Anyone who bakes a lot has probably had to wing it from time to time. Often the improvisation happens so that a favorite treat can become vegan or gluten-free. Other times it’s just because you end up running out of something crucial mid recipe. While most substitutions will change the finished product slightly, here are some of the most successful stand-ins for a bakers’ dozen of popular ingredients.
Baking Powder: Combine 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda
Brown Sugar: For each cup needed, stir together 1 cup white sugar and either 2 tablespoons molasses (for dark brown) or 1 tablespoon molasses (for light brown).
Buttermilk: Stir 1 tablespoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar into each cup of regular milk and let the mixture sit 5 minutes. You can also substitute unflavored kefir for buttermilk.
Cornstarch: Stir in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon arrowroot per 1 cup of liquid you need to thicken. Heat gently in order to activate its thickening power.
Eggs: Eggs accomplish a number of tasks in baking, including adding richness and moisture, binding and leavening. Not all substitutions will work equally well for all purposes, but here are some common egg alternatives and the duties they’re best at. Quantities are for 1 egg.
- Commercial egg replacer: Binds and leavens; use 1 1/2 teaspoons replacer combined with 2 tablespoons water.
- Baking soda and acid: Leavens; use 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.
- Baking powder and oil: Leavens and adds moisture; combine 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons water and 1 tablespoon canola oil (use only in recipes calling for 1 or 2 eggs max).
- Flaxseed meal: Binds; stir together 2 tablespoons finely ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons warm water and let sit 5 minutes to thicken.
- Chia seeds: Binds; grind 1 tablespoon chia in a spice grinder, then mix with 3 tablespoons water and let sit 5 minutes to thicken.
- Tofu: Binds and adds moisture; use 1/4 cup mashed tofu.
- Apple sauce and some fruit purées and cooked vegetable purées (i.e., squash or sweet potato): Binds and adds moisture; add 3 tablespoons.
Gelatin: Use 1 teaspoon agar-agar powder or 1 tablespoon agar-agar flakes per cup of liquid and heat slowly, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Agar-agar must be heated to activate, but will set at room temperature, unlike gelatin which must be chilled.
Honey: Substitute equal amounts agave nectar or rice syrup.
Margarine: Use equal amounts of butter, a half-and-half mixture of butter and canola oil, or half canola oil and half unsweetened applesauce.
Milk: Use equal amounts soymilk or nut milk, or a mixture of equal amounts half-and-half and water. You can also use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons kefir, plain (not Greek) yogurt or buttermilk for each 1 cup of milk called for, although the flavor and texture will be altered a bit.
Granulated Sugar: Use honey, maple syrup, rice syrup or agave nectar, substituting 2/3 cup for each 1 cup sugar called for. You can also use molasses, but since it has a strong flavor use only 1/2 cup for each cup of sugar in the recipe. Date sugar or coconut sugar can also be substituted at 2/3 cup per 1 cup sugar.
Shortening: Use equal amounts butter or margarine.
White All-Purpose Flour: Substitute whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour at about 1/8 less than called for in the recipe. You can also use a commercial gluten-free flour blend in equal proportions, or make your own: give this Gluten Free Whole Grain Flour Mix opens in a new tab a try.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour: Use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour.
Happy baking! Got your own go-to baking substitutions? Let us know.