The essentials: ingredient substitutions

There are many times when we are reading a recipe and it calls for one or two ingredients that we just don’t have on hand. Rather than giving up on the recipe, use this list of common ingredient substitutions to help you along:

Ingredient Substitute
1 cup self-rising flour 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt
1 cup honey 1 ¼ cups sugar and ¼ cup water
1 oz or square unsweetened chocolate 3 tbsp cocoa and 1 tbsp butter or margarine
2 large eggs 3 small eggs
1 cup fat free milk ½ cup evaporated fat free milk and ½ cup water
1 cup plain yogurt 1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fat free sour cream 1 cup fat free yogurt and 1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup beer 1 cup chicken broth
1 clove garlic 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt–reduce salt in recipe
1 tsp fresh minced ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1 tsp lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lime juice
1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp ground allspice ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp amaretto ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract
2 tbsp dry sherry or bourbon 1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup or more of white wine Equal measure of apple juice (in sweet dishes) or chicken broth (in savory dishes)
¼ cup or more of red wine Equal measure of red grape juice or cranberry juice

For a more complete listing, use this chart or visit this article on

You will notice that there is no conversion for using dry herbs instead of fresh (ex., parsley, oregano, basil, etc). The rule of thumb for substituting herbs is this: 1 tablespoon of fresh equals 1 teaspoon of dry. So, if your recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of fresh parsely, use 2 teaspoons of dry. If you are cooking with dried herbs, add them as close to the end of cooking as possible unless it is a dish that you are chilling. For a chilled dish, add the herbs prior to putting the dish in the fridge; this allows the flavors of the herbs to blend with the rest of the food.

It is important to remember that although the taste of the recipe may vary slightly with the substitutions, the overall taste will remain the same.

What’s especially nice about these substitutions is that they are comprised of ingredients that we usually have on hand so there’s no need to spend extra money on an expensive ingredient you’ll use once.  By using these substitutions, it is possible to remain frugal and budget conscious and still have flavorful food.


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