Your Ultimate Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Don't Let a Missing Item Keep You From Cooking

Ingredients for banana bread in bowls on grey surface

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Missing a certain herb, spice, or being out of a certain pantry staple doesn't need to stop you from cooking dinner tonight. With these go-to substitution guides for some of the most common ingredients and even a few kitchen tools, you'll be able to whip up that pot of creamy soup or buttermilk fried chicken recipe, without making a last minute run to the grocery store. Substitutions are always a bit of an experiment but this guide will help out in a pinch.

Dairy Substitutes

Alphabetical list of common dairy items and their substitutes.


Make your own buttermilk with a combination of milk and a bit of acid (vinegar, lemon juice).

buttermilke subs
The Spruce / Catherine Song. 

Cream Cheese

Replace cream cheese with strained yogurt, blended cottage cheese, or Neufchatel cheese.

cream cheese sub chart
 The Spruce / Adrian Mangel


Depending on the recipe, savory egg replacements include silken tofu, bananas or egg substitute. Find out what to use when.

Egg Substitution Guide
  The Spruce / Elnora Turner

Half and Half

A combination of whole milk and heavy cream, whole milk and butter, or milk and heavy cream will all yield fantastic half and half replacements in recipes.

Half and Half Substitute
The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole 


A comprehensive guide to baking even when you are out of milk, including how to use vegan milk alternatives or replacing milk with yogurt, sour cream, or evaporated milk in baking.

Milk Sub Guide
 The Spruce / Miguel Co.

Sour Cream

The tang and creaminess of sour cream can be duplicated with a combination of yogurt and baking soda when called for in a baking recipe.

Sour Cream Subs
 The Spruce / Hugo Lin

Herb and Spice Substitutes

Alphabetical list of common herbs, spices, and seasoning and their substitutes.


Whether out of ground coriander for a recipe (where caraway, cumin, or fennel will due just fine) or someone who doesn't enjoy the taste of fresh cilantro (where dill, tarragon, and parsley can lend a hand), these substitution ideas showcase the creativity you can have in the kitchen.

Coriander substitute
 The Spruce / Colleen Tighe


Cumin can be swapped for other dried spices such as coriander, curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, caraway seeds, or even a taco seasoning mix to impart earthy flavor to the dish.

Cumin Sub guide
 The Spruce Eats / Katie Kerpel

Fresh Garlic

This conversion chart allows you to swap minced, powdered, flaked, and granulated garlic in place of the fresh stuff.

Garlic Substitution graphic
The Spruce Eats / Theresa Chiechi 


Move easily between freshly chopped onion, onion powder, or onion flakes, even if the recipe calls for a different version of onion than what you have on hand.

Chopped Onion Subs
 The Spruce Eats / Maritsa Patrinos 

Red Pepper Flakes

The spice of red pepper flakes can also be achieved with other pantry staples such as chili powder, cayenne pepper, and hot sauce.

Crushed Red Pepper Flake Subs
 The Spruce / Katie Kerpel


The slight licorice flavor that tarragon imparts to a recipe can also be captured with swaps such as fennel or anise seed, or fresh chervil or fennel fronds.

Tarragon Subs
 The Spruce / Lara Antal  

Pantry Substitutes

Alphabetical list of common ingredients and their substitutes.


Some juices and broths can do the trick in place of alcohol in your savory recipes.

Alcohol Substitution Guide
The Spruce Eats / Grace Kim 

Balsamic Vinegar

Whether for a dressing or in a marinade, the robust flavor of balsamic can be replicated with something sweet (honey or sugar) along with another vinegar, or by combining soy sauce, molasses, and citrus juice.

Balsamic Vinegar Substitute
The Spruce Eats / Emilie Dunphy 


The smoky and salty notes that bacon imparts to a recipe can also be achieved with salt pork, Canadian or turkey bacon.

 The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole 


The options are endless when looking to swap out the beer called for in a recipe, everything from broths, to stocks, juices, wine, and even a few choice sodas depending on the flavors in your recipe, will work.

beer substitutes
The Spruce Eats / Adrian Mangel 

Brown Sugar

A combination of molasses and white sugar will give you a homemade brown sugar substitute.

Brown Sugar Substitutes
The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

Corn Starch

Depending upon the need, corn starch's benefits can be replicated with AP Flour, instant tapioca, or arrowroot.

Cornstarch Subs
 The Spruce / Katie Kerpel 

Lemon Zest

Alternatives to the zest of a lemon include lemon extract, lemon peel, bottled lemon juice, or the zest of an alternative citrus like grapefruit or lime.

Lemon Zest Sub
 The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole


The sweetness and depth of flavor that molasses imparts to things like BBQ sauce, can be achieved through any swap out of sugar, brown sugar, dark corn or maple syrups, or honey.

Molasses Substitutes
 The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi


Use this guide to make wet mustard out of dried mustard, a bit of vinegar, and water.

Mustard Substitution Wet for Dry
  The Spruce / Elnora Turner

Tomato Juice

Whether for a soup, sauce, or Bloody Mary recipe, tomato juice can be whipped up with the use of these ratios of tomato sauce, paste, or canned tomatoes, along with some water.

Tomato Juice Subs
 The Spruce Eats / Maritsa Patrinos

Tomato Sauce

A quick pasta and tomato sauce dinner can still come together if you have tomato soup, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, or yes, even ketchup, on hand.

Tomato Sauce Subs
 The Spruce / Jiaqi Zhou


Consider this a flow-chart of vinegar types and ways to recreate the flavor and acidity of vinegars ranging from red wine, rice, apple cider, sherry, and white vinegar.

Vinegar Subs
 The Spruce / Melissa Ling

White Wine

Deglazing a pan or creating a sauce with substitutes like broth, vinegars, and juices (like grape and apple) will still yield tasty results if white wine is not on hand or desired.

White Wine Subs
  The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

Equipment Substitutions

Alphabetical list of equipment substitutions to keep you cooking.

Cheese Cloth

Straining yogurt or tying up parcels of spices can also be accomplished with items like coffee filters, cotton fabric, or even a fresh set of pantyhose, depending on the needs of the recipe.

Cheese Cloth Sub
  The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

Parchment Paper

While parchment is a versatile tool in the kitchen, for most cooking projects, some foil for making fish packets, or a silicon mat will do the trick nicely.

Parchment Paper Sub
The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi