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10 Baking Substitutions to Save Money and Trips to the Store

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10 Baking Substitutions to Save Money and Trips to the Store

If your grocery store looks anything like mine, you haven’t seen a packet of yeast since this whole thing started.

Coronavirus stress therapy baking is totally a thing — and given the run on staples, it could be difficult to find the ingredients you need to get your bread (or cake, or cookies) on. 

Plus, with social distancing guidelines in place, a trip to the grocery store for just one or two items doesn’t make much sense. And all that’s to say nothing of the fact that specialty ingredients can get expensive, especially if you’re not using them in their entirety.

Here are some easy baking substitutions that can come in handy in a pinch. 

1. Butter Substitutes

Butter has been flying off the shelves in many grocery stores, but there are a few possible substitutes. Different ones are better suited for different applications.

If you’re baking cakes, cupcakes, or sweetened breads, you can use unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana. For applesauce, replace half the amount of butter called for with applesauce — for instance, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, you’d use a half cup of applesauce. For mashed banana, use an equivalent amount. 

Plain Greek yogurt can also be used as a butter substitute. Just like applesauce, you want to use half the amount of butter in the recipe.

If you’re baking something that requires liquid butter, your best bet is to substitute another type of oil, like coconut or canola. Coconut oil is generally substituted on a one-to-one basis (one cup of coconut oil for one cup of butter), whereas with liquid oils, like canola, you’ll want about ¾ of a cup for every cup called for.

For cookies and other recipes that require creaming butter and sugar, you’re going to want a solid fat. Vegetable shortening is a good option, and it has a much longer shelf life than butter.

2. Egg Substitutes

Another fresh ingredient that can be hard to get a hold of these days, eggs can be subbed out for a variety of alternate ingredients — many of which are the same as the ones used to replace butter.

Unsweetened applesauce, for instance, can also be used for eggs; use a quarter cup of applesauce per egg. Mashed banana can also stand in for eggs, in the same quarter cup per egg ratio. You could try other pureed fruits as well. 

In cakes, cupcakes, and quick breads, try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of vinegar to replace one egg. 

In brownies, cookies, and pancakes, three tablespoons of a creamy nut butter, like peanut or cashew, can replace a single egg.

3. Milk

One cup of whole milk can be traded for a half a cup of evaporated milk plus a half a cup of water. If you can find only skim milk, add two tablespoons of melted butter and otherwise use a one-to-one ratio. 

4. DIY Buttermilk

A recent craving for real Southern cornbread had me searching high and low for buttermilk. It wasn’t at my local grocery store, but fortunately, it’s an easy DIY.

All you have to do is put one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice into a single cup of regular milk. Let the mixture sit for five to ten minutes, and voila: a cup of fresh buttermilk, ready to go.

5. Cream of Tartar

Despite its name, cream of tartar is actually a powder used to stabilize egg whites for meringues, among other uses. 

If you’re using it for that purpose (in other words, while beating egg whites), you can replace it with two teaspoons of either distilled white vinegar or lemon juice for every teaspoon of cream of tartar the recipe calls for.

If you’re using cream of tartar in baking, you can sub in baking powder — since baking powder is actually a combination of cream of tartar and baking soda anyway. This works best in a recipe that already calls for baking soda, and you’ll want to use 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder for every teaspoon of cream of tartar.

6. Baking Powder

If you don’t have baking powder, on the other hand, and you do have cream of tartar, you can DIY this ingredient by adding together a quarter teaspoon of baking soda, a half teaspoon of cream of tartar and a quarter teaspoon of cornstarch to equal one teaspoon of baking powder. 

7. Cake Flour

Think you need to run out and buy fancy cake flour to bake a cake? Think again. Regular, all-purpose flour can be used instead; just use ¾ of a cup plus two tablespoons of cornstarch for every cup of cake flour called for.

8. Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are downright expensive and hard to find in the best of times. You can sub in two and a half teaspoons of vanilla extract for each bean.

9. Baking Chocolate/Cocoa Powder

Chocolate is medicine in our book. If your recipe calls for an unsweetened baking bar you don’t have, you can replace it with three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa plus one tablespoon of unsalted butter, vegetable oil or shortening per ounce.

On the other hand, if you’ve got baker’s chocolate but not cocoa powder, you can use an ounce of the bar per three tablespoons of powder in the recipe — so long as you reduce the fat in other parts of the recipe by a tablespoon (for instance, the butter).

10. Yeast

Last but not least, the thing on everyone’s bread-baking mind. Unfortunately, you can’t really replace yeast outright with a different ingredient.

But different types of yeast can be subbed in without much damage. For instance, a quarter-ounce envelope of active dry yeast can be replaced by:

  • 2¼ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
  • ⅓ of a 2-ounce cake yeast

One quick caveat: It’s probably not a great idea to do multiple substitutions in one recipe, especially if you’re replacing, say, both eggs and butter. Too many changes to a recipe could result in a significant shift in texture or taste.

That said, if you already have the ingredients on hand, why not experiment?

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at

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