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Missing a key ingredient in your recipe? Don’t fret! This ultimate guide to food substitutes and ingenious ingredient alternatives has got your back! From milk swap tips to clever flour alternatives, discover foolproof ingredient substitutions for all your kitchen crises and cook with confidence, every time!

Come along as we explore a plethora of ingredient swaps and food substitutions to keep your cooking game on point, no matter what your pantry looks like and never wonder “what’s the best substitution for…” ever again!

How to use this guide for food substitutions

If you’ve ever wondered “can you substitute x for y”, “what’s the best substitution for”, or “how do you substitute a for b”, this guide is a great place to start. Consider it your go-to resource for transforming whatever you have in your pantry into exactly what you need in the moment, so that a missing ingredient never stands in the way of a delicious meal. Here’s how to get the most out of it:

  1. Skim Through the Categories: Start by browsing the four categories to find the original ingredient that needs substituting. Each section is packed with alternatives to ensure you can keep calm and carry on, even if you *just* realized you’re out of something.
  2. Think Creatively: Remember, cooking is as much an art as it is a science. Don’t hesitate to get creative with the substitutes. Who knows, you might stumble upon a combination that’s even better than the original!
  3. Ingredient Matchmaking: Use the suggestions below to match what you have in your pantry with what your recipe needs. 
  4. Experiment & Enjoy: Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best part about cooking is making a dish your own – to your specific taste! Try different swaps and see what works in a given recipe.
  5. Print & Hang: I’ve crafted a handy-dandy PDF printable ingredient substitutions chart. Print one out and hang it in your kitchen — it’ll be like I’m right there with you, every step of the way!
  6. Feedback Loop: Got a substitution that worked wonders? How about one that didn’t quite hit the mark? I love hearing from you! Share your experiences and help me make this guide even better.

Please note that not all recipe substitutions are created equal. I’ve tried to offer some tips for how to use specific cooking substitutes in a given recipe. Pay particular attention to the baking substitutes, as the chemistry involved in cooking is a bit more particular and fussy than that in cooking!

Things to consider when substituting ingredients

Consider ingredients as actors in your play, each performing a crucial role. Before swapping an ingredient in a recipe, you need to understand the role the ingredient plays and how it contributes to your final dish. Think of it like this, swapping an ingredient without considering the moisture content is like casting a water balloon in your play that calls for a solid brick wall. The final result would be less than stellar.

Before you use substitutions for food, you’ll want to consider each ingredient’s taste, moisture content, texture, weight, chemical properties, and accuracy.

By considering these six crucial factors, you can navigate the world of ingredient swaps and food substitutes with confidence, transforming culinary challenges into opportunities for creative brilliance. Remember, a little bit of culinary knowledge goes a long way in the kitchen. And with these substitutions for ingredients tips in your arsenal, you’ll be swapping ingredients like a seasoned pro and conjuring up culinary masterpieces that sing with flavor and texture!


Ah, the heart of the matter! No good food substitute would sacrifice the symphony of flavors your recipe orchestrates. Replacing a bright lemon zest with a bland carrot might leave your dish singing a flat monotone. Consider the intensity and profile of each ingredient—does the substitute offer similar sweet, savory, salty, or tangy notes? Misjudging taste can throw off the entire composition, leaving your dish unbalanced and disappointing. A mindful, taste-focused swap, however, elevates your culinary creation, adding new, exciting harmonies to the melody of your recipe. Take away: try to use ingredients very similar in taste. For example, if you’re looking for the best substitutions for oregano in Italian recipes, try marjoram instead.

Moisture content

Every ingredient carries its own water weight. Substituting ingredients without considering this can lead to disaster. Imagine replacing juicy tomatoes with a dry powder like nutritional yeast – your casserole will become a crumbly mess! On the flip side, adding extra-moist mushrooms to a dish expecting dry breadcrumbs can turn it into a soggy soup. Matching moisture content ensures the perfect texture and structure for your final masterpiece.


A fluffy cake relies on airy egg whites, while a chewy cookie needs the bite of oats. Texture plays a crucial role in mouthfeel and satisfaction. Replacing a smooth puree with chunky vegetables can throw off the balance, leaving you with an unexpected surprise in every bite. Choosing a recipe substitution with similar texture ensures each element of your dish sings in harmony.


When replacing ingredients, remember they’re not all created equal! A cup of chopped nuts weighs far more than a cup of flour. Substituting without adjusting for weight can throw off your recipe’s proportions, leading to lopsided flavors or under-baked results. Precise measurements and mindful substitute ingredients ensure your dish emerges from the oven balanced and beautiful.

Sweetening power

Not all sugars are created equal! Sucrose in granulated sugar delivers punchy sweetness, while natural sugars in fruit offer milder complexity. Consider the sweetening role the ingredient plays when making substitutions for sweet ingredients.

Thickening Powers and Chemical Properties

Thickening: Some ingredients thicken dramatically (think cornflour), while others barely budge (like zucchini). Misjudging these powers can turn your dessert into a syrup or your stew into a watery nightmare. Understanding a substitute’s thickening potential is key to crafting the perfect flavor and consistency. 

Chemical and Physical Properties: Some ingredients can be finicky partners. Gluten in wheat works with yeast to create airy bread, but swapping it for almond flour (gluten-free) requires different magic. Understanding the physical and chemical interactions between ingredients is crucial for successful food substitutions. Knowing how food substitutes behave when heated, mixed, or combined with other elements prevents unexpected reactions and guarantees a delicious outcome.


It might seem obvious, but precision when substituting ingredients is vital. A teaspoon of baking powder can raise a cake to fluffy heights, while a tablespoon can send it soaring like a rogue balloon. Using accurate measurements and precise substitutions for ingredient swaps ensures you replicate the intended recipe, not some wild culinary experiment. Treat your recipe as a map, and accuracy is your compass, guiding you to the delightful destination of culinary success.

Common substitutions for baking ingredients

So, you’re ready to whip up some baked magic, but oops, you’re missing a key ingredient? No worries! Baking is all about mixing a bit of precision with a dash of fun. 

In this cozy corner, we’re chatting about the baking ingredient substitution essentials that make your favorite cakes, cookies, and breads so darn irresistible. From swapping out flour to reimagining sugar, let’s keep that oven hot and your kitchen smelling like a sweet slice of heaven! Substitutions for ingredients in baking:

  • Allspice (1 teaspoon)  ➡️ Ground Cinnamon (1/2 tsp) + Ground Ginger (1/4 tsp) + Ground Cloves (1/4 tsp)
  • Arrowroot as a thickener (1 teaspoon) ➡️ All-Purpose Flour (1 TBS) OR Cornstarch (1 tsp)
  • Baking Powder (1 teaspoon) 
    • ➡️ Baking Soda (1/4 tsp) + Cream of Tartar (1/2 tsp) 
    • ➡️ OR Cream of Tartar (1/2 tsp) + Cornstarch (1/4 tsp)
  • Baking Soda (1 teaspoons) ➡️ Baking Powder (4 tsp)
    • Note: Yhis amount of baking powder will give you the same lift as baking soda, but may also impart its taste on whatever you’re making.
  • Brown Sugar (1 cup)  ➡️ White Sugar (1 cup) + Molasses (1 – 2 TBS)
    • Note: Use 1 TBS for “light brown” and up to 2 TBS for “dark brown” sugar.
  • Chocolate, Semi-Sweet (1 ounce)  
    • ➡️ Unsweetened Chocolate (1 ounce) + 1 TBS White Sugar 
    • ➡️ OR 3 TBS Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Cornstarch as a thickener (1 tablespoon)  
    • ➡️ All-Purpose Flour (2 TBS) 
    •  ➡️ OR Arrowroot Powder (1 TBS)
  • Corn Syrup, Dark (1 cup)  ➡️ Light Corn Syrup (3/4 cup) + Molasses (1/4 Cup)
  • Corn Syrup, Light (1 cup) ➡️ White Sugar (1 cup) + Filtered Water (1/4 Cup)
    • Note: that if you are using corn syrup to help prevent crystallization in candy-making, ice cream recipes, or similar recipes, you’ll probably want to make invert sugar syrup instead.
  • Cream of Tartar (1 teaspoon)  ➡️ Lemon Juice (2 tsp)
  • Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder (3 tablespoons) ➡️ Combine Natural Cocoa Powder 3 TBS) + Baking Soda (⅛ teaspoon)
  • Eggs in Batters (for 1 egg) (example: pancake and waffle) ➡️ Use 3 tablespoons of chickpea 
  • Eggs in Muffins, Quick Breads and Cakes (for 1 egg) ➡️ Combine 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of water. 
    • ➡️ OR Use ¼ cup of applesauce, ¼ cup pureed silken tofu or ¼ cup canned pumpkin for every whole egg needed.
  • Flour, All Purpose White (1 cup)  ➡️ Cake Flour (1 Cup PLUS 3 TBS)
    • ➡️ OR Whole Wheat Flour (½ cup) + All-Purpose Flour (½ cup) 
  • Flour, Cake (1 cup)  ➡️ All-Purpose Flour (1 Cup MINUS 2 TBS)
  • Flour, Self-Rising (1 cup) ➡️ All-Purpose Flour (1 Cup) + Baking Powder (1 tsp) + Kosher Salt (1/2 tsp) + Baking Soda (1/4 tsp)
  •  Molasses (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ Honey (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Dark Corn Syrup (1 Cup)
  • White Granulated Sugar (1 cup)  ➡️ Light Brown Sugar, Packed (1 cup) + Powdered Sugar, Sifted (2 Cups)
    • Note: Brown sugar has a higher moisture content and higher acidity than white sugar, which may affect certain recipes (e.g. meringues) more than others. On the other hand, powdered sugar is often made with a starch (usually cornstarch or potato starch), so it often results in a more crumbly, tender texture.

Dairy ingredient substitutions

Welcome to the land of clever dairy swaps, where missing an ingredient doesn’t mean giving up on your favorite recipe! This dairy substitution for food section isn’t just about ditching dairy; it’s about ingenious substitutions for ingredients that can save the day. Get ready to make dairy dilemmas a thing of the past. How to substitute dairy ingredients:

  • Butter, Unsalted (1 cup)  ➡️ Vegetable Oil (7/8 Cup) 
    •  ➡️ OR Shortening (1 cup) 
    •  ➡️ OR Margarine (1 cup)
    •  ➡️ OR Greek Yogurt (1 cup) (baking only)
    •  ➡️ OR Apple Sauce (1 cup) (baking only)
    •  ➡️ Canola Oil (1 cup) (non baking only)
    • Note: Butter is a pretty magical ingredient with many desirable qualities. If you’re making cookies or cakes that call for you to “cream” the butter, opt for shortening or margarine over oil. If the butter is to be added to a sauce for emulsification, margarine is your best bet.
  • Buttermilk (1 cup)  
    • ➡️ Milk (1 cup) + Vinegar (1 TBS) 
    • ➡️ OR Milk (1 cup) + Lemon Juice (1 TBS)
    • ➡️ OR Plain Yogurt (1 cup)
  • Coconut Milk (1 cup) ➡️ Whole Milk (1 cup)
  • Cream Cheese (1 cup) ➡️ Ricotta Cheese, Fat Free (1 cup)
  • Half and Half (1 cup) ➡️ Melted Butter (1 TBS) + Whole Milk (1 cup)
  • Heavy Cream (1 cup) ➡️ healthy substitution = 1 cup evaporated skim milk
  • Milk, Whole (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ Plain Yogurt (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Evaporated Milk (1/2 cup) + Filtered Water (1/2 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Water (1 cup) + Nonfat Dry Milk Powder (1/3 Cup)
  • Sour Cream (1 cup)
    •  ➡️ Plain Greek Yogurt (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Plain Yogurt (1 Cup) + Unsalted Butter, melted (3 TBS)
  • Honey (1 cup)
    •  ➡️ White Sugar (1 1/4 Cup) + Filtered Water (1/2 Cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Pure Maple Syrup (1 cup)

Substitutions for common cooking liquid ingredients

Let’s splash into the exciting realm of common cooking liquids – those secret stars that add the zing, zang, and yum to our dishes! Must-haves like broths, various acids, and yes, even a splash of wine, play a huge role in cooking and baking. This substitute for ingredients section is your go-to for keeping things flowing smoothly (HA!) in the kitchen. Missing an ingredient? No sweat! We’ve got some nifty tricks and swaps up our sleeve to ensure that a little hiccup doesn’t put a damper on your cooking mojo. Liquid food substitutes:

  • Beer (1 cup) ➡️ Chicken Broth, unsalted (1 cup)
    • Note: If you’re using the beer for a baking recipe (e.g. bread), the leavening power of soda water/club soda is a better bet!
  • Coconut Oil (NOT in baking recipes) ➡️Equal amount of unsalted butter, avocado oil, nut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Evaporated Milk (NOT in baking)  ➡️ Milk, Half-and-Half, Heavy Cream or Mixed Powdered Milk
  • Lemon Juice (1 teaspoon) ➡️ Apple Cider Vinegar (1/2 tsp)
    • Note: Apple cider vinegar has a more nuanced, lightly sweet flavor that white vinegar does not. However, depending on the recipe and the usage, white vinegar, white wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar may also be used.
  • Tomato Juice (1 cup) ➡️ ¾ cup Tomato Sauce + ¼ cup Water
  • Wine, Red (1 cup) ➡️Fruit Juice (1 cup) + White Vinegar (2 tsp)
    • Note: The variety of fruit juice will greatly determine the flavor of this substitution. Tart, tannic juices like cranberry, pomegranate, or cherry will more closely approximate red wine’s flavor, whereas lighter juices like apple or white grape juice will be closer to white wine
  • Wine, White (1 cup) ➡️ Chicken Broth, unsalted (1 cup)
  • Tomato Soup (10 ¾ ounce can) ➡️ 1 cup Tomato Sauce + ¼ cup Water
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1 tablespoon) ➡️  Soy Sauce (2 tsp) + lemon juice (¼ tsp) + white sugar (¼ tsp) + hot sauce (dash)

Savory ingredient food substitutes

Whether it’s finding a quick fix for breadcrumbs, a workaround for garlic in your marinade, or an alternative to mayo in your dressing, I’ve got you covered with these food substitutions for cooking. We’ll explore plenty of ways to replicate the textures and flavors these ingredients bring, using items you likely already have in your pantry. Ingredient substitutions for cooking: 

  • Breadcrumbs, Dry (1 cup) ➡️ Rolled Oats, Ground (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Crushed Bran Cereal (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Crushed Crackers (1 cup)
  • Basil ➡️ Use Tarragon, Oregano or Thyme.
  • Cardamom, Ground (1 teaspoon) ➡️ Ground Cinnamon (1 teaspoon)
    • ➡️ OR ½ teaspoon ground cloves)
  • Cayenne Pepper (1 teaspoon) ➡️ Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (2 teaspoons)
  • Cheddar Cheese ➡️ Colby Jack Cheese, Monterey Jack Cheese, Fontina Cheese, or Mozzarella.
  • Chevre (Fresh Goat Cheese) ➡️ Cream Cheese 
    • ➡️ OR Mascarpone mixed with a little bit of Greek Yogurt
  • Chili Powder (1 tablespoon) ➡️ Paprika (1 teaspoon) + Ground Cumin (1 teaspoon) + Onion Powder (½  teaspoon), Garlic Powder (½ teaspoon) + Optional Pinch of cayenne
  • Cilantro ➡️ Parsley, Basil, or a Combination of Both
    • ➡️ OR Use 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander per 1 tablespoon of Fresh Cilantro.
    • Note: When swapping fresh for dry herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dry herbs per tablespoon of fresh herbs; and vice versa.
  • Coriander, ground or whole  ➡️ equal amount of Cumin, ground or whole
  • Eggs (NOT BAKING RECIPES)  ➡️Use egg whites instead of whole eggs.
    • ➡️ OR Swap in ¼ cup of egg substitute 
    • ➡️ OR 2 egg whites for each whole egg in a recipe.
  • Note: These egg substitutes will cut calories and cholesterol from your recipe. Please see the baking substitute list for egg swaps in baked goods.
  • Garlic, Fresh (1 clove)  ➡️ Garlic Powder (1/8 tsp)
  • Mayonnaise (1 cup) ➡️ Sour Cream (1 cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Plain Yogurt (1 Cup) 
    • ➡️ OR Cottage Cheese, Pureed (1 cup)
  • Rice  ➡️Use brown rice instead of white rice.
    • ➡️ OR Use riced cauliflower
    • Note: By using brown rice you’ll increase the fiber and nutrients in your recipe. Or by swapping in cauliflower rice you’ll lower both the carbs and calories in recipes.
  • Rosemary ➡️ Use Thyme

Recipes to practice ingredient substituting

If you’re wanting to put those substitution for food skills to work, the following recipes use ingredients that are easy to swap or the recipe is highly customizable:

Baking recipes

Cooking recipes


Remember, a missing ingredient doesn’t have to be a kitchen catastrophe. It’s a culinary curveball begging for a bit of creative batting! Whether you’ve been mixing, matching, or marveling at the magic of these recipe substitutions, I hope you’ve found some new tricks for making smart food substitutions to stash up your chef’s sleeve. Keep this Substitutions for Recipes Guide handy for those “oh no!” moments and turn them into “aha!” triumphs. Happy cooking, and may your pantry puzzles always lead to delicious discoveries! 


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