple cider or red wine vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon sugar; or mix 1 tablespoon apple cider or red wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon prune juice.
Breadcrumbs: Use an equivalent amount of crushed cornflakes, potato chips, cracker crumbs; use crushed rice crackers for a gluten-free alternative. You can also use rolled oats if the breadcrumbs are needed for binding (veggie burgers, meat loaf, et cetera).
Broth: You can easily substitute any kind of broth for another; you can also dilute 1 tablespoon of soy sauce per 1 cup of hot water.
Beer: Use an equivalent amount of nonalcoholic beer; or use vegetable or chicken broth.
Brandy: Use an equivalent amount of vanilla or brandy extract diluted with water; or an equal measure of rum, sherry or bourbon.
Butter: Butter can be tricky in baking if the texture depends on butter’s water content for steam (like in flaky crusts and pastries); that said, you can use equivalent amounts of margarine, shortening, or vegetable oil. For cakes, cookies, bars, et cetera, you can also try fruit puree, mashed bananas, fruit juice or a combination of any of them.
Buttermilk: Use an equivalent amount of plain yogurt; or an equivalent amount of half sour cream and half milk; or an equivalent amount of milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per cup.
Carob powder: Use the equivalent amount of cocoa powder.
Cheese: Hard cheeses can be substituted for each other (cheddar for jack, Colby for Swiss, et cetera); soft cheeses substitute well for other soft cheeses (feta for blue, brie for goat, et cetera).
Cheese, grated Parmesan: Use an equivalent amount of any other hard cheese; or, per 1/2 cup Parmesan use 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (it won’t melt, but adds a similar taste).
Chili powder: Mix equal parts cayenne pepper, cumin and oregano.
Chocolate, semisweet: For 1 ounce, use 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate plus 4 teaspoons sugar.
Chocolate chips, semisweet: Use an equivalent amount of chopped chocolate, chocolate candies (like M&M’s), chopped caramels, chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit.
Chocolate, unsweetened: For 1 ounce use 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening, unsalted butter or vegetable oil.
Cilantro: There are two types of people in the world, those who love cilantro and those who detest it. If you fall into the later camp, a number of herbs work as perfect replacements; basil, mint, parsley or dill all provide the same bright flavor.
Cinnamon: Use an equivalent amount of nutmeg or 1/4 amount of allspice.
Cocoa powder, Dutch-processed: For 3 tablespoons, use 3 tablespoons of natural unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1/8 tablespoon baking soda. Alternatively, for 3 tablespoons use 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and decrease fat in recipe by 1 tablespoon. (Read more about cocoa here: 5 healthy hot cocoa recipes.)
Cocoa powder, natural unsweetened: For 3 tablespoons, use 3 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa plus 1/8 teaspoon of an acidic ingredient such as cream of tartar, lemon juice or white vinegar. Or, for every 3 tablespoons called for, use 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate and decrease fat in recipe by 1 tablespoon.
Coconut, fresh: Per 1 cup, use 1 cup dried flaked coconut or 3/4 cup dried shredded coconut.
Coconut, dry shredded: Per 1 cup, use 1 1/4 dried flaked coconut.
Condensed cream of mushroom (or other) soup: Use packaged cream soup mix with 25 percent less water, or make a béchamel sauce with butter, flour and milk.
Cookie crumbs: For 1 cup of cookie crumbs, crush one of the following: 14 sandwich cookies; 14 graham cracker squares; 15 gingersnaps: 28 saltine crackers plus 1 tablespoon sugar; 22 vanilla wafers; or 3 cups corn flakes.
Cornmeal, stone ground: Use an equivalent amount of milled cornmeal, corn grits or polenta.
Cornstarch: For 1 tablespoon, use 2 tablespoons instant tapioca; 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 1 tablespoon potato starch; or 1 tablespoon arrowroot.
Corn syrup, dark: For 1 cup, use 3/4 cup light corn syrup plus 1/4 cup molasses; or an equivalent amount of honey, maple syrup, or 3/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup water.
Corn syrup, light: For 1 cup, use 3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/4 cup water; or an equivalent amount of dark corn syrup, honey or maple syrup.
Cottage cheese: Use an equivalent amount of farmer’s cheese or ricotta cheese.
Cream, half and half: For 1 cup, use just under 1 cup of whole milk plus 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter. If you have heavy cream on hand, you can mix half skim milk with half heavy cream.
Cream, heavy: For whipping there is no alternative, but for baking and sauces, try an equivalent amount of evaporated milk; or 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter.
Cream cheese: Use an equivalent amount of pureed cottage cheese. Also, you can strain regular plain yogurt in a paper-towel lined colander for a few hours to make your own Greek yogurt; the longer you strain it, the thicker it will be, eventually coming close to the texture of cream cheese.
Cream of tartar: Use an equivalent amount of white vinegar or lemon.
Crème fraiche: Use an equivalent amount of plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, or make your own by mixing 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt and letting stand at room temperature for 6 hours.
Dulce de leche or caramel: Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes or until thick and caramel-colored; whisk until smooth. (Also see the slow-cooker method.)
Egg: Many options here, pick which flavor profile best suits your recipe. Per egg: 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed; 3 tablespoons mayonnaise; half a banana mashed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder; 1 tablespoon powdered flax seed soaked with 3 tablespoons water until thick; 1 tablespoon milled chia seeds soaked with 3 tablespoons water until thick; 2 tablespoons sour cream.
Flour, all-purpose: Per 1 cup, use: 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour; 1 cup self-rising flour, leave out baking powder and salt in recipe; or 1/2 cup cake flour plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.
Flour, bread: Use an equivalent amount of all-purpose flour.
Flour, cake: For 1 cup, use 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons, then add 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
Flour, pastry: For 2 cups, use 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour mixed with 2/3 cup cake flour.
Flour, self-rising: For 1 cup use 1 cup all-purpose flour and add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Garlic, fresh: Per clove, use 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder; or 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic; or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, and reduce salt in recipe by 1/2 teaspoon. Chopped onions may also fit the bill.
Gelatin: Per tablespoon, use 2 teaspoons agar agar.
Ghee: Use an equivalent amount of clarified butter or vegetable oil.
Ginger, dried ground: Per teaspoon, use 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger.
Ginger, fresh: Per teaspoon, used 1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger (add 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice for fresher taste); or use 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger, rinsed well.
Greek yogurt: Strain regular plain yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper-towel lined colander over a bowl for a few hours to make your own Greek yogurt; the longer you strain it, the thicker it will be.
Green onion: Use an equivalent amount of chopped onion, leeks, shallots or chives.
Herbs, fresh: For 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried.
Herbs, fresh: Milder herbs like mint, dill, basil, cilantro, and parsley can all be swapped for each other in equal measure; more intense herbs like rosemary, tarragon, oregano and thyme can be substituted for one another in equal measure as well.
Honey: For 1 cup, use 1 and 1/4 cup white sugar, raw sugar, or brown sugar mixed with 1/3 cup hot water. You can also use an equivalent amount of maple syrup or for hearty recipes, light molasses.
Hot pepper sauce: For teaspoon, use 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus 1 teaspoon vinegar.