Sometimes there are ingredients that are simply not available at the store or are just too expensive to be purchased. In these cases it may be more convenient to substitute the missing ingredient with a similar product from your pantry. Substituting can be a tricky task and needs to be done with care because substitutions can alter the taste, moisture content or texture of the recipe.

Getting Started with Ingredient Substitution

The easiest way to make ingredient substitutions is to start with the most common ingredients in a recipe. For example, if you’re looking for a good cinnamon substitute, try swapping out fresh cinnamon with nutmeg or allspice. You can also use dried spices, such as cloves, allspice or a mixture of cinnamon and ground cloves, in place of the fresh ones. Check out our website for all kinds of Simple Homemade Recipes to enjoy with your family.

Baking Flour

The best flour substitute for cake flour is to take a cup of all-purpose flour, add 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder and then use that in the place of the cake flour. In addition, adding a small amount of baking powder to replace the cake flour can help prevent your cakes from rising too much.

Herbs and Spices

It’s easy to replace fresh herbs with dried versions if they are not available or too pricey. For every tsp of fresh herb called for in the recipe, use 3 times as much dried version. Herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary and sage are all great choices.


You’ll want to look for an alternative to sugar in recipes that call for a sweetener, especially when it comes to savory dishes. You’ll be able to substitute a variety of different types, from brown sugar and honey to maple syrup or orange juice.


Vegetable substitutions depend largely on the flavor and cook time of the vegetable you want to use. Some vegetables, such as asparagus, brussels sprouts and broccoli, can step in for firmer-cooking vegetables like spinach. Others, such as kale and cabbage, are more quick-cooking options.

Fats and Oils

When a recipe calls for butter or shortening, you can substitute vegetable oil, says Lisa Lichtenstein, author of the book “Cooking with Science.” You should choose an oil that tolerates high temperatures (such as in a pan or a deep fryer) and doesn’t have a high smoke point (meaning it won’t burn easily). The same holds true for other solid fats such as margarine and shortening.

For example, replacing regular sour cream with low-fat Greek yogurt will give you four times the protein and fewer calories than the original, according to Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist in the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the HNRCA.

If you’re a foodie, don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients. You can always go back to the original recipe if you’re disappointed, but you can also enjoy your meal a lot more with a little creativity and flexibility! These substitutions can be especially helpful when you’re trying to follow a diet or a particular meal plan.

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