The Best Ingredient Substitutions

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a recipe and realizing you’re out of an ingredient. Rather than run to the store, use this guide (and chart below!) for The Best Ingredient Substitutions to save your recipe and achieve success in the kitchen.

The best Ingredient Substitutions chart

Ingredient Substitutions 101 

Although substituting an ingredient is often the easiest and quickest way to finishing your recipe, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Not all substitutions are created equal. The original ingredient is there for a reason and substituting it for another may result in a different taste, texture or color. However, some recipes will be completely unaffected (read: unchanged, perfect!).
  • Try it, then assess your success. Did the buttermilk substitution work like a charm or did it fall flat? What about the applesauce in place of oil? Assess whether the ingredient substitution you made worked or didn’t work for your recipe.

Ready to replace that missing ingredient? Check out our handy chart above and use these helpful ingredient substitution notes for recipe success.


Buttermilk isn’t a pantry staple for most of us, and when we do buy it, we’re left with an almost-full quart sitting in the fridge wondering what to do with it. Luckily, buttermilk substitutions work well in everything from pancakes to waffles to biscuits.

A large glass bowl containing flour with buttermilk and melted butter being poured in

However, if you find yourself with leftover buttermilk, you can use it to make ranch dressing, as a marinade for pork chops or chicken before coating in breadcrumbs and baking, or freeze it in ¼-cup portions (it’ll likely separate when thawed but is still good to use).

Flax Egg

This vegan egg substitute is made by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes before using in any recipe that includes eggs.

Flax eggs work best in baked good recipes that call for one or two eggs. This is not a good option if your recipe calls for more than two eggs, as the center will likely be gooey and it won’t rise the same.


Substituting applesauce for oil in your baked goods will result in a creamier, more moist texture. If possible, replace only half of the oil with applesauce and see how your recipe turns out. Applesauce works best in cakes, muffins and breads.

Slow Cooker Applesauce Recipe from

Avoid using this substitution for cookies as it’ll make them too fluffy, rather than crispy and chewy. Bonus points for homemade applesauce with just three simple ingredients!

Dried Herbs

The most important thing to keep in mind when replacing dried herbs for fresh herbs  in a recipe is that the flavor of dried herbs is much more concentrated than fresh. Use the chart above as a guideline, then taste and season to your personal preference.

A wood cutting board with fresh herbs on top and a pink background

Additionally, fresh herbs are often added to the end of the cooking process to avoid destroying their color and delicate flavor with heat. However, it’s best to add dried herbs toward the beginning of cooking to allow their flavor to seep into the dish.

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    1. Hi Joan! Even though this substitution reintroduces fat content back into milk to mimic cream, it won’t create a perfect emulsion between the milk and the butter to create a homogenized cream. But fear not because the cooking process will help the two become one. :) I hope that helps!

  1. I wanted to share this for lactose intollerant people such as I am, buttermilk used in place of whole milk, such as buttermilk pancakes are good for us. I can not have dishes made with whole milk, but if buttermilk can be subed, its good for me to and I will not get sick.

    1. Hi Melody! Here are a few tips for substituting self-rising flour for all-purpose: 1. Look for recipes that use baking powder: about 1/2-1 teaspoon per cup of flour. For recipes that use more than 1 teaspoon of baking powder, add enough to make up the difference. 2. When making the substitution, omit the baking powder and salt from the recipe, it’s already in the self-rising flour. 3. For recipes with both baking powder and baking soda, include the baking soda just as you would if you were using all-purpose flour.


    1. Hi Carmella! It’s generally fine to substitute all-purpose flour for “00” flour. You may notice a texture difference if you are very familiar with products made from “00” flour, but all your recipes *should* still come out just fine. :)

  2. The ingredient substitutions are so awesome! I’ve always wondered and avoided making certain dishes bc I didn’t have the ingredient it called for. Thank you so much for this!!

  3. Hi Kelly
    When a recipe calls for Milk, Buttermilk or something dairy, are there substitutes? I tend to use water or orange juice depending if it’s savoury or sweet. Love to hear your ideas and try other solutions for a non dairy substitute.

    1. Hi Sharon! It really depends on the recipe, but plant-based milk alternatives can work great. You can even make dairy-free buttermilk by using soy milk and lemon juice.