Emergency Ingredient Substitutions

No sour cream? No apple pie spice? No problem! Use these substitutes for popular baking ingredients.


Whether you're making an emergency substitution or experimenting with a new flavor, follow these suggestions for dry herb and spice alternatives. As a general rule, start with half of the amount the recipe calls for (unless directed otherwise), and add the spice until it suits your taste.

For baked goods, such as cookies, it is best to test the flavor by baking off a miniature portion, tasting it, and adjusting the flavor accordingly.

If you want to substitute dry herbs for fresh herbs, the general rule is to use 3 times as much. For example, 1 teaspoon dried tarragon is equal to 1 tablespoon (or 3 teaspoons) fresh tarragon.

Allspice: cinnamon; dash nutmeg; or dash cloves

Aniseed: fennel seed or a few drops anise extract

Apple pie spice: for 1 teaspoon, substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, and dash ground cloves or ginger

Basil: oregano or thyme

Cardamom: ginger

Chervil: tarragon or parsley

Chili powder: dash bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin

Chives: green onions; onion; or leek

Cilantro: parsley

Cinnamon: nutmeg or allspice (use only 1/4 of the amount)

Cloves: allspice; cinnamon; or nutmeg

Cumin: chili powder

Ginger: allspice; cinnamon; mace; or nutmeg

Italian seasoning: blend of any of these: basil, oregano, rosemary, and ground red pepper

Mace: allspice; cinnamon; ginger; or nutmeg

Marjoram: basil; thyme; or savory

Mint: basil; marjoram; or rosemary

Nutmeg: cinnamon; ginger; or mace

Oregano: thyme or basil

Parsley: chervil or cilantro

Poultry seasoning: for 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, substitute 3/4 teaspoon sage plus a 1/4 teaspoon blend of any of these: thyme, marjoram, savory, black pepper, and rosemary

Pumpkin pie spice: for 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Red pepper: dash bottled hot pepper sauce or black pepper

Rosemary: thyme; tarragon; or savory

Saffron: dash turmeric (for color)

Sage: poultry seasoning; savory; marjoram; or rosemary

Savory: thyme; marjoram; or sage

Tarragon: chervil; dash fennel seed; or dash aniseed

Thyme: basil; marjoram; oregano; or savory

For best results, use the ingredient called for in the recipe. In a pinch, these substitutes will produce acceptable results.

Baking powder: for 1 teaspoon, substitute 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Bread crumbs, fine, dry: for 1/4 cup, substitute 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs, or 1/4 cup cracker crumbs, or 1/4 cup cornflake crumbs, or 2/3 cup rolled oats

Buttermilk: for 1 cup, substitute sour milk: 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using); or 1 cup plain yogurt

Chocolate, semisweet: for 1 ounce, substitute 3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate pieces; or 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Chocolate, sweet baking (such as German's Sweet chocolate): for 4 ounces, substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1/3 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons shortening

Chocolate, unsweetened: for 1 ounce, substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon cooking oil or shortening, melted

Cornstarch (for thickening): for 1 tablespoon, substitute 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Corn syrup: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water.

Egg: for 1 whole egg, substitute 2 egg whites, or 2 egg yolks, or 1/4 cup frozen egg product, thawed

Flour, cake: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Flour, self-rising: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Fruit liqueur: for 1 tablespoon, substitute 1 tablespoon fruit juice

Gingerroot, grated: for 1 teaspoon, substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Half-and-half or light cream: for 1 cup, substitute 1 tablespoon melted butter plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup

Heavy cream, whipped: for 1 cup, substitute 2 cups whipped dessert topping 

Honey: for 1 cup, substitute 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water.

Margarine: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup butter or 1 cup shortening plus 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mascarpone cheese: for 8 ounces, substitute 8 ounces regular cream cheese

Milk: for 1 cup, substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water, or 1 cup water plus 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder

Molasses: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup honey

Sour cream, dairy: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup plain yogurt

Sugar, granulated: for 1 cup, substitute 1 cup packed brown sugar or 2 cups stirred powdered sugar

Whipping cream See Heavy cream, above

Yeast: for 1.06-ounce compressed cake, substitute 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast

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