Emergency Substitutions

Even if your kitchen is usually stocked, there is still a chance that you will run out of something once you have started following a recipe. Luckily we have compiled a list of some substitutions you can use in a pinch and still have the finished product turn out pretty close to the real thing. It's a good idea to not use more that one substitution at a time for a recipe. Making one slight change will be fine, but the more changes you make, the higher the chance of it not turning out correctly either in taste or texture. These substitutions also may change the nutritional values of the recipe, either for better or for worse. If you are counting calories, carbs, sugars, fats or anything else, be sure to adjust your counts accordingly with any substitutions you make. If the middle column says "equal," simply use the substitution in the amount equal to what is required.

IngredientAmountPossible Substitutions
Dairy ProductsButtermilk1 cup1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to make 1 cup total, or 1 cup plain yogurt
Milk, whole1 cup1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water, or 1/3 cup dry milk plus 1 cup water
Eggs, large2 large eggs3 small eggs
Egg (for baking)11 tsp cornstarch plus 1/4 cup water
Egg1 whole egg2 egg yolks plus 1 tbsp water, or 1/4 cup egg substitute
Half and half1 cup7/8 cup milk plus 3 tbsp butter
Light cream1 cup2 tbsp butter plus enough milk to total one cup
Cream1 cup1/3 cup butter plus 3/4 cup milk
Sour Cream1 cup1 cup plain yogurt, or 7/8 cup buttermilk plus 3 tbsp butter
Yogurt, plainequal1 cup sour cream
Margarine or butter (for baking)1 cup1 cup hard shortening, or 7/8 cup vegetable oil
ShorteningequalButter or margarine
Asiago cheeseequalParmesan cheese
Ricotta cheeseequalCottage cheese
Baking NeedsFlour (for thickening)1 tbsp1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, rice flour, or tapioca
Self rising flour1 cup1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt
Cake flour1 cup1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Baking mix (like Bisquick)1 cup1 cup flour plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder plus 1/2 tsp salt plus 3 tbsp solid shortening
Tapioca1 tbsp1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Cornstarch1 tbsp2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Sugar1 cup1 cup honey but reduce liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup
Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar1 cup1 cup sugar plus 1 cup cornstarch mixed in food processor
Light brown sugar1 cup1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbsp molasses
Dark brown sugar1 cup3/4 cup of granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses
Palm sugarequalMaple sugar, or brown sugar blended with maple syrup to moisten
Honey1 cup1 1/4 cups sugar plus 1/4 cup water
Molassesequal1 cup honey
Corn syrup1 cup2/3 cup sugar plus 1/3 cup hot water and cool to room temperature before using
Chocolate, semisweet1 oz1 oz unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tbsp sugar, or 3 tbsp chocolate chips
Chocolate, semisweet chips1/2 cup3 oz semisweet chocolate
Chocolate, unsweetened1 oz3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tbsp margarine or oil
Vinegar1 tsp2 tsp lemon juice
Yeast, active dry1 packet2 1/2 tsp dry yeast ,or 1/3 cake yeast crumbled
Baking powder1 tsp1/4 tsp baking soda plus 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Oil1 cup1/2 lb butter, or 1 cup melted shortening, or 1 cup melted margarine
Bread crumbs1 cup3/4 cup cracker crumbs
Seasonings and FlavoringsHerbs, fresh1 tbsp1 tsp dried herb of same type
Herbs, dried1 tsp1 tbsp of same herb fresh
Garlic1 clove1/8 tsp garlic powder or minced dried garlic
Vanilla bean1 inch1 tsp vanilla extract
Allspice, ground1 tsp1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Mustard (prepared)1 tbsp1 tsp dry mustard
Pumpkin pie spice1 tsp1/2 tsp ground cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp ground ginger plus 1/8 tsp ground allspice plus 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Italian seasoning3 tsp1 tsp oregano plus 1 tsp basil plus 1 tsp sage
Saffron1/8 tsp1/2 tsp tumeric
Onion1 small onion1 tsp onion powder, or 1 tbsp minced dried onion re-hydrated
Lemon, fresh juice1 medium lemon2-3 tbsp bottled lemon juice
Lemon juice1 tsp1/2 tsp vinegar
Lemon peel1 tsp1/2 tsp lemon extract
Lemon grassequalGrated lemon zest mixed with a bit of fresh lemon juice
Orange, fresh juice1 medium orange1/4 to 1/3 cup orange juice
Amaretto2 tbsp1/4 to 1/2 tsp almond extract
Sherry2 tbsp1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
Marsala1/4 cup1/4 cup dry wine plus 1 tsp brandy
White wineequalWhite grape juice or apple juice
Red wine1/4 cup1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
Tomato sauce2 cups3/4 cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water
Tomato juice1 cup1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water
Tomatoes, canned1 cupSimmer 1 1/3 cup fresh tomato wedges for 10 minutes
Cocktail sauce1 cup1 cup ketchup plus 2 tbsp horseradish (or to taste)
Ketchup1 cup1 cup tomato sauce plus 1/4 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp vinegar


Reviews (20)

  • Very helpful - thank you so much! Thank you also to all who added their unique substitutes. Granny

    Flag as inappropriate psgrannyof3  |  January 29, 2012

  • Betisafatemi,
    You use graham crackers to make a cheesecake crust, and graham crackers are more sweet than salty. If you want to use something else, you could try some kind of cookie crumbs (i.e. Oreos). Happy baking!

    Flag as inappropriate ksteed  |  July 12, 2011

  • hi i have a problem i want to make a cheese cake is the crust salty (because f the crackers)?and 2 question how much is 8 oz in gramms thank you.

    Flag as inappropriate betisafatemi  |  July 8, 2011

  • what can i use for crust instead of crackers ?thank you

    Reported betisafatemi  |  July 8, 2011

  • This is an excellent source and I will tape it to the inside of my pantry door - where I also have a conversion chart for measurements.
    One thing I have been doing for years is using applesauce in place of oil for cakes. I haven't used a box cake for over 20 years but I know in my cakes it always works out great. Friends that have used this suggestion in their box mixes have said it works for them also...sometimes it may take an extra couple of minutes 2-3 to finish baking because it makes the cake super moist.

    Flag as inappropriate cheribella  |  April 18, 2011

  • I saw someone asked about a substitution for Mayo! Excellent......... Plain yogurt strained through cheesecloth (makes YoChee) Mix that with some vinegar and viola! Mayo!

    Flag as inappropriate ksimpson  |  April 1, 2011

  • Hi gbj1945,
    The best substitutes for capers are green olives. Happy cooking!

    Flag as inappropriate ksteed  |  January 13, 2011

  • What can be substituted for capers?? Thanks much.

    Flag as inappropriate gbj1945  |  January 11, 2011

  • How about brown gravy.

    Flag as inappropriate ilove2cooktoo  |  November 14, 2010

  • Yvonne, I can't find any completely non-alcoholic substitutions for Marsala, but this one contains very little alcohol: for every 1/4 C. of Marsala you need, use 1/4 C. grape juice and 1 tsp. brandy.

    Flag as inappropriate ksteed  |  September 7, 2010

  • I appreciate these subs. but would like to know if there isn't something non-alcoholic to sub. for Marsala. I do not like the taste of the alcoholic beverages.

    Flag as inappropriate ysrockypoint  |  September 6, 2010

  • what can you sub for mayonaise? I knew most of these subs but I also learned some new ones. Thanks

    Flag as inappropriate maggie47  |  May 24, 2010

  • Thank you so very much. This will be very helpful to me as I move from beginner to intermediate chef, especially as a 73-year-old.

    Flag as inappropriate jackteague  |  March 23, 2010

  • what do you used instead of sugar loaf if you can't find it.

    Flag as inappropriate whiteshewolf65  |  March 18, 2010

  • Really, really helpful. Thank you. Any plans to expand the list? For example,
    substitutions for 18 saltine crackers (crushed) in a meatloaf recipe?

    Flag as inappropriate lucylucy  |  February 23, 2010

  • I live overseas and cant find any cream of Tartar, does anyone have any ideas for a substitute?

    Flag as inappropriate mjwvilla  |  February 5, 2010

  • I live overseas in a developing country and do not have cake mixes. I do have flour, sugar, the very basics. Many tasty recipes begin with a cake mix. Any ideas on substitutes for this? Thanks.

    Flag as inappropriate lyricyeats  |  November 13, 2009

  • These are basic items that will help evey cook. Thank you

    Flag as inappropriate msatchell2  |  August 29, 2009

  • Loved it....especially the herbs. Sometimes it's too expensive to buy fresh when you only need a small amount.


    Flag as inappropriate mgrauert  |  August 15, 2009

  • Thank you for this article I didnt know that there were so many substitutions that I could use especially being on a very tight budget thank you thank you thank you!!

    Flag as inappropriate micchippie  |  August 9, 2009

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