What should you do when you need a cup of sugar or a splash of milk, but your cupboards are bare? Read this post! (Seriously, go ahead and bookmark it now.) We're about to share 30+ EASY recipe substitutions that just might save your supper.

Jordan Page making dinner, from Shelf Cooking

“Alexa, what can I substitute for one cup of flour?” We know you've asked her at least a time or two, but it's time to give Alexa a break. This post is going to answer all your questions about recipe substitutions!

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Whether you're baking treats or cooking dinner and realize you're missing an ingredient, or you're just looking for ways to make healthy modifications, we've got your back! It's time to dish out 30+ of the easiest recipe substitutions. Let's shop your kitchen and get to cooking!


egg substitute for baking, from Shelf Cooking

Brownies, anyone?! The next time you're ready to whip up a sweet treat, keep these easy recipe substitutions in mind:

  • Eggs – If you're all out of eggs, add three tablespoons of water to one tablespoon of flaxseed, whisk until creamy, then add to your recipe. No flaxseed? Here are ten egg substitutes to try!
  • Evaporated Milk – Wondering what to use in place of evaporated milk? We wrote a whole post about it.
  • Condensed Sweetened Milk – Can you use evaporated milk in place of condensed sweetened milk? Sometimes, yes! Find out the difference between the two, plus get condensed milk substitutes here.
  • Brown Sugar – Depending on the recipe, you can use honey or white sugar in place of brown sugar. Peep the deets on ratios, plus other brown sugar substitutes here.
  • Baking Powder – For every teaspoon of baking powder, use 1 teaspoon of baking soda, plus 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar.
  • Self-Rising Flour – No self-rising flour? Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, plus 1/4 teaspoon of salt, to one cup of all-purpose flour.
  • Granulated Sugar – Running low on white sugar? Use brown sugar in a one-to-one ratio.
  • Cream – If you don't have cream in the fridge, learn how to make heavy cream!
  • Butter –  In most cases, you can use oils and butter interchangeably in a one-to-one ratio! Swap butter for margarine, vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil, and vice versa.
  • Vanilla Extract – If you're out of vanilla, you've got options. Learn how to make vanilla extract, plus check out some bonus substitutions.

Now that you're up to speed on the best baking substitutes, why not put your knowledge to the test and make a batch of these ooey-gooey bars?


making a pot of rice, from Shelf Cooking

It's 5:00, and you need to get dinner going, but you just realized you're missing the star ingredient for the meal you had planned. Been there, done that! Don't call the pizza guy. Try these easy recipe substitutions:

  • Tomato Paste – Here's what to do when you need a tomato paste substitute.
  • Rice – Run out of rice? Check out this list of 10+ rice substitutes.
  • Potatoes – No white potatoes? Use sweet potatoes instead! The reverse is true, too. None of either? Try cauliflower or carrots. They both make a mean mash!
  • Chicken Broth – If you're out of chicken broth, try using vegetable broth instead. Grab more chicken broth substitutes, plus a recipe here!
  • Beef Broth – You can use veggie broth or red wine in place of beef broth, but we've got tons more ideas in this beef broth substitute post.
  • Beans – Whether your recipe calls for pintos, white beans, or garbanzo beans, you can use what you've got! Just about any bean works as a stand-in in a one-to-one ratio. Have you ever used black beans in your refried beans? Try it!
  • Pasta – You can have pasta night without the pasta! Spiralize noodles from squash, zucchini, or sweet potatoes, or bake a spaghetti squash.
  • Bread – Out of bread? Make a batch of our rustic bread, or toast some old hot dog buns and make garlic bread!
  • Pizza Dough – Out of pizza dough? Use bagels, English muffins, crescent rolls, or French bread for your crust.
  • Meat – We mix and match meat All. The. Time. Grab what you've got in the freezer and go to town! Meat should always be a feature, not the star!

Hopefully, these substitutions will help you save a supper or two! Ready to talk about ways to swap out common breakfast ingredients?


maple syrup substitutes, from Shelf Cooking

We love a nice hot breakfast around here! Having a hearty meal to start the day is the cure to any case of weekday blues. Don't let a missing ingredient spoil your day. Try these recipe substitutions:

  • Maple Syrup – Planning to serve mini German pancakes but don't have any syrup? Check out these maple syrup alternatives!
  • Buttermilk – Have you guys tried our buttermilk biscuit recipe yet? You should! And if you're out of buttermilk, don't let that deter you. Just mix one cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.
  • Sausage – Making a casserole that calls for breakfast sausage? Any meat will do! Try ground beef or turkey, bacon, turkey bacon, ham, or shredded chicken.
  • Yogurt – Missing the yogurt to make your favorite smoothie? Toss in an equal amount of sour cream or cottage cheese instead.
  • Cream Cheese – No cream cheese for that bagel or toast? Grab some ricotta or cottage cheese instead, or reach for some strawberry jam, avocado, or pesto!

With a little creativity, you might even discover your new favorite breakfast dish!


fruit smoothies sweetened with honey, from Shelf cooking

Looking for a few easy ways to save some calories? Whether you're dieting or up against dietary restrictions, here are some clever substitutes to try:

  • Sugar – Want to bake a sweet treat without piling high on sugar? If you're following a Paleo or clean eating meal plan, try using honey or maple syrup instead! Just use a one-to-one ratio for recipes that call for a cup or less. If your recipe calls for more than one cup, use 3/4 the amount of honey. We love adding honey to smoothies!
  • White Flour – Instead of using flour, swap in wheat flour or almond flour. You can keep the ratios the same!
  • Sour Cream – Want to cut a few calories? Use plain, non-fat Greek Yogurt in place of sour cream.
  • Rice – Instead of using brown or white rice, try ricing some veggies! Everyone knows about cauliflower rice, but you can rice carrots or sweet potatoes, too. Just use a food processor or grate by hand, then steam or sautee your veggie rice.
  • Ground Beef – Any recipe that calls for ground beef works just as well with ground turkey or chicken. If the recipe incorporates a sauce, no one will even notice!
  • Cheese – Need to cut back on dairy? You can buy the vegan cheese at the store, or try swapping in other flavorful ingredients instead. Pesto, for example, is a great stand-in if you're making pasta. It's so tasty you won't even miss the cheese!

None of these substitutes take much effort, but they can make a HUGE difference if you're trying to eat healthily. Simple swaps sometimes give you the best results, so go ahead and make those blueberry muffins you've been craving. Just ditch the sour cream!


If you liked this post, then you'll LOVE our upcoming Shelf Cooking 101 book. It's a 300+ page guide to cooking meals for your family using ingredients you already have. We're talking recipes, charts, hacks, and more. It's not your grandma's cookbook! Keep your eye out for pre-order details.

What's a kitchen hack your family loves? Share your best tip in the comments below and help a sista out, okay?

various recipe substitutes for cooking and baking, from Shelf Cooking

Looking for more tips and tricks that will make cooking a little easier?

You're a pro now, so happy cooking!