Ingredients & Substitutions

Each recipe ingredient has a purpose – whether it is for stabilizing, sweetening, leavening, thickening, flavoring or more. While it is always best to use the ingredient called for in a recipe, occasional emergency substitutions must be made. The substitutions below will work, but in some cases the flavor and/or texture will be different.

  • Ingredient Substitution Chart

    When recipe calls for: You may substitute:
    Milk: 1 cup 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water
    Buttermilk or sour milk
    (for baking only):
    1 cup
    1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 cup
    Heavy or whipping cream
    (for baking, not whipping):
    1 cup
    3/4 cup whole milk plus 4 tablespoons butter
    Light cream: 1 cup 7/8 cup (7 oz.) milk plus 3 tablespoons butter
    Cornstarch:
    1 tablespoon
    2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    Baking powder:
    1 teaspoon
    Mix together 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, then measure out 1 teaspoon. Throw out the unused mixture.
    Unsweetened chocolate:
    1 square (1 oz.)
    3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening
    Semisweet chocolate:
    1 square
    1 square unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    Cake flour: 1 cup 1 cup all-purpose flour less 2 tablespoons. Stir in 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
    Self-rising flour: 1 cup 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Packed brown sugar:
    1 cup
    1 cup granulated (white) sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses or dark corn syrup
    Granulated (white) sugar:
    1 cup
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    Granulated (white) sugar:
    1 cup
    3/4 cup honey; reduce other liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup or add 1/4 cup flour if there is no other liquid in the recipe
    Granulated (white) sugar
    (in recipes other than baked goods):
    1 cup
    2 cups sifted powdered (confectioners') sugar
    Sifted powdered (confectioners') sugar:
    1 cup
    1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
    Margarine:
    8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup
    (1 stick)
    8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
    Semisweet chocolate, melted:
    6 squares (1 oz. each)
    1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips, melted
    Semisweet chocolate chips:
    1 cup
    1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
    Semisweet chocolate:
    1 square (1 oz.)
    1 square unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    Unsweetened chocolate:
    1 square (1 oz.)
    <3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening
    Pecans Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
    Chunky peanut butter Creamy peanut butter
    Chopped apples Drained chopped canned apples
    Fresh blueberries Frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
    Active dry yeast:
    1 1/4-ounce envelope
    A little less than 1 tablespoon active dry yeast from a jar
    Active dry yeast:
    1 1/4-ounce envelope
    1 .6-ounce cake compressed, fresh yeast (method of preparing recipe will need to be changed)
    Orange peel, fresh, grated:
    1 teaspoon
    1 teaspoon dried orange peel
    Lemon peel, fresh, grated:
    1 teaspoon
    1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
    Bread crumbs, dry:
    1 cup
    1 cup of Quaker Quick or Old Fashioned Oats
    Herbs, fresh, chopped:
    1 tablespoon
    3/4 to 1 teaspoon dried herbs
    Honey: 1 cup 1-1/4 cups sugar plus 1/4 cup water
  • Flour

    flour Flour is the base of most baking recipes, giving body and structure to baked goods. It consists of the finely ground and sifted meal of any of various edible grains. Its gluten protein acts like an elastic network that helps contain the gases that make mixtures, doughs and batters rise as they bake.

    U.S. law requires that all flours not containing wheat germ, must have niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and iron added. These flours are labeled "ENRICHED." All-purpose flour comes in two basic forms - bleached and unbleached - that can be used interchangeably. Most flours found in grocery stores are pre-sifted, eliminating one extra step in the baking process. All-purpose and bread flour can be stored up to 6 months at room temperature (about 70°F).

    Flouring a pie, pastry or cookie dough will prevent it from sticking to a work surface; flouring your hands, rolling pin or work surface prevents dough from sticking. Dusting greased baking pans with flour provides for easy removal of cakes, breads and other baked goods.

    Bleached all-purpose flour Good for all types of baking, bleached all-purpose flour is a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat in a combination suitable for baking a wide range of recipes, from breads, cookies and pie crusts to delicate cakes. A bleaching agent is used to whiten the flour; these bleaching agents also inhibit strong gluten formation.

    Unbleached all-purpose flour As its name suggests, unbleached all-purpose flour does not contain bleaching agents, and because it's not as white as bleached all-purpose flour, it may impact the color of some white baked goods such as angel food cake. However, it can be used interchangeably with bleached all-purpose flour. Bleached flour will produce a cake with a finer texture.

    Bread flour A specially formulated flour that is high in gluten, with protein that provides a firm, elastic structure to baked goods and gives yeast-raised products the strength to rise and expand. Best used in yeast breads and other firm-textured baked goods.

    Cake flour This flour contains less protein and less gluten than all-purpose flour. An excellent choice for fine, delicate-textured baked goods, including cakes, biscuits and some pastries.

    Self-rising flour An all-purpose flour with added baking powder and salt, frequently used for biscuits. It is best to use in recipes that are developed specifically for self-rising flour.

    Whole wheat flour Contains all three parts of the wheat kernel: the bran, endosperm and germ. Whole wheat flour retains all the natural taste and nutrients of the whole grain, so it gives baked goods a hearty texture and flavor. It is lower in protein than all-purpose flour, so it is typically combined with all-purpose or bread flour to ensure good texture, especially for breads. You can substitute up to one-third whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in most baked good recipes. Also called "graham flour."

  • Fats

    fats Fat helps tenderize and adds flavor to baked goods. The fat you select will affect the flavor and texture of the baked good.

    Butter Butter gives baked goods a delicate flavor and texture. Available in salted and unsalted varieties. If a recipe calls for "butter," salted butter should be used. Whipped butter has air beaten into it, is sold in tubs and should not be used for baking. Measuring butter is simple if purchased in standard 1/4-pound sticks; there are 8 tablespoons butter per stick which is equivalent to 1/2 cup. Softened butter can also be measured by packing it into dry nested measuring cups.

    Margarine Margarine is a vegetable fat that can be used in the same way butter is used in some recipes. Use the same amount of margarine as butter. Baked goods made with margarine have a similar texture and appearance but lack the flavor of butter.

    Choose only stick margarine when baking. If the label on the box calls it vegetable oil spread, it isn't margarine. Make sure you choose a true margarine (at least 80% vegetable oil). Spreads with a lower percentage will produce inferior baked goods when used in recipes that call for margarine or butter.

    Vegetable Shortening Shortening is solidified vegetable oil. It adds no flavor of its own, and depending upon the recipe, results in a baked good that is more cake-like.

    Solidified vegetable oil stored at room temperature that comes in both cans and sticks, and contributes no taste to the baked product in which it is used. Shortening produces crunchy cookies, tender cakes and flaky pie crusts. Measure by packing into dry measuring cups and removing excess shortening from the top of the measuring cup with a spatula or straight edge knife.

    Reduced-fat butter and reduced-fat vegetable oil spread Butter and vegetable oil spreads with added water, air, fat-free milk and/or other extenders. Do not use for baking.

    Vegetable Oil Liquid fat stored at room temperature. The source of the oil (usually corn, olive, soybean, safflower, or peanut) will determine the taste. Any light, flavorless oil, such as canola oil, is recommended for baking. Do not substitute vegetable oil for butter, margarine or vegetable shortening.

    Vegetable Oil Spread Product containing less than 80% vegetable oil. For baking, use only in recipes which call for vegetable oil spreads and choose spreads with at least 70% vegetable oil. Sold in sticks and tubs; tub products are not recommended for baking.

    Lard Rendered pork fat. Produces very flaky pie crusts and biscuits. Store in refrigerator.

  • Sweeteners

    sweateners Sugar and other sweeteners contribute more than sweetness to baked goods - they tenderize too. When sweeteners caramelize during baking, they give the baked product an attractive golden-brown color.

    Granulated Sugar Granulated sugar is made from sugar beets or sugar cane and may be referred to as white sugar or table sugar.

    Use granulated sugar when recipes call for "sugar." Granulated sugar caramelizes to a brown color during baking, contributing both a rich flavor and attractive color to baked goods. Cookies prepared with all or mostly granulated sugar will typically be crisp in texture.

    Superfine Sugar Granulated sugar that has been ground to produce a finer sugar crystal. It often is used to make meringues because it dissolves more easily. It can be substituted for granulated sugar. To prepare superfine sugar at home, grind granulated sugar in a food processor.

    Brown Sugar Brown sugar is granulated sugar that has molasses added to it. It is available in both dark and light varieties, which can be used interchangeably. To measure, firmly pack into a dry measuring cup, even with the top of the cup. Brown sugar should hold its shape when turned out of the cup. Brown sugar will absorb moisture from the air, so cookies made with brown sugar soften upon standing.

    Powdered Sugar Also called confectioners' sugar. Powdered form of granulated sugar with a small amount of cornstarch added to prevent caking. Do NOT substitute for granulated sugar in cookies, cakes or other baked goods.

    Molasses This dark brown syrup is what remains after granulated sugar is removed from the sugar cane. Blackstrap is a darker, more concentrated type of molasses. Best used in recipes which call for molasses.

    Honey The flavor of honey varies depending on the floral blossoms that the honey bees visit to collect nectar. Because honey readily absorbs moisture, cookies made with honey will soften quickly once removed from the oven. Baked goods containing honey brown more quickly than those containing granulated sugar.

  • Leaveners

    leaveners Baking soda - it's not just a defense against smelly food odors in of your refrigerator. Without the aid of leaveners, your favorite baked recipes would be one dense mess.

    These chemical agents are used to lighten the texture and increase the volume of baked goods. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast are the most common leaveners used today. When mixed with a liquid, they form carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which cause a batter or dough to rise during (and sometimes before) the baking process.

    Baking Soda Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a chemical leavener. Baking soda must be combined with an acid (i.e., buttermilk, yogurt, honey, molasses, cream of tartar, baking powder and citrus juices) to produce the carbon dioxide gas that makes doughs and batters rise. Baking soda becomes active as soon as it is combined with an acid, so batter should be baked as soon as possible.

    Although the amount may vary depending upon the type of baking to be done (i.e., cookies vs. cakes) the general rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of flour.
    Baking soda sometimes is used in combination with baking powder.

    Baking Powder Baking powder contains baking soda, an acid (usually cream of tartar) and cornstarch to absorb moisture. Most commercial baking powder is "double acting," meaning it produces carbon dioxide at two different times: once when liquid is added and then again when it is exposed to the heat of an oven.

    It is important to keep baking powder containers tightly closed. Exposure to moisture will inactivate the leavening. Once opened, baking powder should keep for up to 6 months. A simple test can be done to make sure your baking powder is effective: put one teaspoon of baking powder into a cup of warm water. If it bubbles, it is still fresh.

    Yeast Yeast is a living organism that is used primarily in bread baking. When yeast is mixed with liquid and some type of sugar and is kept at the proper temperature, it begins to ferment. The fermentation produces alcohol and carbon dioxide - the alcohol burns off during baking while the carbon dioxide gas is trapped in the gluten as the dough rises, thereby creating the structure of the bread.

    There are two types of yeast:

    • Active dry yeast
      Active dry yeast is dehydrated - the cells are alive, but dormant. It can be purchased in 1/4-ounce envelopes, or in jars, in the baking aisle of the grocery store. It also may be purchased in bulk at natural food stores. There are two forms for active dry yeast: regular active dry yeast and fast or quick-rising active dry yeast. This form of yeast leavens breads in a third to half the time of regular active dry yeast. It can be used in most bread recipes, measure for measure.

    • Compressed, fresh yeast
      Compressed, fresh yeast is moist and extremely perishable. It is sold in 0.6-ounce and 2-ounce cakes, in the refrigerated dairy aisle at the grocery store. It should be stored in a the refrigerator or freezer and should be brought to room temperature before using. Be sure to check the expiration date stamped on the wrapper before using. One 1/4-ounce package of dry yeast = 1 scant tablespoon dry yeast = One 0.6-ounce cake compressed, fresh yeast.

  • Oats

    fpo Oatmeal cookies are arguably one of the most favored flavors of cookies for both kids and adults. However, oats' contribution to baking does not stop at cookies. Oats add fiber, texture and a mild nutty flavor to baked goods.

    Oats are low in fat, and are sodium free, cholesterol free and preservative free. When baking, you may substitute oats for up to one-third the amount of flour called for in the recipe using either Quick or Old Fashioned Oats. Instant Oatmeal is cut too fine, and is not recommended for baking.

    fpo Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats Made from 100% natural whole grain Quaker quality rolled oats, Old Fashioned Quaker Oats add extra fiber and a heartier texture because the oats are larger.

    fpo Steel Cut Oats Made from 100% whole grain oats that are steel cut, rather than rolled, they offer you a hearty texture and a rich, nutty taste. Use in recipes designed for Steel Cut Oats.

    fpo Quick Oats Quaker Quick Oats are also an excellent choice for baking as they are also made from 100% natural whole grains. They tend to add a slightly thinner texture than Old Fashioned Oats, as Quick Oats have been cut 2 to 3 times prior to steaming and rolling in order to cook in just 1 minute.

  • Eggs

    eggs Adding eggs is one of the most interesting and crucial steps in a recipe. Eggs are an often over-looked, but critical ingredient in baking. Their primary function is to contribute to the structure of the baked item, but they also add flavor and color. Cakes, muffins and breads will not rise properly without the addition of fresh eggs. Many a recipe has failed because the wrong size or outdated eggs were used.

    Egg Whites: The egg white from a large egg is 90% water, 10% protein, weighs about 1 ounce and provides about 17 calories. It is the egg white protein that provides structure to baked goods. A good analogy would be a hot air balloon. Think of the egg white as being the balloon itself. The structure of the "egg balloon" traps the warm air, causing it to rise. In baked goods the egg protein "solidifies" from the oven heat, creating a structure to trap steam.

    Egg Yolks: The egg yolk from a large egg weighs only about 1/2 ounce. However, because it primarily consists of fat, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals, it provides about 60 calories. Egg yolks also contain a little protein and an amino acid called lecithin, a substance that makes sauces, like mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing, thick and smooth. It is the yolk that contributes to the color and flavor of baked goods.

    Egg Grades: Eggs found in stores typically are labeled either as grade AA or grade A. These grades have no bearing on either size or freshness. In baking, you will see virtually no performance difference between the two grades.

    Egg Color: Eggs come in two colors - white and brown. The breed of the chicken determines the color of the egg shell. The nutritional value and quality of the egg is the same regardless of the color. Yolk color is the result of the diet of the chicken. Chickens fed grains that are yellow, such as cornmeal or alfalfa meal, will have medium yellow yolks. Those fed white cornmeal will have very light, almost colorless yolks. Marigold petals are added to chicken feed to produce golden or lemon-colored yolks.

    Egg Size: Egg sizes are jumbo, extra large, large, medium and small. The older the chicken, the larger the egg. The majority of recipes require large eggs. Use a large egg if the recipe doesn't indicate a specific size.

    Size Equivalents: Most recipes for baked goods call for large eggs. Although it is best to use a large egg, if you must substitute another size, using the following chart.

    Number of Large
    Eggs Required
    Number of Eggs to Use Instead
    Jumbo X-Large Medium Small
    1 1 1 1 1
    2 2 2 2 3
    3 2 3 3 4
    4 3 4 5 5
    5 4 4 6 7
    6 5 5 7 8

    Life & Storage: Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator and in the carton in which they came. Storing them in the egg trays found in refrigerators will significantly shorten their shelf life. It also is important to keep them refrigerated constantly. Even an hour spent on the kitchen counter can greatly reduce freshness.

    Eggs should last about one month provided they are stored in their carton and in constant refrigeration. Egg whites out of the shell will keep in the refrigerator for about a week if they are tightly covered. Egg yolks out of their shell, on the other hand, will only last about 2 days if stored tightly covered.

    Egg Safety: Because of the possibility of salmonella contamination, only use eggs with shells that are unbroken and clean. It is unwise to eat homemade products containing raw eggs such as eggnog or raw cookie dough. If you are preparing a recipe that requires raw or lightly cooked eggs (i.e., homemade mayonnaise, eggnog, Caesar salad or dessert mousse) it would be best to substitute a pasteurized liquid eggs product which is available in most supermarkets.