Baking substitutions

My husband will attest to the fact that I am horrible about starting a meal or dessert and half way through saying "oh crap..." He responds, "What did you forget?"  Then we both laugh.  Seriously, I bake all the time,  you'd think I would catch on, but I'm just so darn forgetful.  Anyway, overtime I have discovered some really great substitutions for some common baking ingredients.  I hope this is helpful for all my fellow bakers.

Note: most of these I have tested. As I test more, I will continue to add them to the list, so check back.  Also if you know of other substitutions, feel free to share it by posting a comment on this page!

Missing Ingredient
Allspice, 1 tsp.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Equal parts alcoholic beer OR chicken broth
If you are nervous about adding beer to a recipe because of children or being pregnant you can go this route, but really the flavor isn’t the same. It is dependent on the recipe.  Most recipes (NOT ALL) the alcohol bakes off anyway.
Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
Equal parts unsweetened chocolate + ½ Tbsp. per ounce of chocolate
This really only works when you are melting the chocolate, if you are just using chips for say chocolate chip cookies, you can taste a difference. Add sugar once chocolate is melted
Bread crumbs, dry
Equal amount of:
-       potato chips
-       corn flakes
-       oats
-       crackers

Brown sugar, 1 cup
1 cup white sugar + ¼ cup molasses
Try to reduce liquid else where in the recipe by ¼ c. I know this can be hard, so a happy medium is 3/4c of white sugar and ¼ cup molasses. You can also add more flour if need be.
Butter, unsalted
Salted butter
Solid vegetable shortening
Reduce salt elsewhere in your recipe. Try to reduce ¼ tsp.
Butter, salted
Unsalted butter + ¼ tsp salt per ½ cup of butter


Solid vegetable shortening

Buttermilk, 1 cup
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar (white or cider) plus enough milk to make 1 cup Read more:
Stir well and let stand 5 minutes before using
Coffee, bold
Instant espresso mix prepared via package instructions

White and yellow cornmeal are interchangeable

Corn Syrup – light
Euqal amount of dark corn syrup or honey

Corn syrup – dark, 1 cup
3/4c light corn syrup
1/4c. molasses

Cornstarch (for thickening)

Cottage cheese
Equal parts ricotta cheese

Flour – all purpose
Use equal parts self rising flour
Omit salt and baking powder from recipe
Flour – cake, 1 cup
2/4 cups all purpose flour + 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Flour – self rising, 1 cup
1 cup all purpose + ½ tsp baking powder and ½  tsp salt

Garlic – 1 clove
1/8 tsp. garlic powder OR
½ tsp. garlic salt
If you use the garlic salt, try to reduce some of the salt in the recipe (for the sake of your blood pressure and taste buds)
Ginger fresh, 1 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. Candied ginger OR
1 1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger plus 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
I have never tried the ground ginger + lemon juice before, but the candied ginger works great!  I think it also is dependent upon the recipe
Ginger – dry, 1 tsp
2 tsp fresh ginger
As a general rule, if you are substituting fresh spices for dry, you will need more than recipe calls for, the opposite is true when substitute dry for fresh.
Macadamia nuts or almonds
I prefer macadamia nuts
Herbs – fresh, 1 Tbsp
1 tsp. dried  (3:1 ratio)
If you can’t find a specific conversion for herbs, you can use this as a general rule
Lemon juice – fresh
Bottled lemon juice
If I have to use a lot of lemon juice I almost always go the bottled route, who wants to hand squeeze a dozen lemons?
Mint – Fresh, ¼c
1 Tbsp. dried mint leaves
This wont’ work for every recipe (like mojitos), use your judgment
Oats – quick
Regular or old fashioned oats

½ the amount of applesauce
As a general rule, you can use apple sauce instead of oil to cut down on fat in baking (not necessarily lower calories because applesauce has a lot of sugar). However, you should try to retain a couple Tbsp. Of oil for the sake of the recipe.  This can sometimes take a lot of experimenting, so be patient!
Orange zest, 1 Tbsp
½ tsp. orange extract
Now you never have to grate an orange again!
Parsley – Fresh, 1 Tbsp
1 tsp dried parsley

Any other type of dried fruit such as cranberries or dates
Again, I think this would be dependent upon the recipe
Sour cream
Equal parts plain yogurt

Vanilla bean – 1 bean
2-3 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

Whole milk
Half and half or heavy whipping cream
I have never found a recipe where these three were not interchangeable without really altering taste or texture. That’s not to say that one doesn’t exist.
Sour cream OR

Health Substitutions:

As a general rule, the following substitutions are healthier options when baking (lower calories, lower fat, etc) however, they may not necessarily taste exactly the same as the original ingredients 

Least healthy ingredient
Healthier substitution
½ the amount of apple sauce + 2 Tbsp. oil
See note above
Cream cheese
Low fat Ricotta cheese + yogurt
Again, you kind of have to experiment with this one depending on the recipe.  I would try ½ of each (depending on the amount the recipe calls for)
If you use low fat, it could make icings runny as well
Cream or whole milk
Skim or low fat milk
This could make your batter or what not runny
Sour cream
Equal parts plain yogurt

Sources: JoyofBaking, Allrecipes,, my own personal experiences