Common ingredient substitutions
Need to make some key ingredient swaps? Check out our list of the most common kitchen substitutions, recipes to try and storecupboard alternatives.
When you don’t have full access to a food supply, missing an ingredient can mean missing out on what you want, or need to eat. In many cases you can make do with something else, ingredients are often easily subbed with others and it’s rare that you’ll have to give up and make something else.
Make the most of everyday ingredients with our simple storecupboard recipes and dinner inspiration.
Egg substitute ideas
As any vegan will tell you, you don’t need eggs to bake. If you have a tin of chickpeas then you have aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas) which is a substitute for egg white. It can be used to make vegan meringues, mousses and lots of bakes like macarons, sponges and brownies.You can also use 1 tbsp ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water per egg. Try this simple egg swap in our squidgy vegan brownies or our vegan banana bread.
You can even make a batch of our easy vegan pancakes without any eggs at all. Try adding fruit or chocolate chips for an indulgent breakfast treat. If it’s breakfast eggs or an egg sandwich you’re after, then tofu will do the trick. Try a simple tofu scramble or this colourful vegan fry-up with all the trimmings.
For even more egg-free sweet treats, check out our best ever vegan baking recipes.
Pasta substitution ideas
Any pasta shape can be swapped for any other, use what you have and mix any odds and ends together. If you want to make lasagne and don’t have pasta sheets then a you can use layers of pasta shapes instead.If you can’t buy pasta you can make your own with our step-by-step fresh pasta recipe, but if that’s too much of a faff then why not try gnocchi?
There are two different types, one made with potatoes and the other with semolina. Try our easy pan-fried potato gnocchi or our gnocchi alla romana depending on what you have available.
Or, you can dig out your spiralizer or veg peeler and use veg as pasta, like in our courgetti bolognese. Want more tips and tricks? Read our guide on how to make courgetti and 10 new ways to use your spiralizer. If you’ve a stash of rice, cook it and stir pasta sauce through it before baking, or add the sauce to raw rice with some stock, rather like in this oven-baked red pepper risotto. Finally, it almost goes without saying that most pasta sauces are excellent spooned over baked potatoes.
Flour substitute ideas
You don’t realise how useful flour is until you don’t have any, but don’t let it stop you baking. This gluten-free lemon drizzle cake uses ground almonds and mashed potato and our apple & almond cake uses three clever everyday swaps. Cakes can also be made with polenta like our orange & almond cake with citrus mascarpone or our flourless lemon & polenta drizzle cake. Get more inspiration with our flourless cake collection.
How to make plain flour into self-raising flour
If you only have plain flour, you can make your own self-raising by adding 2 tsp baking powder to each 150g plain flour.
Buttermilk substitute ideas
Buttermilk is traditionally the liquid that’s drained off when making butter (splitting the fat from the water). Cream is churned and the leftover golden fat is pressed into butter – the white liquid that remains is buttermilk. Typically used in baking, the pots or cartons are becoming harder to find. It is, however, easy to make a substitute at home, with just milk and lemon juice.
How to make buttermilk
- 250ml whole or semi skimmed milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Mix the milk and lemon juice in a jug or bowl and leave at room temperature for 5-10 mins until the milk has thickened slightly. It won’t thicken as much as traditional buttermilk, but it’s a great substitute for baking scones, soda bread or pancakes. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled or has small white lumps in it, it will be fine once baked or added.
If you don’t have lemon juice: Any white vinegar such as white wine or cider vinegar would also work.
If you don’t have milk: Loosen yogurt with cold water to a pourable consistency, and use this as a substitute. Kefir also works well as a substitute. Skimmed milk wont thicken and so can’t be substituted.
Try our favourite buttermilk recipes, from fluffy scones to rich cakes and bakes.
Milk substitute ideas
You can make your own non-diary milk quite easily by soaking raw nuts or oats and then blending them with water and straining out the nut or oat milk. Learn how to make dairy-free milks with our ultimate guide, it’s easier than you think. Try it out with our easy almond milk recipe.
Alternative milks are not only great in drinks, but can be used for cooking and baking. You can also use coconut milk in some recipes, though as it tends to have a stronger flavour. Buttermilk can be replaced by the same amount of milk with a squeeze of lemon or dash of vinegar, or if you need a liquid thicker than milk, for a cake for example, mix some plain yogurt into milk to make up the same volume.
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Cream substitute ideas
If a recipe asks for double cream, then often single is fine. If the cream needs to add body, then whipping cream is a better option, whip it lightly first. Sometimes recipes ask for a very small amount of cream and you can generally leave it out.
Soured cream substitute ideas
You can generally use yogurt, crème fraîche or fromage frais instead, or use thick cream and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Bread substitute ideas
If you have flour then you can make a homemade loaf of bread. Learn how to make bread and follow along with our video for expert advice and tips.
If that’s a step too far, you could knock up a batch of these really easy sesame flatbreads or rustle up another simple recipe from our ultimate flatbread collection.
Another alternative to bread is to make cornbread if you have polenta or cornmeal. Our quick chilli cornbread is perfect for mopping up a bowlful of warming soup.
If you haven’t got any kind of flour and you want to make the equivalent of a sandwich, then get creative and use lettuce leaves, rice paper wrappers or even veg to make sandwich substitutes.
Rice paper wraps can be filled with all sorts of things, use rice noodles or finely shredded lettuce or cabbage to bulk them out, herbs to add freshness and chilli or ginger for flavour. Lettuce is a good wrap substitute, ideally you want a soft butter lettuce or large cos leaf but you can use other varieties, press the leaves out flat first. Have we made your mouth water? Try our sticky pork lettuce wraps or our simple tuna lettuce wraps.
Pulse substitute ideas
Chickpeas and beans such as cannellini, kidney and black beans can be used interchangeably in most dishes, some have a softer texture but they will add the same heft and texture to dishes. Swap traditional chickpeas and make our pea hummus for an easy snack. Lentils can usually be used interchangeably, though they may not have quite the same texture or colour. Orange, red or green lentils will turn mushier than puy lentils, which hold their shape and keep their texture well. Make sure you don’t overcook lentils and the recipe should work out.
Common vegetable substitutes
Cauliflower and broccoli
You can swap cauliflower and broccoli in most recipes, unless colour is important! Cauli cheese can become broccoli cheese etc. You can also mix them together if you only have a little of each, like in our broccoli & cauliflower cheese.
You can generally leave garlic out if you haven’t got any. Have a search in your spice drawer, if you have an garlic granules or powder then those will do, as will pickled garlic or frozen. There’s also a spice called asafoetida that will give an oniony-garlicky flavour should you come across it.
Chilli adds both heat and flavour, but if you haven’t got the type specified in the recipe you can still make what you want by using what you’ve got. Chilli powder, cayenne, chilli flakes, chilli oil, chilli paste or finely chopped fresh chilli can all be used instead of each other. Add a little at a time; you can add heat, but you can’t take it away! If you don’t have any chilli then some freshly ground black pepper will also add a dose of heat, like in this prawn & black pepper stir-fry.
If a recipe calls for onion, any colour will do. You can also use spring onions or leeks if that’s what you have, finely slice them using all the white and green. Shallots can be used instead of onions and vice versa. Shallots can also be used instead of spring onions, they are generally milder and sweeter than spring onions. Finely chopped celery is a decent substitute as the base of a pasta sauce or risotto, too. If you have none of the above then leave the onion out, unless it’s the main ingredient.
Lemons and limes
These citrus fruits can be swapped for each other in a lot recipes. You could use bottled lemon or lime juice if you have it, or if you want to add sharpness to a savoury recipe use a small splash of vinegar.
Vegetables like carrots and parsnips are often interchangeable, or use butternut squash. If you can’t get fresh veg easily, you can use frozen veg. If you can only get canned veg, add them at the end of cooking as they are already tender.
Common meat substitutes
Most recipes can be adapted to use the cut you can find. All you need to remember is that thighs cook for longer than breasts. Learn how to joint a raw chicken with our easy to follow video.
You can use pork, veal, chicken or turkey mince for most recipes, lamb mince can taste a little strong in some cases but you can use this too. As with the meat mince is made from, fat contents will vary, so bear in mind that if you’re making something like meatballs, you may need to add some breadcrumbs to soak up fat, or add a little extra veg to less fatty meats like turkey.
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