Making do in a pinch

It has always been vexing to find out you are out of a critical ingredient just after you start making a dish, but with the pandemic throwing off shopping routines, it’s even more disconcerting. That is why knowing what items you can substitute for others is more important than ever. We have occasionally covered this topic here, including a post last year that explained common substitutes for leavening agents and thickeners like cornstarch.

Back in 2016 we shared a comprehensive dairy substitution guide from Bon Appétit Magazine, which showed us how to find alternatives for milk, cream, yogurt and more. The year prior to that we also pointed you to some baking substitution guides from Whole Foods and Pillsbury which remain pertinent, offering substitutes for common pantry items like eggs and chocolate.

The Kitchn recently posted a list of 19 sweeteners you can substitute for brown sugar. For non-baking uses, you can easily substitute white sugar, although you will lose some warm flavor notes. Since brown sugar attracts moisture, it affects the texture of baked goods, so a simple 1:1 swap can mess up your recipe. There are many other types of less-refined sugars such as jaggery and muscovado, and while they may be substituted for some baking, you may have to make some additional changes to the recipe, and the article covers some of the pitfalls that you need to watch out for. Luckily, if you have white sugar and molasses, you can easily make your own brown sugar.

In a similar vein, Better Homes and Gardens Magazine offers a host of substitutes for all-purpose flour. The list includes many gluten-free alternatives but also explains how common substitutes like whole wheat flour may affect your recipe. Another take on this subject comes from the website Eggless Cooking. Its list of substitutes for white flour goes into even more detail. What neither of those articles cover is a situation I find myself in frequently, which is having to make my own self-rising flour.

Armed with all of these substitutes, you should be able to keep right on cooking and baking without interruption.

Other articles:

Post a comment


  • FJT  on  August 18, 2020

    I am surprised to see salt listed as an ingredient for making self-raising flour in the link above as it not an ingredient found in self-raising flour that we buy in the U.K. (I double-checked on the website of a popular brand). Nigella Lawson recommends adding 2 tsps of baking powder per 150g / 6oz / 1 cup of plain (AP) flour and this has always worked very well for me.

  • averythingcooks  on  August 18, 2020

    This post and FJT’s comment has sent me down a rabbit hole! IN the UK it is called “self raising” and in US it is called “self-rising”. A search of Canadian sources found a mix of the names…mostly rising except for Brodies XXX (which seems to be a Robin Hood product?) which uses “raising”. But the non-negotiable in NA IS the presence of salt. I can’t seem to find an explanation for the difference (ie why salt?) anywhere? Anyone have an answer?

  • MarciK  on  August 18, 2020

    When I need a substitution in a jam, I’m always scrambling through my various cookbooks that have substitution charts in the back.

  • raowriter  on  August 19, 2020

    And baking powder is a 2:1 combination of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda. I just like to mix my own! I use it as FJT says, 2tsps to a cup of plain flour I’ve never heard of salt being used in creating SR flour.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!