Want to Become a Happier Cook? Harness the Power of Ingredient Swaps.
People ask me ALL the time, “If I don’t have X, can I use Y?” X = rosemary, Y = Thyme. X = sherry vinegar, Y = red wine vinegar. X = apples, Y = pears. You get the idea: they’re asking about ingredient substitutions, but really they’re requesting permission to ignore or defy parts of a recipe. 99.9% of the time, my answer is “Go for it!”
Learning to swap in ingredients that we have on hand for ones that might require an added expense or an extra trip to the store is one of the most powerful things we can do as cooks. It makes us flexible and adaptable in the kitchen, which (I’m convinced) is the most sustainable, productive, and enjoyable way to cook. This list of interchangeable ingredients, below, is a good place to start: a rundown of pantry and fridge items (featuring lots of produce) with suggestions for what to use in their place when they’re called for in a recipe but we don’t have them around.
Here’s what this list is not: 1) Comprehensive; I wanted to keep it manageable to start, though I may add to it as we go along. 2) Foolproof; cooking times and quantities can vary, and some of the substitutions will require your better judgment (for instance, wine can be a wonderful substitute for stock if you need to deglaze a pan, but is less appropriate for making soup). It’s not a silver bullet, but a way to build stronger habits in the kitchen; not a call to replace recipes, but a tool for making the recipes we use much more useful.
Print it out and put it on the fridge (if you’re old school), remember from time to time that it’s here, or just use it as inspiration to color outside the lines. I’ll be back to featuring actual recipes on Tuesday; if one of them happens to call for chicken breasts and you say “screw it, I’m using thighs because that’s what I’ve got,” then you’re off to great start. See you then.
Whenever a recipe calls for something you don’t have, use this chart for Plan B. The ingredients not in bold can be substituted for those in bold and vice versa. Cooking times may vary a bit, but building some flexibility and adaptability into your everyday cooking will not only make it faster, but more enjoyable.
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.