Anyone who cooks or bakes has probably experienced this scenario before: just as you start your recipe you realize you’re missing an ingredient. Fear not. Here’s a go-to list of every imaginable substitution we could think of that will allow you to keep cooking and still have a tasty dish to serve.
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1. Baking Substitutions
Keep in mind when you substitute one ingredient for another in a recipe, chances are it might change the taste or the texture of what you’re baking. Use these substitutions only when you have to.
1 teaspoon: substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ginger + 1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon: substitute 1 tablespoon flour OR 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon: substitute 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Butter – Salted
1 cup: substitute 1 cup margarine OR 1 cup shortening + 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil + 1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter – Unsalted
1 cup: substitute 1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 7/8 cup lard
1 cup: substitute 1 cup yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup
Chocolate – Semisweet
1 ounce: substitute 3 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 3 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening
Chocolate – Unsweetened
1 ounce: substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa + 1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil
1/4 cup: substitute 1 ounce square unsweetened chocolate
1 cup: substitute 1 1/4 cup white sugar + 1/4 cup warm or hot water OR 1 cup honey
Cream – Half and Half
1 cup: substitute 7/8 cup milk + 1 tablespoon butter OR mix 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup light cream
Cream – Heavy
1 cup: substitute 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk + 1/3 cup unsalted butter
Cream – Light
1 cup: substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup whole milk OR 3/4 cup milk + 3 tablespoons butter
1 cup: substitute 1 cup pureed cottage cheese OR 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight in a cheesecloth
1 egg: substitute 2 tablespoon flour + 1/2 teaspoon oil + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 2 tablespoons liquid — milk, cream, buttermilk, diluted yogurt, or dairy free alternatives like coconut milk or soy milk work.
1 cup: boil 2 1/4 cups regular milk down until it becomes 1 cup
Flour – Cake
1 cup: substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour (minus 2 tablespoons) + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Flour – Self Rising
1 cup: substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole: substitute 1 cup almonds
1 cup: substitute 1 1/4 cup white sugar + 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup corn syrup OR 1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon: substitute 1 teaspoon lime juice OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon: substitute 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon: substitute 1 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon: substitute 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup: substitute 1 cup almonds
Milk – Whole
1 cup: substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water OR 1 cup nonfat milk or reconstituted nonfat dry milk + 2 teaspoons butter or oil
1 cup: substitute 1 cup dark corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup OR 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar OR 3/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon: substitute 1 tablespoon any other citrus juice like lemon, lime, or grapefruit. The final flavor will obviously lean toward the substituted flavor.
1 tablespoon: substitute 1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pumpkin Pie Spice:
1 teaspoon: substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice + 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup: substitute 1 cup dried currants OR 1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped pitted prunes
1 cup: substitute 1 cup butter OR 1 cup margarine and remove 1/2 teaspoon salt from recipe
1 cup: substitute 1 cup applesauce OR 3/4 to 1 cup fruit puree
1 cup: substitute 1 cup brown sugar OR 3/4 cup honey. Honey adds a lot of moisture, so reduce other liquids in the recipe by a 1/2 cup for every 1 cup of honey added.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk
2. Everyday Ingredient Substitutions
Just as with baking, the taste and texture might change, but with the following substitutions the overall dish is still acceptable.
Broth – Beef or Chicken
1 cup: substitute 1 bouillon cube + 1 cup boiling water OR 1 tablespoon soy sauce and enough water to make 1 cup OR 1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup shredded: substitute 1 cup shredded Colby cheddar OR 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh: substitute 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can: substitute 1 can condensed cream of celery, cream of chicken, or golden mushroom soup OR add broth and milk a little at a time, stirring constantly, then, stir in mushrooms and bring sauce to a gentle boil. Stir until sauce thickens.
1 tablespoon: substitute 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup: substitute 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, or cheddar cheese. Tofu is a non-dairy substitute with similar nutrients.
1 clove: substitute 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR garlic chives
Ginger – Dry
1/4 teaspoon: substitute 1 tablespoon fresh ginger for every 1/4 tsp of ground ginger. Make sure to mince it fine so it doesn’t overpower your recipe OR use an equal amount of allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, or nutmeg.
Ginger – Fresh
1 tablespoon: substitute 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped: substitute 1/2 cup chopped onion OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped shallots
Herbs – Fresh
1 tablespoon fresh: substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs (chopped or whole leaf)
Hot Pepper Sauce
1 teaspoon: substitute cayenne pepper powder (sprinkle to taste) OR red pepper flakes OR 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper + 1 teaspoon vinegar.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup tomato sauce + 1 teaspoon vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup: substitute 1 cup chopped green onions OR 1 cup chopped shallots OR 1 cup chopped leeks OR 1/4 cup dried minced onion OR 1/4 cup onion powder
1/2 cup grated: substitute 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese OR 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Rice – White
1 cup: substitute 1 cup cooked barley OR 1 cup cooked bulgur OR 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice OR 1 cup quinoa
1 cup: substitute 1 cup cottage cheese OR 1 cup silken tofu (mashed)
1 cup: substitute 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 cup evaporated milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar OR 1 cup cottage cheese mixed in blender + 2 tablespoons milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup: substitute 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon: substitute 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice OR 2 teaspoons white wine
3. Alcohol Substitutions
Whether it’s beer, wine, or liquor, alcohol is known to bring out the flavor in food. But, if you don’t have any or just don’t want to use alcohol, here are some excellent substitutes.
Beer – Light
1 beer: substitute equal amounts chicken broth OR ginger ale OR white grape juice OR white wine
Beer – Dark
1 beer: substitute beef broth OR chicken broth OR mushroom stock OR apple juice OR apple cider OR root beer OR coke (If you’re tenderizing meat or making a bread recipe, it’s recommended to use the soda option.)
1 tablespoon: substitute 1 tablespoon water OR white grape juice OR pineapple juice OR apple juice OR apple cider OR syrup flavored with almond extract
1 cup: substitute 1 cup chicken broth OR beef broth OR 1 cup fruit juice + 2 teaspoons vinegar OR 1 cup water
4. Healthy Ingredient Substitutions
Creating healthier meal options is not as hard as some might think. A few simple tweaks here and there can save you both fat and calories.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup rolled oats. By doing this you’re cutting the calories in half and adding extra fiber.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup prune puree. Doing this cuts the calories in half, eliminates most of the fat, and adds fiber. Try a DIY method by blending 1 cup of pitted prunes with 6 tablespoons hot water until smooth.
1 cup: substitute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice + enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.
1 cup: substitute equal amount of pureed sweet potato. You still get a rich flavor, but with the sweet potato at 130 calories compared to a 1/2 cup of cream at 400 calories, you tell us which is the better option.
1 cup: substitute low-fat cottage cheese. Use a food processor to get the lumps out. Not only will you not be able to tell the difference, but you’ll eat less fat, fewer calories, and more protein this way.
1 egg: substitute 1/3 cup mashed banana. You’ll cut fat in the recipe from 5 grams to only 1 gram.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup black bean puree (rinse and drain beans before pureeing). This is a good option for those who are gluten-free, and you’ll cut out up to 200 calories. Since the color will change, try this in a cake or brownie recipe.
1 cup: substitute 1 cup plain Greek yogurt. The difference in calories is amazing. Even light mayo has 3 times the calories and 11 times the fat of Greek yogurt.
1 cup oil: substitute 1 cup unsweetened applesauce. You’ll cut 100 calories. Using applesauce adds a nice consistency and a hint of sweetness without the extra fat.
1 cup: substitute half the sugar if you’re making baked goods and add vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon to intensify the sweetness.
Always check your recipe. There’s a big difference between a fluid ounce and a dry ounce.
- Fluid ounces equal volume measurement.
- Dry ounces equal weight measurement
Liquid (Fluid or Volume) Measurements
A pinch = 1/8 teaspoon or less
1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 4 fluid ounces
1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons = 2 fluid ounces
1/3 cup = 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 2 2/3 fluid ounces
1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons = 4 fluid ounces
2/3 cup = 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 5 1/3 fluid ounces
3/4 cup = 12 tablespoons = 6 fluid ounces
7/8 cup = 14 tablespoons = 7 fluid ounces
1 cup = 16 tablespoons = 8 fluid ounces or 1/2 pint
2 cups = 32 tablespoons = 16 fluid ounces or 1 pint
4 cups = 1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
1 pint = 32 tablespoons = 16 fluid ounces
2 pints = 1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
8 pints = 1 gallon or 128 fluid ounces
Dry (Weight) Measurements
1 ounce = 28 grams
2 ounces = 56 grams
3 ounces = 85 grams
4 ounces = 113 grams = 1/4 pound
8 ounces = 226 grams = 1/2 pound
12 ounces = 340 grams = 3/4 pound
16 ounces = 454 grams = 1 pound
32 ounces = 907 grams = 2 pounds