You know how it goes: You’re cooking dinner only to realize you’re missing an ingredient. It happens to the best of us. Well, luckily, there are plenty of delicious and creative recipe swaps 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 listened with their advice.
1.“I use canned tomatoes all the time unless I can get good, fresh tomatoes that are local and in season.”
2.“Depending on what I’m making, I’ll often substitute liquids for other liquids. For example, instead of water, I’ll use stock. Or instead of stock, I might use wine (or vice versa). If all I have is water, I’ll use it then, and then I’ll improve the flavor elsewhere.”
3.“I live in Singapore, where it’s almost impossible to get all those peppers—serranos, pimentos, Anaheim, bananas—you just can’t find them. I always just use generic green chiles or jalapeños.”
4.“I think Guanciale is impossible to get for a reasonable price, so I just use ham or pancetta instead.”
5.“I use green onions instead of chives. They’re cheaper and I can’t really tell the difference. Plus, I usually have a jar of them growing in my kitchen.”
6.“I always swap Italian breadcrumbs for panko. IMO, panko is superior in almost every way.”
7.“I substitute salted butter for unsalted butter, even when I’m baking. I like extra salt, especially in desserts, because it balances out the sweetness.”
8.“Oils and vinegars. I already have five types of vinegar on hand and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go out and get another one just for this recipe.”
9.“I replace water with black coffee for almost every chocolate baked good I’m making from boxed mixes.”
10.“99% of the time I substitute scallions for shallots. Shallots are so expensive! And sure, they elevate a dish, but I don’t bother with them unless I’m making something ✨fancy✨.”
11.“I use coconut milk in any recipe that calls for heavy cream. I think coconut milk gives the perfect creaminess without changing the flavor too much.”
12.“I often substitute yogurt or mayonnaise for Greek yogurt in things like tuna or chicken salad. It’s not for health reasons or anything. I just like the flavor Greek yogurt gives a 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 add molasses to white sugar. This allows me to easily control the darkness of the sugar.”
15.“Celery is the real devil’s lettuce. I always substitute it for diced green pepper whenever a recipe calls for it.”
16.“I usually use croutons, soup crackers, or crushed Ritz crackers instead of breadcrumbs. I recently used croutons to bake chicken parmesan and the result was amazing.”
17.“I never keep buttermilk in the fridge, but I almost always have heavy cream. I just mix a cup of heavy cream with a teaspoon of vinegar, then wait 15 minutes and viola: a perfect buttermilk substitute.
18.“I use sunflower seeds as a cheaper alternative to pine nuts when I make homemade pesto. They’re about a quarter the cost, but a similar texture.”
19.“When baking, I’ll sometimes replace an egg with a mashed banana. The end product is moister and has a subtle natural sweetness. Plus, you can eat as much of the dough/raw batter as you like!”
20.“I use creamy Italian dressing instead of mayo. Try it when you’re making a BLT sandwich. It’s next level.”
21.“If I’m making a meal 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). I’ll either substitute chopped dill pickles or cornichon. All three add the same salty, flavor-packed edge to a dish.”
22.“When a recipe calls for tahini, but I don’t have one in the kitchen, I often use peanut butter instead. While peanut butter is common in Thai and Asian cooking, you’ll often see tahini in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes . Both have deliciously nutty and creamy flavors, 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 poblanos. They taste much better and have 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 mirin and sugar, but I don’t like too much sweetness in my savory dishes. I usually just substitute both for 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. Carrying half a dozen different liquid dairy products is annoying. Between half-and-half and skim milk, both options almost cover my needs.”
What’s an ingredient substitution or recipe tweak you use all the time in your home cooking? Tell us in the comments!
Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.