common cooking substitutions

Common Cooking Substitutions

I’ve been collecting Common Cooking Substitutions for decades, long before the internet was even dreamed of. As a single Mom, especially a poor one in my younger years, I couldn’t always run to the store at a drop of a hat if I was missing an ingredient for a recipe! There were kids to dress and/or bundle, car seats to strap them in, money, budget and of course, who wants to stop cooking right in the middle of something for a store run?


Common Cooking Substitutions

So lists like these were my own way of “emergency prepping” or at least for my cooking emergencies! But regardless, there are a lot of times you might want to Common Cooking Substitutions by subbing in one ingredient for another.

  • Maybe you’ve run out of something or are missing an ingredient.
  • An item might just be too pricey, you choose not to buy it, or it’s just not available.
  • Or maybe you’re on a special diet or health plan or have allergies.
  • Or you or a family member might not care for an ingredient.

You’ll need to apply some common sense to some of these substitutions, especially the ones that involve baking, and of course, if you’re a newer cook, you may not have a store of knowledge built up to rely upon. I’ve tried to put a note on any substitutions where you might need to seek more complete resources, just to give you a heads up.

It always helps when you’re substituting to think about what role the item you want to substitute for plays in the dish you’re making. You want to think about the amount of the ingredient (is it key ingredient?) taste, texture and even cooking time.

In general, with the notable exceptions of baking and ingredients used to thicken up other dishes or sauces, substituting ingredients that are like another item is usually a safe bet. The flavors might be different but the dish itself will probably be a success. For instance, cauliflower for broccoli, one kind of potato for another, one hot sauce for another, tuna for salmon.

When the ingredient you’re missing plays a more complex role and is used for its specific properties in a dish, then it can get trickier. The pork shoulder in pulled pork is used because it shreds. Chicken will shred, too but takes a fraction of the time.  Conversely, items that aren’t related but can have similar textures can work in some substitutions. In salads, Greek yogurt for mayo for sour cream.

Sometimes you just have to feel your way through these things. And sometimes you might want to use your “phone a friend option.” I spend a lot of time on my site, and I’ll do my best for you if you want to leave a comment, “Hey, Frugal Hausfrau says I can sub Colby cheese for cheddar. What do you think?” I’ll do my best for you!

I know sometimes you want a perfect rendition of a specific dish from a specific region but food evolves over space and time and some of the best dishes/foods of today all have and still are coming together because people are and have been substituting. Use what you have, use what’s good, and who knows, just by substituting, you may come up with a whole new dish!



Substitutes for Alcohol or Wine:

There are so many reasons and so many ways to substitute for Alcohol or Wine. On these pages I’ve tried to think of or find substitutes for all kinds of alcohol, and discuss how, when or why so you’ll have an idea if they’ll work.



Common Baking Substitutions:

Baking is usually a lot more forgiving than we’re led to believe and I’ve used all of these subs at one time or another. Even still sometimes a substitution will make a slight difference in quality; I’ve noted those where I can.

Almond Paste:

  • For 1 1/3 cups, substitute 1 3/4 cups ground blanched almonds plus 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar plus 1 egg white plus 1 teaspoon almond extract plus 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Arrowroot Starch:

  • For thickening, for each tablespoon of arrowroot, use one tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons flour, or 2 1/4 teaspoons potato or rice starch.

Baking Powder:

To read some of the science behind Baking Powder & Baking soda, see Baker Bettie.

  • This will be single acting, so get your product into the oven immediately: For one teaspoon, combine 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Or add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to dry ingredients and substitute out 1/2 cup of the wet ingredients with 1/2 cup of buttermilk, soured milk (sour with vinegar or lemon) or yogurt.

Baking Soda:

To read some of the science behind Baking Powder & Baking soda, see Baker Bettie.

  • Substitute with baking powder but use four times the amount.


  • See my post on Bisquick Substitute to make a small amount for one recipe or larger amounts to have on hand.


Helpful to know: One stick of butter is 8 tablespoons and the equivalent of 1/2 cup and 1/4 pound. Salted butter has no standard amount and may vary across brands. Below are estimates. For sauteeing, use half as butter as oil.

  • Salted Butter Substitutes:
    • For each cup of salted butter, substitute one cup margarine. Baked goods like cookies may spread more.
    • If using shortening, measure one cup and remove two tablespoons and add 1/2 teaspoon salt to your recipe for each original cup of butter.
    • To substitute lard, use 7/8ths of a cup and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    • To substitute oil, use 7/8ths of a cup and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Final product may be denser and in some cases oily.
    • To substitute salted butter in a recipe that calls for unsalted, reduce any salt in the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon for each cup of butter.
  • Unsalted Butter Substitutes:
    • For each cup unsalted butter, substitute one cup shortening minus 2 tablespoons
    • To substitute lard, use 7/8ths of a cup.
    • To substitute oil, use 7/8ths of a cup and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Final product may be denser and in some cases oily.
    • To substitute unsalted butter in a recipe not specifying it, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of butter.
  • Healthier Butter Substitutes:
    • To use applesauce or other fruit purees, substitute half the amount of butter with applesauce or puree; a full substitutions may be used but usually not as successfully.
    • If using beans, substitute half the butter with pureed white beans, cannelloni, black beans, or lentils. Again a full substitution can be made but usually not as successfully.
    • For one-quarter of the called for butter, substitute flaxseed meal; check a reliable site for more recommendations on this.
  • Baking with Butter Substitutes:
    • In most cases, butter substitutes will be subbed for butter in equal amounts. This might be one to be checked at the producer’s website.
    • Do not substitute diet, whipped, or tub-style margarine for regular margarine or butter in baking recipes.
  • Sauteing with butter: Usually, a one to one substitute of oil, lard margarine, or other fat will work.


For baking and most other recipes, the below will make one cup; just multiply out as needed. Cook’s Illustrated once did an experiment side by side with buttermilk from the store as opposed to buttermilk substitute. I’ve never found any significant or noticeable difference, especially with the first option.

  • Use one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice or two teaspoons of cream of tartar and then fill to the one cup line in a measuring cup with milk. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Use two parts of plain yogurt to one part buttermilk. May need to be thinned to consistency and volume of buttermilk in some recipes.


    • Chocolate in general:
      • If you need for a recipe and don’t have or can’t find or find in the quality you want, substitute a good candy, chop and use as normal.
      • Chocolate chips have a stabilizer (helps keep them hard) and less butterfat, but often are a good substitute depending on what you’re making. If melting for a ganache to pipe in some instances, especially if you’ve used white chocolate chips tiny little nubbins that are unnoticeable in the frosting might clog a piping tip.
    • Bittersweet:
      • You can use bittersweet, sweet (bakers) or semi-sweet interchangeably and/or mix together for your own personal blend.
      • A little cocoa can be added to a recipe using another chocolate to make it taste more like bittersweet.
      • If you need bittersweet and don’t have it, substitute one-ounce unsweetened chocolate plus one tablespoon of sugar or one-ounce cocoa plus one tablespoon butter or oil and one tablespoon sugar.  These substitutions are sometimes not as good as the original – how much you will notice depends on what you are making and how sensitive your tastes buds are.
    • Semisweet:
      • You can use bittersweet, sweet (bakers) or semi-sweet interchangeably and/or mix together for your own personal blend.
    • Unsweetened Chocolate:
      • For each ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 ounces of cocoa plus one tablespoon butter, shortening or oil.
    • Chocolate Chips:
      • Use chunked up chocolate or candy bars. Small shards may make some recipes slightly greasy.
      • Replace with m&ms or other candy.
      • Replace with raisins or other dried fruit, chopped if necessary.
      • One cup of standard-sized chocolate chips is about 6 ounces.
    • Cocoa:
      • Dutch Cocoa: has more alkali and is milder and richer tasting. Generally if you are using a recipe it will call specifically for European or Dutch Process. An ounce of cocoa powder is about a 1/2 cup. Replace each 1/4 cup cocoa with 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate.
      • Natural Cocoa: Everyday cocoa is most often used in recipes here in the States. An ounce of cocoa powder is about a 1/2 cup. Replace each 1/4 cup cocoa with 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate.
      • You can often substitute one cocoa for another, but if there is baking soda in the recipe, it may be counting on the natural acid in the Natural Cocoa to react and may not work as well with Dutch-processed. If you use Dutch-process instead of Natural Cocoa, increase or add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda for every three tablespoons.
    • White Chocolate & Almond Bark:
      • Sub in equal amounts of one for the other. White chocolate may sieze in some recipes while almond bark is more stable, but usually sweeter.

Corn Syrup:

  • See sugar, below.

Cornstarch, for thickening:

  • For 1 tablespoon cornstarch, use 1 tablespoon arrowroot, or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or 2 1/4 teaspoons potato or rice starch.

Cream of Tartar:

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tarter equals 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Espresso powder:

  • Substitute an equal amount of instant coffee powder or granules.
  • Replace a small portion of the liquid in the recipe with strong cold coffee.


  • Bleached & Unbleached may be substituted for each other.
  • Bread Flour: For each cup of flour, remove one tablespoon of flour and replace it with 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten. In a pinch in most cases a one to one substitution with bleached or unbleached flour may be used.
  • Self Rising: To substitute regular flour for self-rising, for each cup of flour, first add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to the bottom of the cup. Fill the cup with flour and level off.
  • Soft Flour: Example, Lily White, use 1/2 cake flour and 1/2 bleached or unbleached.
  • Cake Flour: For every cup of flour, measure out 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a measuring cup, fill the rest of the way with flour. You may get by with just removing one tablespoon of flour per cup for some recipes.
  • Bisquick: See my post on Bisquick Substitute.
  • Flour for thickening: For each tablespoon, use 1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or about 1 teaspoon potato or rice starch.

Frosting Substitutes, Healthier: 

  • Top your baked goods with fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt in vanilla or fruit flavors.
  • Powdered sugar and skim milk make a lower-calorie glaze for cookies.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup:

  • Use equal amount of light corn syrup for a flavorless option or equal amount of maple syrup.


  • Use Quick and Old Fashioned interchangeably, but if using Old Fashioned in a recipe that calls for Quick Cooking, expect it to be a bit chewier and firmer.
  • Old Fashioned Oatmeal may be pulsed quickly about 8 times to break it down as a substitute for Quick Cooking.
  • Generally, Instant is not used for baking.

Oils & Fats:

  • See their category, below, except for butter, above.


  • Two teaspoons powdered equals one tablespoon liquid.


  • If you want to substitute table salt for kosher salt, multiply the kosher salt quantity by 2/3rds. To substitute kosher salt for table salt, multiply the table salt by 1.5.
  • For “movie” salt, just run regular table salt in your food processor – 10 – 12 pulses for about a cup.


Sour Cream:

  • Substitute plain non-fat yogurt in equal amounts for baking.
  • For dips and such, try yogurt, mayo or half each.


  • See below, in its own category.


  • For thickening, for each tablespoon tapioca, use 1 1/2 tablespoons flour.


  • 1 vanilla bean equals about 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
  • Vanilla paste is usually an equal substitution for extract but all vary; check the jar.
  • Extract: Use a liquor or liqueur that complements the recipe.


  • 1 packet = 1/4 ounce = 2 1/4 teaspoons.
  • Most yeast may be substituted one for another but they way they are handled and rising times may vary.ary.
  • Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in warm (under 120 degrees) water first, sometimes with sugar or another sweetener if called for in the recipe and generally, any item made the bread will need to rise more than once.
  • Instant yeast (may also say quick, rapid rise, fast – very similar to bread machine yeast): Don’t dissolve it in liquid first, add in with the flour. Your bread will only need to rise once.
  • Bread Machine Yeast: Don’t dissolve it in liquid first. Your item will only need to rise once. Add in with the flour.
  • Cake  Yeast: Conversion from a cake of yeast to dry is not always clear-cutIn general, for 1.06-ounce compressed cake, substitute a 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast.



Flavor, texture and fat content are important when substituting many of the dairy products. Often recipes like cream soup, sauces, and items made with a roux can “break” if a lighter dairy is added when one with more fat is called for. That’s especially true when the recipe calls for simmering after the addition.



For baking and most recipes, most of the below will make one cup; just multiply out as needed. Some subs may need to be tinkered with to get the consistency of buttermilk, depending on how thick or thin the yogurt or sour cream is. In baking when buttermilk is called for the recipe is usually formulated to take into account for the acidity of the buttermilk and any baking powder/baking soda works in conjunction with that acid. Straight milk for buttermilk is not the best sub.

  • Use one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice or two teaspoons of cream of tartar and then fill to the one cup line in a measuring cup with milk. Let stand for 10 minutes. Best results are had by letting the product thicken up on the counter after the acidic ingredients are added. This may be thinner than buttermilk; use caution if using to make something like a salad dressing as it may be funnier than expected.
  • Use half yogurt or sour cream (depending on how thick they are) and half milk.
  • Use two parts of yogurt or sour cream to one part water. Again, watch the consistency.

Cheese, Hard Aged (Grating):

For all cheese consider use; is taste, texture, and/or melting ability a potential issue?.

(One cup of a hard cheese = 1/4 pound = four ounces)

  • Aged Jack: Try Asiago.
  • Asiago: Use Parmesan or Romano.
  • Cotija: For soft use Feta and for aged use Parmesan or Romano.
  • Grana Padano: use Parmesan or Romano, or Asiago.
  • Manchego
  • Parmesan: use Romano.
  • Romano: Use Parmesan.

Cheese, Semi-Firm:

Really there are too many cheeses to list! Depending on you are using your cheese, you might want to try some of the subs below.

  • Cheddar & White Cheddar can be used interchangeably. In many recipes, softer Colby will work but the flavor may not be intense.
  • Fontina: Provolone, Gruyere (or Swiss) or Gouda can often be exchanged for each other.
  • Gruyere or Swiss cheese may be used interchangeably.
  • Havarti: Try a mild white Cheddar or Muenster.
  • Jarlsberg: Try Emmantaler or Swiss.
  • Monterey Jack & Pepperjack can be used interchangeably, note difference in heat levels.:
  • Mozzarella: May often be replaced with fresh Mozzarella.
  • Provolone: Melts beautifully so a combination of Mozzarella for meltyness & Muenster or Parmesan for flavor depending on if the recipe calls for heated or not.

Cheese, Soft:

(One cup of a hard cheese = 1/4 pound, four ounces)

  • Brie: Substitute Camembert
  • Cottage Cheese: Possibly ricotta, maybe a smashed firm or extra firm tofu, possibly a fresh or farmer’s cheese, crumbled and a little cream
  • Cream Cheese – use the same amount of Ricotta, Neufchatel cheese or Mascarpone
  • Feta – substitute Ricotta Salata, or strain Ricotta overnight and crumble.
  • Ricotta – if using in a casserole or something like lasagne, you can blend cottage cheese and use the same amount as the ricotta. Also see my post on Homemade Ricotta.

Condensed Milk:

  • 2 cups any milk, plus 3/4 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons butter. Bring to a low simmer and reduce by half, about 30 minutes. Equivalent to 1 14 ounce can.
  • Milk is condensed to about half the volume, so experiment with evaporated milk and 1 1/4 cups of sugar. Simmer stirring often until reduced to 14 ounces by volume, about 1 2/3 cups.

Cream, Whipped or Heavy: 

  • Since one cup of whipping cream makes two cups of whipped cream, use 2 cups of dessert topping.
  • In sauces or soups, substitute an equal amount of evaporated milk.
  • For a healthy substitute for heavy cream, use evaporated skim milk in cooking, not baking.
  • If using in a recipe that needs the fat, use 1/4 cup of melted butter and 3/4 cup of milk.
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or flour can be mixed per cup of milk, usually in recipes that are simmered.
  • Equal measures of Greek yogurt and milk can be substituted.
  • If recipe calls for milk and cream, add to get a total and use half & half.

Crema: Very similar but not as thick as sour cream. Use sour cream as is or thin with a little water or milk.

Creme Fraiche:

  • Heat 1 cup of whipping cream to 85 degrees, lukewarm. Remove from heat and add two tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream.  Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free place until slightly thickened, 24 to 48 hours.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes about one cup. See this more comprehensive post on 3 Drop Dead Simple Ways to make Creme Fraiche.
  • In a pinch use Sour Cream. Creme Fraiche doesn’t “break” with heat; if subbing in sour cream be very wary of bringing a recipe up to a simmer after the addition.

Evaporated Milk:

Evaporated Milk is often used as a substitute for heavy or whipping cream.

  • Mix 2/3 cup of dry milk and 3/4 cup of water, mix well.
  • You can also try half and half, cream of whole milk in equal measure. When baking things like custard pies, sometimes evaporated milk is called for because it can take heat without curdling, so use your judgment as to which substitute you will use. This may not matter much if baked in a water bath, but recipes like pies can be more tricky.
  • To make your own Evaporated milk: For 1 cup evaporated milk, substitute 2-1/4 cups whole milk, simmered until reduced to 1 cup.

Half and Half:

None of these will be exact substitutes for 1/2 & 1/2 but all will be pretty close for most applications.

  • Use 50 percent cream, 50 percent milk for a rough substitute.
  • Use about 60 percent cream and 40 percent water.
  • For 1 cup substitute: 2 tablespoons melted butter plus enough room-temperature milk to make 1 cup.
  • Sometimes, milk may be thickened with a little cornstarch or arrowroot, usually in recipes that will be simmered. Use about 1 tablespoon of either cornstarch or arrowroot per cup of milk.


Use softened cream cheese thinned with a little milk, half and half, buttermilk or cream. Make Mock Mascarpone. Make actual Homemade Mascarpone.

Milk General:

In some recipes, the type of milk doesn’t matter, the recipe will just be richer; in others it does. Be aware of what role the milk plays in the recipe you are using. There are mathematical equations that can be used but these are pretty good approximations for most home cooking.

  • For 1 cup milk, substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water.
  • For 1 cup milk, substitute 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder plus 1 cup water (will make slightly more than a cup); just use the amount you need in the recipe.
  • Half & Half or cream may be thinned with water to the approximate consistency of milk. (Best if just a small amount is used in a recipe.)
  • Use coconut, oat, soy or nut milk in equal amounts.

Whole Milk (proper fat content):

  • Skim milk to whole milk, add two teaspoons melted butter or margarine to a measuring cup, and fill with skim milk to the 1 cup measure.
  • Skim milk to whole milk, add 1 1/2 tablespoons cream to a measuring cup, and fill with skim milk to the 1 cup measure.

Sour Cream:

  • Substitute in equal amounts with yogurt
  • Substitute plain non-fat yogurt for baking for a lighter option.
  • For dips and such, try half mayo, half yogurt.


  • In baking substitute sour cream in equal measure.
  • If looking for a substitute for Greek yogurt, drain regular yogurt in a paper towel-lined colander for several hours.
  • Yogurt cheese can be made the same way, just leave in the fridge overnight, or eight hours.
  • Flavored: For 1 cup fruit-flavor yogurt, substitute with 1 cup plain yogurt with a little fresh fruit or a tablespoon or two of jam, jelly, or preserves.



Eggs & Egg Substitutes:

So many substitutes for eggs. I personally do not normally substitute other items for the egg itself in recipes, although I’ve used all the other substitutes here. You may wish to check my post on Over 75 Ways to Use Leftover Egg Whites.

  • 3 tablespoons of egg substitute = one egg white.
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute = one whole egg.
  • For one egg, use 2 egg whites.
  • For a vegan substitute, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water to replace 1 egg
  • If you don’t have pasteurized eggs for eggnog, beat eggs and sugar till ribbons form, add milk or cream. Stir over low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and temp reaches 160 degrees.
  • There are many non-egg substitutes for eggs in recipes; check a reliable site for details.



Oils & Fats:

What can be substituted for one or another depends on several things, the application, the flavor, and of course, the price. For each application, substitutions can easily be made across the categories.

For baking:

  • Substitute one oil with another oil or for baking or cooking, as long as the flavor is neutral.
  • Replace half the amount of oil with mashed bananas or applesauce in baking; consult a reliable guide and adjust as needed.
  • See butter and shortening above, in the baking section.

For deep-frying:

  • Generally, a fairly inexpensive oil with a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point is used: Canola oil, coconut oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil.

For sauteing:

  • Sometimes butter, but with a low smoke point, it is often combined with an equal amount of neutral oil or more flavorful olive or other oil.
  • Neutral oils listed above under deep-frying are also great candidates.
  • Other oils like bacon fat, chicken fat (schmaltz) lard, etc. are sometimes used to add flavor.
  • Sesame oil lends flavor and it’s qualities as an oil to a dish; A neutral oil may be subbed and the dish finished off with sesame oil or sesame seeds.

For salad or other dressings:

  • Usually, you’ll see flavorful, good quality oils used in dressings. Avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed, sometimes sesame oil fo Asian leaning dressings.
  • Now and then dressings will be made based on bacon fat; usually one the flavorful oils above may be used.





The Aromatics:

Keep in mind that while powders and other options will always add flavor, sometimes you might miss the actual volume the vegetation provides.


  • Substitute a little finely sliced green onion (the green portion) for a garnish.
  • In a recipe use finely sliced green onion, about twice as much.


  • One clove garlic is about 1 teaspoon chopped, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic. These ingredients, in these amounts, are interchangeable in most recipes.
  • One clove garlic is about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt but that garlic salt will add about 3/8ths teaspoon of salt to your recipe.

Green Onion:

  • Substitute chives (the green portion) for a garnish.
  • In a recipe use chopped chives, about half the amount.
  • Add in a little finely chopped onion, about a tablespoon per green onion in the recipe.


  • For 1 cup, substitute 1 cup chopped green onions, 1 cup chopped shallots, or 1 cup chopped sweet onions.


  • For each 1/2 cup chopped fresh onion, use 2 tablespoons dried minced onion or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder.
  • Onion flakes, usually sold in the dried herb and spice section of the grocery store, are simply dehydrated, chopped onions. Instead of 1 tablespoon of onion flakes, try 2 to 3 tablespoons of jarred minced onion, 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of onion salt (and reduce the amount of any other salt added to the recipe), 1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen onion, or 2/3 cup of chopped green onions.



Common Cooking Substitutions:

In the words of Sam Sifton, food editor for the New York Times, “Above all do not worry greatly about making the one correct substitution. Instead, think generally and taste as you go. Acids swap for acids. Sweets for sweets. Fire for fire. Texture for texture. The results of substituting ingredients can be magical, and they make the recipe your own.”

Bread crumbs:

  • Make your own Bread Crumbs and substitute measure for measure for store-bought (either plain or toasted).
  • For 1/4 cup fine, dried bread crumbs, substitute 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs, 1/4 cup cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup corn flake crumbs, or 2/3 cup rolled oats.
  • For a healthier option use an equal amount of oatmeal instead.

Broth or Stock:

  • For each cup of broth, use one bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon of granules or paste dissolved in water.
  • In many recipes, one type of a broth can be substituted for another, although taste and color may be affected. Generally vegetable and chicken broth make good substitutes for each other. In many recipes, broth is used to boost flavor and may be replaced with water or another liquid, all or in part.
  • Depending on the recipe, other liquids may work. For instance beer in stews or chilis. Wine can be used in pan sauces or as a braising liquid in all or part.

Creamed Soup (canned):

  • Use Cream of anything soup – even more frugal if you have leftover vegetables, such as mushrooms to use in it.
  • For 1 cup cream-based soup, substitute 1 cup fat-free milk-based soup, mashed potato flakes, or pureed carrots, potatoes, or tofu.

Ground Beef:

  • For 1 pound ground beef, substitute 1 pound ground turkey, ground chicken breast, cooked lentils, or black beans. All of these options have less fat and a similar amount of protein. If you choose lentils or black beans for your burgers or meatballs, mash them slightly so they hold shape better.
  • To make a recipe that uses 1 pound of ground beef, measure out 5.3 ounces of dry TVP. The dry measure of this is about one cup. One ounce of dried TVP pellets reconstitutes to the equivalent of about 3 ounces of ground beef in a recipe.
  • Hamburger Patty: For each patty, substitute a Portobella mushroom.


  • Substitute at will!  As long as the size and the shape are pretty well matched, they work well.
  • In a pinch, angel hair pasta, spaghetti or linguini can sub for Asian noodles.


  • For 1 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree, substitute 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato or butternut squash. These ingredients are interchangeable in most recipes.
  • After cooking and draining, this is what to expect from a typical cooking pumpkin: 2-1/2-pound pumpkin = 1-3/4 cups puree; 3-1/2-pound pumpkin = 2-1/2 cups puree; 5-pound pumpkin = 2-3/4 cups puree. See my post on Easy Homemade Pumpkin Puree.

Sun-dried tomato:

  • For 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, substitute 1/4 cup raw tomato, chopped. Will lack the intensity of flavor.
  • Make your oven-dried Sundried Tomatoes if you have time.

Tomato Products:

  • Canned Tomatoes: 1 can (about 15 ounces to one pound) Substitution: 2½ cups chopped, peeled, fresh tomatoes, simmered for about 10 minutes.
  • Ketchup: 1 cup tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon each of vinegar and sugar. Will not be as thick.
  • Sun-dried tomato: For 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, substitute 1/4 cup raw tomato, chopped. Will lack the intensity of flavor.
  • Tomato juice: For 1 cup tomato juice, substitute 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water.
  • Tomato sauce: For 2 cups tomato sauce, substitute 3/4 cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water.


  • Substitute mushrooms.


  • In some recipes substitute an equal amount of mayonnaise.




I have tons of Homemade Condiments on my site but will be adding more basic ones! Check out my condiments menu for others but here are few to get you started.

Balsamic Vinegar Substitute:

  • For 1 tablespoon, substitute 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or red wine vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

Chili Sauce (like Heinz):

  • 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, dash each of ground cloves and allspice plus cayenne to taste. Makes about a cup.

Enchilada Sauce:

Fish sauce:

  • Try Soy in equal measure – it’s not the same flavor, but will add the salty note.


  • Try Sambal Oelek but check this post from the PepperScale first. Gochuchang is a fermented paste with a pretty distinct flavor.

Lemon Juice:

  • Use half as much white vinegar.

Mac Sauce:


  • Substitute an equal amount of yogurt for some recipes.


  • Try subbing in dry sherry or in a real pinch, sweet marsala wine. Dry white wine or rice vinegar will work’but add 1/2 teaspoon sugar for each tablespoon mirin.

Rice Wine Vinegar (Rice Vinegar):

  • These are the same thing and not the same as Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar. A better substitute is Apple Cider Vinegar and if you don’t have that, White Wine Vinegar.

Salad Dressings:


  • Want to make your own? See my main menu on Condiments for about a dozen.

Sambal Oelek:

  • Try Gochuchang but check this post from the PepperScale first. Harissa is a fiery chili paste and may work. Sriracha might work in a pinch to bring heat without the heavy vinegar tang of many hot sauces.

Soy sauce:

  • Tamari can be used in equal measure although it may be doubtful you have on hand if you don’t have soy.
  • Worcester sauce may be a substitute in some cases; generally, this will be best in a recipe where only a small amount of the flavoring comes from soy sauce.
  • Bragg liquid aminos or coconut aminos may be used in a pinch.
  • Although it has a distinct flavor of its own, sometimes teriyaki sauce can be used in place of soy.

Sweet Chili Sauce:

  • A little Sriracha (because it’s low in vinegar) and honey because it’s thick and sweet can work in an emergency. If your pantry/fridge is well stocked with Asian leaning ingredients, it’s not hard to whip up a homemade version.



Spices & Herbs:

Below are some “quick” emergency substitutes. Some are more satisfactory than others; some will skew flavors in a different direction. Use caution and if unsure, add a little and taste. If you like the direction the flavor is going, add more. See my menu of Spice Herb & Flavor Packet Substitutes. for more complete, complex or homemade versions of many of these.

A rule of thumb for substituting dried for fresh is to use 1/4 the amount of dried. Conversely, use 4 times as much fresh as dried.

  • Allspice: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground clove. Makes 1 teaspoon.
  • Apple Pie Spice: See my post on Apple Pie Spice
  • Basil: Try Italian seasoning or oregano (especially if dried basil is called for), Mint for fresh (especially in recipes that are “salads” in some Asian cooking.)
  • Bay Leaves: Herbes de Provence; often may be omitted.
  • Cardamom: Try an equal amount of ginger in some recipes.
  • Cayenne: Another hot ground pepper, chili powder, dried chiles, hot sauce, hot paprika, red pepper flakes.
  • Chervil: Try parsley or tarragon.
  • Chili powder: See my substitute for a packet of Chili Seasoning.
  • Chives: Green onions, onion powder
  • Cilantro: Try parsley, in Asian salads, basil and/or mint.
  • Cinnamon: Try 1/4 teaspoon of allspice and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, substitute with Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie Spice.
  • Cloves: Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper.
  • Cumin: for Mexican or Southwestern recipes, try an equal amount of chili powder.
  • Curry Powder: 2 teaspoons each ground coriander & cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/3 teaspoon mustard powder & cinnamon, pinch each black pepper and cayenne; substitute Garam Masala
  • Garlic: For 1 clove garlic, substitute 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder. These ingredients, in these amounts, are interchangeable in most recipes.
  • Ginger: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, or coriander.
  • Italian Seasoning: For each teaspoon, use 1/3 teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and rosemary. For a fabulous version, see Homemade Italian Seasoning Blend.
  • Mace: in a pinch, use ground allspice.
  • Marjoram: Oregano, Italian Seasoning.
  • Mint: Basil, Cilantro, Parsley.
  • Nutmeg: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger.
  • Onion powder: See onion
  • Oregano: Italian Seasoning, marjoram.
  • Paprika: Cayenne, chili powder, curry powder, black pepper, smoked paprika.
  • Parsley: Chives, Mint, tarragon.
  • Poultry Seasoning: For each teaspoon try 3/4 teaspoon sage and 1/4 teaspoon thyme; for a choice of three homemade versions, see Make Your Own Poultry Seasoning.
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice: For a small amount, use 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each ginger and allspice, plus 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. For a larger amount, see my post A Trio of Pumpkin Pie Spices.
  • Rosemary: Very different flavor but possibly Italian seasoning or Herbes de Provence.
  • Saffron: 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for 1/8 teaspoon saffron – the taste will never be the same, but the turmeric will give some color.
  • Sage: Poultry seasoning.
  • Savory: Try a little marjoram & sage.
  • Seasoning Salt: For a teaspoon of seasoning salt use 3/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch each of sugar, cayenne, garlic, and onion powder. For a closer match see my Homemade Seasoning Salt.
  • Tarragon: Try a pinch of ground fennel or anise; possibly chervil.
  • Thai Curry Seasoning: 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper plus  1/4 teaspoon each of salt, ground ginger,  garlic powder, and onion powder. Will make 1 tablespoon.
  • Thyme: A little rosemary, possibly oregano.
  • Turmeric: Curry powder or garam masala.



Sugars and Other Sweeteners:

  • Brown Sugar: For baking, white may be used but this will result in a crispier product. For light brown sugar, for each cup of white sugar, use one cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon molasses, for dark, use one cup of white and 2 tablespoons molasses.
  • See my post on Making Brown Sugar. If you need brown sugar when it wouldn’t be appropriate to add molasses, this post has instructions for blending it into a cohesive product.
  • Brown Sugar, healthier: For 1 cup brown sugar, substitute 1 cup organic brown sugar, coconut sugar, or date sugar, or substitute up to half of the sugar with agave nectar in baking.
  • Corn syrup: For 1 cup corn syrup, substitute 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water. Do not use in recipes where the corn syrup is added to prevent crystallization. Substitute equal amounts of agave, brown rice syrup, honey, golden syrup or cane syrup. In some cases, maple syrup or light molasses may be used.
  • Honey: For 1 cup, substitute 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water. Try 1 cup light molasses or the substitutes for corn syrup.
  • Molasses: For 1 cup molasses, substitute 1 cup honey.
  • Powdered Sugar (confectioner’s sugar) Blend 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch to a fine powder. 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar can sub for 1 cup sugar in a baked good.
  • Super Fine (or bakers sugar): run your sugar (a little more than you need) in a food processor until nearly powdery.  Wait for it to settle before opening. Measure after it is processed.
  • White: Use brown sugar in equal measure, or 3/4 cup corn syrup, agave or honey for 1 cup white sugar, or 1 1/4 cup of confectioners or powdered sugar.


Update March 2020 on Common Cooking Substitutions:

As we’re facing uncertain times with Covid 19 past just emerging and taking a stronghold, it’s important to stay at home and make do and follow instructions from the President and your local Governors. Trust I will be working behind the scenes to update and make this post more useful and complete!

This post has been sitting on my site for over a decade (published March 23, 2010) and I’ve barely touched it until today, March 23, 2020! I know I have only scratched the surface! If you have anything to add I’d love it if you’d share your own favorite easy baking or cooking substitutes or equivalents and I’ll incorporate them.

We all in this together! Stay home, stay strong and keep the faith!


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