How to Substitute Missing Ingredients

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All cooks have found themselves short of a crucial ingredient at one time or another. Most foods are easily substituted with little problem. Be prepared, though, for unexpected results when substituting ingredients in baked recipes, as they depend on precise measures and complex chemical reactions.

  • Prepare your meal well ahead of time. This can prevent you even having to worry about substituting ingredients. However, it would do you well to keep a few common substitutes on hand, along with your staples.

  • If you notice that you're missing something or forgot to purchase it, go back to the recipe. Oftentimes, recipes, either in books or online, will include a few substitutes for some of the more generic items. If you're using a recipe from memory, look it up online, and they're might be alternatives.

  • Know what substitutes what. If we were to build a list for this, it might be endless. But familiarize yourself with some easy substitutes. And obvious example would be margarine for butter and vice versa. The easy thing about that one is that you're using the same quantity no matter what you're cooking. Other substitutes don't translate so easily. If a recipe calls for 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate, you might use a half ounce of unsweetened chocolate and a tablespoon of sugar to accommodate that (assuming you have those on hand). Vegetable oil and vegetable shortening go hand-in-hand most times. In baking, let's say you're lacking one egg. In place of the egg, you can use a quarter cup of applesauce or mashed banana and plus two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Yes, you read that correctly. And it works, well. Half and half can be replaced with a combination of milk and melted butter. These are just a few examples, but look into others that might come in handy for common ingredients you thought you had but didn't.

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