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Pinch Hitters: Top 10 Ingredient Substitutes 

Pinch Hitters: Top 10 Ingredient Substitutes 


You crawl out of bed bright and early and make your way to the kitchen, ready to whip up those delicious buttermilk pancakes you promised. You’ve already cracked the eggs into the bowl when you realize that you’re out of buttermilk. Nooooo! Now you have to get out of those comfy jammies and run to the store…

Getting caught without an essential ingredient mid-recipe? Happens to all of us. Don’t panic yet! We can help. These common ingredient substitutions will let you continue through that recipe without anyone being the wiser.

  1. BUTTERMILK: Continue as planned with those pancakes (or biscuits or salad dressing). You can replace the buttermilk with regular milk, but you have to do a little prep work first. When you combine your wet and dry ingredients for pancakes, that little bit of baking soda mixes with the lactic acid in buttermilk, and the reaction releases carbon dioxide. This results in tiny bubbles, making your pancakes light and fluffy. Milk is less acidic than buttermilk, so before you can sub it in, you’ve got to sour it. In a PYREX 1-CUP MEASURING CUP, add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar, then fill with milk to the 1-cup line. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes, and voilà! Thanks to the extra acid, your milk has curdled and is ready to be added to your recipe.
  2. SHORTENING: This is an easy one. Just use butter or margarine instead. Tip: If you use margarine, use 1/2 teaspoon less salt in your recipe.
  3. VEGETABLE OIL: Even if you aren’t out of oil, applesauce makes a great healthy substitute when you’re baking since it’s lower in fat than oil. This one seems a bit strange, so why does it work? The role of oil in baking is to coat the flour and keep it from combining with water. This keeps gluten from developing and making your dough tough and chewy. Applesauce contains pectin, which is another ingredient that can inhibit gluten development. This works well for most cakes and other baked goods, but it isn’t a perfectly even switch. You’ll likely end up with a texture that is more moist. Also, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in your recipe, even if you’re using unsweetened applesauce.
  4. VINEGAR: Bottled (not fresh) lemon or lime juice are simple options to replace vinegar (and vice versa). Use whichever you have handy, as the three are fairly interchangeable, but be aware that flavor is the biggest differentiator.
  5. SOUR CREAM: An equal amount of plain yogurt is the easiest solution to this problem. Don’t have that either? Try 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup. Alternatively, 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter will do the trick, too.
  6. ALCOHOL: Cooking with beer, wine or liqueur can add new flavors and complexity to your recipe. But what if you’re out, or simply don’t want to use alcohol as an ingredient? Here are a few quick and easy swaps:
    - For beer, use chicken or beef broth, or soda water for a beer batter.
    - For red wine, use red wine vinegar diluted with water or grape juice with a little red wine vinegar added.
    - For white wine, use diluted white wine vinegar or white grape juice with a little lemon juice or white vinegar mixed in.
    - For sherry or brandy, use fresh OJ or frozen (thawed) orange juice concentrate.
    - For liqueurs, use a combination of an extract that’s closely related flavor-wise, and a bit of spice.
  7. BREAD CRUMBS: Cracker crumbs, matzo meal or ground oats will perform the same task but allow you to add a little variety to your menu. Each of these will give you a distinctly different texture, so do some experimenting to find out which tasty alternative makes your recipes the most irresistible. Not sure which recipe to test out first? Give our Crunchy Topped Meat Loaf a go!
  8. EGGS: There are almost as many substitutes for eggs as there are reasons you might want to use them. If you’re peering into an empty carton, 2-1/2 tablespoons of powdered egg substitute plus 2-1/2 tablespoons water, or 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute will work just as well. If you want to get rid of the egg altogether, 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu is a good option. You can also use 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, half a banana mashed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1 tablespoon powdered flaxseed soaked in 3 tablespoons water.
  9. HONEY: Fresh out? Give it some sugar. Use 1-1/4 cups white sugar plus 1/3 cup water. You can also try 1 cup of light corn syrup.
  10. BROWN SUGAR: One more sweet solution: Mix 1 tablespoon molasses with enough white or raw sugar to make 1 cup.


  • SPACE MATTERS: The generously sized PYREX 2-CUP MEASURING CUP and the versatile PYREX 3-PIECE MIXING BOWL SET give you room to mix and make your subs, helping you avoid spilling and slopping.
  • TRADING SPICES: You might think that one little 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon doesn’t really matter, but don’t just skimp on flavor just ’cause you’re out of a specific spice. Learn more about how to sub for different seasonings HERE.
  • CHEAT SHEET: Print this out or write it down and keep it handy. It’ll help you keep on cookin’ and no one will even know you almost missed a step!

These (and other) easy swaps can spare the dish and save your day, but it’s always worth it to do your own research and experimentation. You may find an even better or more flavorful replacement…and it could only take a tweak or two to turn something into your new specialty!
YOUR TURN: Which ingredient substitute have you used most often?