All the Ingredient Substitutions You Need for Thanksgiving

Don’t stop the celebration: We've got a substitution guide for nearly every traditional Thanksgiving ingredient so you can keep cooking.

November 11, 2021
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By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen

Some might say that a meal like Thanksgiving has too many moving parts: from endless prep, to multiple grocery store trips to memorizing all those special diet and allergy requests from fellow dinner-goers. Something (or several things) are bound to slip through the cracks. Most likely you’ll find yourself out of a certain ingredient (or its MIA in stores). Even if a missing ingredient seems essential, a meal like Thanksgiving is a safe time to improvise in the kitchen.

Really, it is. Herbs can easily be exchanged for each other, many dairy products are interchangeable and there’s even an alternative to turkey. You might even improve a tried-and-true recipe with a last minute substitution. So, don’t let missing cranberries or whipped cream stop you from making a meal that tastes uniquely delicious.

All-Purpose Flour: For 1 cup, combine 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup cake flour. The mix of both flours will almost equal the protein percentage of all-purpose flour (8-11%) which is important for the structure of Thanksgiving staples like pie and bread dough.

Baking Powder (double-acting): For 1 teaspoon, combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. These two will come together and make carbon dioxide gas which gives baked things their lift.

Baking Soda: For 1 teaspoon, use 3 teaspoons baking powder. You’ll get the same lift but without baking soda acidity from ingredients like brown sugar and cocoa won’t be neutralized so baked goods may taste different.

Bread Cubes: Use boxed croutons in a pinch to make stuffing. You can also crumble up cornbread or muffins as long as they're not too sweet.

Brown Sugar (light and dark): Turbinado or muscovado 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.

Butter: All baking: Greek yogurt, applesauce or oil. Non-baking: Canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil or ghee.

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

Buttermilk: All baking: For 1 cup, combine 1 cup whole, low-fat or skim milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white distilled or white wine vinegar. Non-baking such as mashed potatoes and salad or slaw dressings: Combine plain yogurt, sour cream or kefir with enough milk or water to create a pourable heavy-cream consistency.

Cheese: Parmesan and Pecorino Romano can be used interchangeably, although Romano is a bit sharper and saltier. Strong semi-hard cheeses like gruyere, Jarlsberg, Cheddar and fontina can substitute each other. Fresh cheese like goat cheese can be swapped out with cream cheese loosened with a little yogurt for a similar tang.

Chicken Broth and/or Stock: Vegetable or beef broth. Alternatively, water seasoned with a little soy sauce, bouillon cubes or bouillon granules — or water by itself, if the recipe requires a cup or less. Water will add the moisture and volume you need and can easily be seasoned.

Cornstarch: Best for all substitutions, including puddings, custards, sauces and batters: For 1 tablespoon, use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot, 2 teaspoons potato starch or 2 teaspoons rice flour. Best for breading and frying: For 1 tablespoon, use 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour.

Cranberries: For dried, try dried cherries, apricots, currants or even goji berries. Whole cranberries (fresh or frozen) are hard to replace — consider making a sauce or relish with frozen cherries.

Eggs: Best for all baking and batters (example: pancakes): For 1 egg, use 3 tablespoons aquafaba (the viscous liquid from canned beans; chickpea aquafaba is preferred.) Best for muffins, quick breads and cakes: For 1 egg, combine 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon water. Alternatively, use 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu or 1/4 cup canned pumpkin for every whole egg needed. (Homemade alternatives are not appropriate for omelets, souffles, frittatas and other egg-heavy dishes.)

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

Heavy Cream: (Except for whipping) Coconut milk or unsweetened coconut cream.

Herbs: Follow this simple rule: for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dry herbs and vice versa. Remember that tender herbs like parsley, basil, dill, cilantro and tarragon can all be used interchangeably or even combined (which could make your dish tastier). Woody herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage can also substitute each other or work together.

YK_072611_FNM_Gravy_033.tif

YK_072611_FNM_Gravy_033.tif

Get the recipe: Classic Homemade Gravy

Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

Get the recipe: Classic Homemade Gravy

Gravy: If there is not a drop of stock or broth in the house then get creative with condiments: pesto, a variety of hot sauces, Dijonnnaise and even ranch dressing would all be great with turkey.

Green Beans: Look for an equal weight of yellow wax beans or broccoli. Though not usually in season for Thanksgiving, asparagus, sugar snap peas and snow peas are other alternatives. And don’t be afraid to use frozen green beans or mixed vegetables — they are picked and flash frozen at their peak.

Kosher Salt: For 1/2 teaspoon, use 1/4 teaspoon iodized (table) salt. Kosher salt has larger crystals than table salt (1/2 teaspoon of table salt is saltier) so they cannot be exchanged 1:1.

Lemon Juice: Orange juice or lime juice. All three citrus will provide acidity and a touch of sweetness.

Get the recipe: Mock Mashed Potatoes

Photo by: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Kate Mathis, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Get the recipe: Mock Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes: No potatoes? Then try boiling peeled celery root, rutabaga or turnips instead. Boiled cauliflower also makes for a nice substitute. Finish all with the butter, cream and salt you would use for the real thing.

Nuts: Unless only pecan pie will do, nearly any nut can be replaced with another.

Poultry Seasoning: Mix equal parts of any of the following dried herbs: marjoram, parsley, rosemary, sage and/or thyme with large pinches of ground black pepper and grated nutmeg.

Pumpkin: For pie, muffins and quick breads try pureed sweet potatoes, butternut or acorn squash.

Get the Recipe: DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Get the Recipe: DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

Pumpkin Pie Spice: Apple pie spice is a perfect substitute with a runner up of plain ground cinnamon. You can also make your own comparable Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend if you have any or most of the individual spices on hand.

Onion: Shallots and scallions and excellent alternatives to the real thing. They will provide the same pugency and deep flavors.

Sour Cream: Plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche. All 4 of these fermented dairy porducts can be exchanged for each other.

Turkey: There’s nothing wrong with a roast chicken or Cornish hens in place of turkey. They will spend less time in the oven and tend to be juicer.

Sweet Potatoes: Try yams (yes, they are different) which will be starchy and less sweet. Or consider pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash for both whole pieces and puree.

Whipped Cream: Sweetened sour cream or yogurt can replace whipped cream in a pinch.

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

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