In a Pinch You Can Use This for That

Have you ever discovered you’re all out of a certain ingredient just when you’re in the middle of preparing a recipe? I hate when that happens. And I know myself well enough that I don’t want to run to the store.

For me, an unscheduled trip like that could easily cost $40, maybe more. That’s just how impulsive I can be. I’ve learned that when I’m in a pinch— I need a pinch-hitter!




Here is my list of cooking and baking substitutes that I refer to often:

Need an egg

Combine two tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Thicken gravy

If you’re out of flour, you can substitute pancake mix up to three tablespoons. It works well, just don’t go over three tablespoons or your guests will be looking for the maple syrup.


Crumble 1/2 slice of bread and mix 1/4 cup broken crackers to substitute.

Baking powder

For each teaspoon of baking powder, substitute: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Baking soda

You need to use 2 to 3 times more double-acting baking powder than baking soda. Replace acidic liquid ingredient in the recipe with non-acidic liquid, i.e. water instead of vinegar or lemon juice, etc.


Combine one cup of fresh milk and one tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice.


For one teaspoon: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves,

Apple pie spice

For one teaspoon: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice and either 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger or cloves.


You can make the equivalent of 1 cup heavy cream by whisking together 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup soft butter or margarine (for use in cooking or baking, not for making whipped cream).


Mix 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup liquid (use the same type of liquid called for in the recipe).

Plain yogurt

Cottage cheese blended until smooth makes an excellent cup-for-cup substitute for plain yogurt.

Sweetened condensed milk

To make the equivalent of a 14-ounce can pour 1/2 cup of boiling water into a blender; add 1 cup nonfat dry milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and a few drops of vanilla extract. Cover and blend on high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in a covered container for two days.

MORE: In a Pinch You Can Use This for That

Chocolate chips

Semi-sweet chocolate chips can be substituted with nine tablespoons cocoa, seven tablespoons of sugar and three tablespoons of butter (this makes the equivalent of six ounces chocolate chips.

Brown sugar

Brown sugar can be replaced with one cup of white sugar and one to two tablespoons of molasses, mixed well with a fork. Hint: This is so much better than commercial brown sugar, you’ll be tempted to make a permanent switch.

Chocolate mousse

I don’t know how often, if ever, you’ve discovered you are fresh out of chocolate mousse. But you can never be too careful about this kind of thing. So that you are prepared for an unscheduled chocolate fix, learn this substitute: Stir sifted cocoa powder into any a tub of any variety Cool Whip. Now taste. Unbelievable, huh?

RELATED: When All Else Fails, Cover It With Chocolate

White cooking wine

1/3 cup white grape juice plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar*

Red cooking wine

1 cup grape juice, 1 tablespoon strong tea, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar*

*Not rice wine vinegar

First published: 7-3-15; Expanded  & Updated 5-13-19

Do you have a favorite cooking or baking substitute you find works well in a pinch? Please share in the commentss below!

PREVIOUSLY: Secrets for How to Grow An Edible Garden Just About Anywhere!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

9 replies
  1. yehudit
    yehudit says:

    Substitutes are not just for when you run out of something. They are often necessary to accommodate allergies or other dietary restrictions.
    Two that I use:
    Instead of milk: substitute an egg plus enough orange juice to make up the volume. If for a cake also add a 1/4 tsp baking soda to the dry ingredients).
    Instead of cream, to reduce fat & calories, use an equal amount of low fat or nonfat yogurt for a savory recipe, adding a little extra sugar or some honey if it is a sweet recipe.

  2. Luisa
    Luisa says:

    This is a helpful list. I did not know there was a substitute for chocolate chips. That’s my favorite item on this list. 😉

  3. Maureen Bordzuk
    Maureen Bordzuk says:

    When my mother wanted to thicken gravy, she used corn starch. She said it worked better than flour and didn’t create lumps. Also, when she made mashed potatoes, she always heated the milk before adding it to the potatoes for the same reason.

    • Ann
      Ann says:

      You won’t get lumps if you mix your flour with a little water before adding it to the gravy. Corn starch changes the flavor slightly compared to flour.

  4. kcvinweho
    kcvinweho says:

    If I plan to make a recipe, I check beforehand to ensure I have the ingredients. If not, I add the required ingredients to my weekly shopping list. Surely that small amount of preparation and organisation isn’t beyond the abilities of your readers?

    • Dino
      Dino says:

      In a word: Yes. Yes it is. Not on a regular basis, but, *hangs head* I’m afraid I’m guilty as charged. I will now go to the corner in shame.

    • Bookworm
      Bookworm says:

      You must be terribly organized. Life just doesn’t allow me to be that organized, so I’m thankful for people who can think up and/or pass on workarounds like substitute ingredients.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *