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Ingredient Substitutions

She laughed as she told the story on herself, but you could tell she was disappointed. She had baked fruit breads as gifts for her friends. She hadn't done much baking and this was a real labor of love. The gifts were never given.

It was such a small amount of an ingredient she was missing. And it was late. She wanted to get her baking done. Surely it couldn't matter. But it did.

The next time (if there was a next time!) she'd know to add the baking powder to the recipe.

Often for lack of an ingredient, a recipe is ruined or an extra trip to the store is required. Sometimes, you need to buy a large container of an ingredient for just a teaspoon or two needed in a recipe.


To the rescue: ingredient substitutions! Several Internet discussion groups of dietitians, home economists, chefs and other food professionals were asked their most helpful ingredient substitutions, favorite Internet links and other food substitution resources they find useful. The response was tremendous! Read, enjoy and benefit from their suggestions.

Basic Ingredient Substitutions

Here are some of the suggestions cited most frequently. The substitution tips for which there was the most general consensus and which used the most common ingredients are listed. Following these suggestions are several Internet and book resources that give MANY, MANY additional substitution ideas.

Your final product made with the substituted ingredient may differ slightly from the original food, but still be acceptable in flavor, texture and appearance.

Ingredient Amount Substitute
Allspice 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Apple Pie Spice 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Baking Powder, Double-Acting 1 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Baking Soda   There is NO substitute for baking soda
Butter (See Note 1) 1 cup 1 cup regular margarine or 1 cup vegetable shortening (for baking) or An equal amount of oil can be substituted for a similar portion of MELTED butter if the recipe specifies using MELTED butter.
Buttermilk 1 cup 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough regular milk to make 1 cup (allow to stand 5 minutes)
Chili Sauce 1 cup 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, dash of ground cloves and dash of allspice
Chocolate, Unsweetened 1 ounce 3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter or regular margarine or vegetable oil
Cornstarch (for thickening) 1 tablespoon 2 tablespoons flour (See Note 2)
Cream, Whipping 1 cup unwhipped If you wish to use a commercial pre-whipped whipped cream or whipped cream substitute rather than whip your own cream, use the guideline that 1 cup UNWHIPPED whipping cream expands to 2 cups when WHIPPED. For example, if your recipe called for 1 cup of cream to make whipped cream, you could substitute 2 cups of an already whipped product.

( TIP: If you don't use eggs very often, you may find it helpful to keep some powdered eggs on hand. )
1 whole egg

- 1/4 cup egg substitute (examples include: Egg Beaters, Second Nature, Scramblers); check label for specific directions OR Reconstituted powdered eggs; follow package directions OR
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (suitable for use in cake batter). NOTE: If you type "mayonnaise cake recipe" into your favorite Internet search engine, you'll find several recipes for cakes made with mayonnaise and NO eggs. This may help you decide if this substitution will work for your cake OR
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder plus 1 tablespoon vinegar plus 1 tablespoon liquid (for baking use only)

Flour, All-Purpose White Flour 1 cup 1/2 cup whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Tip : It's generally recommended that you replace no more than half the all-purpose white flour with whole wheat flour. Too much whole wheat flour in a recipe calling for all-purpose flour might result in a reduced volume and a heavier product.
Flour, Cake 1 cup 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Flour, Self-Rising 1 cup 1 cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
Garlic 1 small clove 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Herbs, Fresh 1 tbsp, finely cut - 1 teaspoon dried leaf herbs
- 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herbs
Lemon Zest (fresh grated lemon peel) 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Marshmallows, Miniature 1 cup 10 large marshmallows
Mayonnaise (for use in salads and salad dressings) 1 cup - 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 cup cottage cheese pureed in a blender
- Or use any of the above for part of the mayonnaise
Mustard, Dry (in cooked mixtures) 1 teaspoon 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Onion 1 small or 1/4 cup chopped, fresh onion 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
TIP: Dried onion may be added directly to moist foods such as soups, gravies, sauces and salad dressings. You may need to rehydrate it with a little water before adding it to drier foods. Check package directions -- one brand advises adding an equal amount of water and letting the dried onion stand 5 to 10 minutes.
Rice Any amount Most rice products will substitute for each other on a fairly equal basis in recipes; however, their cooking times and the amount of liquid needed may vary. If possible, choose a rice with a comparable grain length for the closest match.
Rum any amount 1 part rum extract plus 3 parts water. For example: for 1/4 cup rum, substitute 1 tablespoon rum extract plus 3 tablespoons water.
Sugar, Confectioners' or Powdered 1 cup 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch; process in a food processor using the metal blade attachment until it's well blended and powdery.
Tomato Juice 1 cup 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water
Tomato Soup 10 3/4 ounce can 1 cup tomato sauce plus 1/4 cup water
Yeast, Compressed 1 cake (3/5 ounce)
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- Scant 2 1/2 teaspoons loose active dry yeast

The next time you're missing an ingredient for a recipe, here's a final tip on how to:

eek out this article
U se a similar ingredient
B e experimental
S earch the Internet
T ry another recipe
I nvestigate your cookbooks
T ry calling your neighbor
U se this as a learning experience
T ake time to go to the store
E at out!

Note 1:

TIP 1: According to the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers, you can tell "if the product is regular margarine by checking the Nutrition Facts: a one tablespoon serving will have 100 calories." Products that contain less than 80 percent fat often give the fat percentage on the front of the package.

If the margarine is labeled "light," "lower fat," "reduced fat," "reduced calorie/diet" or "fat-free" or is called a "vegetable oil spread," you may be less successful substituting it for butter OR for regular margarine in baking and in some cooking procedures. These products are higher in water and lower in fat content and won't perform in the same way as regular butter or margarine.

TIP 2: There is no standard procedure to substitute liquid oil for solid shortening in cooking. Oil is 100 percent fat, while butter, margarine and other solid shortenings are lower in fat on a volume-for-volume basis.

Also, for some recipes, solid shortening helps incorporate air into the batter when it is whipped with other ingredients such as sugar and eggs. If you try to whip these ingredients with oil, your baked product is likely to be more compact and oily in texture. Your most successful substitution occurs if your recipe calls for MELTED butter, in which case you can usually substitute an equal amount of oil.

Note 2:

TIP: Liquids thickened with cornstarch will be somewhat translucent while flour gives a more opaque appearance. Cornstarch will thicken a liquid almost immediately. A flour-based sauce or gravy must be cooked longer to thicken and will have a floury taste if undercooked. Joy of Cooking cookbook (Scribner, 1997) advises when using flour as a substitution for cornstarch in sauces and gravies, that you simmer it for about 3 minutes AFTER it has thickened to help avoid a raw taste of flour.

Cornstarch-thickened liquids are more likely to thin if overheated or cooked too long. Regardless of whether you use cornstarch or flour, mix it with a little cold water or other cold liquid, about two parts liquid to one part thickener, before adding it to the rest of the liquid . (Note: when you mix flour with fat to make a roux for use as a thickener, you would not dissolve it in liquid first.)

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.