How to Substitute Ingredients in Recipes

If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s bound to happen in the future: you are making a recipe and discover it calls for an ingredient you don’t have. What to do? Abandon the recipe or substitute another ingredient? There’s not a replacement for every ingredient but here’s a handy guide of what can be easily substituted.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda are two different leavening agents to help make baked goods rise. If you’re out of baking powder, make your own with baking soda and cream of tartar, which increases acidity. Replace 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. No cream of tartar? Replace 1 teaspoon with 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar.
Replace 1 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder and replace any acidic liquid ingredient in the recipe with a non-acidic liquid.

Brown Sugar and White Sugar – to make brown sugar, mix 1 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses (reduce molasses to 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons for light brown sugar). Use a fork or pulse in the food processor. If you replace brown sugar with white sugar when making cookies, they will be slightly crisper than the original recipe with none of the molasses flavour.

Butter salted and unsalted - Replace unsalted butter with an equal amount of salted butter and reduce the salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon for every stick (1/2 cup) of butter used.  For replacing butter with oil, see the story on Baking with Olive Oil.

Buttermilk – add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough room temperature milk to make 1 cup. Let it stand 5 to 10 minutes. Or use 1 cup plain yogurt.

Chocolate and Cocoa - Replace cocoa with unsweetened chocolate. Instead of 1/4 cup cocoa, use 1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate. Replace Bittersweet or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (1 oz.) with 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate and 1 tablespoon sugar.

Cornstarch – for 1 tablespoon cornstarch used for thickening, use 2 tablespoons flour.

Dried and Fresh Herbs – it’s an easy 3:1 ration: three times the amount of fresh herbs as dried.

Flour and Whisk

Flour – Most kitchens have all-purpose “white” flour in the pantry but you can use it as the base for cake & pastry and self-rising flour. For Cake & Pastry Flour, remove 2 tablespoons from one level cup of all-purpose flour then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift well. For Self-Rising Flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to one cup of all-purpose flour. Only have whole wheat flour? Keep in mind the type of recipe you are making but replace 1 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (which will also provide more fibre). You may need to reduce the butter or shortening in cookie recipes by 20 percent. For cakes made with whole wheat flour, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid. Using whole wheat flour instead of white in bread recipes may require another 1/4 cup+ of liquid.

Milk - to replace 1 cup fresh milk, use 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water, or 1/3 cup dry milk plus 1 cup water. If a recipes calls for 1 cup sweetened condensed milk, heat 1 cup of evaporated milk and 1 -1/4 cups of sugar until sugar dissolves.

Sour Cream – use the same amount of Greek yogurt and you will cut about half the fat and calories.