female cooking on stove top

Kitchen Substitutes: You Can Use This When You’re Out of That

It happens to all of us. Your discover 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 $60, maybe more. That’s just how impulsive I can be. I’ve learned that I need a pinch-hitter when I’m in a pinch! 

female cooking on stove top

One of the handiest things you’ll ever learn as a home cook is how to come up with a great substitute when you’re in a pinch. How to make brown sugar? How to make sour cream? What can I substitute for honey? Wonder no more!

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.

Out of breadcrumbs?

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 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp cornstarch

No buttermilk?

Combine one cup of fresh milk and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir to combine, allow to sit for 15 minutes to thicken.

Heavy cream

You can make the equivalent of 1 cup heavy cream by mixing 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup butter or margarine (for use in cooking or baking).

Fresh whole milk

Out of milk? This works every time:  1 cup of fresh whole milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water.


Mix 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup liquid (use the same type of liquid called for in the recipe). Or 1 cup molasses is a reasonable substitute for 1 cup honey.

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 of Sweetened Condensed Milk, pour 1/2 cup of boiling water into a blender; add 1 cup nonfat dry milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons of 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.

Chocolate chips

Semi-sweet chocolate chips can be substituted with 9 tablespoons of cocoa, 7 tablespoons of white granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons of butter (this makes the equivalent of six ounces chocolate chips.) Mix together in a bowl, then add this in place of chocolate chips. It’s not an exact substitute but reasonable.

Brown sugar

Make it yourself: 1 cup of white sugar and one to 2 tablespoons of molasses in a bowl. Using a fork, press and stir until fully incorporated. This recipe multiplies well, however if you make it as needed you won’t have to worry about brown sugar hardening!

Chocolate mousse

I don’t know how often, if ever, you’ve discovered you are fresh out of chocolate mousse,  ut 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 a tub of any variety of Cool Whip until it looks about right. Now taste. Unbelievable, huh?

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 seasoned rice vinegar

Question: Do you have a kitchen substitute tucked away that you’ve come to rely on? Please share in the comments below.

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10 replies
  1. LEE says:

    You can substitute for an egg by beating up some aquafaba, which is the liquid found in a can of beans. Garbanzos or cannelinis work best. Great for making meringues.

  2. Ronnie says:

    I don’t have a substitute but I do have a suggestion I use in the kitchen most especially on a larger cut of meat or even a large meatloaf. Baking potato skewers. Take 2, 3, 4, depending on size of what you’re cooking/baking and stick them in here and there in what your cooking. For me it cuts cooking time and cooks more even. The inside of the roast is ready when the ends are. Try it once if you need something a little quicker.

  3. Regina knezevich says:

    Love all these substitutions ! Thank you ! Lost the other email where Mary teaches us the homemade sauces , cream of …., etc If someone has it saved , could you please send it ! I don’t have a computer/printer or I would print it out. Thank you ! Happy saving !

  4. Linda says:

    mise en place (everything in it’s place)
    If you follow good planning, you won’t run out of anything halfway through making a recipe. That said, when your gathering your ingredients, if you’re missing one, you can find a substitute (or make sure you have one) before you start.


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