Cooking Substitutions: Out Of Eggs, Buttermilk, Or Chocolate?

Do you ever find yourself realizing mid-recipe that you’re missing a key ingredient? Or, any ingredient, for that matter? Sometimes I do, and get a little frantic, mostly because I usually don’t want to drive to the store before I eat a warm homemade cookie…

Where there is a will, there’s a way! If you’re missing an ingredient in your pantry, and not feeling the urge to bother your neighbor, it’s more than likely that missing ingredient could be substituted with something(s) you DO have. It may not be the real deal, or it may be even better! I can at least guarantee that it will get the cookies in the oven.

Don’t have that? Use this:

Brown Sugar 

Combine 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1-2 tablespoons of molasses. Use 1 tablespoon for a lighter brown sugar, and 2 for darker. Mix and mash with a fork; a pastry blender also works delightfully to work the mixture into a somewhat fluffy consistency.


Combine just under 1 cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar. No need to mix—just allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes to allow it to curdle a bit.


Have a can of chickpeas in the pantry? One 15-oz. can of chickpeas yields between 8 and 12 tablespoons of chickpea water, also called aquafaba. Use 3 tablespoons of aquafaba to equal one egg. After you use the chickpea water, try out this recipe to use the chickpeas!

Alternatively, combine 3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Or combine 2-3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, then simmer the mixture over low heat until it begins to gel.  (You can add warm water to the flaxseed instead of heating for a similar result.)

Semisweet Chocolate (6-ounce quantity)

For desserts requiring chocolate, combine 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 7 tablespoons of sugar, and 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil. Blend until mixture is an even, smooth texture. No need for the sweet? Make unsweetened chocolate (1-ounce square) by combining 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of fat, such as butter or coconut oil. Blend mixture until smooth.

Self-Rising Flour

Add to one cup of all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Don’t have baking powder? Make 1 teaspoon of baking powder by combining 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.


Some soups, quiches, or other recipes call for a thickening agent. If you have one, and not the other, use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of flour. Chia seeds may also be used to thicken sweet dishes, such as refrigerator jam or pie, in lieu of tapioca. I like to add chia seeds to thicken a refrigerator oatmeal I make with nut milk!

Soy Sauce

Mix 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce with1 tablespoon of water to yield about 1/4 cup.


Blend 1 teaspoon of dry mustard powder with a dash of some liquid—water, vinegar, or a few drops of vegetable oil. (This may seem like a silly one, but my grandmother always had mustard powder to use for deviled eggs and other 60s salad-type dishes. I recommend adding mustard to your pantry for those in-a-pinch moments you can never predict, too!)

Missing this this spice or that? Most spices that are either a similar texture/form (powder versus fresh leaf) or are used in conjunction with one another offer the impression that the other is there. Mastering the skill of offering the flavor of a spice without really offering the spice itself is a satisfying one. Give it a try with some of these spice substitutions:

Cinnamon – Nutmeg

Parsley – Cilantro

Basil – Oregano

Anise – Fennel

Cumin – Chili powder

Chive – Green onion

Sage – Rosemary

Thyme – Basil

Cardamom – Ginger

Make your own Italian seasoning blend (1/2 cup yield) by combining 3 tablespoons each of dried oregano and dried basil, 2 tablespoons each of dried thyme, rosemary, and garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Make your own allspice blend by combining equal parts of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. (To make about one teaspoon of allspice, then, combine heaping 1/4 teaspoons of each.)

Make your own  Garam Masala blend by combining 2 tablespoons of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon each of ground coriander, ground cardamom, and ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each of ground cloves and ground nutmeg. Check out these other spice blends to explore, too.

Consider substituting ingredients such as these with equal parts of those:

  • Sour cream – Yogurt
  • Mayonnaise – Sour cream or yogurt
  • Oil – Applesauce
  • Molasses – Honey
  • Breadcrumbs – Cracker crumbs
  • Ricotta – Cottage cheese
  • Vinegar – Lemon juice
  • Regular milk – Dairy-free milk
  • Butter – Coconut or olive oil