Common Ingredient Substitutions That Will Save You in a Pinch

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Don't let missing ingredients throw off your kitchen game. Here are 25 substitutions for common kitchen ingredients.

How many times have you started to cook or bake and realized you were missing a key ingredient, like milk or eggs? If you're anything like us, probably a lot (oops). Instead of throwing in the towel and your culinary adventures on the back burner, just take a look at this list of easy substitutions.


Dairy

Used the last of the milk in your cereal or cream in your coffee this morning? And seriously, who just happens to have buttermilk on hand? Like no one. Here's what to use if you're in a pickle:

  • For 1 cup buttermilk: 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice plus 1 cup milk, stir and let stand for five minutes
  • For 1 cup half-and-half or light cream: 7/8 cup milk plus 3 tbsp butter, or 1 cup evaporated milk
  • For 1 cup heavy cream: 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter or 1 cup evaporated milk
  • For 1 cup sour cream: 1 cup plain yogurt + 1 tbsp vinegar or 1 cup cottage cheese mixed with 2 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • For 1 cup milk: 1 cup soy milk, 1 cup rice milk, 1 cup water or juice (depending on the recipe), 1/4 cup dry milk powder plus 1 cup water or 2/3 cup evaporated milk plus 1/3 cup water

Eggs

Eggs are kind of a big deal for a lot of recipes, working as binding agents, leavening agents or used to add moisture to a mix. What you can use to replace your egg really depends on what purpose its serving in your recipe.

To add moisture:

  • For 1 whole egg: 1/4 cup juice, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup water or 1/4 cup pureed fruit

As a binding agent replace 1 whole egg:

  • 2 1/2 tbsp of powdered egg substitute plus 2 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu, blended until smooth
  • 1/4 cup mashed banana (about half of a banana) with (or without) 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp powdered flax seed soaked in 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds, finely ground, plus 3 tbsp of water, allow to sit for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup soy or coconut yogurt

If a recipes calls for three or more eggs, the eggs are used for leavening. And replacing leavening eggs isn't easy, but if you're willing to give it a whirl, here's what you can try:

  • Commercial egg replacer like Ener-G (follow instructions on box)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds plus 3 tbsp water, allow a few minutes for it to thicken, then add 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar plus 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk plus 2 tsp coconut milk and 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup carbonated water (count this towards your recipe's liquid requirements)
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil plus 1 1/2 tbsp water and 1 tsp baking powder


Sugar

Run out of sugar? No problem!

  • For 1 cup sugar: ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar plus 1/3 tsp baking soda
  • For 1 cup sugar: 1 cup molasses, reducing a quarter of the recipe's liquid plus ½ tsp baking soda
  • For 1 cup sugar: 1 ¼ cup maple syrup, reducing the recipe's liquid by half plus ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup corn syrup, reducing the recipe's liquid by a third plus 1/8 tsp baking soda


Thickening Agents

Whether you're making soup, pie or sauces, sometimes you'll need to add a thickening agent to get the consistency just right. Cornstarch and flour are commonly used, but you have a few other options too. If you want to substitute with arrowroot, use it for more acidic liquids, it doesn't mesh so well with baked goods or dairy dishes.

  • For 1 tbsp corn starch = 2 tbsp flour or 1 1/3 instant tapioca or 2 teaspoons arrowroot flour
  • For 1 tbsp flour = 1 ½ tsp corn starch or 2 tsp instant tapioca or 2 egg yolks
  • For 1 tbsp tapioca = 1 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour