Cooking Basics

On-the-Fly Substitutions for 35 Common Ingredients

When supplies are running low, a good substitution can be your best friend.

Published Apr. 22, 2020.

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.



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 kale, Swiss chard, or baby arugula


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)


1 serrano or 2 jalapenos (heat levels vary)

Meat and Fish


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

Portuguese linguica or Polish kielbasa

Haddock, striped bass, or halibut

Ground beef

Italian sausage

Pork tenderloin

Refrigerator Staples


Sour cream

Full-fat Greek yogurt

Parmesan cheese

Pecorino, asiago, grana padano, cotija, or manchego

Feta cheese

Goat cheese, queso blanco, mozzarella

Active dry yeast (bloom in warm water before using)

Kalamata olives

Pantry Items


Vegetable oil for browning and sauteing


Canola, olive, refined coconut, and grapeseed oils

Vegetable oil, for frying


Corn oil


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

2 teaspoons

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


Chipotle powder or chipotle Tabasco + pinch cayenne


Chili powder


Canned whole or diced tomatoes with their juice


Great Northern beans

1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon fermented black bean paste or sauce


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

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