Whether we like it or not, while we’re right in the middle of this dreadful pandemic raking our planet, the only place which can provide us some shelter is our home. We are sure that by this time you have tried your hand at almost everything that you can do within the confines of your own house, to keep yourself occupied and protected against boredom. And it can also be said with certainty that most of us have already tried as many recipes as are possible with the limited ingredients we have at our disposal.
In case you’re thinking that you have run out of items to cook inside your kitchen because you do not have the required ingredients, you might be in luck. No matter where scarcity has hit- at your own homes or at the crowded grocery store by your house, there are some ingredients that you can always find and work magic with if you only know how to use them right.
Below we have discussed the basic recipe makers and the ingredients which can be used as their substitutes in these testing times. Go ahead and have a look.
The texture and flavor of dairy products add life to many recipes and dishes. However, there are certain characteristics, like the consistency of milk, which can be altered and manipulated with items like flour or cornstarch. The ingredients given below have been placed from thinnest to firmest and might be used in place of certain dairy products if the need arises.
Milk:Use half and half, evaporated milk, light cream, soy milk, nut milk, oat milk, light cream, light coconut milk, or heavy cream thinned with water.
Half and Half:Use about one tablespoon per cup of flour or quality cornstarch to thicken the milk. You might also thin heavy milk with some water.
Heavy cream:To make 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute- ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup butter (melted) to add richness; you can also choose to think 1 cup milk with the help of 1 tablespoon flour or corn-starch. To do this, you must pour milk into the dried ingredient little by little. Other than this, you can use coconut milk and coconut cream or softened cream cheese that has been whisked with a little bit of water. But you must remember that these alternatives cannot be beaten into fluffy whipped cream.
Buttermilk:To make 1 cup of butter- take one tablespoon fresh lemon juice- which might also be substituted with light vinegar (white vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar)- add this to a measuring cup and put enough milk that reaches 1 cup. If this cannot be managed, you can also thin sour cream, one-part yogurt, or any other creamy dairy product using one-part milk. Alternatively, you can thin two parts yogurt or other creamy dairy product using one-part water.
Butter:If the butter is being used by you to line the pan, or to conduct heat, you can switch to using olive oil or any other fats. To add the same flavor as butter, as in a risotto or polenta, you can use numerous creamy options such as the likes of mascarpone or heavy cream.
Creamy dairy products:For this set of ingredients you can use textural, tangy ingredients such as the likes of crema, sour cream, queso fresco, Quark, Neufchatel, mascarpone or yogurt of any given variety.
Cheese:The world of cheese is really vast, and it is almost impossible to cover everything under this category. When you are trying to substitute cheese, you must bring to mind the purpose it will serve: Am I using cheese to melt in a creamy sauce for pasta, or do I want it to spread on a piece of toast?? In case you’re cooking the cheese, you should consider using a cheese variant that has a similar texture as the one in your recipe. However, if you are using cheese as an accent, then you can be much more flexible. We have broken down the types of cheese and their substitutes below:
- Fresh, un-ripened cheese (wet and soft):Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Fromage blanc, cream cheese.
- Soft-ripened cheese (creamy):Taleggio, Pont l’Eveque, Camembert, Brie
- Semi-firm and semi-soft cheese:Swiss cheese, Port-Salut, pepper Jack, Muenster, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Jarlsberg, Havarti, Gouda, Fontina, Edam, Colby, Cheddar
- Hard aged cheese:Asiago, Pecorino, Parmesan, Manchego, Gruyere, Comte, Asiago
Oils and Fats
While using oils and fats, it is important to consider the smoke point, which is the temperature at which the fat or oil starts burning. Neutral oils that have high smoke points do not burn when they’re exposed to high temperatures (while being pan-fried or deep-fried); however, butter and other solid fats (with low smoke points) can burn rather easily.
Further below, we have grouped oils and fats into three main categories. This has been done by keeping in mind the smoke point and flavor of these fats. Most ingredients in the given category are interchangeable, but we recommend you base the selection on the given criteria.
Neutral oils (high smoke point):Vegetable oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil. Clarified butter or ghee might also be used because it has a high smoke point, which is very similar to neutral oils.
Flavored oils (medium or high smoke point):Sunflower oil, sesame oil, olive oil, nut oils, avocado oils
Solid fats (low smoke point):Vegetable shortening, margarine, lard, chicken fat, butter, bacon fat.
Stock is generally used to add liquid in the recipe, though sometimes it also improves the flavor. If you need just a little stock, you can simply substitute water. However, if a lot of stock is needed, then you might want to use water that has been flavored with some of the ingredients given below. Make sure that you start by putting a little and keep checking for taste now and then because some items might turn out to be rather sweet while the others are salty or condensed.
Stock substitutes:Tea, soy sauce, olive oil, the mushroom stock made from the liquid of soaked dried mushrooms, miso paste, milk (soy milk, nut, coconut or dairy), melted butter, juice (apple juice, or orange juice, etc., water seasoned with white wine or beer.
Most greens are easy to define with their flavor and texture. You have to remember if they are mild or bitter, sturdy or tender, and so on. When you are going to use a substitute, try to understand how the greens are being used. Tender greens are more than often consumed raw, whereas the sturdy ones might have to be cooked a little longer. In this case, you have to add the greens earlier, or later if the cooking process so requires.
- Mild and tender:Tatsoi, spinach, mesclun, Mache, lettuce, chard
- Mild and firm: Bok choy, collard greens, cabbage
- Tender and bitter: Watercress, radish greens, radicchio, mizuna, frisee, endive, arugula
- Firm and bitter: Escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale
It is rather tricky to substitute vegetables in any recipe and depend wholly on personal taste. But there are certain ingredients that might still take the place of each other such as Brussels sprouts for broccoli. The things to keep in mind are texture, density, and moisture content. We have broken down everyday vegetables into two categories based upon their cooking times: most veggies in the same category take time to cook at the same rate, however, if you’d like to use a firm vegetable in place of a quick-cooking one, all you have to do is increase/ decrease the cooking time by adding the ingredient at the right time while recreating a recipe.
Quick-cooking:Zucchini, summer squash, peppers, peas, mushrooms, fennel, eggplant, corn, celery, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccolini, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, asparagus.
Firm:Pumpkin, kabocha, delicata, butternut squash, or any form of winter squash, turnip, sweet potato, potato, parsnip, celery root, carrot, beet or other root vegetables.
Some alliums like garlic have a really pronounced flavor, which makes it difficult to find the proper substitute for them. However, leeks, red, white or yellow onions, scallions, spring onions, and shallots are very much interchangeable. Garlic and onions can also be procured in dried form (dehydrated as flakes, granulated or powdered), which are highly potent and carry the risk of skewing bitter when overused. It is better to use such dry ingredients with moderation and only when the fresher versions need to be put in smaller quantities and not bulk.
Fresh herbs largely fall into two major categories: tender, bright herbs such as the likes of tarragon, parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, chives, chervil, and basil, which are highly favorable when fresh and then there are the woody, savory herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and bay leaves which retain their essential oils better when dried.
Dried herbs are much more potent than fresh ones; thus, you must use less of them: try substituting one teaspoon of dry herb for every tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs. In general, you can easily use one tender herb in place of another or one woody herb in place of another. But substituting a woody herb for a tender one (or vice versa) works less and is usually not efficient. Rely on your personal preference, availability as well as other ingredients in the recipe to find the appropriate substitute.
Basil:Parsley, mint, oregano, Italian seasoning, dill, cilantro, and chervil.
Bay leavesThyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, Herbes de Provence.
Chervil:Tarragon, parsley, dill, and basil.
Chilves:Mint, parsley, chives, basil.
Dill:Basil, chervil, parsley, mint.
Marjoram:Herbes de Provence, thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, Italian seasoning.
Mint:Parsley, dill, cilantro, basil
Oregano:Sage, thyme, rosemary, Italian seasoning, dill, cilantro, chives, chervil, basil
Parsley:Tarragon, mint, Italian seasoning, dill, cilantro, chives, chervil, basil.
Rosemary:Sage, thyme, oregano, Herbes de Provence, Bay leaves
Sage:Thyme, Rosemary, oregano, Herbes de Provence, bay leaves.
Thyme:Sage, rosemary, oregano, Herbes de Provence, Bay leaves
When you substitute spices, you have to consider what will or will not work in your dish. Most spices have to be grouped into four main flavors- warm, peppery, floral, and earthy. It is often easy to substitute a spice that hits the same notes by picking a spice that has the same qualities.
Earthy:Curry powder, za’atar, vadouvan, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, curry powder.
Floral:Star anise, saffron, nutmeg, lavender, fennel, coriander, cardamom.
Peppery:Sumac, mustard powder, peppercorns, ground ginger, allspice.
Warm:Paprika, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, chili powder (blended), chile (dry), cinnamon.
When we talk about spices, there is a lot of room for you to experiment and innovate. You can consider layering the flavor carefully by seasoning lightly at the beginning of the process you can taste and test later, to determine if you want to increase the spice once the dish is completely cooked.
Allspice:Combine nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon or use all three together.
Cardamom:Lavender, ginger, fennel, coriander.
Cayenne:Sumac, red-pepper flakes, paprika, hot sauce, dried chiles, chili powder, and Aleppo pepper.
Chili powder:Nutmeg or paprika (sweet, hot or smoked), cumin, cloves, and similar warm spices like cayenne. You can also combine onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne or red pepper flakes.
Cinnamon:Pumpkin pie spice blend, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, apple pie spice blend, allspice.
Cloves:Black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice.
Coriander:Turmeric, saffron, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom.
Cumin:Turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, curry powder, coriander, chili powder.
Curry Powder:Turmeric, garam masala, cumin, coriander, chili powder, allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander.
Ginger:Allspice, coriander, cloves, cinnamon.
Nutmeg:Allspice, ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon.
Paprika:Black pepper, curry powder, chili powder cayenne.
Turmeric:Curry powder, vadouvan, za’atar, onion powder, garlic powder.
Meat and Seafood
Although most home cooks like to make dishes based on protein, even this ingredient is rather flexible. You should try making protein substitutes as per your preference and the things you have on hand. You must shift the cooking time accordingly as well, depending on longer-cooking meats like beef chuck and faster cooking seafood, which must be added later in the recipe.
You can also try to adjust the size of the protein by cutting it into smaller pieces or by removing the meat from the bones so that it cooks faster. You could leave it in larger pieces to make it cook at a slower rate. You must think broadly and expand your options as much as possible using ingredients like tofu, beans, lentils, and other vegetarian substitutes, which might be carrying the same texture.
Beef:When substituting one cut of beef for another, you can substitute tough cuts like chuck, round roast or brisket for other tough cuts, and tender cuts like strip steak, flank steak, and filet mignon for other quick-cooking cuts. You can also choose to use lamb instead of beef in various recipes- though the flavor will be more assertive.
Ground meat and fresh sausage:Both can be used interchangeably. You can take out sausage from its casing and use it as ground meat, or you might flavor ground meat with red pepper flakes, Italian herbs, fennel seed, and other seasonings. You can also use ground meat of any other kind by swapping ground pork for ground beef in meatballs or using ground chicken for ground turkey in a larb. Ground pork is the fattier option; you might want to add extra oil to remove excess fat from ground beef, chicken, turkey, or veal.
Pork:Bone-in pork chops are cooked pretty much at the same time as steaks that are of similar thickness- however you might want to check a meat thermometer to achieve the wanted doneness. If you’re working with diced pork stew meat, you can use cubed beef stew meats, which cook at the same rate. Cubed chicken also works, but you’ll need to reduce cooking times.
Chicken:Chicken can be substituted by whole boneless, skinless breasts that work perfectly well in place of boneless, skinless chicken thighs: To achieve a similar thickness, you can butterfly the breasts or pound them very thinly, you can also alter the cook-time. Turkey breasts and ground turkey also achieves the same result as the chicken counterparts.
Fish fillets:Fish fillets are either lean (tilapia, sole, skate, red snapper, monkfish, halibut, flounder, cod, catfish, and bass) or fatty, such as tuna, swordfish, salmon, mahi-mahi, char. You can easily substitute one type for another.Shrimp or Scallops:Fresh or frozen, both can be very quickly cooked. Depending on your recipe, you can use fish fillets, small pieces of meat, and even poultry.