Ingredient Substitutions to Keep Your Recipe on Track

Photo by Calum Lewis of Unsplash

The more you cook, the more you learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. Those substitutions can be comprised of other ingredients that together complete the missing ingredient (i.e. buttermilk can be replaced with milk plus lemon juice). Or, replace with an alternative ingredient that may slightly change the final product, like adding peaches in place of tomatoes in a Caprese salad. 

Fusion cuisine and culinary innovation are often born through this kind of experimentation sometimes by accident, using what is on hand and learning through trial and error. Don’t be discouraged by failed attempts, use these lessons to leverage your knowledge for next time. 

Cooking allows for improvised additions and seclusions because you can see, taste, and adjust flavors and textures as you go. Whereas baking is more of a precise science that requires careful substitutions. Flours, fats, and sugars can each be manipulated in a recipe but there is a larger margin of error if you try to guess. With baking, you may not know how the final product will come out until it’s already done, so it’s a good habit to taste the batter before baking to make sure it tastes how it should. You don’t want to discover you added salt instead of sugar or forgot the vanilla when it’s too late. 

We asked our followers which ingredients they wanted to know how to substitute. From this, we built a guide of common ingredient substitutions.  We also asked the Meal Hero Team what has been their most creative ingredient swaps in their quarantine kitchens. 

Common & Helpful Ingredient Substitutions

• 1 cup Buttermilk = 1 tablespoon lemon juice + enough whole milk to make 1 cup. Or, 1 cup kefir

• 1 cup Cake flour = 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons replaced with cornstarch

• 1 cup Self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + ¼ teaspoon salt

• 1 cup Tomato sauce = ¾ cup tomato paste + 1 cup water

• 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs

• 1 ounce Unsweetened Chocolate = 3 Tbsp cocoa powder +1 Tbsp vegetable oil

• 1 cup corn syrup = 1 ¼ cup white sugar + ⅓ cup water 

• Molasses = equal parts honey

• Soy sauce - tamari, coconut aminos, liquid aminos

• Breadcrumbs - rolled oats, panko, crushed crackers or chips, or finely chopped nuts and seeds

• White wine for cooking = chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, white grape juice, or white wine vinegar

Photo by Lucy on Unsplash

Creative Ingredient Substitutions from the Meal Hero Team

“Chicken skin instead of pancetta for bolognese.” - Tam
“There's a spinach lasagna recipe we like but we didn't have lasagna sheets so we just turned the filling into a pasta sauce and it worked great.” - Lucy

“Cannellini beans roasted and smashed instead of hummus.” - David C

“Fish sauce mixed with vegetable dumpling filling because I didn't have shrimp but wanted the flavor.” - Araminta

“Substituted potatoes with apples in curry.” - Michelle

“I subbed oyster sauce in a stir fry with soy sauce and fish sauce. It worked pretty well (but wasn't true oyster sauce)” - Julian

“I didn't have any fresh bell peppers to put in my Cajun red beans and rice, but frozen kale worked!” - Jason R.

“Mushroom + lentils to make bolognese instead of meat. It wasn't my intention to use meat but it sure tasted meaty!” - Linda

“I made a blueberry pie but for the crust, I ran out of flour.  I made up the difference with pancake mix.”  - Jason V.

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