Cooking Basics
On-the-Fly Substitutions for 35 Common Ingredients
When supplies are running low, a good substitution can be your best friend.
Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten pretty crafty at making substitutions when I cook. And it turns out, my fellow Test Kitchen test cooks have, too. Since we’re all in the position of cooking with what we’ve got and minimizing waste, I put together a list of the substitutions that we’re using in our home kitchens. (And yes, this is our second installment of ingredient substitutions! The first article focused mostly on baking ingredients, but also included some savory items.)

These are the substitutions that we use in a pinch either at home or at the grocery store because they make sense and will add the approximate flavor profile to our recipes. And while we’re all looking forward to the day we can procure the exact ingredients that a recipe calls for, these helpful hints will help you get a great meal on the table by using what you have.

Unless otherwise specified, these substitutions work both ways, and are for equal parts by weight.



Ingredient Quantity Substitute

Fresh garlic

1 clove

¼ teaspoon granulated garlic


1 medium

1 cup chopped onion, or same amount of leek, shallot, or white part of scallion



Collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, or Swiss chard

Baby spinach


Baby kale, Swiss chard, or baby arugula

Red skinned potatoes


Yukon gold potatoes (baby size, if possible)

Minced chives


Minced scallion greens



2 limes

Lemon or lime juice

1 tablespoon

  • 1-2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • ReaLemon Lemon Juice from concentrate and TruLemon Crystalized Lemon Juice are acceptable in cooked applications such as lemon curd or a pan sauce



Anaheim or bell pepper



2 Thai chilies (heat levels vary)

Thai chilies


1 serrano or 2 jalapenos (heat levels vary)

Meat and Fish

Ingredient Substitution(s)

Boneless short ribs

Beef chuck roast or other meat with considerable connective tissue such as pork shoulder, pork butt, brisket, shank, or pot roast

Spanish-style chorizo

Portuguese linguica or Polish kielbasa


Haddock, striped bass, or halibut

Ground lamb

Ground beef

Mexican chorizo

Italian sausage

Pork loin

Pork tenderloin

Refrigerator Staples

Ingredient Substitution(s)

Sour cream

Full-fat Greek yogurt

Parmesan cheese

Pecorino, asiago, grana padano, cotija, or manchego

Feta cheese

Goat cheese, queso blanco, mozzarella

Instant yeast

Active dry yeast (bloom in warm water before using)

Nicoise olives

Kalamata olives

Pantry Items

Ingredient Quantity Substitution(s)

Vegetable oil for browning and sauteing


Canola, olive, refined coconut, and grapeseed oils

Vegetable oil, for frying


Corn oil

Chinese black vinegar


Balsamic or sherry vinegar

Korean red pepper flakes (aka gochugaru or Korean chili powder)

2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder + ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sichuan chili powder

2 teaspoons

Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) or 1¾ teaspoons ancho chili powder + ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Chipotle in adobo


Chipotle powder or chipotle Tabasco + pinch cayenne

Ancho chile powder


Chili powder

Canned crushed tomatoes


Canned whole or diced tomatoes with their juice

Cannelini beans


Great Northern beans

Fermented black beans

1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon fermented black bean paste or sauce

Shaoxing wine


Dry sherry

Cane vinegar

¼ cup

¼ cup distilled white vinegar plus ¾ teaspoons sugar

Makrut lime leaves


One (3-inch) strip each of lemon and lime zest

Dried arbol chilies


¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes