Have you ever been halfway through preparing a recipe when you discovered you were missing an ingredient? All you needed was just a dab of butter or a touch of lemon juice. As you rummaged through your pantry or refrigerator searching for the missing item, you wondered if there were any possible ingredient substitutions or if you’d have to scrap what you’ve put together and start your recipe over.
Don’t panic (or throw away what you’ve already mixed together). If you don’t have the time to run to the store, there is good news. Several main baking ingredients can be substituted for each other in a pinch. First published in our 1985 Homemade Good News Vol. V – No. 2 baking newsletter, these ingredient substitutions have gotten more than one home chef out of a jam. This is a post worth printing and keeping close to your cookbooks…just in case!
- You can substitute yogurt for buttermilk (or vice versa) cup for cup in recipes, or you can make your own by adding 1 TBSP lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup minus 1 TBSP lukewarm sweet milk. Just be aware that yogurt and buttermilk contain complex acids which will result in a more tender and/or softer crumb in cakes and muffins.
- You can substitute cocoa for baking chocolate (or vice versa) if you adjust the amount of butter accordingly. One 1 ounce square of unsweetened baking chocolate = 3 TBSP cocoa + 1 TBSP sweet butter or oil.
- You can substitute 1 cup greek yogurt for 1 cup sour cream.
- Out of lemon juice? Substitute 1/2 TSP vinegar for every 1 TSP lemon juice needed. Chef Eddy note: only use this substitution if a very small amount is needed and the recipe does not depend on lemon flavor.
- Out of flour and need a thickening agent? You can use either 1 1/2 TSP cornstarch or 2 TSP tapioca in place of 1TBSP flour.
- If a recipe calls for 1 cup of whipping cream, and all you have on hand is milk – substitute 3/4 cup milk plus 4 TBSP butter. If the equivalent of heavy cream is desired, increase the amount of butter to 5 1/3 TBSP. Note: This substitution will not whip. It is intended for use in baking and making sauce only.
- No baking powder in the pantry? Make your own by sifting together 1TBSP baking soda and 2 TBSP cream of tartar.
- For some recipes you can use 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water in place of 1 cup corn syrup.
- One cup sifted cake flour = 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch well sifted.
- You can use 1/4 can of pumpkin puree in place of an egg in most baking recipes. You can also use pumpkin to reduce fat in your baking recipes – pureed pumpkin can replace half the butter amount required. Similarly, 1/4 cup of pumpkin can replace 1/4 cup of oil in your cooking.
Check out our conversion charts when working with different types and amounts of sugar.
Are your missing an ingredient not on the list above? Prepare a different treat in a hurry with our quick and easy recipes. Here are a couple of our favorites.