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Substitute teacher: what to use when the pantry is bare

By Lisa Crockett

It never fails. You have a late-night craving for brownies (or pancakes, or chicken á la King), so you whip out the whisk and mixing bowls and get to work . . . only to discover you’re missing a crucial ingredient. While a midnight King Soopers run isn’t out of the question, there are times when it’s just not handy to head to the store. Substitutions don’t always behave exactly as the original, so using them means having a slightly flexible idea of what success in the kitchen looks like. Some swaps have stronger flavors than their original counterparts (like, say, banana in place of an egg) so be sure that flavor compliments what you’re making.

For days (or nights) when you just want to stay in here are some handy substitutions:

Dry ingredients:

Allspice: For each teaspoon of allspice, substitute ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger and ¼ teaspoon cloves.
Baking powder: For each teaspoon of baking powder, substitute ¼ teaspoon baking soda, plus ½ teaspoon cream of tartar.
Cream of tartar: For each teaspoon of cream of tartar, substitute 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice.
Cake flour: For each cup of cake flour, simply use one cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
Self-rising flour: For each cup of self-rising flour, substitute one cup all-purpose flour plus one teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon baking soda.
For gluten-free flour: combine: ¼ cup white rice flour, ¼ cup tapioca flour, ½ cup potato starch, 1 ½ cups brown rice flour. Blend mixture thoroughly with a wire whisk and store in a dry, airtight container. Use in place of all-purpose flour.
Black beans for flour: Swapping out flour for a can of black beans (drained and rinsed, of course) in brownies is a great way to cut out the gluten and fit in an extra dose of protein. For each cup of flour, substitute 1 cup black bean purée (about one 15-ounce can).
Sugar: Using applesauce in place of sugar can give the necessary sweetness. Substitute applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup. You can also use natural honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar or ripened bananas. Since many of these are naturally sweeter than table sugar, you may be able to use less in your recipes.

Wet ingredients:

Butter: For each cup of butter, substitute one cup shortening or 7/8 cup vegetable oil.
Buttermilk: For each cup of buttermilk, substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice OR vinegar, combined with enough milk to make one cup.
Chocolate (unsweetened): For each ounce of unsweetened chocolate, substitute three tablespoons cocoa powder plus one tablespoon vegetable oil.
Cream cheese: For each cup of cream cheese, substitute a cup of plain yogurt which has been strained in cheesecloth overnight.
Corn Syrup: For each cup of corn syrup, substitute 1 ¼ cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water.
Egg: For each egg, substitute ¼ cup silken tofu, ¼ cup mashed banana, or 1 tablespoon finely ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes to thicken.
Sweetened condensed milk: For each 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, substitute ¾ cup white sugar mixed with ½ cup water and 1 1/8 cup dry powdered milk: bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently until thick, about 20 minutes.
Vinegar: For each teaspoon of vinegar, substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Wine: For each cup, substitute a cup of broth or fruit juice.

Given that our readers are among the healthiest in the state (see related article page 4), healthy substitutions may be in demand. A few great websites we have discovered for healthy substitutions include: and



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