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Substitutes in Cooking

There are substitutes for spices, there are substitutes for sauces. There are substitutes for bakery and dairy products too. Gosh, there are alternatives for so many things in cooking. For help with this, read on.
Tastessence Staff
Nothing can be substituted for; some say. But that doesn't seem to be true in case of cooking and eating. "If not this, then that", is the general human tendency there. We try to find substitutes for everything in life, although somewhere at the back of our minds, we know that's not really possible. Substituting everything in life is impossible and so be it.
But when it comes to food, there are substitutes for almost every food ingredient. Well, there is one thing that cannot be substituted for; it's the taste. Why do similar recipes made by different people have different tastes? It is because the taste of a recipe does not depend only on its ingredients and method of preparation. It also depends on who cooks it. It's not just the ingredients that go into a recipe and give it the taste. And if 'only' they did, mother's recipes wouldn't taste different! When mom prepares food, perhaps her love sneaks into the recipe. And that is why nothing can substitute for the flavor of something that's mom-made. There can be substitutes for ingredients but there's no substitute for the taste.
Why recipe substitutions? We need them when certain ingredients are unavailable at home or in the market. When we forget to buy the stuff we need, that is when we need to get hold of something that is handy. Using margarine as a substitute for butter and vice versa is a common example of the use of substitutes in cooking. Vegetable oil and vegetable shortening can substitute each other; grape juice can substitute wine. It's common sense to use foods of similar flavor as alternatives for one another. Obviously, you won't like the substitutes to bring about a radical change to how your recipe tastes. Or you will find yourself finding a substitute for what you have cooked.
Cooking is an art, for some, a hobby and a stress buster. I am sure you wouldn't want to alter the taste of what you are planning to prepare, just because you are using substitutes. The use of substitutes in cooking is an adjustment with the availability of foodstuffs. It's definitely not a compromise with the taste. So choose the substitutes right and go for them only if you don't have the originals at hand. Mostly, when you are short of time to buy the ingredients or when you don't have them in the required quantities, you need to opt for their substitutes. Here is a list of the different substitutes in cooking. It will help you find the right alternatives in cooking and still retain the near-original flavor of the dish. With this list handy, you won't have to cook up stories of the unavailability of ingredients. You will be able to cook; if not with the actual ingredients, but definitely with their readily available substitutes.
Here we give you tables for ingredients falling under different categories. Each table gives you a list of recipe ingredients along with their substitutes. In some cases, the substitute is the one most commonly used; in some cases, it's one of the many that are used. There can be many alternatives for a given ingredient. For other alternatives apart from the ones given in the table, you can refer to the 'also see' column and start planning what to cook next and how; with the actual ingredients or their substitutes. Whichever way you choose, be happy while you cook; it will reflect in the recipe. That's another thing that can't be substituted for.
In Baking
Given here is a substitutes list for ingredients that often get into the oven or the microwave and come out baked and delicious. Take for example cakes and bread recipes that most of us love to eat. Can you imagine anything substituting for bread flour? Do you think there can be an egg substitute in cake? Well, if you don't, you are wrong. There are alternatives for so many things in baking. Read on to find out.
Food Item Substitute(s) Also See
Egg Tofu Egg Substitute in Baking
Sugar maple syrup, honey, molasses Sugar Substitutes for Baking
Cocoa carob powder Cocoa Powder Substitute
Kirsch Cherry syrup Kirsch Substitute in Baking
Oil in Baking apple sauce, butter Oil Substitute in Baking
Baking Powder baking soda with cream of tartar, buttermilk or lime juice Baking Powder Substitute
Baking Soda baking powder Baking Soda Substitute
Cream of Tartar baking powder Cream of Tartar Substitute
Shortening butter, margarine or oil Shortening Substitute
Cake Flour all-purpose flour with cornstarch or pastry flour Cake Flour Substitute
Bread Flour all-purpose flour Bread Flour Substitute
Self Rising Flour all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt Self Rising Flour Substitute
Milk and Milk Products
Condense it, it's tastier; evaporate it, it can still be used; powder it, it's still not useless; extract all its fat or make it sour; process it in the way you like; its usability won't diminish at all. Well, I am talking about milk! Milk in all its forms and their substitutes...that's what the following table gives you. Take a look.
Food Item Substitute(s) Also See
Milk plant milk, grain milk Milk Substitute
Evaporated Milk dry milk and water, soy milk or fresh milk Evaporated Milk Substitute
Condensed Milk mixture of dry milk, boiling water and butter, with sweetener added Condensed Milk Substitute
Powdered Milk regular milk or coconut milk Powdered Milk Substitute
Heavy Cream a mixture of milk and unsalted butter Heavy Cream Substitute
Sour Cream butter added to sour milk or buttermilk Sour Cream Substitute
Butter margarine or olive oil Butter Substitute
Buttermilk yogurt or cream of tartar added to plain milk Buttermilk Substitute
Sauce, derived from the Latin word salsus, which means salted, is an important element of every cuisine. Be it a French food recipe or a pasta from the Italian cuisine; be it Chinese, Peruvian, Korean, or British, sauces are a part of every kind of cooking. They are must-haves for the saucy flavor they render to recipes. But what if the sauce is not available with you every time you need it? The simple solution is to opt for its substitute. Here is the table of substitutes for some of these commonly used sauces.
Food Item Substitute(s) Also See
Oyster Sauce soy sauce or fish sauce Oyster Sauce Substitute
Soy Sauce concoction of garlic vinegar, onion powder, ground ginger and blackstrap Soy Sauce Substitute
Tomato Sauce tomato paste or tomato juice Tomato Sauce Substitute
Hoisin Sauce a paste of prunes and sherry, soy sauce and garlic added Hoisin Sauce Substitute
Worcestershire Sauce steak sauce or soy sauce Worcestershire Sauce Substitute
Food Additives: Spices, Herbs, Sweeteners
The table that follows enlists the substitutes of ingredients that spice up food - the herbs and spices and of ingredients that sweeten food recipes - yes, the sweeteners; all of which are categorized as food additives.
Food Item Substitute(s) Also See
Anise Seed star anise seeds or fennel seeds Anise Seed Substitute
Bay Leaf thyme or ground basil Bay Leaf Substitute
Cardamom mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves or brown cardamom (lesser expensive substitute) Cardamom Substitute
Fennel celery Fennel Substitute
Celery Seed celery salt or dill seed Celery Seed Substitute
Celery Salt ground celery seeds Celery Salt Substitute
Cumin caraway or anise seeds Cumin Seeds Substitute
Coriander Seeds a mixture of caraway, cumin and fennel seeds Coriander Seeds Substitute
Galangal ginger root Galangal Substitute
Nutmeg cinnamon or mace Nutmeg Substitute
Paprika cayenne pepper, red pepper or chili powder Paprika Substitute
Vegetable Oil applesauce, coconut oil Vegetable Oil Substitute
Cooking Oil applesauce Cooking Oil Substitute
Sesame Oil peanut oil or toasted sesame seeds; light sesame oil for the dark one --
Canola Oil vegetable oil, olive oil Canola Oil Substitute
Safflower Oil canola oil, soybean oil Safflower Oil Substitute
Grape seed Oil safflower oil, sunflower oil Grape seed Oil Substitute
Xanthan Gum guar gum Xanthan Gum Substitute
White Wine Vinegar white vinegar or cider vinegar White Wine Vinegar Substitute
Powdered Sugar blended mixture of granulated sugar and cornstarch or blended plain sugar Powdered Sugar Substitute
Brown Sugar mixture of granulated sugar and molasses Brown Sugar Substitute
Corn Syrup honey or molasses Corn Syrup Substitute
Molasses corn syrup, brown sugar Molasses Substitute
Agave Nectar sugar syrup, honey, maple syrup Agave Nectar Substitute
Vanilla Extract maple syrup, almond extract, Fiori di sicilia extract or vanilla essence Vanilla Extract Substitute
Vanilla Bean vanilla extract Vanilla Bean Substitute
Other Foods and their Substitutes
There's always this 'others' category in everything. Something that does not belong to any particular category is conveniently made a part of 'others'. The table below enlists substitutes for all those food items that could not be made to belong to any of the aforementioned categories. But they are important in their own right.
Food Item Substitute(s) Also See
Dry White Wine dry white vermouth, apple cider vinegar (non-alcoholic) -
Coconut Milk combination of hot water or milk and coconut cream Coconut Milk Substitute
Cornstarch rice flour, arrowroot, potato flour or all-purpose flour (double the qnty) Cornstarch Substitute
Tapioca Flour arrowroot powder Tapioca Flour Substitute
Cocoa Powder baking soda added to unsweetened chocolate Cocoa Powder Substitute
Cream Cheese French Neufchâtel, ricotta cheese or fat-free yogurt Cream Cheese Substitute

Remember, substitutes in cooking serve the right purpose only when you know what not to substitute for.