The 20 Ingredient Substitutions You Need to Memorize

With our advice and tricks, you can stop second-guessing simple ingredient swaps forever.

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1268916167

Colourful and healthy table composed with fruits and vegetables of many different types, meat, cheese, eggs, fish, spices and grains on wooden rustic table, view from above

Photo by: Monica Bertolazzi/Getty

Monica Bertolazzi/Getty

By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen

Could you have sworn there was a can of tomato paste in the cupboard? Wrong kind of salt? Or maybe you’re out of milk. Don’t stress, this cheat sheet of easy and common substitutions will help you make recipe tweaks with confidence.

Bookmark this article and refer to it as often as you need — or better yet, commit these easy ingredient swaps to memory and become a substitution superstar. With a little practice (and our helpful tidbits below) you'll soon be able to make a swap without second-guessing, and still end up with a delicious dish.

Baking Powder (double-acting): For 1 teaspoon, combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. The two combined will produce carbon dioxide gas which will make baked goods rise and puff as they bake.

Baking Soda: For 1 teaspoon, use 3 teaspoons baking powder. Baking powder will give a similar lift to baked goods — though it won’t neutralize acidic ingredients (cocoa powder, brown sugar) like baking soda does so the taste may be slightly different.

Breadcrumbs: Crushed crackers, crushed pretzels or crushed potato chips work nicely. Alternatively, for 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, grind 1 slice of bread in a food processor.

Brown Sugar (light and dark): Try turbinado or muscovado sugar, which are both less refined than granulated sugar (muscovado also has some natural molasses just like brown sugar). Alternatively, for 1 cup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 2 to 3 tablespoons molasses. The resulting baked goods may be crunchier and sweeter.

Chicken Broth: Vegetable or beef broth. Or try water seasoned with a little soy sauce, bouillon cubes or bouillon granules — or even water by itself, if the recipe requires a cup or less. Water is amazing: it provides the same moisture and volume as broth and can be easily seasoned to taste.

Half-and-Half: For 1 cup, combine a scant cup of whole milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Alternatively, combine 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream.

Heavy Whipping Cream: You can only make these substitutes if you're not actually whipping the cream. Try Half-and-half or, for 1 cup, combine 3/4 cup milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

Herbs: For 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dry herbs. This applies to both woody (rosemary, thyme) and tender herbs (parsley, basil).

Honey: Maple syrup, light or dark corn syrup. All have about the same consistency (though maple syrup is thinner), but the flavor of your finished recipe will vary.

Kosher Salt: For 1/2 teaspoon, use 1/4 teaspoon iodized (table) salt. The granules of iodized salt are smaller than kosher salt so they can’t be evenly exchanged — 1/2 teaspoon of iodized salt is saltier than 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Lemon Juice: Orange juice or lime juice. All citrus adds acid and a little bit of sweetness.

Milk: Yogurt or sour cream thinned with water to a pourable consistency.

Nuts: Most nuts can be exchanged for each other especially in baking recipes like quick breads and muffins. If the flavor of a nut is important to a recipe — like with pecan pie — then it may be better to wait and get the nuts you need.

Sour Cream: Plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche. All 4 of these are fermented dairy products that will provide a similar tang and creaminess.

Soy Sauce: For small amounts: Worcestershire sauce. For larger amounts (like for a dipping sauce): Tamari, coconut aminos or liquid amino acids. While all of these are fermented sauces, Worcestershire sauce has such a distinct flavor that, if replacing a large amount of soy sauce, will be too distinct. The others will all meld and won’t overpower.

Tomato Paste: For 1 tablespoon, simmer 3 tablespoons tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes until very thick, then cool.

Vanilla Extract: Maple syrup, bourbon, brandy or rum. Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol (vanilla essence or imitation vanilla also contains alcohol). All the suggested substitutions will help enhance the other flavors in a recipe — just like vanilla.

Vegetable Oil: Canola oil, olive oil, avocado oil, melted and cooled coconut oil or ghee. All of these have a similar smoke point: the temperature at which a fat will stop shimmering and start to smoke. Butter has a very low smoke point (which means it will burn quicker) so is not a good substitute for sauteing or frying. However, melted butter can be substituted for oil in quick breads and muffins.

Vinegar: Lemon juice or most other vinegars. Every vinegar will take on the flavors of what it was originally fermented from (white wine, red wine, raspberries). Keep those subtle flavor differences in mind though balsamic vinegar is a tad sweeter and more distinct than most.

White Wine (dry): Broth or stock. Alternatively, water with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar.

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