You know how it goes: you cook dinner only to realize you’re missing one ingredient. It happens to the best of us. Well, luckily, there are plenty of delicious and creative swap recipes and substitutions that work just as well—if not better.
So, redditor u/jnwiggs1 asked, “What ingredient do you usually substitute in your recipes?” And many home cooks chimed in with their tips.
1.“I use canned tomatoes all the time unless I can find good, fresh ones that are local and in season.”
2.“Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll often substitute liquids for other liquids. For example, instead of water, I will use broth. Or instead of stock I might use wine (or vice versa). If all I have is water, then I’ll use that and then improve the flavor elsewhere.”
3.“I live in Singapore, where it’s almost impossible to find all these peppers – serrano, pimentos, anaheim, banana – you just can’t find them. I always use regular green chilies or jalapeños.”
4.“I find Guanciale (pork jowl) impossible to get at a reasonable price, so I just use bacon or pancetta instead.”
5.“I use green onions instead of chives. They are cheaper and I can’t tell the difference. Plus, I usually have a jar of them growing in my kitchen.”
6.“I always substitute Italian breadcrumbs for panko. IMO, panko is better in almost every way.”
7.“I substitute unsalted butter for salted butter, even when I’m baking. I like the extra salt, especially in desserts, because it balances out the sweetness.”
8.“Oils and vinegar. I already have five types of vinegar on hand and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go get another one just for this recipe.”
9.“I replace the water with black coffee for almost all of the chocolate chip cookies I make from a boxed mix.”
10.“99% of the time I substitute shallots for onions. Shallots are so expensive! And sure, it elevates the dish, but I don’t bother with it unless I’m making something ✨fancy✨.”
11.“I use coconut milk in any recipe that calls for heavy cream. I find coconut milk adds the perfect creaminess without changing the flavor too much.”
12.“I often replace sour cream or mayonnaise with Greek yogurt in things like tuna or chicken salad. It’s not for health reasons or anything like that. I just love the tang the Greek yogurt adds to the dish.”
13.“I use Worcestershire sauce in dishes that call for fish sauce and vice versa. For example, use fish sauce in tomato-based pasta sauces and Worcestershire sauce in Southeast Asian dishes.”
14.“I never buy brown sugar. Instead, I just add molasses to the white sugar. This allows me to easily control the browning of the sugar.”
15.“Celery is the real devil’s lettuce. I always substitute diced green pepper when the recipe calls for it.”
16.“I usually use croutons, soup crackers, or crushed Ritz crackers instead of breadcrumbs. I recently used croutons to bread a parmesan chicken and the result was amazing.”
17.“I never keep buttermilk in my fridge, but I almost always have heavy cream. I just mix a cup of buttermilk with a teaspoon of vinegar, then wait 15 minutes and voila: a perfect buttermilk substitute.
18.“I use sunflower seeds as a cheaper alternative to pine nuts when making homemade pesto. They’re about a quarter of the price, but have a similar texture.”
19.“When I bake, I sometimes replace an egg with mashed banana. The final product is moister and has a subtle, natural sweetness. Plus, you can eat as much of the raw dough/dough as you want!”
20.“I use a creamy Italian dressing instead of mayonnaise. Try it when you make a BLT sandwich. This is the next level.”
21.“If I’m making a dish like chicken piccata or pasta puttanesca that calls for capers in the ingredients but I don’t have them on hand, I’ll finely chop green olives (like Castelvetrano or Manzanilla). Or you’ll substitute finely chopped dill or gherkins for pickles. All three add the same salty, flavor-packed kick to a dish.”
22.“When a recipe calls for tahini and I don’t have any in my kitchen, I often use peanut butter instead. While peanut butter is common in Thai and Asian cuisine, you’ll often see tahini in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes. Both have a nutty and creamy flavor and can be used more or less interchangeably if you only have one to make sauces, marinades, curries and even soups.”
23.“I personally hate green peppers, so I substitute them with poblanos. They have a much better flavor and no noticeable heat.”
24.“Try using coconut milk instead of water or stock when cooking rice. It makes rice taste amazing, especially when you use it in stir-fries and other rice-based dishes.”
25.“A lot of Japanese recipes tend to call for both mirin and sugar, but I don’t like too much sweetness in my savory dishes. I usually just replace both with sake and call it a day.”
26.“I use half-and-half and skim milk for almost any dairy product a recipe might call for. Keeping half a dozen different liquid dairy products is tedious. Between half and half and skim milk, the two options pretty much cover my needs. “
What is an ingredient substitution or recipe change that you use all the time in your home cooking? Tell us in the comments!
Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.