All the Ingredient Substitutions You Need for Thanksgiving

If something goes missing or a guest arrives with a last-minute request, don't panic. Here's how to substitute nearly every traditional Thanksgiving ingredient.

Updated on November 21, 2023

Related To:

Thanksgiving Chicken Over Roasted Vegetables

By Leah Brickley and Emily Saladino for Food Network Kitchen

The Thanksgiving meal has a lot of moving parts, including seemingly endless prep, miles-long grocery lists and guests who may or may not have new dietary restrictions this year. If (when?) something inevitably slips through the cracks, don't panic. There are all sorts of ways to make substitutions for missing ingredients or accommodate late-in-the-game requests.

Herbs can be swapped, many dairy products are interchangeable and there are even alternatives to turkey. You never know: a last-minute substiution might be so popular that it becomes part of next year's game plan. Whether every grocery store in a five-mile radius is out of cranberries, or you suddenly realize you forgot whipped cream, don't fret. There are many ways to make a Thanksgiving meal that tastes uniquely delicious.

How to Make Thanksgiving Ingredient Substitutions

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.

Classic 100, Buttermilk Biscuits

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

Butter: For baking, swap in Greek yogurt, applesauce or oil. For non-baking purposes, use Canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil or ghee.

Buttermilk: For 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. For non-baking needs, 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 for 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, but you can make 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.


Get the recipe: Classic Homemade Gravy

Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

Get the recipe: Classic Homemade Gravy

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.

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.

Food Nework Kitchen's Holiday One-Offs, Mock Mashed Potatos, Cauliflower.

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

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

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.

Food Network Kitchen’s DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

Get the Recipe: DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Get the Recipe: DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

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

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 products can be exchanged for each other.

Turkey: There’s nothing wrong with a roast chicken or Cornish hens in place of turkey. Not only do they spend less time in the oven, they also tend to be juicer. Or, for a meatless Thanksgiving main, consider a stuffing-stuffed cauliflower or stuffed butternut squash.

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 Greek 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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