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In a Pinch: 20 Common Ingredient Swaps

There’s a lot to be said for a well-stocked pantry. Having the basics at your fingertips makes it easy to throw together a nutritious meal or snack, but don’t let a missing ingredient or two stop you from cooking.
Most recipes aren’t etched in stone and many ingredients can be swapped out with no one the wiser. The next time the cupboard runs bare don’t race to the grocer — get creative and use one of these common ingredient substitutions instead.

  1. Brandy: Use the same amount of apple juice or apple cider.
  2. Buttermilk: To make one cup of buttermilk, mix one cup of regular or non-dairy milk with one tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar and let stand for five minutes to curdle.
  3. Cajun Spice: For 1 tablespoon, combine one teaspoon black pepper with ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and paprika.
  4. Cake Flour: If you don’t have one cup of cake flour, use one cup all-purpose minus two tablespoons. Always spoon flour into your measuring cup, don’t scoop.
  5. Cream of Tartar: Lemon juice or vinegar will do the trick.
  6. Dried Mustard: Replace one teaspoon dry mustard with one tablespoon regular mustard.
  7. Dry Bread Crumbs: For crunchy toppings and breading, ground oats, cracker crumbs or crushed pretzels work just as well.
  8. Eggs: In baked goods, replace one egg with three tablespoons aquafaba or ¼ cup chia gel.
  9. Fish Sauce: For a similar umami flavor use Worcestershire or soy sauce.
  10. Fresh Herbs: Use a 3 to 1 ratio when substituting dried for fresh herbs. (One tablespoon fresh herbs = one teaspoon dried).
  11. Garlic: Use 1/8 teaspoon dried garlic powder per clove.
  12. Lemon: One medium lemon yields three tablespoons juice.
  13. Lime: One medium lime yields two tablespoon juice.
  14. Mayonnaise: For salads and dressing use pureed cottage cheese or try this mayo recipe to make your own.
  15. Onion: Use one teaspoon onion powder or two tablespoons dried minced onion per small onion.
  16. Shallot: Use a yellow onion instead.
  17. Sumac: You won’t get that same pop of color, but lemon pepper seasoning will produce a similar flavor.
  18. Tomato Sauce: For each 15 oz. can of tomato sauce mix ¾ cup tomato paste with one-cup water.
  19. Vermouth: In a pinch you can swap out lemon juice, but only use ½ of the amount the recipe calls for.
  20. Vanilla Bean: One whole vanilla bean equals two teaspoons pure vanilla extract (don’t buy the imitation stuff).

Many recipes are only a matter of taste, but if the ingredient in question is an integral part of the recipe swap at your own risk. Who knows you may create your own signature meal!
Caution: baking subs can be tricky. If you plan on doing a lot of baking, it’s best to buy the specific ingredients … or be prepared to be very patient with your experiments. —Karen

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