A lot of my recipe development is born from improvising with ingredients I already have so I urge you please to not ever be put off trying a recipe because you don’t have/can’t have/can’t afford some of the ingredients. For reasons of economy, availability or allergy (or just variety), following recipes can often be tricky.
So with this in mind, here are some of my favourite ingredient substitutions. Some of them might be completely obvious but you never know! It’s not even close to being a complete list so feel free to share any of the swaps you like to make too! I always welcome new ideas!
Don’t have Cacao Powder? Try: Cocoa Powder. You may need to increase the amount to get the same level of chocolatiness.
Don’t have Maple Syrup? Try: Honey. You could also try table sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar or sweeteners. These will all vary in sweetness so start slowly and add gradually to taste.
Don’t have Coconut Milk? Try: Almond, Soy or Dairy Milk. These are not as rich and creamy as coconut milk so you may need to use a little less to achieve the same thickness. Light coconut milk seems to just be watered down coconut milk, so try replacing that with half the quantity of full fat coconut milk and an equal quantity of water.
Don’t have Cacao Nibs? Try: Chocolate Chips. Or just smash up a chocolate bar. These are a lot sweeter than the nibs so you may need to reduce any sweeteners in the recipe. Don’t fancy that? Add crunch with nuts or seeds.
Don’t have Almonds or Cashews? Try: Sunflower Seeds. This cheaper alternative is perfect for those with nut allergies and can be used to make nut-style butters and creamy sauces and dressings. Nuts in recipes are also fairly interchangeable but they will change the taste to varying degrees.
Don’t have Butternut Squash? Try: Sweet Potato. It will alter the flavour slightly but these root vegetables can be interchanged like for like in almost any recipe.
Don’t have Whipped Cream or Pouring Cream? Try: Dairy-Free Substitutes – you can buy these in the Free From aisle of big supermarkets. DIY versions are coconut milk (whip up the firm part of the milk for a thick cream), silken tofu and cashew or sunflower seed cream.
Don’t have Chia seeds? Try: Ground Flaxseed (also known as linseed) – in the same quantity. If you don’t have either, you could try leaving it out and using less liquid but this may effect the texture of the recipe (I wouldn’t recommend doing this for baked goods). You can also use flaxseed to make a substitute for eggs by combining 1 Tbsp with 3 Tbsp of water and leaving for 15 minutes to make a gel.
Don’t have Vanilla Pods? Try: Vanilla Extract – The seeds from vanilla pods are great for adding flavour (and that lovely speckled effect) but are usually pricey. Try a good quality extract or paste instead – the usual substitution is one teaspoon per pod, but check the packaging for guidance if you’re unsure.
Don’t have Garlic Cloves? Try: Garlic Powder (Sometimes called granules) – I love garlic, but I’ve found that adding raw cloves to things (ummm, I’m looking at you, hummus) has an effect on my breath that can last for days! Garlic powder gives the same strong taste but you can still leave the house after!
Don’t have Fresh Herbs? Try: Dried Herbs – Fresh herbs are delicious and usually much more flavourful than their dried counterparts but if you have already failed to grow your own several times and are trying to save money on buying them in the supermarket, than dried herbs are great. Use the dried version of the herb in the recipe or just dried mixed herbs/herbes de provence.
Don’t have Mayonnaise? Try: Avocado – mash it up and mix it up with other ingredients to make creamy fillings (egg mayonnaise, tuna mayonnaise type things). You can also try yogurt (dairy-free if necessary) or olive oil (less creamy, but stops fillings being too dry).
Don’t have Salt? Try: Soy Sauce (Tamari if GF) – My parents don’t have salt in their house. My Mum has always added a little unami flavour using soy instead. A dash in sauces, a swirl in soups – it works great. Not sure how it’d go down in a sweet recipe though…
Oh, and I always always substitute fruit and vegetables in recipes for whichever ones I have handy!