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A compilation post of some kitchen hacks for things that I all too often Google search of “substitute for [fill in the blank]“. You know you’ve done it and if you haven’t, you must not be cooking or live in a grocery store.

Data sources:

  • A great reference I keep tucked away in one of my recipe binders: January 2011 – Real Simple
  • Trial and error
  • Joy of Cooking

Lemons or Limes: Use fresh lime (or lemon) juice or half the amount of white or red wine vinegar. [note: if canning, don't mess around with this, use the bottled stuff]; What no limes? I have found the True Lime packets to come in quite handy, very shelf stable and not a laundry list of scary chemicals.

Baking powder: easy to just make your own and avoids any noticeable metallic taste: 2 T cream of tartar + 1 T baking soda: sift together three times, stores for 6 weeks but why, just make it in the moment. Thank you, Scott Peacock of MS Living.

Baking soda: not so much in baking but in life, this stuff can substitute or replace a ton of things. Here is my experience cleaning on oven with it…..

Chili powder: ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon dried cumin and dash of bottled hot sauce

Cheddar: Colby, Monterey Jack, American other kinds of cheddar. Cheeses are pretty flexible, know how it melts, taste it’s flavor and imagine it in your dish

Parmesan: use pecorino, asiago, romano or other hard cheese, just like cheddar, think about the taste. I’ve even use gruyere. Really depends on what you want the cheese to do…..

Pie crust or other pastry wrapper: pre-made pie crusts! I’ve even used this instead of puff pastry and vice versa, different effect but still pastry. Store crust worked well in my empanadas, onion tart and Amish pie (couple other subs in this one too).



Sour cream: plain yogurt (and vice versa). I now just make my own. It also makes a great crème fraiche.

Fresh herbs: hard to say a true substitute but in a pinch, use a pinch (1/3 amount called for) of the dried version. I also try to root herbs from meals at Vietnamese restruants (yes, I take them home) and grow with varying success. There is also some frozen, “fresh” herbs out there that I have found helpful to have on hand.

Nutmeg: in sweet dishes only, use cinnamon, ginger or allspice.

Buttermilk: 1 T lemon juice (or plain vinegar), plus enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let it stand. I have also had good luck with buttermilk powder

Self-rising flour: 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder +1/4 teaspoon salt (double, triple etc to get the amount you need)

White wine: chicken stock (or beef), sherry (use less than called for) or even water (maybe, not recommended). Some even recommend watered down juice. I also freeze white wine in ½ cup portions and been relatively successful with this endeavor.


Shortening or butter: use in a 1:1 ratio. Butter is better but there is a time and place for shortening.

Raisins: I have had success in cookies and salads using dried cranberries, figs and/dates. Carrot salad post coming soon. Lots of substitutions in this one!

Mayonnaise: yogurt, sour cream. I am planningon trying my hand at making my own mayo at home…

Bread crumbs: crushed corn flakes, crushed corn Chex, crackers, panko. One time I didn’t have enough corn flakes so pulled out the flakes from Honey Bunches of Oats. Don’t quite recommend as they carry with them the sweet cereal taste. Oh well. J

Here is a savory chicken recipe: I used some Dijon and any of the substitutions would work just fine!

I also love making this Chicken, Apple and Brie dish out of the Costco cook book (this was the fated Honey Bunches of Oats experiment). Great to make the day before up until the step of egg wash and coating with corn flakes. Do that the day of…

4 (4 oz each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 lb brie cheese, rind removed and sliced thin
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Pound chicken breasts until thin. Spread on a flat surface and fill with sliced apples and Brie. Wrap up the ends and then the sides of chicken to form bundles. Secure with toothpicks or string. In a deep bowl, lightly beat egg with salt and pepper. Dip the bundles in egg wash and then roll in crushed corn flakes to fully coat. Arrange seam down in a baking dish. Rub a bit of butter into the pan before putting the chicken rolls in to prevent sticking

Bake in a 375 F oven until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before slicing.

Fresh items with canned items: you know, I would always sub fresh for canned but there will be times that I will not use canned instead of fresh, might be worth just waiting. Consider your circumstances… J

“Wrappers”: more so an easier way to make ravioli and dumplings, Use premade wonton wrappers. Slightly different flare but if it makes homemade dumplings and ravioli a reality, do IT. Here are some examples- kimchi mondu and crab goat cheese ravioli.



Eggs: haven’t used these substitutes, rarely am I low on eggs and if I am, I might just cut recipe down….. #1 – 2 T flour plus 1/2 T shortening plus 1/2 t baking powder plus 2 T water and #2 -1/2 mashed banana plus 1/4 t baking powder

Cooking oil: applesauce, depending on recipe this makes a great low fat substitution. Google this one when the moment comes…. I also haven’t got to hung up on canola vs. vegetable oil and just use them interchangeable at this point

Pasta: I think for the most part you can just use whatever kind of noodle you want and have. Or, like I have, mix together the remaining small amounts of several kinds of pasta. Call it pasta medely or pasta potpourri – instantly cool

Pork marinades: I have used jams and jelly, mixed with something savory like garlic and/or onions. Just watch when grilling as the sugar will burn, but I think that is tasty too

My general rule of thumb: if the ingredient is likely there to create some chemical magic reaction in the recipe I will Google and cross reference several sites or post pone BUT if it is an ingredient there for flavor profile, color or sustenance, think about if it can just be omitted (not if it seems “foundational” like carrots in a carrot salad) or what is similar: for herbs things like thyme and rosemary and sage seem sub-able to me; mint and basil, parsley (just leave out IMHO), cilantro – basil (unless clearly central to recipe), scallions use onions or green onions(both are a tad more potent than onions), granulated sugar and powdered sugar (or brown sugar, with this one, start with less and add substituted in by taste as sweetness if varying); walnuts, pecans, almonds or pistachios (these can be a little more distinct but great in salads etc); orange zest or juice – extract, especially if baking.

I always try to call out in my recipes and cooking escapades if I have substituted things and that or if something is really not necessary IMHO. Also be ready for things to fail, just reflect on what went wrong and learn from it. Need some encouragement, see Dinner Train bound for Nowhere….

What substitutions have you been successful with? Let’s make this a living post…..

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