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The essential ingredient substitution guide: What to use when your pantry lets you down

Just a couple of kitchen hacks that are very handy to have up your sleeve !

by: Barbara Mugo | 16 Aug 2019
Kitchen Pan shot

We've all been there – you’re really excited to make a recipe and pretty sure you have everything you need then, just as you start making it, you realise you’re missing something. Don’t pull out your hair or give up just yet.

We rounded up the most common pantry items (and one or two fridge ones) you may find yourself lacking, plus what you can easily swap them out for. (Just remember not to substitute more than a few ingredients, or you may end up with a completely different recipe!)

READ: 10 great tips for floop-proof baking 

Bicarbonate of soda 

This ingredient may just be the champion in this race – it’s always needed and yet somehow never found. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution: for every one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda needed, substitute with three teaspoons of baking powder.

 Ingredient Shot


You’re making burgers or a pasta bake and you’re pretty sure you have breadcrumbs somewhere in the back of that one cupboard… When you realise you don’t, reach instead for that loaf of bread on the counter. Toast it, wait for it to cool, then blitz it up until you have your own home-made breadcrumbs. Alternatively, substitute in an equal amount of ground oats. 


It’s not quite as simple as swapping it out for normal milk, but it is still easy. Buttermilk contains less milk fat, traditionally occurring as the by-product of making butter. If you need 1 cup of buttermilk, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for a few minutes and you’ll have a perfect substitution for buttermilk. Alternatively, use an equal amount of yoghurt. 

Cream of tartar

This one is a little tricky. 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar can be substituted for 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar. However, be mindful of the recipe’s liquid content, so you’re not throwing off the balance.  

Corn syrup

Substitute 1 cup of corn syrup for 1 cup of honey. Note that the higher percentage of natural sugars will result in a much browner product.

Ingredient Shot

Icing sugar

In the blender, combine half a teaspoon of corn starch and half a cup of granulated sugar. You should end up with 1 cup of icing sugar! 

Sour cream

Did your nachos craving catch you unawares? No problem. For 1 cup of sour cream, blend up 1 cup of cottage cheese, 4 tablespoons of milk and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. 



How to alter a recipe when you're cooking (and not get a flop!)

Don't be afraid of making tweaks to a recipe you like. Here's how to re-arrange the ingredients so that the recipe still works. by: Katelyn Williams of The Kate Tin | 03 Apr 2018 Images: Katelyn Williams ALSO READ: The 9 worst habits of a bad baker and how to fix them You've heard it a million times; baking is a science, follow the recipe, stick to the rules.

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