Common Ingredient Substitutions to Make Your Next Recipe a Breeze

·2-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images / LokFung
Photo credit: Getty Images / LokFung

We've all been there — halfway through a delicious cookie recipe only to realize you're all out of brown sugar, or vanilla extract or maybe even chocolate! So we rounded up all of the most common ingredient substitutions, whether you're looking for a baking powder substitute, a swap for fish sauce or an alternative to sour cream for your favorite taco recipe, we've got you covered.


  • Baking powder: 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • Broth: Use water instead, plus additional salt and any aromatics that you have (onions, garlic, celery, herbs, etc.)

  • Brown Sugar: 1 cup brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2–3 teaspoons molasses

  • Buttermilk: 1 cup buttermilk = 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken. Or use 1 cup plain yogurt.

  • Chives: Use scallion tops

  • Chocolate: 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Cornstarch (for thickening): 1 tablespoon cornstarch = 2–3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or rice flour

  • Fish sauce: 1 tablespoon fish sauce = 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus 1 finely-minced anchovy fillet

  • Flour (cake): 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Flour (self-rising): 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Milk: 1 cup whole milk = 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water, or ¾ cup half and half plus ¼ cup water (bonus: find substitutes for heavy cream!)

  • Pancetta: Use sliced bacon simmered in water for 2–3 minutes, then rinsed and drained. This will remove some of the fat, so you may need to add more oil to the recipe.

  • Pine nuts: Use walnuts or almonds

  • Prosciutto: Use ham, preferably Westphalian or a country ham, such as Smithfield

  • Red pepper flakes: 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes = ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot sauce

  • Shallots: Use red onion, leeks or scallions

  • Sour cream: 1 cup sour cream = 1 cup whole milk yogurt

  • Vanilla extract: Use the same amount of maple syrup, bourbon, brandy or rum

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