Emergency Cooking Substitutions

The number one reason I need to keep a list of emergency substitutions handy in my kitchen is one part forgetfulness, just because I thought about buying an ingredient doesn’t mean I actually went out and got it, but try telling that to my memory, and one part too much cooking confidence, I’m a master of ingredient inventory, I don’t need to check, I don’t need to read the recipe before I start! Unfortunately, these personality flaws, coupled with a plethora of food allergies, cause me to frequently be left in a pinch when I’m in the middle of preparing a recipe. Although sticking to the original recipe will give you the best results, you can’t always put things on hold while you run out and procure the missing ingredient, for these sticky situations, I have compiled a comprehensive list of the most common, most agreed-upon, emergency cooking substitutions.


Ingredient                                       Substitute

1 tsp baking powder                     ¼ tsp baking soda + ½ tsp cream of tartar

1 cup brown sugar                        1 cup white sugar

1 oz chocolate, unsweetened      3 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp shortening or margarine

1 oz chocolate, semi-sweet          1 square (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate + 1 tbsp sugar

1 cup flour, all-purpose              1 cup cornmeal, or, ½ cup plus 2 tbsp potato flour, or, 1 cup minus 2

tbsp rice flour, or, 1 ¼ cups rye flour, or, ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp gluten-free flour

1 cup flour, cake                            1 cup sifted all-purpose flour minus 2 tbsp

1 cup flour, self-rising                 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour + 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt

1 cup honey                                     1 ¼ cup sugar + ¼ cup liquid

1 cup oil                                             ½ lb butter or margarine



Ingredient                                         Substitute

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk   1 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice topped up to 1 cup with milk – let

stand 5 minutes

1 cup half and half                         7/8 cup milk + 3 tbsp butter or margarine, or, 1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup heavy cream                        ¾ cup milk + 1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sour cream                             1 cup plain yogurt, or, 1 cup evaporated milk + 1 tbsp vinegar, or, 1

cup cottage cheese blended with 2 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup whole milk                            ½ cup evaporated milk + ½ water, or, 1 cup reconstituted non-fat or

skim milk + 2 tsp butter or oil



Ingredient                                         Substitute

1 tsp lemon juice                            ½ tsp vinegar

1 tsp lemon zest                              ½ tsp lemon extract


Herbs / Spices

Ingredient                                         Substitute

1 tsp dry mustard                          2 tsp prepared mustard

1 tbsp fresh herbs                          1 tsp dried herb / ¼ tsp powdered or ground herb

1 clove garlic                                   1/8 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp fresh ginger                         1/8 tsp ground ginger



Ingredient                                          Substitute

½ cup ketchup or chili sauce     ½ cup tomato sauce + 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp vinegar and1/8 tsp ground


1 tbsp mustard                                 1 tsp dried mustard

3 – 4 drops red pepper sauce       1/8 tsp cayenne pepper



Ingredient                                         Substitute

1 tbsp cornstarch                           2 tbsp flour, or, 1 1/3 tbsp quick-cooking tapioca

1 tbsp flour                                       ½ tsp cornstarch, or, 2 tsp quick-cooking tapioca, or, 2 egg yolks

1 tbsp tapioca                                   1 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour



Ingredient                                         Substitute

1 cup canned tomatoes                1 1/3 cups cut-up fresh tomatoes, simmered for 10 minutes

1 tbsp tomato paste                       1 tbsp ketchup

1 cup tomato sauce                        8 oz can stewed tomatoes, blended, or, 1 cup tomato puree, seasoned,

or, ¾ cup tomato paste + ¼ cup water

Legumes                                          with the exception of lentils, dried beans can be used interchangeably

to suit personal preference