empty egg crate
What to do when you run out

Ingredient substitutions

Running to the store at the last-minute because you forgot an ingredient definitely takes the joy out of cooking. Next time this happens, see if the ingredient you forgot can be substituted!

Plenty of ingredients can be substituted when it comes to cooking, especially if it's a spice you don't have on hand or forgot to buy at the store. Baking is more of an exact science, but even then there are ingredients that can be used in place of what you need to yield the same delicious result. Check out all these incredible substitutions to make your life a little bit easier next time you find yourself in a pickle and without an ingredient you need.

Cooking substitutions

Luckily, ingredients for cooking are usually pretty interchangeable, especially when it comes to seasoning your food. Everyone has different preferences, so it's best to flavor your food with spices you know you like instead of sticking to a recipe. Here are some substitutions for ingredients that aren't as compromising:

  • Chili sauce: 1 can tomato sauce, brown sugar (about 2 heaping spoonfuls) and a splash of vinegar, cinnamon and allspice
  • Mayo: Combine equal parts sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Rum: Rum extract mixed with water
  • Wine: Flavored juice of your choice — such as grape, cranberry or apple

When cooking, remember that you can always adjust the recipe to cater to items that you have on hand. For soups, stews, casseroles and stir-frys, usually anything goes, so don't be afraid to experiment by adding or eliminating ingredients the recipe calls for. The best chefs are the ones who go by taste instead of measuring out exact ingredient proportions.

Baking substitutions

Since baking is more of a science, it can be a little trickier to find substitutions for certain ingredients. If you happen to be missing one of the following ingredients, though, your baked good will not be ruined — guaranteed!

  • Brown sugar: Simple — mix granulated white sugar with a bit of molasses
  • Baking powder: 1 teaspoon can be replaced with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (there is no substitution for baking soda, though)
  • Whole-wheat flour: Interchangeable with white flour; proportions stay the same
  • Butter: Replace with margarine or vegetable shortening; melted butter can be replaced with oil
  • Buttermilk: Add some lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk and let sit for a few minutes
  • Eggs: Surprisingly, eggs can be substituted with applesauce, bananas, flaxseed and more

Check out In a pickle: What to do if you're out of eggs for more information >>

Even though there are many substitutions for ingredients that will work just fine, it's always best to use the specific ingredient that is called for. To prevent running out of an ingredient or forgetting it, make a detailed meal plan each week. Be specific in your grocery list, and check it over twice to ensure nothing is forgotten. If possible, shop without kids in tow — as they make it much easier to forget everything we need!

More on ingredient substitutions

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Healthy ingredient substitutions for family meals
Cooking substitutions to keep New Year's diet resolutions

Tags: substitute foods

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Comments on "In a pickle: What to do if you're out of an ingredient"

Katie January 18, 2013 | 11:15 AM

Great tips! I've run out of ingredients a time or two before. It's nice to know there are so many substitutions out there that work just fine.

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