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20 Kitchen Ingredient Substitutions in an Emergency

No matter how hard we try, there will always be times we are out of ingredients for a recipe. Then these emergency ingredient substitutions will help!

Show of hands: how many of you have been in the kitchen, ready to make a meal but realize you are out of one of your staple foods? I’ve been there. So many times. There are some foods that I always assume we have plenty of in the pantry or refrigerator and am shocked when we are low.

I try to make sure to add these to the grocery list on our Amazon Echo when I notice, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Sometimes a recipe calls for a lot more of a staple food than I was planning, which also becomes a problem. I may have a decent amount of flour in the pantry but then I try to make something with 3 cups of flour to find out I only have 2 cups. Or I need some chopped onion but the onion has gone bad.

No matter which situation you find yourself in, it’s always helpful to have a list of emergency substitutions that you can make while cooking. Changing out recipe ingredients can alter the flavor and texture slightly. But usually, it works well enough.

Other times you may find you like the food better after the substitution is made then change your recipe. This happened with my recipe for Alice Springs Chicken. Originally, I was using honey, but when we were low one night I subbed in maple syrup and we liked the taste so much we changed my recipe.

Originally Published On: August 1, 2018

Last Updated On: September 18, 2020

List of Ingredient Substitutions in an Emergency

Pantry Substitutions

If you don’t have:Substitute with:
Baking Powder (1 tsp)1/2 tsp cream of tartar plus 1/4 tsp baking soda
Bread Crumbs (1/4 cup)1/4 cup cracker crumbs
Broth, beef or chicken (1 cup)1 tsp of instant beef or chicken bouillon and 1 cup hot water
Cornstarch (1 tbsp)2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Corn Syrup (1 cup)1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water
Flour, self-rising (1 cup)1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking soda
Garlic (1 clove)1/2 tsp bottled minced garlic OR 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Herbs, fresh (1 tbsp)1/2-1 tsp dried herb, crushed
Honey (1 cup)1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water OR 1 cup of pure maple syrup
Onion, chopped (1 small)1 tsp onion powder OR 1 tbsp dried minced onion
Pumpkin Pie Spice (1 tsp)1/2 tsp ground cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp ground ginger plus 1/4 tsp ground allspice plus 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Sugar, granulated (1 cup)1 cup packed brown sugar OR 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Tomato Juice (1 cup)1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water
Tomato Sauce (2 cups)3/4 cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water

Refrigerator/Freezer Substitutions

If you don’t have:Substitute with:
Buttermilk (1 cup)1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup & let it stand 5 minutes before using OR 1 cup of plain yogurt
Egg (1 whole)2 egg white OR 2 egg yolks OR 1/4 cup frozen egg product, thawed
Half-and-half (1 cup)1 tbsp melted butter or margarine plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup
Herbs, fresh (1 tbsp)1/2-1 tsp dried herb, crushed
Lemon Juice (1 tsp)1/2 tsp vinegar
Milk, whole (1 cup)1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water OR 1 cup water plus 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
Sour Cream (1 cup)1 cup plain yogurt

Free Cheatsheet of Ingredient Substitutions in an Emergency

Next time you are working on a recipe and find you are out of an ingredient, use this list then check if there is a substitute you can make. This saves you from having to call a neighbor, run to the store (or send your husband to the store, as I usually do!), or scrap the recipe altogether and call in a pizza. Been there then done that on every one of these.

But, as I mentioned, sometimes it’s fun to make substitutions and find a new way to make a recipe. It may just become your favorite once you tweak one or two little things!

Download a copy of the Ingredients Substitution list to have handy in the kitchen when you need it:

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When working in the kitchen, it helps to make sure you have the correct equipment. The following items are hand-selected for this post and are all items I have personally used and/or recommend.

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34 thoughts on “20 Kitchen Ingredient Substitutions in an Emergency”

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Not only am I a terrible cook, but I also have a knack for NEVER having the appropriate “staple” ingredients in my pantry.

  2. Honestly, I don’t know any substitutions, which is why I’m thankful I found this post. For me, it’s either I go to the grocery and buy the ingredient or never cook the recipe at all haha

  3. I love posts like this as I save them and I inevitably run into a situation where they come in handy and save me a trip to the store. I was most surprised by the baking powder substitution! I had no idea you could use a sub for that.

  4. Sometimes when I cook, I need baking soda or buttermilk or some other herbs but they are not available. So this post will be useful for me, I will save it and buy those ingredients for the kitchen.

  5. This is such a great reference. I can’t tell you how many times I have started baking something and realized I was short an ingredient!!!

  6. I use the substitution for buttermilk and minced garlic all the time. The substitution for half and half is going to be a game changer for me! Thanks for posting.

    1. I’ve used the buttermilk one quite a bit, too! Since then I found a powdered buttermilk mixture that I keep in the refrigerator. It mixes with water to create buttermilk so it stays good much longer!

  7. This is genius Stephanie! I haven’t been able to find baking soda in any of the closest grocery shops near me, I don’t know how is that even possible? but I’ll try with your suggestion. Thank you!!

  8. This is actually really helpful as we are starting to run out of certain things. I didn’t know about all of these!

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