Kitchen 101: Substitutions, An Info Potluck

As the days begin to get colder and shorter, the warmth of another holiday season begins to warm our hearts. The promise of big meals around bigger tables and hugs with long-missed friends and families fill eager minds. Decadent meals entice imaginations and the thought of million different pies titillate hungry taste buds.

Of course with the massive onslaught of holiday meals comes the potential for disaster, namely running out of a vital ingredient just as a recipe calls for it. Do you ask one of your guests to bring the all-important ingredient and throw off your baking schedule? Do you risk asking that scary neighbor of yours? How about a quick trip to the grocery store that is probably closed or out of what you need?

Well, have no fear! This year Chasing Delicious has hosted an information potluck of sorts to answer all your holiday-meal emergency substitution needs. We’ve also got some great tips and tricks to make your holiday cooking and baking a cinch! Who is this we I speak of? Well, I’ve asked some of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors to join this Kitchen 101 Potluck. That’s right, these tips, tricks and substitutions are coming from over twenty of the most experienced kitchens in the blogging and cookbook world!

So, who’s sitting at the table? Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayMaria Litchy of Two Peas and Their Pod and author of Cookie Cravings, Cheryl Sousan of Tidy Mom, Kristen Doyle of Dine and Dish, Lori Lange of Recipe Girl, Sommer Collier of A Spicy Perspective, Heidi Larson of Foodie Crush, Shaina Olmanson of Food For My Family, Sarah Kenney of Thyme, Sylvie Shirazi of Gourmande in the KitchenCarolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food, Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen, Brian Samuels of A Thought For Food, Molly Allen of Cake FYI, Kita Roberts of Pass the Sushi, Vanessa Rees of V.K.Rees Photography, Diane Schmidt of Created by Diane, Ken Leung of Hungry Rabbit, Beth Kirby of Local Milk, Jackie Lee of I Am A Feeder, Flavia Scalzitti of Flavia’s Flavors, Kamran Siddiqi of  The Sophisticated Gourmet, and  Jonathan Melendez of The Candid Appetite.

Yeah. That’s a lot of foodies. Let’s see what holiday cooking and baking tricks they have up their sleeves!

Feel free to bookmark or print these charts! As, always these handy graphics are available for purchase at The Sweet Tooth Paper Goods Co too. But, for the first time, in addition to posters, these kitchen 101 charts will be available as refrigerator magnets too, so you can keep them close by at all times! 

Because so many of my foodie friends have helped me assemble this post and charts, I will be donating 100% of profits from the Kitchen 101: Substitution posters and magnets to Share Our Strength. I must say thank you to everyone that contributed a tip for this post! Hopefully we can help inspire everyone to help eliminate childhood hunger in America.

I must also thank all of you, my readers! Do you have a substitution or tip? Share it in the comments!

Baking Substitutions

Buy a print or a refrigerator magnet. 100% of profits are donated to Share Our Strength.

Let’s start with a a subject very close to my heart, baking! Wether you’re a seasoned baker or not, you are probably very aware of just how finicky baking can be. This is why baking substitutions are often few and far between. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist though. Here is a cheat sheet outlining the most common. In addition to the substitutions covered on the graphics, we’ll cover some not so common substitutions including some great vegan substitutions for eggs.

As the workhorse of most all baked goods, having flour on hand is key. Of course it’s difficult to have each and every type of flour out there.

Cake Flour

Shaina Olmanson of Food For My Family has a great substitution for Cake Flour. For 1 cup cake flour, substitute  2 Tablespoons cornstarch plus 3/4 cup and 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour.

The Substitution:  1 part cornstarch + 7 parts all-purpose flour.

“I have a pretty well-stocked pantry, so when I want to bake at the drop of a hat, I never consider I may be out of an ingredient, and certainly never an ingredient as consequential as flour. Many times I have found myself (many more than I am willing to admit) without the proper flour for the job and all the wet ingredients mixed in the bowl. Cake flour is a particularly pesky source of such anxiety. I blame the small boxes they sell it in: Always more than you need for one cake, but never enough for two, so that it constantly looks like you have it when you don’t at all.” – Shaina

All-Purpose Flour

While you can make your all-purpose flour by mixing cake and bread flour, you may not want the bland, relatively nutrient-less white stuff in your baked goods.

Sarah Kenney of Thyme has a great healthy substitution for All-Purpose Flour. It’s as easy as subbing half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour

The Substitution:  1/2 the all-purpose flour with equal amounts whole wheat flour.

Sarah shows you how it can spice up an already great recipe with her Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Cakes.


Sugars and sweeteners are another necessity in baking. Finding special sugars or sweeteners can be a challenge though. It doesn’t need to deter  you from trying a recipe though!

Corn Syrup

Sylvie Shirazi of Gourmande in the Kitchen has a great substitution for the often avoided Corn Syrup. Simply Substitute equal parts honey for the corn syrup.

The Substitution:  Equal parts honey.

Brown Sugars

Molasses is a byproduct of refining white sugar. Raw brown sugar is simply the sugar before the molasses has been removed and refined brown sugar has the molasses added right back in. Doing the same at home is super simple.

Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food has a great Sugar-Free Brown Sugar substitution. Simply mix 16 parts erythirol with 1 part molasses.

The Substitution: Sugar-Free Brown Sugar –  16 parts erythirol + 1 part molasses.


Jonathan Melendez of The Candid Appetite has a great substitution for Sugar. It’s as easy as using honey instead

The Substitution: Equal parts honey

While this wont work for baked goods where the sugar is whipped with egg whites or eggs to create structure, it will work in just about everything else!

Dairy products seem to crop up in just about every baked good out there, but with the shortest shelf life of most baking ingredients, they can be the quickest to stump us.


Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen is here to share a substitution for buttermilk. For every one cup you need, you can do this: mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 cup  milk together. Let it sit for a few minutes. You can also keep a tub of buttermilk powder in the fridge.

The Substitution: 15 parts milk + 1 part vinegar or lemon juice. Let sit 5 mins.

Sour Cream

Sylvie Shirazi of Gourmande in the Kitchen has another great substitution, this time for Sour Cream. Substituting it with a full-fat greek yogurt can give you the same texture and tanginess.

The Substitution: Equal parts full-fat greek yogurt.

“I find that full fat Greek yogurt is the best substitute for sour cream because it’s just as thick and creamy and can be used in a 1:1 ratio. Some yogurts can be a little runny compared to sour cream, but the Greek style is nice and thick and I always have some in my fridge.  Use it instead of sour cream in everything from dips to desserts.” – Sylvie

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is one of those kitchen ingredients that can be used for many different things, and depending on how it’s prepared, it requires a different substitution

Sommer Collier of A Spicy Perspective suggests using white beans instead of heavy cream when using it to thicken soups and other recipes.

The Substitution: Equal parts pureed white beans

I usually do equal parts drained, pureed white beans to heavy cream. The silky texture isn’t quite the same, but it does lend a thick creamy quality, that happens to be Dairy Free and low fat.” – Sommer

“The first time I discovered the white bean-cream swap, I was making cream of asparagus soup. When I opened the carton of heavy cream, it was obvious it had gone bad, so I rummaged around the kitchen looking for something else to thicken my soup. In the end, I drained a can of white beans, dropped them in the soup and pureed like crazy. The texture, be it not as silky as cream, was very smooth and thick and much more healthful than cream. This is a trick I’ve used over and over, ever since.”  – Sommer

Sylvie Shirazi of Gourmande in the Kitchen suggests using coconut milk as a substitution when looking for a sweeter substitution.

The Substitution: Equal parts coconut milk.

Cream Friache

Brian Samuels of A Thought For Food has a great tip for substituting Cream Friache. While this one requires a good amount of time, it’s a great substitution for those times you can’t find it in the store. He suggests mixing 1 cup heavy cream plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk and letting it sit for 12 hours in a warm place.

The Substitution: 8 parts heavy cream + 1 part buttermilk. Let sit in a warm place for 12 hours.


Remember Sarah Kenney’s Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Cakes? Not only does she show you how to cut down on heavily-refined flours but she has a great tip for reducing the oil in a recipe.

The Substitution: Replace 1/2 of the oil with apple butter.

There are some things like baking powder, vanilla and various spices you think you could never get around. But you’d be surprised. Check out these awesomely easy substitutes!

Baking Powder

Kristen Doyle of Dine and Dish teaches you all about making a baking powder substitute from scratch at home. Visit her post here for a step by step how to!

The Substitution: 1 part baking soda + 1 part cream of tartar.

The reason this works is store bought baking powder really is just baking soda with an added acid. And cream of tartar, an acid, works perfectly here.

Vanilla Beans

Molly Allen of Cake FYI has a super easy shortcut for getting around using expensive vanilla beans.

The Substitution: 3 teaspoons vanilla extract per vanilla bean

” While I would love to be able to use vanilla beans to flavor all that I bake, I simply cannot. For me, vanilla beans are a splurge and really quite a luxury. For a less expensive way to get almost-as-great vanilla flavor, I always use pure vanilla extract. In general, you can substitute three teaspoons of pure vanilla extract for one vanilla bean. I don’t necessarily have a particular brand I like as long as it’s pure. I never use imitation vanilla and certainly will never recommended it. Imitation vanilla doesn’t have nearly enough flavor and will leave you with a bitter taste. I once scolded my mother for housing imitation vanilla in her cupboard, so unless you have run out of all other options, I would suggest straying away.” – Molly

Vanilla Extract

So what happens if you don’t even have vanilla extract?

Kita Roberts of Pass the Sushi has some great substitutions for vanilla extract.

The substitution: Equal amounts liquor.

“If a recipe calls for liquid, say broth or extract, I have been known to grab a bottle of the closest booze and substitute to taste (especially for seasonal items, pumpkin liquor or warm bourbon this time of year is a personal favorite). Now, don’t try this with milk or fat’s for baking, as the final product will end up a terrible liquor laden hot mess. But if you just want to replace the vanilla extract with a shot of brandy? No harm in that.” – Kita

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Cheryl Sousan of Tidy Mom has some great pie spice substitution. Pumpkin pie spice is as easy as mixing1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

The substitution: 4 parts cinnamon + 2 parts nutmeg + 1 part ginger + 1 part ground cloves

Apple Pie Spice

Tidy Mom has got this one covered too! It’s 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp ground allspice, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg!

The Substitution: 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, 1 part allspice and 1 part nutmeg.

Tofu Egg Substitution

Vanessa Rees of V.K.Rees Photography has this excellent tofu egg replacement to share. Check out her Cranberry Cream French Toast for an example of how well it works.

The Substitution: 1/4 cup silken tofu per egg

Drain the liquid from the silken tofu package.
Use a paper towel to absorb the extra liquid from the tofu.
Measure ¼ cup of silken tofu for each egg.
Place the tofu in a food processor or blender until it reaches a smooth consistency.
Use the tofu in the recipe as if they were the eggs.

Additional Egg Substitutions

Check out my Kitchen 101: Eggs post for more vegan egg substitutions.

So, we’ve figured out how to substitute all your favorite ingredients in a time of crisis, now let’s check out some super handy tips for making holiday baking a breeze!

Baking Cookies & Cookie Storage

Maria Litchy of Two Peas and Their Pod and the delicious book, Cookie Cravings, has a wonderful tip for making all that cookie baking much less hectic!

 “Every year we make several kinds of cookies to give away as gifts to family and friends. We spend one day making all of the cookie doughs and one day baking. This way we are not overwhelmed and all of the cookies are baked on the same day. Almost any cookie dough will keep in the refrigerator for one week. Happy holiday cookie baking!” – Maria

Check out her delicious Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies while you’re at it!

Saving Time with Homemade Bread

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, mix a large Master-Recipe batch of yeasted dough in advance and then store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The day holiday guests arrive, they shape loaves or rolls and let them rise on the counter, and then bake before dinner. To save even more time, they use a refrigerator rise trick: shape the pre-risen dough into loaves or rolls the night before, rise in the fridge overnight, and they’re ready for the oven in the morning (visit the link above for the more great tips).

Softening Butter

Diane Schmidt of Created by Diane has a few great tips for softening butter in a hurry.

Put the butter in a bowl over hot water. You can also heat the sugar so it warms the butter as it whips.

Rolling out Pie Dough

Ken Leung of Hungry Rabbit has a few great tips for softening butter in a hurry.

“Unless you’re a skilled baker, it’s not easy to roll out perfect pie dough. Try adding vodka, it makes the dough more pliable and easier to roll; plus produces a tender, flaky crust dues to the evaporation of alcohol during baking. And if you are a total novice, there’s no shame to buy a good ready-made pie crust in the frozen section to save you time.” – Ken

Cooking Substitutions

Buy a print or a refrigerator magnet100% of profits are donated to Share Our Strength.

While cooking is far less rigid and demanding than baking, finding appropriate substitutions for ingredients can still be tricky. In the graphic above you’ll find some of the easiest, most common substitution. Below we take a look at some more interesting substitutions to save your holiday meal.

Cooking Liquid

Remember Kita of Pass The Sushi‘s liquor substitution for extract trick? It works perfectly for substituting all manner of cooking liquids.
The Substitution: Equal parts liquor for cooking liquid.

“I have on more than one occasion swapped out the required ingredient for booze, like for instance in this post where the recipe called for red wine, but we had gotten wild and crazy and drank it all the night before, . I had some whiskey in the pantry and no one even knew the difference. If you had tasted them, the whiskey was obvious and good, but I would have told you it was intentional, laughed it off and written that ingredient down if you had asked for the recipe.” – Kita

Cooking Wine

Heidi Larson of Foodie Crush has another great cooking liquid substitution for when you run out of wine and a recipe calls for it.

The Substitution: Equal parts Marsala for wine.

“For me holiday cooking is all about depth of flavor so I add white wine to a lot of my simple sauces for veggies or to gravy for turkey. But I also like drinking wine so I don’t always have a bottle on hand because somehow it’s, ahem, disappeared. That’s why I always keep a bottle of good Marsala in the pantry for a slightly sweeter substitution that creates amazing flavor but isn’t one you’ll find in my wine glass.” – Heidi

Worcestershire Sauce

Beth Kirby of Local Milk has the perfect solution for your mixing Worcestershire problem. Whipping up a batch is a cinch!
The Substitution: easy homemade Worcestershire sauce for the bottled stuff.
1 cup distilled white vinegar (red wine or apple cider works too)
1/4 cup molasses (can sub 1/8 cup brown sugar)
1/4 soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of curry
pinch of cardamom
pinch of chile powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ginger
pinch of mustard powder
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice to taste (if you haven’t one use vinegar if needed)
Note: don’t worry if you don’t have any of the spices, simply use what you have on hand.
Mix all ingredients well and store in an airtight container to take you through everything from a London broil to deviled eggs in a pinch!


Jackie Lee of I Am A Feeder has a great solution for that missing salt dilemma!

 The substitution: herbs for salt.

“A general tip, which is also good for healthy eating, is that if you want to take salt out of a dish, substitute it with fresh and flavorsome herbs. And lots of them. Add them at the end of cooking to keep their green colour and fresh flavour.” – Jackie

This next tip is actually to help you out when your pasta sauce is too thick!

Flavia Scalzitti of Flavia’s Flavors has a whole host of great solutions for pasta dishes. Here’s one on how to thin out a pasta sauce:

“Always reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta. The water has both flavor and starch from the pasta and helps thin out a sauce if it is too thick.” – Flavia


And now on to some helpful holiday cooking tips and tricks to speed up all that cooking!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Lori Lange of Recipe Girl has a great recipe for making cranberry sauce at home! You can check out Lori’s recipe here.

“Avoid canned cranberry sauce this year. It’s incredibly simple to make homemade and far-more delicious than the metallic tasting gelatinous blob. You can make this up a couple of days before Thanksgiving and it will be a-okay to serve fresh-as-can-be for your Thanksgiving dinner.” – Lori

Working with Pomegranates

If you’re like me, you love pomegranates but hate deseeding them.

Kamran Siddiqi of  The Sophisticated Gourmet has a wonderful tip for deseeding pomegranates!

“To quickly de-seed a pomegranate: roll the pomegranate on a flat surface to loosen the seeds from the membrane. Then, cut the pomegranate in half crosswise. Place the cut side of the pomegranate into the palm of your hand, and firmly tap the back of each pomegranate with a heavy wooden spoon, allowing the seeds to fall into a large bowl or container placed–preferably–in the sink to avoid mess.” – Kamran

Dish Refreshers

Jackie Lee of I Am A Feeder is back with a great tip on how to spice up those tried and true recipes:

“If you’re bored of the same old vegetables and sides, look to the seasons and your local farmer’s market. This time of year is great for squash and mushrooms. What about the humble Jerusalem artichoke as a substitute for potatoes? It has a beautiful creamy texture & nutty flavour, which purées wonderfully for soups & takes on a lovely caramelised flavour when roasted.” – Jackie

Dish Refreshes

Flavia Scalzitti of Flavia’s Flavors has some more great pasta tips and tricks:

“When cooking pasta, there needs to be enough water for the pasta to “swim” and cook evenly. For 1 pound of pasta, use 6 quarts of water. Bring to a rolling boil and add in 1 generous tablespoon of kosher or sea salt. Salting the pasta water is the only way to season the pasta as it cooks.” – Flavia

 “Never add oil to pasta water. Contrary to popular belief, adding oil does not prevent the pasta from sticking while cooking. Stirring the pasta often as it cooks is what prevents it from clumping together. Adding oil to the pasta water will ultimately prevent sauce from adhering properly to the pasta in the finished dish.” – Flavia


So, hopefully these tips, tricks and tried & true substitutions will help make your holiday cooking a breeze! From all the wonderful foodies who shared their tips here today and me, I wish you happy holidays and happy eating!

Do you have a substitution or tip? Share it in the comments!

As, always these handy graphics are available for purchase at The Sweet Tooth Paper Goods Co. But, for the first time, in addition to posters, these kitchen 101 charts will be available as refrigerator magnets too, so you can keep them close by at all times!  Because so many of my foodie friends have helped me assemble this post and charts, I will be donating 100% of profits from the Kitchen 101: Substitution posters and magnets to Share Our Strength. I must say thank you to everyone that contributed a tip for this post! Hopefully we can help inspire everyone to help eliminate childhood hunger in America.

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Food nerd. Cookbook author. Founder of Chasing Delicious. Pastry cook at Fluff Bake Bar. Lover of hot dogs. Russell van Kraayenburg founded Chasing Delicious in 2010 and has been chasing delicious recipes ever since. Russell is author of the cookbooks Haute Dogs and Making Dough.



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