Emergency Substitutions for Common Ingredients

There’s nothing more stressful when preparing a big holiday dinner than running out of a key ingredient, especially when there’s no time to run back to the store. Here’s a list I compiled of popular substitutions for some of the more common ingredients we sometimes run low on.

Hope this helps your cooking go a bit smoother this holiday season! Happy Thanksgiving!

Emergency Substitutions for Common Ingredients

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Ingredient Substitutions

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

Bread Crumbs: 1 cup = 1 cup cracker crumbs or 1 cup of ground oats

Brown Sugar: 1 cup = 1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses

Butter–salted: 1 cup = 1 cup margarine OR 1 cup shortening + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Buttermilk: 1 cup = 1 cup sweet milk + tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar  (let stand 5 min)

Chocolate: 1 square (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Corn Starch for thickening: 1 tablespoon = 2 tablespoons flour OR 4 teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca

Corn Syrup: 1 cup =  1  1/4 cup white sugar + 1/3 cup of water

Cream–half and half: 1 cup = 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter

Cream–heavy: 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter

Cream–light: 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tablespoons butter

Cream Cheese: 1 cup = 1 cup pureed cottage cheese OR 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight in a cheesecloth

Cream of tartar: 1 teaspoon = 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

Egg: 1 whole =  2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered egg substitute plus 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute

Flour–Bread: 1 cup = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten

Flour–Cake: 1 cup = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Flour–Self Rising: 1 cup = 7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Garlic: 1 clove = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt–reduce salt in recipe

Lemon juice: 1 teaspoon = 1/2 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lime juice

Lime juice: 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Margarine: 1 cup = 1 cup shortening + 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 cup butter OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mayonnaise: 1 cup = 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt

Milk: 1 cup whole milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water OR 1 cup reconstituted nonfat dry milk + 2 1/2 teaspoons butter or margarine

Molasses: 1 cup = Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mustard–prepared: 1 tablespoon = Mix together 1 tablespoon dried mustard, 1 teaspoon water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar

Onion: 1 small = 1 tablespoon instant minced onion, rehydrated

Orange juice: 1 tablespoon = 1 tablespoon other citrus juice

Orange zest: 1 tablespoon = 1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Raisin: 1 cup = 1 cup dried currants OR 1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped pitted prunes

Sour cream: 1 cup = 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup OR 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter

Sweetened condensed milk: 1 (14 oz can) = 3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk (Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minute)

Tomato juice: 1 cup = 1/2 cup tomato sauce + 1/2 water

Vinegar: 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice OR 2 teaspoons white wine

Yogurt: 1 cup = 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup sour milk

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  1. Susan, this is a great list of substitutions! I love to use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs in my meatloaf.

  2. What a useful and practical post Susan! Thank you so much!

  3. Thank you for this list of substitutions. I just had to run (drive) 32 mile round trip to get what I had forgotten.

    Have you looked into a NuStep instead of a treadmill? I use one at the fitness center and it does a complete body workout with out all the stress on knees.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks, Carol for that suggestion. Really hoping to find a way to just get a lot more exercise when I’m working online. I have a closet full of clothes that are waiting on me to lose 20 lbs. 🙂

  4. Susan:

    These are great!!!!. Where were you when I had to learn how to cook 20 years ago. Thanks so much. I have already printed these tips and saved them onto my Iphone for me and my hubby.

    Although, I do have a question, but it is perhaps not in your area of expertise, but I will run it by you and see if you are able to help me. We spend Thanksgiving at my Mother-in-Law’s house now that my Father-in-Law has passed away. Here’s the challenge: She is a Vegan Extremist, Lactose Intolerant and won’t eat anything with a ton of sodium. We have come up with some clever things to cook, but the one thing I still struggle with is finding a parmesan cheese recipe. I have tried the nutritional yeast route and it is just awful. I have also tried the one at Whole Foods which is pretty good, but it has way too much sodium. Does anyone have a solution?

    • Wow, that is tough Melissa. I’m not sure what to recommend, either. I think I’d just come right out and ask her what foods she likes and I’d even ask for the recipes. Are you just taking over one dish and she’s preparing most of the food? Truly, I’d just ask her what she likes. Maybe if she can give you the names of some of the foods she eats, you can Google for some recipes. I hope someone else reading this has some good ideas or knows of a website to recommend that may. I bet there’s a blog out there with recipes for that type diet…maybe someone will know of one for you.

  5. This a great list to have handy all the time; will print & keep inside go-to recipe book. Thank you for sharing this; and thanks for putting it alphabetical order too! Happy Thanksgiving To All!

  6. Hi, Susan,
    What a great post!! Thank you for the info. I’m emailing it over to my daughter who is hosting her first Thanksgiving Dinner! It will be a terrific addition to my Better Homes and Garden cookbook, whose red and white checked cover has be a part of my kitchen since 1969! Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

  7. Susan, thank you for this great list, have copied it. I hope you and all the posters from the U.S., have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. I thought I knew a lot of substitutions but this list has many more than I have ever seen. I will definitely print this and put in my kitchen for reference. Thanks for sharing. Susan, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am grateful for you and your blog daily.

  9. Thanks so much for the list. I’ve pinned it for future reference. xo Lauara

  10. Marilyn Comer says

    Susan, you are so dear to have provided this list. I know it will come in handy someday, and I’ll be so happy that I taped it to the inside of my kitchen cabinet. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving; wishing you good food, a fire in the fireplace, family, friends, and maybe a nice nap.

  11. This is a great list. Funny though, if I don’t have bread flour, I definitely don’t have wheat gluten on hand!
    every year I. Say to myself , I’m going to put wreaths only windows like Susan….maybe this is the year!

  12. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am grateful for your blog, which is always inspiring to me.

  13. What a great post! Such useful information! I have a list of substitutions in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook but I’m not sure it’s this extensive.

  14. What a brilliant post! Thank you!! I can never find the right section in my cookbook when I need this. I’m sending this to my daughter, too. You are a lifesaver — the tip on the Christmas light fuse was so helpful, too!

  15. This is such good info to have. I literally spend hours in the grocery store and always seem to forget something; even with a list. Didn’t know there was a substitution for cream and molasses. You’ve saved the day Susan!

  16. Thanks for sharing this list – need to send to one of my daughters. She cooks a lot more than I do now days.
    Hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

  17. Your list is extremely helpful, Susan – thank you very much.
    A truly blessed and very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  18. Thanks Susan. The list has been printed and is hanging on my fridge – I know a lot of these but just hate running upstairs to the laptop to Google the substitution I need. I am also making a Family Cookbook and will include this list in it. Cheers. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I am thankful I have you in my life. Cheers from the west coast of Canada where we already had Thanksgiving (Oct 14) but that cute guy I married and I do get to go to a early Christmas party this evening and he has just advised that we will be staying the night at the hotel with breakfast tomorrow included. He knows what I like and I think after 49 years, I will keep him.

  19. Hi, Thanx for this.
    If only I can find a substitute for salt. My wife is at stage 4 kidney failure and the food, that I make for her, taste so BLAND!!!
    Blessings from sunny South Africa

  20. I will definitely print this for easy access, this is a great list with lots of variety. I have just started following your site and really enjoy it!

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