Easy Substitutions for Baking, Cooking & More

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Is there anything more frustrating than realizing at the last minute that you don’t have an item you need for a recipe? Especially when you were planning to have dinner on the table in less than an hour or don’t have time to run out to the store. Finding easy substitutions is one of the most important things for any home cook or chef — and we’re here to make the process easier for you with our simple, handy guide.

We’ve also included some items that are helpful for cleaning your kitchen, replacing pantry staples, and exploring vegan, gluten-free, non-alcoholic, or other dietary restrictions and needs.

HOW TO SUBSTITUTE ESSENTIALS

There are few things you’ll use more in the kitchen than eggs, butter, and baking soda — especially if you’re a baker like me! Whether you need to swap something out to be vegan or simply because you ran out of supplies, we’ve got you covered.

Eggs

Eggs are first here for a reason. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out of eggs and needed an alternative. It’s the workhorse of any baker’s kitchen, and in most kitchens in general!

Unsalted Butter

Every once in a while I realize I only have salted butter left in my fridge, or that a recipe calls for a few Tablespoons more than I realized. That’s when it’s time to scramble for an alternative!

Baking Soda

Everything from self-rising flour to club soda could work, depending on your needs.

Dijon Mustard

Believe it or not, this is one of the most popular pieces we’ve ever shared, so clearly, a lot of people are looking for an easy substitution option. Luckily, you have plenty of choices.

HERB SUBSTITUTES

My grocery store doesn’t always have the herbs I need. When that happens, I look to these lists for a Plan B.

Sage

Our sage wisdom will guide you to a happy alternative for this herb.

Rosemary

When you see the word “rosemary,” does Edison Lighthouse or Interpol immediately play in your head? Okay anyway, you can substitute a bunch of different herbs for rosemary — and more!

Mint

This versatile herb is a favorite in many recipes, but sometimes it’s just not available in grocery stores, or perhaps, you’re not a fan of its strong, minty flavor.

Thyme

These easy substitutions are just in thyme. (Sorry, I had to do it!)

Close up of fresh basil leaves, a popular herb in Italian and Asian cuisines.

Basil

Basil, a member of the mint family, is a common herb known for its unique flavor and aroma. If you can’t get your hands on this popular herb, it’s time to find an alternate.

Oregano

Thyme and Italian seasoning are great substitutes for oregano. But that’s not all!

Coriander/Cilantro

My friend has the cilantro gene, so any time we’re together, I think about how important it is to know alternatives for coriander.

A small bowl of ground cayenne pepper on a rustic wooden table.

SPICE SUBSTITUTIONS

Hot hot heat! If you’re looking to spice up your life, you’ve come to the right place.

Paprika

I LOVE paprika. But the good news is with different varieties to choose from, these replacements can mimic the sweet flavor, heat level, or deep red color that regular paprika provides. 

Nutmeg

Yes, it’s technically a spice and not a nut! Ground cloves and star anise will both work as a nutmeg substitute, but don’t stop there.

Chili Flakes

Typical red chili flakes have a heat range of 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. So, when looking for a chili flakes substitute, you’ll need to consider the heat level of the replacement.

Discover the best chili flakes substitute to spice up your meals! Explore alternatives from ground cayenne pepper to homemade chili flakes.

Cayenne

Literally the last time I went to the grocery store I couldn’t find cayenne pepper! I keep some on my spice rack, but these alternatives will also make your life easier.

Allspice

Allspice, also known as Jamaican pepper or myrtle pepper, is a flavorful spice that originated from the tropical climates of Central America and Southern Mexico.

Jalapeño

If this pepper is too hot for you or you just can’t find any, the good news is you can always use something else that will either match — or lessen — the heat.

bananas on a counter

FRUIT ALTERNATIVES

Did your fruit go bad before you could use it in a recipe? That’s disappointing, but not the end of the world, thanks to these tips.

Mango

For those who love the tropical fruit mango, finding a good substitute can sometimes be challenging. Whether you’re out of season or allergic, having a substitute for mango can be quite handy.

Banana

Banana is key in so many of my favorite recipes, especially my mom’s banana bread! But if you want to sub in something else for a smoothie or other recipe, you can if you do it right.

Orange Zest

Orange zest is the flavorful, bright citrus exterior part of the orange. It’s a key ingredient in a variety of dishes, from savory recipes to sweet dishes. The zest adds a unique flavor profile and citrusy aroma to your cooking that is hard to replace. However, there are always alternate options available, and knowing them can be a life saver!

Lemon Juice

I keep a little squeezy bottle of lemon juice at home in case I forget to grab fresh lemons and need some juice. But even that runs out sometimes! Be sure to have a substitute plan when making your favorite lemon recipe.

White Chocolate Mousse 2 2048 1 Scaled 1

DESSERT SUBSTITUTES

If you know anything about Something Swanky, you know I’m obsessed with desserts. And while many of the ingredients on this list are used in desserts (like eggs, duh!), here are a few that are more dessert-specific you may find yourself wanting to substitute from time to time.

Caramel

The first time you hear the words “caramel substitute,” you might be a bit confused. It’s understandable since most caramel recipes call for heavy cream, unsalted butter, and dark brown sugar. But sometimes, you may not have these ingredients at hand.

Honey

I can never get enough of honey. And sometimes that means I run out! If you need something else to sweeten your tea or to add to a cake, explore the range of choices available to you.

White Chocolate

From milk chocolate to butterscotch, find the perfect alternative when you don’t have white chocolate.

A close-up of white chocolate chips showing their creamy texture and white color

DAIRY SUBSTITUTIONS

Vegan? Dairy-free? Or just looking for a back-up plan? Don’t worry, we have you covered.

Half & Half

Sour cream is one option. Milk and butter is another that we prefer. Learn more about why.

Whole Milk

You may know soy milk is a reasonable dairy-free option. But you can even use water and butter in a real pinch.

A glass of oat milk with a bowl of oats in the background.

Gruyere

We’ll bet money you haven’t heard of at least one of these cheeses that you can use in place of gruyere!

Ricotta

What happens when your beloved lasagna recipe calls for a generous scoop of ricotta cheese, but you open your refrigerator to find an empty carton?

Sour Cream

A lot of people don’t like sour cream and would prefer to use an alternative ingredient. That’s okay! Start here.

A bottle of balsamic vinegar next to a bowl of salad.

VINEGAR ALTERNATIVES

Good news — many of the items in this category make easy substitutions for each other. But the quantities and specifics will depend on exactly what you need, so be sure to read more about your specific ingredient.

White Wine Vinegar

No, not white wine — scroll down further for that. If you need white wine vinegar in a dish and don’t have any, learn about a few options you have at your disposal.

Rice Wine Vinegar

Does your recipe call for rice wine vinegar, but you don’t even know what that is? That’s okay. We can help.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Sherry vinegar is the gourmet choice, but white wine vinegar can do just fine.

Balsamic Vinegar

Authentic balsamic vinegar, also known as the “fine wine of the vinegar world,” comes from the Italian city of Modena. Explore our alternatives guide when you can’t find any.

SWAPPING OUT ALCOHOL

Whether you’re sober or just don’t have something available, these guides will navigate you to dry land.

Brandy

Brandy isn’t for everyone — or maybe you just don’t have any available.

White Wine

Believe it or not, ginger ale is a decent substitute for white wine vinegar. Find out what else you can use!

A transparent spray bottle filled with golden cooking oil.

OTHER EASY SUBSTITUTIONS TO TRY

We’re still going! Here are more easy substitution ideas you might find yourself needing.

Cooking Spray

“Cooking spray substitute” is frequently Googled, and I’m not at all surprised. It’s impossible to tell how much you have left or will need, making it super easy to get stuck needing a different ingredient.

Cashews

Nuts for cashews? Well, macadamia nuts can help fill the void when you run out — or even silken tofu. Yep. Find out how.

Au Jus

Au jus is a light sauce or dipping sauce made primarily from meat drippings, typically beef. It is the perfect accompaniment to roast beef sandwiches, prime rib roast, or even beef tenderloin. If you’re all out, we can help.

Carrots

Looking for a good carrot substitute can be a daunting task, especially when you’re trying to recreate the delicious flavors and vibrant colors of carrots in your favorite dishes.

Thin slices of marinated carrots spread out on a baking tray, ready to be baked into carrot bacon.

A Word on Easy Substitutions

The next time you need to quickly and easily swap an ingredient, we know you’ll remember this list. Bookmark it (or save it in Grow) so you can easily return to it in the future!

You’ll be grateful and — maybe most importantly — it will save you time.

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