You Wanna Be My Second?: Trusty Food Substitutions

9 Oct

Danny Zuko was Kenickie’s backup driver at Thunder Road and won. John Kimble was the sub in Kindergarten Cop and look how much ass he kicked. And Sister Mary Clarence showed us that you don’t even have to be a real nun to fill Lauryn Hill with the light of day (check the rhyyyyyme!) in Sister Act II. Substitutes are doin’ it for themselves.

In my opinion, the same goes for food substitutions. Many times, my tastebuds are bigger than my wallet and I find that the recipes I clipped from various cookbooks and television shows don’t really fit my budget. Or I’d have to buy an ingredient that I’ll only use 2 tablespoons of and then have to waste the rest because I won’t bother to find another recipe to use it in. Or I’m super hungry and I don’t want to run to the store to get one little old ingredient. Broke. Careless. Impatient. What’s new?

It’s at this moment that my eyes light up…because I’ve opened the fridge…and found a round of substitutes that I can recruit to round out my meal/dessert. Bring in the alternates!, I holler. Boyfriend and possibly the neighbors downstairs shake their heads. She’s at it again.

Myself, I’ll substitute all day long. No lunchmeat? Pickle and mayonnaise sandwich sounds delicious. No bread? A tortilla will do fine, thank you. Like my father before me, I’m not above pouring juice on my cereal if we’re out of milk. This bravery has found me many failures, but more successes. I can make a delicious vegetarian sloppy joe because I was too impatient to cook real meat; serve scrumptious and healthy cocoa covered walnuts because I couldn’t afford almonds, and have successfully kept the secret from Boyfriend that my Rice&Beans&Peas recipe actually calls for basmati rice, which we have never used because it’s $7.00 a bag.

I don’t expect everyone to be as courageously lazy and impatient as I am in the kitchen. But I do want to spread the word of trusty food substitutions everywhere. Below, you’ll find a list of acceptable recipe “seconds” cobbled together from cookbooks, creative inspiration, and the older ladies I’ve worked with throughout the years. Sit down with a cup of coffee/Sanka/hot water and a bagel/piece of toast/microwaved tortilla and enjoy.

Trusty Food Substitutions:

(Want to print this list? Click here for the GoogleDoc version)

Cooking Ingredients:

  • Balsamic Vinegar: cider vinegar
  • Bulgur: couscous
  • Butter: 1 cup = 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Buttermilk: 1 cup = 1T vinegar or lemon juice, 1 cup milk, then let it stand for 5 minutes…it will look gross
  • Cheeses: goat cheese= feta cheese (cheaper); mascarpone = cream cheese; Parmigiano Reggiano= regular parmesan; ricotta= cottage cheese
  • Chili Sauce: 1 cup = 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 T vinegar, a dash of cinnamon and allspice
  • Chives: green onion, onion or leek
  • Cocktail Sauce: 1 and 1/4 cups = 1 cup ketchup, 3 T horseradish, 1 T lemon juice, 2 t worcestershire sauce
  • Coconut Milk: 1 cup = 1 cup
  • Cornstarch (for thickening): 1 T = 2 T regular flour
  • Cream Cheese:  same measurements of cottage cheese, blended until smooth
  • Creme fraiche: 1 cup = 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Currants, dried: raisins OR chopped dates
  • Egg White: 1 = 1 T meringue powder, 2 T water (if you always end up getting some yolk in there)
  • Ketchup: 1 cup = 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 T vinegar
  • Lemon: 1 t = 1/2 t vinegar
  • Mayonnaise: 1 cup = 1 cup sour cream OR yogurt
  • Onion Soup Mix, dry: 2 T = 1 T dried minced onion, 2 beef bouillon cube
  • Sour Cream: 1 cup = 1 cup yogurt w/ cornstarch to keep from separating OR 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 t lemon juice, 1/3 cup butter
  • Tabasco Sauce: 4 drops = 18 t cayenne pepper
  • Tapioca: 1 T = 1 1/2 T flour
  • Tomato Juice: 1 cup = 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water
  • Tomato Sauce: 1 can = 1 can tomato paste, 1 cup water
  • Wine: 1 cup= 13 T. water, 3 T lemon juice, 1 T sugar
  • Worcestershire Sauce: 1 t = 1t steak sauce
  • Yogurt: 1 cup = 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup cottage cheese blended

Baking Ingredients:

  • Arrowroot (I see this a lot in old recipes): 1 t = 1 T flour
  • Baking Powder: 1 t = 1/4 baking soda, 5/8 t cream of tartar
  • (unsweetened) Chocolate: 1 oz. = 3 T cocoa powder, 1 T butter
  • Cream, heavy: 1 cup = 3/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup butter
  • Cream of Tartar: 1/2 t = 1/2 t lemon juice of vinegar
  • Egg: 1 = 2 T milk, 1/2 t baking powder (only for baking!)
  • Flour: 1 cup = 1 cup fine cornmeal OR 1 and 1/2 cups bread crumbs OR 1 cup rolled oats, blended
  • (self rising) Flour: 1 cup = not quite a cup of regular flour, 1 and 1/2 t baking powder, pinch of salt
  • Shortening: 1 cup = 1 and 1/8 cups butter (but don’t use salt in the rest of the recipe)
  • (brown) Sugar: 1 cup = 1 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup molasses

Herbs, Spices & Such:

In general, 1 T of fresh herbs = 1 t dried herbs

  • Allspice: 1 t = 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t ground cloves
  • Apple Pie Spice: 1 t = 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, 1/8 t cardamom
  • Cardamom: 1 t. =1 t ginger OR 1 t cinnamon
  • Cilantro: use parsley instead
  • Cloves: use allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Fennel Seed: 1 t = 1 t caraway seeds
  • Italian Seasoning: 2 T = 1 t each basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, and thyme
  • Peppermint Extract: 1 T = 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice: 1 t = 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t ginger, 1/8 t of both allspice and nutmeg
  • Rosemary (gross): use thyme or tarragon
  • Sesame Seeds: 1 T = 1t finely chopped almonds
  • Turmeric: 1 t = 1 t dried mustard
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2 Responses to “You Wanna Be My Second?: Trusty Food Substitutions”

  1. Laura October 9, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Loved the list, and learned a ton, especially the substitutions for baking products. Thanks for the wonderful resource!

  2. Mark Authier October 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Great blog Annie! Wondered if anyone remembered me using juice on my Cherrios!

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