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The next time you want to substitute an ingredient in a recipe, don't panic. The originator of the recipe will never know! When you substitute, you improvise; you create; and you are the artist in charge.

Use the chart below as a starting point for brainstorming alternatives. The process might look a bit intimidating but is easy once you dive in and start asking questions such as: What do I really want this dish to taste like? What textures do I like? Why did the recipe writer put all of these things in here, anyway? Here are some general guidelines about making substitutions in recipes.

Try to keep ingredients within the same ethnic category. Ethnic flavor combinations have been developed over centuries and blend together naturally. If you are making a Mexican dish and don't want to use meat, use traditional Mexican proteins and starches such as posole (hominy), pinto beans and black beans, not Asian mung beans or Indian lentils.

Dissect the basic flavors of the dish. If you don't have a certain flavoring, ask yourself if it is basically sweet, salty, sour, bitter or spicy? Think of something in your cupboard from the same category.

Substituting starches and proteins makes less of a difference in overall taste than spices and flavorings.

Try the pantry approach to cooking. If you find yourself continually missing key ingredients, analyze your pantry and consider restocking it.

Assemble herbs, spices and flavorings which are complementary in groupings in your pantry. That way, when you are experimenting with a dish, Italian, for example, your Italian seasonings such as basil, parsley, garlic and oregano will be grouped together, and you can substitute accordingly.

Keep staples such as flours, oil, beans and grains on hand so you don't have to run out to the store at the last minute.

Egg Substitutes
Flour Substitutes

Ingredient Substitute
Gelatin Agar-agar (sea vegetable powder or flakes), arrowroot (starchy powder from tropical tuber), ground nuts and seeds, gums (guar gum is from an East Indian seed, xanthan gum is from corn), kudzu (starchy powder from tropical tuber)
Meat Beans, cheese, seitan (wheat meat), tempeh (cultured soy food), textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu
Meat, chicken or seafood stock Apple, cranberry, orange or pomegranate juice, beer, Dr. Bronner's mineral tonic, garlic broth, miso (fermented soybean paste) diluted with water, sherry, vegetable bouillon cubes, vegetable stock, water in which beans, pasta or vegetables have been cooked, wine
Seasoned or smoked meats For sausage, substitute crumbled tofu seasoned with fennel, parsley and garlic. For smoked meats, substitute canned chipotle chilies, oven-roasted vegetables, toasted nuts, smoked tofu or smoked cheeses

Ingredient Substitute
Buttermilk Clabbered soymilk (to clabber, mix 2 tsps. lemon juice or white vinegar per cup of soymilk)
Cheese Soy- and nut-based cheeses
Cottage cheese/ricotta Crumbled tofu
Eggs Crumbled or pureed tofu
Mayonnaise Tofu mayonnaise
Milk Nut milk, rice milk, soymilk

  Low fat 
Ingredient Substitute
Creamed soups and sauces Arrowroot (starchy powder from tropical tuber), kudzu. Use roasted, pureed vegetables as a base, then finish the soup or sauce with nonfat strained yogurt
Oil in baked goods Applesauce, pureed bananas, pureed stewed prunes
Oil for sauteing Apple juice, sherry, vegetable stock, wine
Salad dressing Citrus juice or cider vinegar thickened with pureed roasted red peppers, carrots, onions or garlic
Sour cream Strained nonfat yogurt
White sauce Pureed white beans

Ingredient Substitute
Bread Baking soda breads (quick breads), flatbreads, muffins, sprouted breads
Salad dressing (wine-or vinegar-based) Puree citrus juice and avocado
Puree citrus juice and oil
Mix peeled, cubed fruit such as mango, oranges and papaya into green salads
Vinegar Cranberry or pomegranate juice, lemon or lime juice, mango powder (amchoor), tamarind paste or pulp, vitamin C powder (ascorbic acid)
White sugar Bananas, barley malt, brown rice syrup, date sugar, dried fruits, fruit juices, maple syrup


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