Product Substitutions

This page will eventually hold all the product substitutions I generally use.  Why substitute?  Most often I find myself doing so when an ingredient is just too expensive to fit my budget, is out of season, or just isn’t available in my area.  (Sometimes, too, homemade is just better.)  I love good food, and wish I could always have filet mignon, truffles, freshly flown in seafood, but realistically, I have to use affordable ingredients.

Doesn’t mean the recipe’s not good – or even great!  It could still very well be one of the best you’ve ever had – I’ve learned over the years what to substitute for what, when to substitute, and when you really need to go all out.  I’ve had many successes and my share of disasters along the way, just ask my kids!  Let me know what your favorite substitutions are, and what’s worked for you.

I hope you can take some of what I’ve learned and use it, and avoid a few of those disasters of your own.  By the way, I saw Jacques Pepin on an Emeril show just the other day, recommending if you can’t afford truffles, by all means substitute mushrooms.  Weeeel, if it’s good enough for Jacques, it’s good enough for me.

Alcohol/Wine – see Alcohol/Wine substitutes & Non-Alcoholic Substitutes

Allspice:  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground clove. Makes 1 teaspoon.

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 1 tablespoon, use 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons flour, or 2 1/4 teaspoons potato or rice starch.

Baking Powder:

  • This will be single acting, so get your product into the oven immediately:  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, sour milk or yogurt.

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

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.


  • For each cup of broth, use one bullion cube or 1 teaspoon granules dissolved in water


  • Salted Butter Substitutes: For 1 cup salted butter, substitute 1 cup margarine; 1 cup shortening, minus 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt; 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt; or 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Unsalted Butter Substitutes: For 1 cup unsalted butter, substitute 1 cup shortening minus 2 tablespoons, 7/8 cup vegetable oil, or 7/8 cup lard.
  • Healthier Butter Substitutes: For half of the called-for butter, substitute applesauce, shortening, oil, or butter spreads and shortenings specially formulated for baking that doesn’t have trans fats. For half of the called-for butter, substitute tofu or pureed white beans (cannelloni, black beans, lentils). For one-quarter of the called-for butter, substitute flaxseed meal.
  • Baking with Butter Substitutes: To avoid dense, soggy, or flat baked goods, do not substitute oil for butter or shortening. Also, do not substitute diet, whipped, or tub-style margarine for regular margarine.

Chervil: try parsley or tarragon.

Chili Sauce:  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.


  • Good Chocolate:  If you need for a recipe and don’t have or can’t find 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.
  • You can use bittersweet, sweet (Bakers) or semi-sweet interchangeably.  Mix together for your own personal flavor, or if you want sweet or semi-sweet to taste more like bittersweet, add some cocoa powder.
  • If you need bittersweet and don’t have it, substitute one ounce unsweetened 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 – it varies by what type of product you are using it in.
  • If you don’t have unsweetened chocolate:  3 ounces of cocoa plus one tablespoon butter or shortening or oil.
  • Chocolate chips: Use chunked up good chocolate or candy bars.  Replace in some recipes with m&ms or raisins.  One cup is about 6 ounces.
  • Cocoa: Everyday cocoa is most often used in recipes here in the states.  An ounce of cocoa powder is about a 1/2 cup.
  • Dutch Cocoa:  Preferred by bakers, it has more alkali in it and is milder and richer tasting.  Generally if you are using a recipe it will call specifically for European or Dutch Process.
  • 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 cocoa to react.

Corn Syrup: For one cup, use one cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Do not use in recipes where the corn syrup is added to prevent crystallization.

Cornstarch, for thickening: For 1 tablespoon cornstarch, substitute 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.

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.


  • Buttermilk:  For one cup use one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice 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 milk. (I’ve even skimmed the yogurt off fruit on the bottom yogurt in a pinch.) Combine one cup milk with two teaspoons of cream of tartar.
  • Cheese –  Hard:  (One cup of a hard cheese = 1/4 pound, four ounces)
    • Cotija – For soft use Feta and for aged use Parmesan or Romano
    • Grana Padano – use Parmesan or Romano, even Asiago
    • Parmesan – use Romano
    • Ricotta – substitute Cottage cheese (try smoothing it in a blender it for your lasagna)
  • Cheese – Soft:
    • Brie – substitute Camembert
    • Cream Cheese – use the same amount of Ricotta, Neufchatel cheese or Mascarpone
    • Feta – substitute Ricotta Salata, or strain Ricotta overnight and crumble.
    • Mascarpone – for one cup of mascarpone, use 6 ounces of cream cheese thinned with 3 tablespoons each of whipping cream and sour cream. Also, see my post on Homemade Mascarpone.
    • Ricotta – if using in a casserole or something like lasagne, you can blend cottage cheese and use the same amount as the ricotta.
  • Cream, Whipped or Heavy: 
    • Since one cup of whipping cream makes two cups of whipped cream, use 2 cups 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.
    • If using in a recipe that needs the fat, use 1/4 cup of melted butter and 3/4 cup of 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 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.
  • Evaporated milk:
    • 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, or 1 cup whole milk.
  • Half and Half:
    • 50 percent cream, 50 percent milk.
    • For 1 cup light cream, substitute 1 tablespoon melted butter plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup.
  • Milk:
    • For 1 cup milk, substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water or 1 cup water plus 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder.
    • Try any of the nut or soy milks available
  • Sour cream:
    • Substitute plain non-fat yogurt for baking.  (see under buttermilk)
    • For dips and such, try half mayo, half yogurt.
  • Yogurt: 
    • In baking substitute buttermilk or 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 1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit.


  • 3 tablespoons of egg substitute = one egg white. 1/4 cup egg product = 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.

Espresso powder: For 1 teaspoon espresso powder, substitute 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or granules, or replace a small portion of the liquid in the recipe with strong cold coffee.

Fish sauce:

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


  • 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.
  • Cake Flour:  For every cup of flour, replace 2 tablespoons with cornstarch.  Alternatively, 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.
  • Bread Flour: For each cup of flour. Remove one tablespoon of flour and replace with 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten.

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.

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.

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.
  • Hamburger Patty: For each patty, substitute a Portobella mushroom.

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

Mace: in a pinch, use ground allspice.


  • For 1 cup margarine, substitute 1 cup butter or 1 cup shortening plus 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Healthier Substitutes: 1 cup cream cheese or reduced-fat cream cheese; 1 cup 60% to 70% vegetable oil spread or olive oil spread, which have minimal trans fat; 1 cup tofu (best in brownies); 1 cup baby prunes (best in dark baked goods, due to color); 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.


  • 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.  Generally, instant is not used for baking.


  • Substitute with another oil or for baking. or cooking.
  • Replace half the amount of oil with mashed bananas in baking and adjust as needed.


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


  • Two teaspoons powdered equals one tablespoon liquid.


  • 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.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: See my post A Trio of Pumpkin Pie Spices.


  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for 1/8 teaspoon saffron – the taste will never be the same, but the turmeric will give some color.


  • 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…thank you, Alton Brown!

Savory:  try a little marjoram & sage.

Soy sauce: For 1/2 cup soy sauce, substitute 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon water.


  • Brown Sugar:  For baking, white may be used but this will result in a crispier product. For each cup of white sugar, use one cup of white sugar and 2 tablespoons molasses. Make brown sugar: for each pound of white sugar add 3 ounces by weight of molasses. Place in food processor and pulse, scraping as needed, until molasses is incorporated throughout.
  • 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.
  • Honey: For 1 cup, substitute 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water. Try 1 cup molasses.
  • Molasses: For 1 cup molasses, substitute 1 cup honey.
  • 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 or honey for 1 cup white sugar, or 1 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar.

Sun-dried tomato: For 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, substitute 1/4 cup raw tomato, chopped.

Tarragon: try a pinch of ground fennel or anise

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.

Tomatoes: Amount: 1 can (about 1 lb./455 g) tomatoes
Substitution: 2½ cups (323 g) chopped, peeled, fresh tomatoes, simmered for about 10 minutes

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.

Vanilla Beans: use two teaspoons of vanilla per bean.

Vanilla Extract: Use a liquor or liqueur that compliments the recipe.


  • 1 packet = 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • Conversion from a cake of yeast to dry is not always clear-cut: Here’s a conversion chart. In general, For 1.06-ounce compressed cake, substitute 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast.
  • You can generally substitute any of the yeasts one for another, but the rising time and number of rises will vary.
  • Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water first, and 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 bread will only need to rise once.  Add in with the flour.

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