29 Easy Ingredient Substitutions

OksanaKiian/iStock via Getty
OksanaKiian/iStock via Getty / OksanaKiian/iStock via Getty

Don't let a missing ingredient foil your cooking projects. If your pantry's looking a bit scant because of coronavirus-induced shortages, or you forgot to snag a certain product on your last trip to the grocery store, there's no need to toss your meal prep plans in the trash. Check out these 30 substitutions for basic cooking and baking ingredients.

1. Applesauce as a substitute for oil

This substitution adds moisture to baked goods without the fat found in oil. Use a 1:1 ratio, such as 1/2 cup of applesauce for 1/2 cup of oil. It’s particularly tasty in muffins, banana breads, and coffee-type cakes. It also works in brownies—some recipes even call for applesauce specifically.

2. Yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise

Yogurt's good for more than just a light breakfast.
Yogurt's good for more than just a light breakfast. / Jin Zan, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This one works particularly well when it comes to making salad dressings. (Though you might not want to spread yogurt on your BLT.) You can also use plain yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, either in recipes for baked goods or as a delicious topping for baked potatoes and, in pinch, even Mexican food.

3. Molasses and sugar as a substitute for brown sugar

A combination of 2 tablespoons of molasses mixed with 1 cup of granulated sugar will substitute for 1 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed. Mix thoroughly, preferably in or with a blender or food processor. There are actually a wide variety of substitutes for brown sugar, so you can choose your favorite.

4. Nutmeg as a substitute for cinnamon

Nutmeg is a bit stronger than cinnamon, but at the core, the two spices are quite similar. Allspice can also work a little magic in a recipe that calls for cinnamon, as can ginger, cardamom, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice.

5. Cottage cheese as a substitute for ricotta

Perhaps surprisingly, cottage cheese is delicious in lasagna. And it should work in dishes like stuffed shells, too.

6. Bourbon or rum for vanilla extract

Bottoms up for baking.
Bottoms up for baking. / Hans, Pixabay // Public Domain

Not only does this work—vanilla extract contains alcohol, after all—but it makes cooking more fun! The ratio is 1:1, but who’s measuring?

7. Flaxseeds as a substitute for eggs

This trick is commonly used in vegan cooking. Mix 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds with 2 tablespoons of water and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes. The resulting mixture is the equivalent of one whole egg.

8. Rolled oats or crushed crackers as a substitute for dry bread crumbs

The crackers are a no-brainer—it’s basically the same thing. And the rolled oats (ground) will give any “breading” a healthier, earthy vibe.

9. Butter and unsweetened cocoa powder as a substitute for unsweetened chocolate

Swap 1 tablespoon of butter combined with 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa for 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate. You can also replace the butter with shortening or vegetable oil.

10. Baking soda and cream of tartar as a substitute for baking powder

Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for your own makeshift baking powder.

11. Yogurt and lemon juice as a substitute for buttermilk

Making biscuits, but don’t have buttermilk? Use 1 cup of plain yogurt (or 1 cup of milk) plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. You can also squeeze 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk.

12. Bouillon cube as a substitute for broth

Tiny bricks of delicious flavor.
Tiny bricks of delicious flavor. / Rainer Z ..., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Whether it’s beef, chicken, or vegetable broth you need, combine 1 cube of the bouillon with 1 cup of water.

13. Baking soda and lemon juice as a substitute for yeast

You can replace 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda combined with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.

14. Chicken broth as a substitute for beer

If you'd rather drink your beer than cook with it, use chicken broth instead in batters and breads.

15. Honey as a substitute for corn syrup, and vice versa

This one’s an easy swap, as they’re both sweet and have a similar consistency. The ratio is 1:1.

16. Lemon juice as a substitute for vinegar

The ratio is 1:1, and you can also do 2 teaspoons of white wine per 1 teaspoon of vinegar.

17. Mashed avocado as a substitute for mayonnaise

Mashed avocado is good for more than just toast.
Mashed avocado is good for more than just toast. / Foodie Factor, Pexels // Public Domain

They have a similarly fatty, creamy consistency.

18. Tomato paste diluted with water as a substitute for tomato sauce

Use 3/4 cup of tomato paste plus 1 cup of water. Add some stewed or freshly chopped tomatoes for a heartier, more robust sauce.

19. Margarine as a substitute for butter

No, they don’t taste exactly the same, but when used in baking, it truly makes very little difference. Put it this way: If it’s a choice between brownies and no brownies, you’re going to use that margarine.

20. Vegetable shortening as a substitute for butter

This won’t mimic the flavor of butter, but it will replicate its texture and emulsifying effect. Don’t spread it on your bread, though.

21. A mixture of butter and milk as a substitute for half-and-half

Use a ratio of 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of butter.

22. Remove two tablespoons of all-purpose flour as a substitute for cake flour

Take 1 cup of all-purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons. Nigella Lawson recommends adding two tablespoons of cornstarch.

23. An easy tomato sauce concoction as a substitute for ketchup

All it takes is 1 cup of tomato sauce with a teaspoon of vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon of sugar.

24. Substitute lemon for lime, and lime for lemon

You can do this for pretty much any recipe that calls for either.

25. Substitute brown sugar and cream of tartar for molasses

All it is 3/4 cup brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon cream of tartar. To recreate the gooey consistency of molasses, add some hot water to the mixture.

26. Every member of the onion family can substitute for one another

There aren't many layers to swapping onions.
There aren't many layers to swapping onions. / Paul Brennan, Public Domain Pictures // Public Domain

Whether it’s a leek or a shallot or a green onion or a regular onion, or even onion powder.

27. Swap orange juice for any other type of citrus juice

We’re talking grapefruit or lemon or lime.

28. Worcestershire sauce can substitute for soy sauce

Just mix 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce with 1 tablespoon of water.

29. Broth as a substitute for wine

Just like in the instance of any recipe requiring beer, wine can be replaced with a bit of broth (chicken or beef).