Ingredient Substitutions

If you’re anything like me, you might have gotten excited about a recipe only to find yourself short of a certain ingredient or that it has enormous amounts of fat and sugar. Don’t give up or run to the grocery store just yet, you may find a substitute in your pantry or your fridge. Substitutes are easier when cooking. Sometimes, you can just omit the whole ingredient without a major effect on the taste; however, baking is a whole different issue. Exact measurements, ingredients and preparation steps are crucial in baking because a chemical reaction is taking place. Disturb the chemistry and if you’re lucky you’ll only end up with an unattractive-looking cake ( if you’re unlucky it would be just plain inedible :( )

Here are a few substitutions that might work. Give them a try but don’t overdo it with cutting the fat in desserts. Desserts are meant to be occasional treats; and sometimes if you’re not getting the real thing or something close to it you won’t be eating it. Or worse yet, you might actually find yourself eating more because you’re just not satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, some recipes are meant to be healthier and lower in fat like my Banana Oat Cake, and in almost all recipes you can start decreasing 1/3 the amount of fat and sugar without affecting the final result.

Fat substitution

– In cooking or sauteing, use water or chicken/vegetable broth instead of butter and oil. Of course, this is easier when using non-stick cookware.

– In baking:

  • Applesauce, prune puree, other fruit purees. Use the same amount instead of the oil in cakes and muffins. You can start with 3/4 applesauce and 1/4 oil at first to test the recipe’s outcome. This works best with dense cakes and the recipes with chocolate. If you are using sweetened purees make sure to reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. Try substituting 1/2 the amount of butter with the fruit purees in cookies; however, the texture will be different. They will be less crumbly and crisp. If you don’t have fruit purees or don’t want to make your own, you can usually use 1/3 less oil or butter without compromising the recipe’s outcome.
  • Fruit juice. Substitute equal amounts of fruit juice for oil.
  • Plain Yogurt. Use yogurt instead of 3/4 the amount of oil in the recipe.
  • Mashed Bananas.Use same amount as the oil in a recipe.
  • Silken tofu. Use up to 1/2 the amount of the oil required in a recipe.

Alcohol Substitutes in Baking

  • Amaretto: Instead of 2 tablespoons of Amaretto liquor, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. Almond extract has an extremely strong flavor, that’s why the amount is less.
  • Brandy: Instead of Brandy you can use the same amount of water, apple juice or apple cider.
  • Cointreau: You can use the same amount of orange juice or orange juice concentrate.

Alcohol Substitutes in Cooking

  • Dry Red Wine: Use same amount of red grape juice, water, chicken/beef/ vegetable stock or clam juice.
  • Dry White Wine: Use same amount of white grape juice, water, chicken/vegetable broth, or bouillon.

Sour Cream Substitutes ( for 1 cup)

– In baking

  • Use 1 cup plain yogurt or 1 cup creme fraiche or 1 cup fat-free sour cream.
  • You can use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.

– In cooking sauces

  • Use 1 cup yogurt plus 2 teaspoons water and 1 tablespoon flour.

– In dips

  • Use 1 cup yogurt that you would put in a cheesecloth and strain in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or Labneh.

Heavy Cream Substitutes ( for 1 cup)

  • You can use 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt plus 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Use 1 cup of milk.

Maple Syrup: You can substitute it with the same amount of honey but you would have to thin it with water.

Baking Soda: Instead of 1 teaspoon baking soda, you can use 2 teaspoons baking powder but you would have to omit the salt from the recipe.

This is by no means an extensive list, but these are mostly substitutions that I have tried. I haven’t tried tofu or prune puree instead of oil yet. I’ll update you when I do and whenever I attempt new alternatives.

Do you have any ingredient substitutions that you have tried and would like to share?

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