Your Top Guide For All Food Ingredients Substitutions!

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Comfort is a pillar of our civilization, our lives, and food.

Chances are, your Grandma has stricter mental rules when it comes to cooking. 

She forgot an ingredient? Welp, there goes another round to the store.

At the same time, we start searching fiercely for the best common ingredient substitutes online. Are we lazy, comfortable, or just more efficient?

Whichever the case, our longing for the comfort created some unexpected recipes: the cronut (croissant & donuts), cretzels ( pretzels & croissant), and also, surprisingly tasteful dishes with uncommon flavor pairings.

We compiled our most detailed common ingredient substitution guide to help you make the most of a missing ingredient. (*)

Take a seat, and join us on a ride! We’re going baking.

The Most Common Baking Ingredient Substitutes

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We start with substituting baking ingredient, as somehow, our heads usually turn into a black hole when buying stuff for baking. 

That’s the single, most common occasion we run out of ingredients. 

Baking IngredientSubstitute
Baking mixPancake mix 1:1
Baking powderBaking soda 2:1
Buttermilk 2:1
BreadcrumbsGround oats, Cracker crumbs, Fresh Bread 1 slice for ¾ cup
Brown sugarMolasses 2:1
Maple Syrup 2:1
Butter Margarine1:1
Vegetable Oil 3:2
ButtermilkYogurt 1:1
Milk & Vinegar 1:1
Chocolate3tbsp Cocoa Powder + 1 tbsp Butter/Oil for 1 ounce
Heavy cream⅔  Milk + ⅓  Butter
Light Cream¾  Milk + ¼  Butter
Self-rising flour¾  All-purpose flour + 2 tsp Baking powder
GelatinAgar-Agar 3:2
Lemon juiceVinegar 2:1
EggsBaking powder ½ tsp/egg
MilkPlant-based milk 1:1
¼ Milk Powder + Water
  • Fortunately, baking mix and pancake mix are interchangeable in every sweet recipe.
  • Forgot baking powder? Use ½ baking soda. Additionally, use ½ more buttermilk.
  • Don’t have breadcrumbs? Add the same amount of ground oats or cracker crumbs.

At the same time, one slice of fresh bread can take on a ¾ cup of dry breadcrumbs in a recipe.

  • No brown sugar in the house? Let’s see if you have molasses or maple syrup; you need half the amount from both.
  • Run out of butter? No problem, get the same from margarine or ⅔ of any vegetable oil.
  • In baking, buttermilk is interchangeable with yogurt, milk, & vinegar in a 1:1 ratio.
  • You have no chocolate for a cake? Add 3 tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tbsp oil or butter instead of every ounce of chocolate.
  • The cream is a commonly forgotten staple. Substitute it with ¾ milk and  butter to 1 cup of heavy cream.

For a cup of light cream, use ¾ milk and 3 tbsp of butter.

  • Without self-rising flour, use 3/4 all-purpose flour, plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
  • Substitute 1 tbsp of gelatin for 2 teaspoons of agar-agar.
  • Anytime you miss lemon juice, add half the vinegar to substitute it.
  • Instead of a whole egg, you can add ½ teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Milk is interchangeable in every baking recipe with the same amount of plant-based milkwater, or ¼ dry milk powder.

All in all, you will be surprised how easily we can substitute common baking ingredients. There’s an alternative to each and every baking staple.

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In the next part, we will discover everyday cooking substitutes.

Everyday Cooking Ingredient Substitutes

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Finding a proper substitute for cooking ingredients is way easier than for baking. Most recipes work without an exact ratio or measurement.

Let’s gather all the best cooking ingredient substitutes.

Cooking IngredientSubstitute
CornstarchArrowroot Starch 1:1Flour 1:3
BeerChicken Broth 1:1
Beef BrothSoy Sauce 1.5 tbsp/cup
Mushroom SoupCelery Cream 1:1Chicken Broth 1:1
Hot sauceVegetable Paste + Vinegar +Chili Powder1:1
Red wineBrown beer + Beef broth 1:1
White wineLemon Juice + Honey + Rice vinegar3:1
RiceQuinoaBarleyBulgur
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  • Cornstarch seems like an indispensable thickening agent. However, you can substitute it for the same amount of arrowroot starch or 3-times the flour.
  • When cooking with beerchicken broth will also do the trick in a 1:1 ratio.
  • A cup of umami-rich beef broth can be substituted with 1.5 tbsp soy sauce.
  • Instead of a can of mushroom soup, use the same amount of celery cream ( it can be homemade) or chicken broth.
  • To substitute hot sauces, add the same amount of vegetable paste, plus 2 tbsp vinegar and 1 teaspoon chili powder.
  • In cooking, red wine is replaceable with brown beer and beef broth in a 1:1 ratio in any recipe.

However, you need 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 3 tbsp honey, and 1 tbsp rice vinegar to substitute white wine.

  • Any type of grains can replace each other to complement a dish; bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, and barley.
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There’s no need to be afraid of loosely substituting common ingredients in cooking. Our recipes have been folding and molding for thousands of years, with endless varieties.

It’s an opportunity to try something new. So get your thinking hat on, and try coming up with new ideas for a fresh taste.

But what about the soul of foods, seasonings, and spices? Let’s see how to deal with each substitute.

The Most Common Spices and Seasoning Substitutes

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Herbsspices, and seasonings are not as forgiving as other everyday ingredients. Each small modification shifts the taste somewhat. 

Eventually, you can end up with a completely different tasting meal. Our list only works as intended, to be a perfect replacement for seasonings if used one by one

With more than one modified spice in one dish, we can’t guarantee the exact same flavor. Stick to one if needed.

Because dried herbs have a stronger flavor, replace 1 teaspoon dried with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. In general, one soft herb can be substituted for another, but a woody herb cannot be substituted for a soft herb.

Tender, bright herbs such as basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, and parsley are classified as fresh herbs. And bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are flavorful earthy herbs

The final batch is mostly used dry, and these two cannot be replaced with each other.

Herbs & SpicesSubstitute
Fresh Herbs 1 tbspDried Herbs 1 tsp
Basil, OreganoItalian seasoning 2:1 Vegetable seasoning mix 2:1
Earthy spicesBay Leaf Thyme Rosemary Sage Bouquet Garni
Garlic 1 cloveGarlic Powder ½ tsp Garlic Salt ½ tsp
SaffronTurmeric 1:1
Floral-toned spicesCoriander Cardamom Nutmeg Lavender Fennel
Warm spicesCinnamon Paprika Nutmeg Chili Powder Cumin
MintBlanched Pine Nuts+ Lime juice
ParsleyChervil Tarragon Marjoram + Cumin
Mustard 1tbspMustard seeds, toasted 1 tsp
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  • In any given dish, you can switch 1 tbsp of fresh herbs for 1 teaspoon of their dried counterparts.
  • You can substitute basil or oregano in a swift with some Italian seasoning or general vegetable seasoning mix.
  • Earthy and deep bay leaves are interchangeable with thymerosemarysage, or a Bouquet Garni. (*)
  • For each glove of garlic, half a teaspoon of garlic powder or garlic salt will suffice.
  • Fortunately, saffron and turmeric are wildly interchangeable in the same ratio.
  • Floral-toned spices can replace each other both in sweet and savory dishes; coriander, cardamom, lavender, nutmeg, and fennel. They add the most subtle complexity to dishes.
  • Warm spices can replace each other. But even better, try adding as many as you can in small amounts to enhance one another: cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, chili powder, and cumin.
  • An unexpected mint taste can be created by blanching pine nuts in lime juice and adding it to dishes. Who would have known?
  • Parsley can be substituted for the same amount of fresh chervil, tarragon, or a pinch of cumin with 1 teaspoon of added marjoram.
  • 1 tbsp of mustard can be swapped for 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, especially for toasted ones.

Besides a soul, our food needs a backbone too. After the best spice substitutes, let’s see how we can replace vegetables in every kind of meal.

Veggies don’t just add taste but create a texture and depth of aroma. Seemingly hard to replace, but not impossible.

Learn more:

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Let’s see what we’ve come up with!

The Best Common Vegetable Substitutes

This one is more complicated. As our bodies need veggies for varied nutrients, our food needs them for textureconsistencyaroma, and taste.

We tend to forget that they add the most to our dishes; that’s why chefs call them the backbone of a recipe. Hard to substitute them all.

However, some vegetables can definitely stand in for others, such as brussels sprouts for broccoli. Just keep the texture, moisture content, and density in mind.

VegetableSubstitute
GarlicShallots 1:2 + Vinegar 
Onion 1 cupOnion powder 1 tbspGreen onions 1 cupShallots 1 cup
Bok ChoyCabbages
Bitter GreensRaddish, Watercress, Radicchio, Arugula
SpinachLettuce, Tatsoi
Green onionsLeeks Shallots
Root vegetablesBeets, Carrots, Potatoes, Squash, Celery, Parsnip, Pumpkins
Watery VegetablesEggplant, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Cabbage
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  • For the same amount of garlic, add double the shallots and a pinch of plain white vinegar to the dishes.
  • For every cup of onion, you can use 1 tbsp of onion powder, 1 cup of green onions, or the same amount of shallots for a substitute.
  • Greens have a similar texture and crunchiness, but their flavor profiles vary a lot.

Bok choy and cabbages work alike in both cooking and salads.

Tender and bitter radishwatercressradicchio, or arugula are perfect replacements for each other. Instead of spinach, you can add some lettuce or tatsoi.

Among greens, Kale is the only one we prefer not to substitute. It doesn’t have a true match either in taste or texture.

  • Green onions are replaceable with leeks or shallots in a 1:1 ratio in every meal.
  • As a general rule, most root veggies work the same way in all dishes. Replace them boldly with each other: beets, carrots, potatoes, squashes, celery, parsnip, and pumpkins.
  • To recreate a similar texture and density in foods, more watery vegetables are best to substitute each other: eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, and cabbage.

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The Most Common Condiment Substitutes

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Condiments are probably the easiest to substitute. You won’t have a hard time with this. 

Sticking to roughly the same taste profile will give you excellent substituting options.

CondimentSubstitute
Mustard 1 tbspMustard seeds 1 tsp
Hot sauceVegetable paste + Vinegar + Pepper + Chili
Mayonnaise 1 cup1 cup of Yogurt/Sour cream + 1 tbsp Fat
Sour creamYogurt + Lemon zest
Barbeque sauceKetchup/Tomato sauce + Mustard + Honey + Salt + Vinegar + Brown sugar
Soy sauceWorcestershire sauce + VinegarSriracha + Vinegar
YogurtSour milkSour cream
Créme FraicheHeavy cream + Yogurt
image of Your Top Guide Substitutions - Condiments
  • Each tbsp of mustard can be replaced by 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds.
  • Hot sauces can be substituted with any given vegetable paste(tomatoes, pepper) and some vinegar and pepper or chili powder.
  • When cooking, use 1 cup of yogurt or sour cream with a tbsp of fat instead of mayonnaise.
  • Sour cream can be quickly replaced by the same amount of plain yogurt and some lemon zest in it.
  • For each cup of barbeque sauce, use ¾ ketchup or tomato sauce, 2 tbsp mustard, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp vinegar, and 1 tbsp brown sugar.
  • Soy sauceWorcestershire sauce, or Sriracha are all interchangeable in most dishes, except for the heat. To get the edge off the spiciness, add a batch of vinegar to the dish or cook 1 or 2 potatoes in it.
  • In cooking, yogurtsour milk, or sour cream are always interchangeable.
  • You can create a quick creme fraiche at home by leaving one-half of heavy cream and a few tbsps of yogurt at room temperature for a few hours. It will be uncanny!

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Condiments are easy to substitute. But what about a delicious cheese? 

Your favorite cheese might be the hardest one to replace in a meal. They add a surprisingly complex set of flavors that is hard to mimic.

The Dairy Substitutes 

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Dairy adds so much complexity to our dishes, and we rarely recognize it. It brings the whole palate: umamisavorysour.

On the other hand, their texture is easily replaceable. You can easily change the consistency by thickening milk with a bit of flour or cornstarch to mimic half-and-half or thinning Greek yogurt with water to resemble milk.

Still, we will give it a go and try to find the best substitute for common dairy ingredients around our pantry.

DairySubstitute
CheddarMonterey Jack cheeseEmmental
ParmesanPecorinoRomano
Sweetened condensed milkWhole milk + Sugar, thickened
Cream cheeseGreek yogurt + Ricotta/Cottage cheese
Cottage cheeseRicotta
BrieCamembert
GruyéreBlue cheeses
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  • Cheddar is a bold staple that can be replaced by the same amount of Monterey Jack cheese or half the Emmental.
  • Our favorite, Parmesan, is entirely replaceable with Pecorino, or Romano, in a 1:1 ratio.
  • A can of sweetened condensed milk can be swapped for a homemade substitute. Reduce a cup of whole milk with ½ cup of white sugar, and thicken it.
  • For a homemade version of cream cheese, mix some greek yogurt with ricotta or cottage cheese until smooth.
  • Cottage cheese is an easy one. Just add the same amount of ricotta, and you’re good to go!
  • Brie and Camembert are two best friends; you won’t notice any tricky replacement with them.
  • Similarly, Gruyére and any blue cheeses are interchangeable in both salads and more complex recipes.
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You might not pay any attention to your oils and fats when cooking, as opposed to regular ingredients. After all, they have the same role, and they all do it perfectly.

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This might be true, but using oils improperly can affect your health in the long run. Some of them develop harsh carcinogenic effects when overheated. (*)

Substituting Oils and Fats in Cooking

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The smoke point is known as the temperature at which oils and fats begin to burn. When heated to high temperatures (as in deep frying or pan-frying), neutral oils with high smoke points do not burn, whereas butter and other solid fats (with low smoke points) do.

That’s the reason for improper use of oils leading to carcinogenic effects

The solution is easy. Keep track of how to substitute oils in a healthy way.

Oils & FatsSubstitute
Solid FatsButter, Bacon grease, Lard, Margarine
Neutral OilsVegetable oils. Coconut oil, Palm oil, Ghee, Peanut oil, Canola oil, Corn oil.
Flavored oilsNut oils, Avocado oil, Olive oil, Sesame oil
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image of Your Top Guide  Substitutions - Oils & Fats
  • Solid fats are all interchangeable with a 1:1 ratio: ButterBacon greaseLard, and Margarine. They all have a low smoke point, meaning you should never use them on high heat.
  • Neutral oils are used in a liquid form at room temperature. They have the highest smoke point, ideal for high-heat processing. 

They can be replaced with each other, as you like: all vegetable oilscoconut oilpalm oilgheepeanut oilcanola, and corn oil.

  • Finally, Flavored oils have a delicate smoking point and are best used for salads without much heat processing. Without heating, they preserve essential ingredients for our health.

Use them interchangeably, taking flavor into consideration: nut oilsavocado oilvirgin olive oil, and sesame oil.

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By sticking to healthy heating methods for each type of oil and fat, you don’t just keep your health intact; you also enhance the flavor of your meals.

However, our next food group’s best substitutes have nothing to do with health concerns. It simply boils down to science: Maillard reaction, heating points, and soft or hard proteins.

The Best Substitutes For All Kinds of Meat

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Substituting meat is not rocket science. Adjusting the size of the meats by cutting them into smaller pieces, or removing the meat from the bones, makes them cook faster

Similarly, leaving it in larger pieces allows it to cook more slowly

You can widen your options even further: Tofu, lentils, beans, and other vegetarian options can all serve as excellent substitutes.

MeatSubstitute
BeefPork + Umami ingredient
LambBeef
Fresh sausage, beef/porkGround meat, beef/pork
Fresh sausage, chicken/turkeyGround meat, chicken/turkey
Chicken stewTurkey stew
Pork stewBeef stew
Fatty fishCatfishCodHalibutTilapiaFlounderBassMonkfish
Lean fishSalmonTunaSwordfish
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image of Your Top Guide For Substitutions - Meats
  • Beef and pork are generally considered excellent substitutes for each other in texture. But pork lacks umami, which needs to be added with other ingredients, such as soy sauce, matured cheese, tomato, or beef broth.

You can replace them with each other by matching their toughness or tenderness. Filet mignons for strip or flank steak. Brisket, round roast, and chuck for each other.

Lamb and beef can be used in recipes to substitute each other, as they cook similarly. However, lamb has a much more intrusive taste that can be softened with herbs and spices.

  • Fresh sausage is substitutable for some ground meat and vice versa. 

The crucial part is matching their fat content; pork is the fattiest, and comes beef, chicken, and turkey after them in this order.

When replacing each other, compensate for the lack of fat by adding some manually to the dish.

  • When making stews, stick to substituting pork for beef and chicken for turkey. Anything else is overkill.
  • Matching seafood, similarly to regular meats, is best done by fattiness. Lean-to lean, fatty to fatty.

Catfish, cod, halibut, tilapia, flounder, bass, or monkfish are great to stand in for each other. They are all fatty.

While salmon, tuna, and swordfish are leaner options and interchangeable with each other.

Meats are generally forgiving when you adjust cooking times and temperatures

However, be mindful of their best shelf life and optimal storage method, as you can get hefty food poisoning from meats and seafood alike.

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Let’s see what we’ve learned so far.

When substituting common ingredients, be it for baking, cooking, seasonings, or any general food groups, pay attention to the taste profile, water content, texture, and cooking times.

And before you get a panic attack from a missing ingredient when guests are coming, remember that the best foods in humankind’s history were birthed in mistaken ingredients or swapped ones.

The most famous of them all is Brownie. (*)

Who knows? Maybe after a forgetful afternoon, history books will praise your name for our next favorite food mistake in a few centuries. (*)

Up Next: Your Common Food Ingredient’s Shelf Life – A Comprehensive Guide By Groups

References:

  • https://www.lovefood.com/gallerylist/80947/from-sandwiches-to-buffalo-wings-foods-invented-by-accident
  • https://www.mashed.com/460598/this-popular-chocolate-dessert-was-invented-by-accident/
  • https://www.theculinarypro.com/meat-and-poultry-cooking-methods
  • https://www.healthyfood.com/advice/fact-or-fiction-oil-is-carcinogenic/
  • https://www.thespruceeats.com/bouquet-garni-recipe-1805692
  • https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/ingredient-substitutions

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