The Chef’s Guide to Substitutes in Cooking

The Chef’s Guide to Substitutes in Cooking and Ending Food Waste

A big welcome to EndFoodWaste.org readers.  We are proud to welcome you to our site and our shared mission of healthy living and healthy eating.  

EndFoodWaste.org was originally set up to draw attention to the 23% of fruits and vegetables that are deemed unsellable. This is mostly due to strict cosmetic standards from large grocers that dictate exactly how their fruit and veggies should look. This equals billions upon billions of pounds of good, healthy produce left uneaten because it doesn’t look pretty! If produce fails to make the grade for size, shape, or color it’s deemed "ugly" and unsellable.

One of the best ways to End Food Waste is through careful use of substitutes in cooking and baking.  You also want to make sure you measure your ingredients, like how many tablespoons are there in a cup, and don't waste by adding more than you need. Store your food in a good 4 door refrigerator to keep from spoiling. 

Make sure you freeze potatoes to save on food waste. You can freeze many foods. You can freeze quiche and freeze yogurt to cut down on food waste. Make sure you use your leftovers too. Here's a great list of leftover roast beef recipes to try.

Use the appropriate cutting tools and watch the Styrofoam plates and cups.  They end up in landfills. Try to eliminate the use of Styrofoam as much as possible.

Enjoy our roundup of all the best food substitutes we could find.


There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect recipe, heading to your kitchen to gather all of your ingredients together, and finding out that you’re short on a couple of things.

While a trip to the grocery store to restock your cabinets is a simple enough task, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have what you need in stock either.

So, what’s the solution when you’ve got your heart set on creating some delicious, home-cooked food, but you're lacking certain ingredients? You look for substitutes! 

Believe it or not, there are loads of ingredients that can be substituted for other things. They work equally as well as the items the original recipe calls for, too. 

Below, we’ve put together the chef’s guide to substitutes in cooking. In this guide, you’ll find a category-by-category list of ingredients that are easily substituted for other things. And if you need placemats we can help to. Always remember bacon cooked in the oven is awesome.

The Chef’s Guide to Substitutes in Cooking

Why Substitute Ingredients?

Before we start looking at certain ingredient substitutions, let’s take a look at why you might want to turn to substitutes.

The most common reason is simply that you don’t have all of the ingredients you need for the recipe. In which case, substituted ingredients can save the day.

You can also save a bit of money by substituting ingredients. If you’ve got something in your kitchen that works just as well as the original ingredients, why spend the extra money? 

Substitute ingredients can also be called on if you’re cooking for somebody who suffers from a food intolerance.

For example, if you’re making a cake for a person who is allergic to eggs, you can often substitute them for mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce. 

A great idea is to substitute earth friendly products for those you normally buy. Take trash bags.  It's a good idea to buy biodegradable or compostable trash bags to help save the earth.

Remember, freezing leftovers also cuts down on food waste. You can freeze potato salad, and other dishes for future use. You can also freeze spinach, kale, and collard greens for future recipes. Speaking of greens, you can freeze lettuce too.

Baking Ingredients

Baking Ingredients

Let’s begin our journey into ingredient substitutes by taking a look at the baking category.

Over the past few years, the popularity of baking has skyrocketed, and now it seems like almost everybody is trying to create the perfect show-stopping cake or gooey, chocolatey brownies. 

Unlike a lot of cooking, baking has a science behind it. Each of your measurements has to be precise, and the temperature of the oven has to be perfect. However, the ingredients don’t always have to be as stated in the recipe.

In fact, the baking genre features some of the most easy-to-substitute ingredients like shortening you’ll come across. Some are fairly obvious, while others are a lot more surprising!

Let’s take a closer look at what can be substituted, and for what, below.

Almond Flour

If you do a lot of gluten-free baking, then there’s a chance you’ll rely on almond flour to create your delicious bakes.

But is there an alternative to almond flour that you can use when you run out, or if you can’t find any in your grocery store?

Yes, there is! In fact, there are quite a few almond flour substitutes. A full list of these can be found here, but coconut flour, plantain flour, and sunflower seed flour are among the most popular. 

Depending on what you substitute almond flour for, the taste may be slightly different but it’s never made worse. For instance, substituting almond flour for cashew flour will give a creamier, more indulgent texture. You can also check out Foods that start with A for more info.

Apples

Apples are a wonderful addition to many pies, cakes, and cookies.  What do you do if you don't have any apples or the right types of apple?  Try another variety of sweet apple.  There are many options.  You could also substitute ripe pineapple for many recipes.

Baking Powder

Baking powder can be substituted for some surprising things. Vinegar, buttermilk, and even whipped egg whites are all on the list. Even more surprising is the fact that none of its substitutes affect the overall taste of your baked goods. 

It’s all about using small quantities of substituted ingredients, here. For example, ½ a teaspoon of vinegar mixed with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda is the equivalent of 1 whole teaspoon of baking powder. Check out how to make pancake mix for a quick and delicious recipe.

Take a look here for a full list of baking powder substitutes along with the correct equivalent measurements. Also check our Foods that Start with B for more great info.

Baking Soda

You might be wondering what the difference between baking soda and baking powder is. To put it simply, baking soda is stronger. However, just like baking powder, it can be replaced by other ingredients. 

Each of its substitutions is just as good at getting that perfect rise on a cake, without adding any strange texture or taste to the final product. 

Bread Flour

There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through your home. But what can you use if you’ve found you’ve run out of bread flour? 

You might have thought that self-raising flour would have been the most obvious substitute. But there’s a good reason for not using self-raising flour in place of bread flour. Instead, the answer lies with good old-fashioned, reliable, all-purpose flour.

Naturally, there will be a bit of a difference in the bread’s rise, and it may have a stodgier texture, but it’s a good substitute when you’re out of all other options. 

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is a staple baking ingredient. But what do you do when you’ve opened your cupboard full of baking supplies and find out you’ve completely run out? Don’t panic, there are plenty of brown sugar substitutes.

From honey to coconut sugar, the switch is simple. However, one thing you’ll need to look out for is measurement equivalency. You can use some brown sugar substitutes with the exact same measurements, while others are completely different. 

Cake Flour

You might think it’s impossible to make a cake without cake flour, but you’d be wrong! A simple mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch is all you need to substitute cake flour. It's a pretty simple thing to do as well, and you only need to follow a few basic steps

You’ll notice absolutely no difference in the texture or taste of the final bake, either. Don’t be tempted to use bread flour, though. This will just leave you with a dense, chewy cake.  

Caster Sugar

If you’re a keen baker, you’ll know how important it is to have a ready supply of caster sugar available.

But, if you ever run out and haven’t got the time or the inclination to take a trip to your grocery store, you can use several caster sugar substitutes.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that some of them (such as honey) may change the color and consistency of certain bakes.

This isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen though, and, luckily, none of the substitutes you can use for caster sugar will alter the taste. 

Coconut Flour

As you may have guessed by its name, coconut flour is made from the flesh of coconuts which gives it a sweeter taste. It’s for this reason that it’s used in several baking recipes, especially those that are coconut-themed.

But, if you simply can’t find any coconut flour on the shelves of your local supermarket, what can you use instead?

Cassava flour, almond flour, and hazelnut flour are all great coconut flour substitutes. You wont get 100% the same flavor, but the texture will be very close to the real thing and you’ll still get an interesting flavor from them that will add a different dimension to your bake. 

Cornmeal

If you want to make cornbread but you’ve found that you’re completely out of cornmeal, it doesn’t mean that hope is entirely lost! Instead, you can use some of these cornmeal substitutes in its place. 

Cornstarch

Cornstarch is one of those ingredients that, while often used in baking, has multiple other uses in the kitchen. It’s also one of the easiest ingredients to substitute. 

Cornstarch substitutes range from simple ingredients you’ll likely already have in your kitchen (such as wheat flour), to more specialist ingredients that you might well have lurking in the back of your kitchen cabinets. 

Each of the ingredients you can use in place of cornstarch act the same way and, most importantly, they won’t affect the taste of your food either. 

Corn Syrup

Although corn syrup itself can be considered a substitute for sugar,  it’s also often called upon as a stand-alone ingredient when baking.

But, unless you’re an avid baker, it may be an ingredient that you don’t have to hand or you simply don’t want to purchase just to make a one-off recipe.

In either case, corn syrup can be substituted with many different ingredients. These include store cupboard staples such as honey and golden syrup, as well as less frequently used ingredients such as agave nectar.

You can also use simple syrup as a corn syrup alternative in many recipes. check it out.

Cream of Tartar

Certain baked goods, like meringue, need a dose of cornstarch to help stabilize the egg whites and prevent the sugar from crystalizing. This makes it quite an essential baking ingredient. 

But what can you use in its place when you’re halfway through beating your eggs and you’ve discovered you’ve run out? You might be quite surprised by what some possible substitutes are, including vinegar and yogurt. 

With some of these substitutes, there is a chance you’ll end up with a slightly different texture in your final product. So, depending on what you’re baking, it’s worth checking the full list before you commit to a certain substitute

Custard Powder

Custard powder is quite a versatile ingredient and can be added to baked goods for a hit of vanilla flavor, or simply as a standalone sauce that drizzled over a hot, sweet treat.

The versatility of custard powder continues to shine through when we look at what it can be substituted for, too.

There are loads of things you can use in place of custard powder including pudding mix and cornstarch. Each of them provides a close flavor match as well.

And, if you find you don’t have any of these substitutes, you can even make custard from scratch very easily.  

Lemon Extract

While you can use lemon extract in a ton of different recipes, it’s most often called for when flavoring cakes, pastries, and other delicious sweet treats.

But can the unique flavor of lemon extract be recreated using something else as a substitute?

Yes, it can! You can use the juice or zest of the real thing, as well as limes or oranges. Also be mindful of lemon zest. Know how to zest a lemon.

The thing you’ll need to be cautious about is changing the quantities accordingly. You can find out how much juice or zest you need to substitute for lemon extract here. Also check out Foods that start with L for more info.

Molasses

Since molasses is a byproduct of sugar refining, it’s one of the easiest ingredients to substitute. You can use brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, as well as loads of other ingredients as a substitute for molasses. Check out Foods that start with M for more ideas.

Parchment Paper

A cake sticking to the pan is every baker’s nightmare. This is easily avoided by using parchment paper, but what do you do when you find that you’ve used it all?

Luckily, there are a few parchment paper substitutes that will ensure your bakes come clean out of the tin every time!

Amongst these, you’ll find reusable baking sheets. These are great on many levels as they won’t only ensure you get that clean cake release every time, but you’ll save money as you’ll be able to use them again. Not to mention, they’re also a much more environmentally-friendly option. 

Potato Flour

That’s right, the humble potato is so versatile that it can even be made into flour! But, it’s not one of those ingredients that many of us have readily available.

So, if you’ve stumbled across a recipe that you’d like to try, but you don’t have any potato flour, you’ll need to use something else.

Luckily, potato flour is quite easy to substitute. In fact, there are 7 different ingredients you can use instead of potato flour, including rice flour, cornstarch, and even mashed potato flakes. Chickpea flour is also an option.

Powdered Sugar

Powdered sugar is essential for icing cakes, biscuits, and a plethora of other baked goods. But, can it be replaced with anything?

Yes, it can! In fact, there are a huge number of powdered sugar substitutes, which is super useful if you’ve run out. 

Each of its possible substitutes matches quite closely in consistency too, so there’s no need to worry about creating gritty icing! Some can even enhance the taste of your icing, giving it more of a natural, caramel flavor.

Spelt Flour

As with almond flour, spelt flour is a good alternative if you have a sensitivity to wheat. It also has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that can enhance the taste of your bakes. But is there anything you can use in its place?

Some spelt flour substitutes include barley flour and rice flour. There are a few other spelt flour substitutes that will act just as well without affecting the flavor either. 

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is a popular, gluten-free alternative to all-purpose flour. However, if you find you’ve run out or you don’t have enough tapioca flour for a recipe, there are a few substitutes you can use in its place. 

These include cassava flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. However, the quantities of each of these will differ and if used incorrectly, the density of the bake can be affected.

But, make sure you’re using the correct amount of each substitute and you’ll hardly notice any difference in taste or texture. 

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract has such a unique flavor that you might think it’s impossible to substitute it for anything else. Surprisingly, however, there are actually quite a few things you can use instead.

Substitutes for vanilla extract include vanilla essence, vanilla powder, as well as less obvious ingredients such as maple syrup and rum!

Dairy

There are a few reasons why you may need to substitute dairy for another ingredient.

Perhaps you’ve opened your refrigerator and you’ve found that the cream cheese you thought was fine has, in fact, now gone bad.

Maybe you’re cooking for somebody with a lactose intolerance or egg allergy. Also, make sure you have a good cheese grater on hand. It's not just for cheese.

Whatever your reasons, there are plenty of dairy substitutes available to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular below. Check out Foods that start with D for more interesting ideas.

Butter

Let’s start with one of the most commonly used dairy products of all - butter. Used in baking, cooking, and even on its own in sandwiches and on toast, butter is extremely versatile.

But, this versatility often means that you can find you’ve run out of butter without realizing it.  Don't panic! If this happens, there are a few substitutes for butter you can use instead.

These included olive oil, coconut oil, and even mashed bananas. Some of these do have their own unique flavor though, so choose your butter substitute wisely! I love butter to dip steamed crab legs into. Yum.

Remember, you can always have breakfast for dinner too!

Buttermilk

Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that you wouldn’t normally have on hand, so finding a suitable substitute can help to save you money and takes away the need to make a special trip.

Buttermilk substitutes are almost always a mixture of two other ingredients, most of which you’ll likely already have in your kitchen. This includes things such as milk and vinegar. 

There are also some great buttermilk substitutes that are perfect for vegan cooking or food allergies. 

Cheesecloth

While cheesecloth isn’t something that you’d add to a recipe as an ingredient, it’s sometimes called for as part of your equipment list. It’s also not something that most people have stored away in their kitchen drawers!

So, what can you use in its place? There are actually lots of different items you can use as a cheesecloth substitute including kitchen towels, coffee filters, and even socks (clean, of course!) And, best of all, they are probably things that you’ll already own, helping to save you some money in the process.

Cream Cheese

Whether you’re making icing, a sauce, or simply topping a bagel, cream cheese is a staple ingredient in your refrigerator. It’s also one the easiest ingredients to substitute, with foods such as cottage cheese and mascarpone stepping in to replace it. Remember to freeze your cream cheese if you have leftovers. How to soften cream cheese is a common question from our readers.

Some cream cheese substitutes do have a slightly different texture though, so it’s a good idea to think about this so you can settle on the most suitable substitute for what you’re making. Don't forget the brie.  

Eggs

You might think that eggs are a really hard item to substitute. They are relied upon in so many different recipes, after all. But, there are actually lots of different things you can use in place of eggs

You do need to consider certain things when you’re substituting eggs, though. If you’re baking an eggless cake, for example, a substitute such as chia seeds and flaxseed won’t give you as much of a rise. However, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar will. Check out Foods that start with E for more info.

Don't forget your egg substitute for cookies too.  There are many. 

Evaporated Milk

As with buttermilk, evaporated milk is one of those ingredients that you’ll likely only need on the odd occasion. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can use in its place to avoid an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. 

You can even make your own, which is a lot more straightforward than you’d think.

And, if you’re altering a recipe to make it vegan, you can swap evaporated milk for these vegan substitutes

Gruyere Cheese

If you want a gooey, toasted cheese sandwich but you’re short of the traditional ingredient of Gruyere cheese, hope isn’t lost! There are lots of other cheeses you can substitute Gruyere for, including Emmental and Beaufort. 

These substitutes are just as useful when you’re making other recipes that call for Gruyere as well. The reason for this is because they have a high melting point.

So, whether it’s fondue or mac n’ cheese, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from when substituting Gruyere cheese. Some even try Muenster cheese.

Heavy Cream

Another staple refrigerator ingredient, heavy cream is called for across a huge range of recipes. However, its popularity means that you might run out of it quite quickly. 

If you do find you’ve used up all of your heavy cream, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are a huge number of heavy cream substitutes. This includes common refrigerator foods such as a mixture of butter, milk, and yogurt.

You can also substitute heavy cream for a vegan-friendly option such as coconut milk or tofu. This does affect the taste slightly, but it’s a great alternative if you’re trying to keep things plant-based.   Check out Foods that star with H for more info.

Manchego Cheese

If you’re cooking a dish that requires manchego cheese purely for its ability to create long, delicious strings when it’s melted, there are some other varieties that you can use in its place. 

Substitutes for manchego include mozzarella,  English cheddar, and zamorano. You don’t necessarily have to melt them either, as all of manchego’s substitutes are equally as good when used as a solid ingredient, too. 

Milk

Milk is another super versatile ingredient and is used in baking, savory food, and even for weakening down a strong cup of coffee.

But, what can you use instead if you run out or if you’re cooking for somebody with a dairy allergy?

Well, the versatility of milk continues to shine through with the number of milk substitutes you can replace it with. Cream and yogurt make great alternatives, and, if you’re looking for something dairy free, go for something like almond milk or soy milk. 

Powdered Milk

We know that powdered milk is a good substitute for fresh milk. But what can you do if a recipe calls for powdered milk as a stand-alone ingredient and you don’t have any?

Well, it actually works the other way around, too. You can substitute powdered milk for fresh, adjusting the quantity accordingly.

There are also a few other powdered ingredients you can use as a substitute for powdered milk, including coconut milk powder and rice milk powder. Check out Foods that start with P for more great info.

Ricotta

From baked treats to pasta, there are loads of different dishes that call for ricotta in their ingredients list. But what can you use in its place when you’ve opened your refrigerator only to find that you’ve totally run out?

Well, you actually have quite a few ricotta substitutes to choose from. These include ingredients such as cottage cheese, which will give you a close flavor and texture match, as well as tofu and cream cheese. Check out Foods that start with R for more interesting info.

Alcohol

Lots of recipes call for a splash of wine or cooking sherry to enhance the flavor. But what do you do if you don’t have any in the house, or you simply don’t want to open a whole bottle of wine just to use a little in your cooking?

Below, we’ll look at some of the best substitutes for alcohol in cooking. Some of these can also be in place of the traditional alcohol used to make certain cocktails. Make sure you also know how many ounces are in a shot for various drink recipes.

Cointreau

This orange-flavored liqueur is most commonly used to make cocktails such as Cosmopolitans and Margaritas. It’s also found in some baking recipes.

However, unless you’re a keen mixologist, it’s probably unlikely that you’ve got a bottle of Cointreau hanging around.

In its place, you can use Triple Sec, Curaço, or Grand Marnier. The alcohol contents of each of these are a little different to Cointreau though, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly. 

Try an Irish Trash Can if you're looking for an interesting cocktail.

Cooking Sherry

Cooking sherry is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute. In fact, there are a total of 15 cooking sherry substitutes including white wine, brandy, and hard apple cider.

Within its 15 possible substitutes, you’ll also find some non-alcoholic alternatives to cooking sherry. These are ideal if you’d prefer to avoid alcohol altogether, but don’t want to sacrifice the taste. 

Grenadine Syrup

While grenadine syrup doesn’t actually contain any alcohol, it is often used as a mixer in cocktails and as a main ingredient in non-alcoholic mocktails.

But, unless you make cocktails on a fairly regular basis, it’s probably not an ingredient that you’ll have to hand. So what can you use in its place?

Substitutes for grenadine syrup include pomegranate molasses, raspberry syrup, and more. You can also make your own grenadine syrup quite easily using just three ingredients. 

Triple Sec

Throwing a cocktail party but don’t want to have to buy a bottle of Triple Sec especially for it? This where substitutes are your best friend!

There are 9 Triple Sec substitutes to choose from, including Brandy, Grenadine, and Maraschino.

You can also substitute Triple Sec in cooking by choosing an ingredient with a similar orange flavor, such as marmalade, orange juice, or orange extract. 

White Wine

If a recipe calls for a splash of white wine but you don’t want to open a bottle just to cook with, there are a few substitutes you can use in its place. Some of these are non-alcoholic too, so they are great if you’d prefer to keep things tee-total.

Surprisingly, you can even use beer as a substitute for white wine in cooking. You may even get more depth of flavor as there are so many different flavors of beer available. 

If you're looking at white wine as a sauce for pork chops, you can't go wrong.

Herbs & Spices 

Herbs & Spices

Whether fresh or dried, herbs and spices are an essential ingredient in so many dishes. But, if you’re following a recipe and you’ve discovered you’ve run out of something, or it’s gone past its use-by date, you’ll need to think about what you can substitute it for.

Below, we’ll look at the best substitutions for some of the most common herbs and spices used in home cooking. 

Allspice

If you could think of a season as a spice, allspice would be fall. Because of its name, there is a common misconception that allspice is a mixture of different spices, but this isn’t the case.

This means that substituting it for something else is easier than you might have thought.

Allspice substitutes include cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. You can even use a mixture of all three to get the closest flavor comparison possible. 

Cardamom

The unique, nutty flavor of cardamom makes it a popular spice in many recipes. It’s also one of the traditional spices used in Scandinavian Christmas dishes. But what can you substitute it for?

To really imitate the flavor, you’ll need to look at mixing a couple of different spices together. This can be a combination of cinnamon and cloves, or cinnamon and nutmeg is a great cardamom substitute.    

Cayenne Pepper

Regularly called for in Mexican cuisine, cayenne pepper is a great spice for adding a fiery kick to any dish. But, when the spice rack has a cayenne pepper-shaped vacancy in it, you’ll need to think about what else you can use instead.

Luckily, cayenne pepper is pretty easy to replicate and there are a few substitutes you can use in its place. These include paprika, chili flakes, and black pepper. All things you’ll likely have in your store cupboard already.  

Chili Powder, Chili Paste and Green Chilies

While chili powder can be easily substituted for chili flakes and certain hot sauces, did you know that it’s really easy to make your own using a few ingredients that you’ll likely already have in your spice rack?!

There are also some things that you should never substitute chili powder for, including curry powder and black or white pepper.  Don't forget chili paste as well.  Green Chilies can be an excellent ingredient to your recipe.

Cilantro / Coriander

Love it or hate it, cilantro is an ingredient that you’ll find in many cuisines. It’s also used quite commonly in Asian recipes.

But, if you really can’t stand the taste, there are a few fresh and dried substitutes you can use including parsley, basil, and cumin.

Of course, you could just leave it out altogether. But with so many different suitable substitutes you’d be doing yourself, and the recipe, a disservice!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a really versatile spice that can be used in both baking and cooking. It’s also really great for pairing with red meats. But what are its possible substitutes?

There are actually quite a few cinnamon substitutes, including cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Of course, none of them are a perfect substitute as cinnamon has such a unique flavor. But, if you use a mixture of a few spices, you can create a close flavor comparison. 

Cumin

The first thing you need to think about when you’re looking for a cumin substitute is whether you need to replicate the flavor of cumin seeds or ground cumin as each of them has its own different substitute.

If you’re out of cumin seeds, you can use caraway or coriander seeds instead. If you’re looking for a ground cumin substitute, you have a wider variety of options including garam masala, chili powder, and even taco seasoning!

Dill Weed

Dill weed is traditionally used in Scandinavian cuisine, but over the last few years, it has been making its way into different dishes from all over the world.

It has a unique, aniseed-like flavor that makes it quite different from most other herbs. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to replicate.

There are 7 substitutes for dill weed that will offer you a similar taste including parsley, tarragon, and thyme, albeit slightly muted.

These are also ideal if you’re not a fan of dill, as you won’t find the dish being overpowered by its anise taste. 

Dry Mustard

Dry mustard is one of those ingredients that easily gets left at the back of your store cupboard, only to be used once in a while.

But, when the time comes to dig it out from the depths of your kitchen cabinets and you find that it’s been left untouched for so long that it’s expired, what can you use in its place?

Dijon mustard, wasabi powder, and horseradish powder are all fantastic substitutes for dry mustard.

Bear in mind, however, that the heat of each of these is quite different, so you’ll need to adjust your quantities and taste as you go. Don't forget horseradish as a substitute.

Fennel Seeds

The aromatic, aniseed-like flavor of fennel seeds makes them instantly recognizable and they are used frequently in Indian and Asian cuisine.

Since they have such a unique flavor, it’s often believed that they can’t be substituted for anything else. But this isn’t actually true.

Some fantastic substitutes for fennel seeds include anise, dill seeds, and caraway, all of which have that aniseed flavor.

However, some of these substitutes are a little muted, so you’ll have to adjust the amount you use accordingly. Also check out Foods that start with F for other options.

Fresh Ginger

Another popular ingredient in Asian cooking, fresh ginger adds a fragrant, spicy punch to any dish.

However, unless it’s stored properly, it can be prone to shriveling, going moldy, and becoming totally unusable. 

If this has happened, or if you simply haven’t got any fresh ginger available, there are a few spices that it can be substituted for.

You can also use frozen ginger or ginger juice in its place, but you’ll need to change the recipe’s measurement a bit. 

Oregano

Oregano brings an unmistakable flavor to Italian cooking. However, if you don’t have any, or you’re cooking for somebody with an oregano allergy, there are a few things you can switch it for instead.

This includes marjoram, parsley, and basil, all of which will still give your dish that Italian flavor.

However, as with all herb and spice substitutions, you’ll need to adjust the ratio of the measurements to stop the dish from becoming overpowered. 

Paprika

If you’re looking to give your food a spicy kick, but you don’t necessarily want to create as much heat as you would with chili powder, paprika should be your spice of choice.

However, if you find that you’ve run out, there are still some things you can use to get a similar flavor and level of heat. Paprika is sometimes used to make hummus.

Substitutes for paprika include black pepper, Cajun spice, gumbo file, and red pepper flakes. You can even mix together tomato juice and chili powder to get a gentler heat while retaining the vibrant color that paprika would normally bring to your dish. 

Paprika is a main ingredient in making Old World Pepperoni along with beef and pork.

Parsley

Although typically used in Mediterranean cuisines, parsley is a popular herb that features in recipes all over the world. It can be added to dishes as a fresh herb, or in its dried form.

But how do you get the unmistakable flavor of parsley when you don’t have any to hand?

Substitutes for parsley include chervil leaves and celery leaves. Or, if you’d prefer to substitute it with something you're more familiar with, basil and cilantro are also great alternatives. 

Poultry Seasoning

Whether you’re roasting a chicken for a family dinner or you’re in charge of the thanksgiving turkey this year, a generous scattering of poultry seasoning is a sure-fire way to add some flavor to an otherwise bland meat. 

Is there anything you can use if you discover you’ve run out of poultry seasoning, though? Since poultry seasoning is essentially a mixture of different herbs, it’s quite easy to recreate your own. Find out how to do it here

Rosemary

Rosemary has such a unique flavor and scent, that it’s one of the hardest herbs to substitute. However, there are still some things you can use in place of rosemary, including both fresh and dried herbs. 

Since rosemary has such a powerful flavor, you do need to make sure you’re thinking about the conversion of ratio so that you don’t overpower the dish. This is especially true if you’re using dried rosemary as a substitute for fresh rosemary.

Thyme

Thyme is a herb that can be used in loads of different ways, and it has a place in both savory and sweet dishes. However, even though it’s both versatile and delicious, it’s one of the easiest herbs to substitute. 

Herbs you can use in place of thyme include oregano, marjoram, and za’atar. Be careful with your quantities though, as some of these substitutes can be a little overpowering if you use too much of them. 

Sauces

Sauces

Certain sauces are often called upon when cooking to add flavor and depth to meats, vegetables, or marinades. You may also need to add a drop of something to a sauce that you’re making from scratch.

Below, you’ll find five sauces that are often used in cooking, along with their substitutes. So, rather than fretting if you’ve run out of something, simply take a look at what you can use instead. 

Dijon Mustard

Dijon mustard has been used in cooking since Medieval times, and it’s perfect for adding a punch of heat to your dish. However, if you haven’t got any, you can actually use a variety of other types of mustard in its place

You'll have to take care to convert your ratios though, as some mustards are far hotter than dijon.

For example, if you’re using English mustard as a substitute for dijon, you’ll need to go for half a teaspoon instead of a whole teaspoon. Mustard is a mayonnaise substitute because mayo can go bad.

Fish Sauce

It’s almost impossible to make any Asian dish without the addition of fish sauce. But, if you’ve never used it before and you’re not certain you need to purchase a whole bottle, there are three substitutes for fish sauce you can use instead

Just like fish sauce, each of them has a salty, sweet flavor. But, the taste of your dish can be affected if you use too much of one and too little of another. Remember, canned fish is a great substitute for fresh if you have no other options.

For example, using soy sauce in place of fish sauce is a perfect substitute, but using too much will completely ruin your meal. So, take it easy and taste as you go. 

Hoisin Sauce

You might think that the sweet, salty, unique flavor or hoisin sauce is completely unreplicable. But you’d be wrong! In fact, there are a few substitutes you can use should you ever find you’ve run out of hoisin sauce. 

You can even make your own hoisin sauce substitute by mixing together a few staple cupboard ingredients. This gives you more power over the final taste, too. 

Oyster Sauce

The thick, dark texture and salty-sweet taste of oyster sauce make it one of the most instantly recognizable ingredients in the world of cooking. But, despite its apparent uniqueness, it’s actually one of the easiest ingredients to substitute.

If you’re out of oyster sauce, there are a few different things you can use instead. These include soy sauce, fish sauce, and even BBQ sauce!

However, as is the case with most substitutes, you’ll need to adjust your measurements accordingly and taste as you go to get the flavor replication spot-on.  Check out Foods that start with O for more ideas.

Soy Sauce

Used in recipes and as a seasoning, soy sauce is hugely popular in Asian cuisine. There are also some great soy sauce substitutes that are complete lifesavers when you reach for the bottle and find it’s empty! These include Worcestershire sauce, tamarind, and fish sauce. Remember, you can also substitute Spring Rolls vs Egg Rolls too. Soy sauce is great with Basmati rice or Jasmine rice. Personally I prefer Jasmine rice with my Asian recipes.

Sriracha

If your dish needs a spicy kick, Sriracha is the way to go. But, if you haven’t got any, or if you’d prefer a milder flavor, it can be substituted for other ingredients such as cayenne pepper or tabasco. The beauty of this is that you’ll probably already have these ingredients in your kitchen. Don't forget Poblano Peppers as an option.

Tomato Sauce

Most people would agree that a portion of fries isn’t complete with a side of tomato sauce. It’s also been a tried and tested ingredient in persuading children to eat healthier foods for many years.

But, if the bottle is empty and you need tomato sauce, what can you use instead?!

There are few things you can try. Substitutes for tomato sauce include tomato paste and canned tomatoes, which you can make your sauce from. This helps in baking too like cooking frozen lasagna faster.

If you’re really in a pinch, you can even use a little tomato soup as a tomato sauce substitute. If you're making Cajun food you can add some gumbo file powder too.

Worcestershire Sauce

While pretty tricky to pronounce, Worcestershire sauce is used in many dishes to add a sweet, salty, unique depth of flavor.

It also has quite a few substitutes, each of which also gives you the ability to swing the sweetness or saltiness in either direction. 

If you’re looking for a saltier flavor, go with ingredients such as fish sauce, vegemite, or pickle juice as your substitutes.

Or, if you want to swing the dish over the sweeter side, you can substitute Worcestershire sauce for brown sugar, honey, or molasses. Check out Foods that start with W for more great tips.

Store Cupboard Essentials

Store Cupboard Essentials

Finally, we’ll take a look at some store cupboard essentials. Each of the ingredients below is regularly called upon across a variety of cuisines, and knowing you can use it in their place will really help when you reach for one and find out it’s empty!

Anchovy Paste

Love them or hate them, anchovies are used in many different dishes to add a rich, salty flavor. And, if you’re really looking for intensity, anchovy paste is an essential ingredient to keep your store cupboard. 

However, if you find you’ve run out, there are few anchovy paste substitutes you can use instead. Capers, soy sauce, and even seaweed make great alternatives, and they’ll give you a similar flavor, too. 

Arrowroot Powder

Many recipes call for arrowroot powder as a thickening agent. However, it’s not one of the easiest ingredients to locate, and you may have quite a lot of trouble finding it in your local grocery store.

So, what can you use instead?

Arrowroot powder substitutes include tapioca flour, xanthan gum, and cornstarch. These will all work in the same way as arrowroot powder, however, you may need to adjust your quantities slightly.

Otherwise, your sauce could go from thickened to irrevocable in the blink of an eye!

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar can be used in a variety of ways. You can drizzle it over a plate of arugula for a quick salad dressing, or add it to a pasta sauce for an extra depth of flavor. But what can you use if you’ve run out of it?

Substitutes for balsamic vinegar include cider vinegar and red wine vinegar. You can also mix other ingredients together, such as soy sauce, lemon juice, molasses and Kosher salt, to get as close as possible to the unmistakable taste of balsamic vinegar.

Beef Broth

One of the best substitutes for beef broth is chicken broth, and you don’t need to worry about changing your ratios when you use this either.

If the recipe calls for 1-liter or beef broth, you can substitute 1-liter of chicken broth instead. It couldn’t be easier.

But what about if you’re adjusting a recipe to make it plant-based?

Just as easily, you can use vegetable broth as a substitute for beef broth. You can also use mushroom broth, which will add even more flavor to a mushroom-based dish. Just add a little celery salt.

Breadcrumbs

Whether you’re frying chicken or eggplant, a final coating of breadcrumbs is a guaranteed way to get that super-satisfying crunch.

But, if you’ve run out of breadcrumbs, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice that final coating. In fact, there are loads of things you can use instead. 

Substitutes for breadcrumbs include crushed potato chips, ground almonds, and rolled oats. You can even use parmesan cheese, which will also add an extra dimension of flavor to your final dish. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of the most versatile ingredients you can keep in your store cupboards. It can be used in baking, is frequently called for in Asian cuisine, and is a healthy alternative to fattier cooking oils. 

However, if you ever find that you’ve run out, there are quite a few things that you can use as a substitute. This includes ingredients that you’ll usually always have available such as olive oil

Cream of Chicken Soup

On a cold, winter evening, all you want is something hot and comforting. There's nothing quite like the salty goodness of a bowlful of cream of chicken soup to satisfy that need.

But can you recreate the taste when you’re trying to cook everything from scratch in an attempt to eat healthier? 

You certainly can! In fact, there are three ways you can substitute cream of chicken soup by making your own at home. Not only is it healthier to do so, but it’s even more delicious. 

Crushed Tomatoes

From Italy to Thailand, crushed tomatoes are used in a plethora of recipes from all over the world. They are an undeniable store cupboard staple but, as they’re used so frequently, it can be quite easy to run out of them.

So, what can you use instead if this happens?

From fairly obvious solutions such as fresh-chopped tomatoes to surprising substitutes such as tomato soup, there are actually five fantastic substitutes for crushed tomatoes

Escarole

Packed full of vitamins and minerals, and used in a variety of dishes from soups to salads, escarole is a vegetable that is frequently called for in Mediterranean dishes.

But is there anything you can use instead while still getting the same flavor and nutritional value?

There are more escarole substitutes than you might think. These include spinach, mustard greens, and kale. All of these have the same mildly bitter flavor and are a really close match in nutritional value. 

Fennel

Fennel falls into the “love or hate” category of ingredients. It has an extremely strong flavor that closely resembles licorice, which some people can find far too overpowering.

If you’re not a fan of fennel, but you’d still like to make a dish that calls for it, there are some things you can use as a substitute.

Leeks and celery will give you a similar texture but without that aniseed-like taste. Or, if you’re simply looking for something to mute the flavor of fennel, use dill weed or cilantro instead. 

Fenugreek Leaves

Also known as “methi”, fenugreek leaves are a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. However, it’s something that you may have to make a trip to a specialist health store to purchase, as it may not be that easy to find in your local grocery store.  Other popular Southeast Asian ingredients include Garam Masala, Sambal, Oelek, and Dashi.

If you’re finding it difficult to locate fenugreek leaves, or if you’ve simply run out, there are some substitutes that will give you the same flavor and texture. These include dried mustard greens, celery leaves, and collard greens.

Garlic

Garlic is a commonly used ingredient in Italian and many Mediterranean dishes. There are many substitutes for those who are garlic challenged like oregano and thyme. Just pick what works for you. It's good to know how long does garlic last

Garlic is a key ingredient in Corned Beed and Cabbage.

Honey

Honey is often used as a natural sweetener across a huge variety of recipes. But, if you haven’t got any to hand, or you’re adapting a recipe so that it is vegan, you’ll need to think of something else you can use instead.

Luckily, there are lots of things you can substitute for honey.

However, each of them does bring a different flavor to your dish, so it’s worth looking into properly before you add a certain substitute to your dish. Honey is such a unique flavor after all that it’s quite difficult to get it 100% correct. 

Mirin

If you’re cooking a Japanese dish, there’s a high chance that your recipe is calling for mirin. Made from rice, mirin is much like sake but it has a lower alcohol content.

And, it’s this alcohol content that makes it one of the easier ingredients to substitute.

If you’re out of mirin, you can swap it for white wine, cooking sherry, and loads of other substitutes. Some are even completely free of alcohol but do a great job at reproducing the taste of mirin. Don't forget your rice either.

Onions

Onions are the foundation of most dishes, but for many people, the delicious flavor is often overpowered by the smell they leave both on your hands and on your breath.

Some people are also allergic to onions, which opens up a world of problems when you realize they are used in so many different dishes. You can also take a look at chives vs green onions too.

Is there an answer to these problems? Luckily, there is! There are loads of ingredients that onions can be substituted for.

These include other store cupboard staples such as garlic and chives, as well as rarer ingredients like Himalayan black salt. Try using banana peppers or pepperoncini peppers.

Don't forget the olives. Black olives and Kalamata olives are great! If you're looking for a great salad recipe try our Olive Garden salad.

Red Wine Vinegar

Like most kinds of vinegar, red wine vinegar can be used in a variety of ways and brings a tangy kick to salad dressings and marinades.

It’s also fairly easy to substitute too, which is really useful if you’ve opened your store cupboard and discovered that you’ve run out!

Substitutes for red wine vinegar include white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. You can usually use these substitutes in the same quantities too, so there are no complicated ratios to figure out.  

Rice Vinegar

If you’re a fan of cooking Asian cuisine, you’ll know how regularly rice vinegar is called for. Is there anything else you can instead of rice vinegar though?

Yes, there are. In fact, there are more substitutes for rice vinegar than you might think. 

Rice Wine

There are two types of rice wine; white rice wine and Shaoxing rice wine. Each of these is commonly called for in Chinese cuisine, and each of them has its own substitutes.

If you’re looking for something to use in place of white rice wine, substitutes include mirin and gin. However, you’ll need to change the quantities of each of these a little.

There is really only one suitable substitute for Shaoxing rice wine, which is pale sherry. This will match both the flavor and the color perfectly, and can also be used in the same quantities. 

Sesame Oil

Unlike most oils, sesame oil isn’t very commonly used as a cooking oil. Instead, it’s used in salad dressings and marinades where it infuses everything with its unique, nutty flavor.

But, if you don’t have any sesame oil but still want that taste, there are some sesame oil substitutes that work perfectly. These include peanut oil, tahini, almond oil, and even canola oil

Tasso

Tasso is quite a specialist ingredient, and you may have to make a special trip to the butcher to find this spiced, smoked cured ham. 

And, as we all know, unique meats often come with a higher price tag. So, what can you use in place of Tasso to save yourself time and money?

Surprisingly, there are quite a lot of different ingredients you can use as a substitute for Tasso. These include spicy chorizo, Canadian bacon, and smoked ham.

All of these are quite easy to find in your local grocery store and, most importantly, will provide you with a similar flavor to Tasso. It's definitely not a hot dog.

Tomato Paste

The concentrated flavor of tomato paste brings a real hit of flavor to many dishes from all over the world. It’s also one of those ingredients that you always seem to have in your cupboard, but when you actually need it, it’s nowhere to be found!

What can you do in this situation? Well, there are actually quite a few ways you can substitute tomato paste.

These include passata and even tomato ketchup. You can also make your own tomato paste quite easily using just four ingredients! 

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil has a lower fat content than olive oil and coconut oil, so it’s often a go-to choice for anybody looking to fry food but keep things as healthy as possible.

If you don’t have any, however, you can use canola oil or sunflower oil instead, keeping the quantity exactly the same. 

If you’re baking a batch of delicious, gooey brownies, you can also substitute any vegetable oil that is being called for with loads of different ingredients. 

Foods that start with letters of the alphabet

It's surprising how many people are searching for lists of various foods by letter of the alphabet they can make, bake, or use as substitutes in recipes. With that in mind, here are our top resources: 

I hope these lists provide useful inspiration.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. Each of the ingredients we’ve listed above are commonly used across a range of different cuisines. But each of them can also be substituted for something else. 

By knowing what you can use in place of something else, you’ll be able to save yourself money and reduce the amount of food waste you’re producing. It's also important to use food before it goes bad. Do you know how long is deli meat good for? Use you food before it spoils.

You also won’t have to worry about finding the time to visit your grocery store, which is always a win if you’re trying to juggle work, childcare, and still enjoy cooking at home. If you want to take your cooking to the next level check out the World's Best Culinary Schools.

If you enjoy Food lists make sure you check out Foods that start with J, Foods that start with K,  Foods that start with N, Foods that Start with I, and Foods that start with Q.  They contain some of the world's nastiest foods.