Please see the drop-down menu under Food Topics in the top navigation bar for links to pages on other food topics.
Questions or Comments? Contact Author:
Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County
Often for lack of an ingredient, a recipe is ruined or an extra trip to the store is required. Sometimes, you need to buy a large container of an ingredient for just a teaspoon or two needed in a recipe.
To the rescue: Ingredient substitutions! Several Internet discussion groups of dietitians, home economists, chefs and other food professionals were asked their most helpful ingredient substitutions, favorite Internet links and other food substitution resources they find useful. The response was tremendous! Read, enjoy and benefit from their suggestions.
Basic Ingredient Substitutions
Here are some of the suggestions cited most frequently. The substitution tips for which there was the most general consensus and which used the most common ingredients are listed. Following these suggestions are several Internet and book resources that give MANY, MANY additional substitution ideas.
Your final product made with the substituted ingredient may differ slightly from the original food, but still be acceptable in flavor, texture and appearance.
|Basic Ingredient Substitutions|
Apple Pie Spice
Baking Powder, Double-Acting
Amount: 1 cup
- 1 cup regular margarine
- 1 cup vegetable shortening (for baking)
- An equal amount of oil can be substituted for a similar portion of MELTED butter if the recipe specifies using MELTED butter.
TIP 1: According to the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers, you can tell "if the product is regular margarine by checking the Nutrition Facts: a one tablespoon serving will have 100 calories." Products that contain less than 80 percent fat often give the fat percentage on the front of the package.
If the margarine is labeled "light," "lower fat," "reduced fat," "reduced calorie/diet" or "fat-free" or is called a "vegetable oil spread," you may be less successful substituting it for butter OR for regular margarine in baking and in some cooking procedures. These products are higher in water and lower in fat content and won't perform in the same way as regular butter or margarine.
For additional information about using the various forms of margarine in recipes, check the Web site of the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers: www.margarine.org/howtousemargarine.html
TIP 2: There is no standard procedure to substitute liquid oil for solid shortening in cooking. Oil is 100 percent fat, while butter, margarine and other solid shortenings are lower in fat on a volume-for-volume basis.
Also, for some recipes, solid shortening helps incorporate air into the batter when it is whipped with other ingredients such as sugar and eggs. If you try to whip these ingredients with oil, your baked product is likely to be more compact and oily in texture. Your most successful substitution occurs if your recipe calls for MELTED butter, in which case you can usually substitute an equal amount of oil.
Cornstarch (for thickening)
Cornstarch-thickened liquids are more likely to thin if overheated or cooked too long. Regardless of whether you use cornstarch or flour, mix it with a little cold water or other cold liquid, about two parts liquid to one part thickener, before adding it to the rest of the liquid . (Note: when you mix flour with fat to make a roux for use as a thickener, you would not dissolve it in liquid first.)
TIP: If you don't use eggs very often, you may find it helpful to keep some powdered eggs on hand.
Flour, All-Purpose White Flour
Lemon Zest (fresh grated lemon peel)
Mayonnaise (for use in salads and salad dressings)
Mustard, Dry (in cooked mixtures)
Pasta (substituting one for another)
- 8 ounces of UNCOOKED elbow macaroni, medium shells, rotini, twists, spirals, wagon wheels, bow ties, mostaccioli, penne, radiatore, rigatoni, spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, vermicelli and fettuccine all produce about 4 cups COOKED pasta
- Use about twice as much UNCOOKED egg noodles to provide 4 cups COOKED pasta. Approximately 8 ounces UNCOOKED egg noodles equal 2 1/2 cups COOKED noodles.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Sugar, Confectioners' or Powdered
The next time you're missing an ingredient for a recipe, here's a final tip on how to:
S eek out this article
U se a similar ingredient
B e experimental
S earch the Internet
T ry another recipe
I nvestigate your cookbooks
T ry calling your neighbor
U se this as a learning experience
T ake time to go to the store
E at out!
For MORE ingredient substitution ideas, check these Internet links to materials developed by educational organizations or recommended by various food and nutrition educators.
For STILL MORE substitution ideas, put the words "food substitutions" or "ingredient substitutions" into your favorite Internet search engine.
As you check out these links, be aware that an ingredient may not substitute for ALL the functions of another. For example, as you learned earlier, it's best to substitute an oil for a solid shortening such as butter ONLY when the recipe calls for a MELTED form of the solid shortening. If you're uncertain if the substitution will work and you haven't started mixing things together, you might consider making something else. Or making a quick run to the store.
(NOTE: The following links are provided for your general information. The information provided via these sites has not been formally evaluated and inclusion of these links does not constitute an endorsement of any organization. Nor is disapproval implied of sites not mentioned. The links provided are maintained by their respective organizations and they are solely responsible for their content and policies.)
This listing by North Dakota State University Extension is very comprehensive on everything from Allspice to Yogurt.
Herbs and Spices
Virginia Cooperative Extension's site is especially helpful in giving suggestions on reducing the fat, sodium and sugar in foods and instead using herbs and spices for flavor.
Utah State University Cooperative Extension has a chart providing basic ingredient substitutions. It also provides an equivalent measures section at the end.
Preparing Healthy Food: How To Modify a Recipe
Ohio State University Extension's Fact Sheet explains how to substitute ingredients to make recipes more nutritious or lower in fat.
Food and Nutrition Solutions
University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service gives basic ingredient substitutions.
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension has a table providing basic ingredient substitutions.
The Cook's Thesaurus
This site offers thousands of substitution suggestions.
Food Lover's Companion
If you've never heard of one of the ingredients in a recipe and have no idea of what you could substitute, this online food dictionary of more than 4,000 items from Epicurious may help you out.
Visit this site to access links to food companies and organizations, an ingredient glossary and an "Ask the Experts" (under "Educator Resources").
Ingredient Substitution Books
You'll also may find information on substituting foods in a section or sections of a cookbook where the major ingredients featured in the recipes are described.
- Food FAQs -- Substitutions, Yields and Equivalents by Resnik, Linda and Brock, Dee. http://www.faqspress.com/index3.htm